TECH
09/06/2011 11:21 am ET | Updated Nov 06, 2011

Google Maps Spam Erroneously 'Closes' Open Businesses

Some businesses are facing a new challenge: staying open on Google.

As the New York Times reported in an article published Monday, many establishments have become the victim of incorrect labeling on Google Maps that lists them as "closed" when they are, in fact, still open for business.

Google relies in part on its users to help them keep listings on Google Maps current, crowdsourcing information by allowing any user to submit corrections or additions to a business's profile. If enough people flag a business as "permanently closed," Google will amend the establishment's profile to note that it is "reportedly closed," and may later update the listing to read "permanently closed" following a review and approval by Google.

Google help forums are rife with complaints about this issue from proprietors, such as DouKnow1, who wrote days before the New York Times piece appeared, "The idiots at google have place a 'PERMENANTELY CLOSED' tag on my business, How can I get this removed?"

Another user, Iloveshells, wrote in early August, "I have a business on Google Maps that someone keeps marking our business as closed, and we keep getting calls asking if we are going out of business. It has been happening for over a week now, and good customers keep re-marking our business as open. I own this listing in my Google Places account. I would love to find a solution to stop this and it would be great if I could get the IP address to the user that is harrassing [sic] us."

Google published a blog early Tuesday morning addressing the New York Times' story and the slew of erroneous "closed" labels on its Maps service. While the company promised that it is "actively working on a solution" to curb the spam, the post is short on specific details for how Google plans to address the issue.

Google writes,

About two weeks ago, news in the blogosphere made us aware that abuse -- such as "place closed" spam labels -- was occurring. And since then, we've been working on improvements to the system to prevent any malicious or incorrect labeling. These improvements will be implemented in the coming days.

We know that accurate listings on Google Maps are an important tool for many business owners. We take reports of spam and abuse very seriously and do our best to ensure the accuracy of a listing before updating it. That being said, we apologize to both business owners and users for any frustration this recent issue of spam labeling has caused, and we’re committed to making sure that users and potential customers continue to have the most up-to-date and accurate information possible.

Following Iloveshells' complaint in Google's help forum concerning the incorrect "closed" label on the business, a Google employee, DMabasa, replied, "I'll forward this to the team to see if there is anything that can be done. I've also moved you to the Google Places Forum, where this question is better suited."

Five days later, it appeared Iloveshells still had no relief.

"The issue is still happening, got more calls again today asking if we are closed," the user wrote. "I checked out our impressions and for the last two weeks they have taken an absolute nose dive! I was getting 500-600 impressions a day and now I am down to anwhere from 25-75!!! Yikes!"

Has your business been the victim of an erroneous "closed" listing on Google"? Are you a user that's encountered this issue? Share your experience with this--and other Google spam--in the comments below.

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