Increasing visibility in Google Places is, or at least should be, on the minds small business owners, including legal professionals. Unfortunately, Google Places isn't the most user-friendly service that Google provides. In fact, it can be a nightmare.
We've heard several horror stories about high visibility Google Places listings completely disappearing into local listing obscurity. While some of these stories are attrbutable to overly aggressive optimizations or "review attacks", many were created by very small changes to listings.
Google's Small Business Blog provides some instruction on editing Google Maps and local business listing data.
Here are some of the key points to keep in mind:
Google gets data for Google Maps from a number of sources, including third party providers, business owners and users.
The best way to report incorrect information is to use the “Report a Problem” tool, where available. Report a Problem allows you to specify exactly what is incorrect about a listing.
Once these user-submitted reports are reviewed, updates to the listing will go live in a few weeks.
If you’re a business owner, you should also claim your Google Places listing so that you can edit and update the listing that appears on Google, Google Maps and GOOG-411. Verifying your free business listing allows you to not only ensure that accurate information appears on the Place page for your business, but also enhance your online presence by adding photos, videos and even real-time updates like weekly specials to your Place page.
Claim your Google Places listing by adding it at https://www.google.com/places or by clicking “Business Owner?” on the Place page for your business.
Verify your listing by PIN (postcard or phone). Within an hour, click the “See your listing on Google Maps” link in your account to see your listing’s Place page.
If incorrect information is appearing in your listing, there are a number of different ways to let us know and get the information corrected.
In our experience, making changes on Google Places can be a hit or miss. Responses to "report a problem" have taken several weeks if addressed at all. Listings have gone into pending status for weeks without reason even after minimal changes.
The bottom line is that, for the time being, local business owners are beholden to Google Places, and its customer service (or lack thereof) for the high-visibilty it provides on results pages. Before you make significant edits to your Google Places listing, I suggest you take a look at David Mihm's local search ranking factors.
In my opinion, edits to your local listing need to be measured against your current visibility level. If you already have substantial visibility within the local business listings, you need to carefully consider whether to risk a change that could have a significant negative impact on your listing's visibility. On the other hand, if there is an error on your listing, it should be corrected. If your listing is appearing with the wrong phone number or for irrelevant searches, it isn't helping you anyway.