I just posted this on a Dental forum, then realized it’s so important and applies for everyone so wanted to share the info here on the blog as well.

Having a high ranking Google Places page can be a Dentist’s best marketing ally. It can get you up at the TOP of the 1st page in Google for Dentist Yourcity, Cosmetic Dentist Yourcity and other important key phrases.

HOWEVER Google Places is full of bugs, hijacking, fraud and other security problems, so if you haven’t yet you REALLY need to claim your listing which provides partial protection – but it does not by any means provide full protection so you really need to monitor your listing at least weekly.

Check your Place Page TODAY! Be sure none of the following security issues are happening.  Read on for links and stories about specific problems that are happening to others and could happen to you too.

Potential problems:

– Someone hijacked your web site or phone number, so patients trying to reach you get someone else

– Google scrapes data and adds either incorrect categories, spam categories that can get you BANNED or penalized, changes your name, changes other data in your account that negatively affects your ranking. (TRUE story, with link to the Google forum below – this is a BIG problem!)

– Google scrapes data and merges your info with a restaurant and creates a totally new listing that combines the 2 and confuses your customers. OR worse yet creates a totally new listing that not only causes you to be DE-RANKED with a duplicate listing penalty, but the new listing with bogus info takes over your top spot in the rankings. (True story, see below.)

– An unscrupulous company puts multiple listings for THEIR business at YOUR address, causing you to lose ranking because Google thinks you have multiple listings. It could be a competitor trying to make your rankings drop or a company that is trying to get ranked that is not really in your city.  (SEE real-life Dentist example below)

– Google changes your address, so patients or customers driving to you get frustrated and end up at the wrong place (happens more than you know)

OK so I’ll try not to write a book on this, but I could go on with stories for days.  I’ll try to keep it to 3 stories and a couple good articles and links.

Chiropractor – Google’s Rogue Listing Caused him to drop to #44 – I took him from #44 to #1. Great practice, lots of great reviews, deserved to be on top of the 1st page. HOWEVER the biggest reason he wasn’t is that Google had scraped a ton of data and created a 2nd listing for the practice that was SO filled with scraped data it outranked his claimed – legitimate Place page. Then Google took their name and phone #, merged it with the address of a restaurant 3 blocks away and created a new listing. THEIR good name – but all the reviews and citations were for the restaurant.

Was really tough to get these problems merged and removed and I did a bunch of other things to get him to #1 in this ultra competitive market. Bogus listings continue to pop up and we continue to have to clean things up. Case study:  Tale of a Chiropractor that went from #44 to #1 on Google Local

Optometrist – Google’s Bug Made him Drop to #38 – I’ll send you a link to the story on the Google Places support forum so I don’t need to write it all here. But in a nutshell – GOOGLE added spam keywords and city keywords to his title PLUS 5 extra spam categories (10 total, only 5 are allowed)  which is against Google’s own TOS.  So GOOGLE violated their own TOS a total of 8 times in my clients listing. It’s not anything I can correct, because when you go into his dashboard to edit everything is PRISTINE – just the way I made it.

Link to Google support forum about the problems people are having with Google merging data and changing their listings. http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Places/thread?tid=3f9439172fb7d237&hl=en”>http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Places/thread?tid=3f9439172fb7d237&hl=en

Last but not least a Dentist called me for a free consult yesterday. He’d been listed on the 1st page for a long time, then disappeared. In investigating he discovered there were 5 other Google Place pages listed for his single office address.  4 were construction listings. He THOUGHT a competing Dentist had done it to him to knock him out of the rankings. I investigated. It was a construction referral company that was trying to get KW/City rankings all over this major metro area, even though they didn’t have any offices. So they just put up a ton of Place pages in each city using someone else’s address.  They also did it to Western Dental and other Dental offices. So it wasn’t sabotage, but it was hijacking the Drs. address. The multiple listings at one address caused his listing to be dropped in the rankings, since this is a violation of Google’s guidelines.

So those are just a FEW of the relevant stories I have to tell.

name, address, phone, website and categories and be sure to check for duplicates and rogue listings.

Here’s a good article to read too:
Local Business Listing: A Marketing Opportunity and a Security Challenge

Hope this helps! Let me know if anyone has questions – always happy to help!