Google Places is a very useful service, especially for local businesses. Any kind of business, from a coffee shop to an internet marketing firm, can use the service to widen its reach and connect with new customers.
But there is a serious issue with the service. Google Places profile page features a ‘report a problem’ button. The service users can easily mark their business as ‘closed’ with a single click on this button. The problem is that in the absence of a verification process, this option can be easily misused.
With the aim of exposing this weakness in Google Places algorithm, two search consultants carried out an experiment. Using the ‘report a problem’ button, they reported the search engine giant’s Mountain View office as closed. Within a short time, Google’s Mountain View office appeared as closed on its own places page.
The simple experiment proves that Google Places algorithm is in serious need of some adjustments. Although similar issues have been reported by Yahoo Local and Bing Local users as well, the problem does not seem to be as prevalent as with Google Places. But the reason for the lower rates of false closure is probably lower search volume rather than superior algorithm.
Last month, Google started informing users about the closed status of their businesses through email alerts. But this measure is not sufficient to tackle the issue effectively. The help forum at Google Places confirms that the issue is widespread. What is required is some modification in the algorithm to make it less vulnerable and the implementation of a system for closure verification.