In this week’s edition of Local Whiteboard Friday, David Mihm sheds some light on the complicated process that Google uses to create its business listings.
“I’m here to answer one of the most common questions that we get asked which is: “Hey, how come my business information is showing up incorrectly at Google?”
So they type in the name of their business, and there’s either a phone number wrong or their address is wrong or sometimes the marker for where their business is, is in the wrong place. So I want to try to answer how Google generates its business listings.
So the first step that a lot of business owners take, which is a great step to take, is they go directly to Google. Google offers a dashboard for businesses that Google Places as well as Google+, there are kind of two ways into it right now. A business owner goes and he enters his business name, his address, his phone number, some categories, maybe the hours that he operates his business, and he tells that directly to Google. Of course the expectation is, “Oh well, I’m the business owner. I’m telling Google this information. That’s how it should show up when Google spits out a search result.” But in reality that’s not actually how Google assembles a business listing. So I’m going to erase these lines, and I’ll try to walk you guys through how this process actually happens.
So for many of you, if you’re business owners, you go to one of these places, the Google Places dashboard or the Google+ local dashboard, and you tell Google about your business and you find before you even get there Google knows about your business. It can guess at what your address and phone number are for example.
So you might wonder where Google is finding that information. Actually in the United States there are three companies that aggregate business data for United States businesses. Again, this is the United States only, but in this country those guys are Infogroup, Neustar and Axiom. So Google buys or leases information from at least one of these companies and pulls it into its index. But it doesn’t go right into Google’s index. It actually goes into a massive server cluster that takes it into consideration as one data source.
That all gets assembled at a server cluster, somewhere in Mountain View let’s just say, that compiles kind of all of this information. These however, aren’t even the only places that Google gets data. These guys, these data sources actually also, in addition to sending information to Google, they send data out to a whole bunch of other sites across the web. So Yelp, for example, gets information from one of these sources. Yellowpages.com gets information from one of these sources. Many of you guys have seen my local search ecosystem infographic that kind of details a little bit more about how this process works.
Additionally, in addition to these data aggregators, in addition to websites, Google looks at government information. So if you’re regional, like your county has a place of businesses that are registered in a particular county or maybe your secretary of state, Google is either probably going to crawl that information. In some cases the government publishes this in PDF format or something like that, and that gets pulled into this cluster again as one of these data points in this huge spreadsheet.
Another place that Google might get information believe it or not is Google Street View. Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea recently gave a keynote at Local University in Baltimore, and there’s information in Google’s patents that suggest that street view cameras from these cars that they go out and they drive around trying to find driving directions are taking photos of storefronts with business name signage, with the address numbers right there on the storefront, and that information gets pulled into this, what we call the cluster of information.
But there’s one final step actually before Google will publish the information, the authoritative information from this cluster. Google actually has human reviewers that are looking at this information. They are calling businesses to verify things like categories, the buildings that certain businesses are located in, and these reviewers will again call a real business offline. So if you get a call and it says, “Hey, Mountain View is calling you, it might actually be Google.” So pay special attention if your business receives those kind of calls. They might be trying to validate information that they’re finding from across the web.”