Combatting Spammy Closed Listing Labels on Google Maps

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 12:35 AM

Yesterday, the New York Times published a story about business listings on Google Maps that are incorrectly being labeled as closed as a result of spam. We thought it’d be helpful to share our view about this recent issue and directly assure business owners and Maps users that we’re actively working on a solution.

Every year, millions of businesses open, close, move, change their hours, get a new website, or make other types of changes. Because we can’t be on the ground in every city and town, we enable our great community of users to let us know when something needs to be updated. The vast majority of edits people have made to business listings have improved the quality and accuracy of Google Maps for the benefit of all Maps users.

For example, when there is a pending edit that indicates that a place might be closed, our system currently displays the label, "Reported to be closed. Not true?". Only when that pending edit is reviewed and approved does the label change to, "This place is permanently closed. Not true?".

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.

Update 9/14/11 at 6:26pm: 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.