There is a new type of competitive sabotage on Google Places that’s making the rounds and it can be totally devastating to small businesses.

permanently closed

There has been a huge increase in the number of reports that viable businesses are being marked as PERMANENTLY CLOSED on Google Places. Some users in the forum report it happens to them numerous times per week and they have to check their Place page several times per day and constantly fight to get Google to remove the bright yellow PERMANENTLY CLOSED sign from their listing.

There are probably shady companies offering a new service billed as an easy way to “Nuke Your Competitors off the 1st Page of Google.”

BTW this sad story has a happy ending, because Google listened and implemented one change that will help. Read on for breaking news about how Google listened, took our advice and implemented change.

August 11 I ranted about this problem in Mike Blumenthal’s Google+ stream. Google read and participated in that stream. Here’s what I wrote.

25 Things I Hate About Google Places

Allowing Users to Mark a viable business as PERMANENTLY CLOSED

I’ve only had this happen to clients a few times, but check the forums. There is a disturbing and growing trend. This is totally unacceptable and can destroy a small business!

Right on top in the Places forum is a good example: “Hospital Emergency Room – Listed as Permanently Closed” It’s the only ER for 18 miles. Numerous report a problem attempts to no avail.

Let users submit a report. Some are likely honest reports. But DON’T mark the listing closed and wipe it out of the SERPS without verifying the business is actually closed. For many SMBs it’s an ongoing battle. They get the close label removed and their competitor just keeps doing it.

Continuing to allow users to report a business as closed without proof or verification is criminal negligence in my opinion.

Do. No. Evil.

Then on August 15th and 16th Mike did a series about the problem.

A secret band of Place page vigilantes ;-) even closed Google Mountain View’s Place page (and other Google offices around the country) as a test to prove how easy Google made it to mark a viable business as Closed! :-)

Places Blackhat Playground – Reported To Be Closed – See Screenshot
News Flash: Google Mt View Reported Closed! – See screenshot
Clarification re: Clarification re: closed listings on Google Places – Google Replies

One of the suggestions given many times was that Google needs to send users an alert email that someone marked their business closed. It looks like Google has listened and implemented a system to do just that.

I rag on Google so much for changes that NEED to happen with Google Places, that I want to be sure to give them credit when they take our advice and DO make positive changes as a result. So THANK YOU GOOGLE for listening and for making this change.

I’ve seen a couple reports from user’s in the forum who received emails from Google letting them know their business had been marked closed. Here is a link to one post that quotes the entire Google email.

Google thinks my business is permanently closed although we’re open and never closed for good.

Dear Google Places user,

Google has updated 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…

Based on our sources, the following listing has been marked as closed:

(Details and lots of copy removed for brevity, see the entire quote at the link above)

But this user reports there is no link to mark the message as untrue.

In his email is a link to a new support page on Google that tells users that Google MAY change their core business data or mark their business closed, but will now send them an email to alert them of these changes. Thank you for listening and adding this feature!

Your listing on Google has changed

As a business owner, you might not always have the time to keep your Places listing up-to-date. If we receive more recent information about your business, we’ll automatically update your listing on our sites (like Google Search and Google Maps). We hope that this not only helps customers find accurate information about your business, but also makes it easier for you to keep your information updated online.

Each time your listing is updated, you’ll receive an email notification that a change will happen on your external business listing within the next 4 weeks. You won’t be notified again when the change is published online.

If you have more accurate or recent information about your business, you can sign-in to Google Places for Business and click Edit, then click Submit. If your listing is part of a bulk upload, click Edit your Data File to make any changes. Upcoming edits to your Place page won’t be reflected in your Places account.

Edits we may make to your listing include:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Pin marker location
  • Applying the label of ‘Permanently Closed’

If your business is marked as permanently closed when it isn’t, click the Not true? link on your Place page.

While I am adamantly opposed to Google ALLOWING businesses to be marked closed without proof or verification and equally opposed to Google changing anything on a verified Place page ESPECIALLY core data – this is still an important step in the right direction and at least Google is letting business owners know when they make changes to their listing.

Thank you Google!

UPDATE 9/15 9PM: Just found out from Mike, Google made an update on their blog and seem to be making progress on the business marked as closed problem.

“As promised, we’ve recently made a change to our process of displaying when a business has been reported to be closed on its place page. More specifically, we have removed the interim notification about a report having been made so that a listing will only be updated after it has been reviewed by Google and we believe the change to be accurate.”