Google just announced they will auto-update your business data on your Place page based on user edits and 3rd party data they scrape from the web. They’ll make the changes automatically without your consent, but notify you so you can try to fix it, if the info’s wrong.

I’m afraid this move will cause all kinds of problems. I know Google is doing it for the right reasons and I understand where the change comes from, but I think it’s going to create a ton of new issues. Read the full announcement (only a snippet is below) then see my comments.

SEE IMPORTANT 10/14 UPDATE BELOW – NEW INFO – They are emailing BEFORE the edits go live and giving you a chance to dispute the changes, but it’s still causing lots of problems already. See update and comments below.

Faster updates to local business listings

Previously, verified business listings would always reflect the information provided by its owner – even if we received data about an updated name, address, or hours of operation. But now, if a user provides new information about a business they know — or if our system identifies information from another source on the web that may be more recent than the data the business owner provided via Google Places — the organic listing will automatically be updated and the business owner will be sent an email notification about the change. Without requiring any effort on the part of the business owner, we’ll take measures to keep their listing up-to-date if our system determines that the edit is accurate. Of course, if the business owner disagrees or has even more recent information, they can always directly log in to their Google Places account and make further edits.”

They are going to CHANGE YOUR DATA 1st and notify you after-the-fact that your listing was changed??? (See update for minor correction to my original understanding of how this works.) It sounds like they are going to allow more crowd sourcing user edits and also automatically change verified listings based on other 3rd party data. How easy will it be to change it back if the info is wrong? Will a business owner have to re-verify to change their name, address or phone back to what it was SUPPOSED to be all along?

I’m happy about the email notification, but heck some of small B & M businesses I know barely read their emails. What if they miss it? How long until some of them even realize their listing was changed?

In the past Google gave businesses some level of control over their own data, however still at times Google will over-write or merge data into owner verified accounts. That causes many problems as it is now and and data Google overwrites can be nearly impossible to change. Plus a great majority of the problems with Google Places in my opinion are from bad data scrapes already.

Additionally, as we saw clearly with the NYTimes story about competitors marking businesses as permanently closedallowing crowd sourcing of business information can and IS being abused and can cause serious problems.

I do realize many small businesses do not even claim their Place pages, much less keep them up to date. But I also know there is a TON of erroneous data out there. Additionally there are lots of unscrupulous marketers who may use this new feature to try to cause problems.

More than anything I know how many SMBs come to the Google Places forum for help, because their data is wrong, often due to bad data scrapes or competitive sabotage and they are impotent to fix it. Some try for months to get help correcting the problems.

The way it works now, if Google adds a category or image to your Place page, you can’t just edit it out. Will these new changes be editable by the business owner???

If Google is going to change your data without your permission, I sure hope they make it easy to change it back if the info is wrong!

UPDATE 10/14 9AM Well that was quick! Already getting forwarded emails from clients saying Google wants to change all the data I just worked so hard to make right! But at least it appears to be different that what I read into the announcement. It sounded like they were just going to immediately change the Place page and then you’d have to edit back. But in the emails I’m getting it’s more like here are the changes we are GOING to make soon and if you edit now you can correct it before the change goes into affect.

HOWEVER complaints are pouring in already over at Mike’s blog from consultants getting numerous emails with changes Google wants to make to Place page that are incorrect – wrong names, wrong phone #s etc.

Google Places Now Updating Your Listing Automatically – Mike’s blog.

Here’s a comment I just made over at Mikes:

“Ok just quickly scanned email and have 4 forwarded from clients so far. Both with minor changes BUT changes that will cost them tons of citations.

For instance one client when I took over her account her title was: Jane Doe PC (she has 3 versions of her name that are legal and technically correct, that one, her practice name and her DDS name)

I checked and she had 1200 citations for Jane Doe DDS and only 200 for her practice name Jane Doe Dental. So since both names are legal names and more directories list as the Dr. name I changed it to Jane Doe DDS. Now Google wants to change it to Jane Doe Dental.

NOT ONLY did I just go though all the trouble to edit and re-verify with the new name. But also made her webmaster change NAP on the site which was 2 weeks of emails back and forth to get them to do ti.

BUT HERE’S THE PART THAT REALLY CONCERNS ME FROM THE GOOGLE EMAIL:

“Below is a summary of what your listing(s) will contain once it’s updated in the next few weeks. This will be visible on your Place page and listings across Google properties, but it will not be reflected in your Google Places account”

So are they saying that if someone misses the email or an SMB does not realize it’s a change that can hurt them, once the change is made it’s NOT in the dash, therefore the business owner or someone like me won’t be able to correct it later?

You know how if G adds a bad category or images to your listing you can’t edit because it’s not even in your dashboard?

Below is a copy of the email that Dentist just got. Name edited by me for confidentiality.

Dear Google Places user,

Google will soon update your listing data on our consumer properties such as Google and Google Maps to more accurately reflect the latest information we have about your business.

We use many sources to determine the accuracy of our listing data and to provide the best possible experience for business owners and consumers who use Google and Google Maps to find local information.

Below is a summary of what your listing(s) will contain once it’s updated in the next few weeks. This will be visible on your Place page and listings across Google properties, but it will not be reflected in your Google Places account:

Jane Doe Dental
55555-5555 (They added zip 4 back in. I removed because citations didn’t match up.)

If the above information is not accurate, please sign in to Google Places. You may prevent any of these changes from being made on your Place page and listing by selecting “Edit”, and then pressing the “Submit” button to confirm the correct information about your business.

If you submit data to Google via a feed, please ensure that the data in your feed is accurate and current. Note that you must update listing data in your feed to prevent changes from being made to the above listings.