I came across a strange scenario on Google the other day — it appears Google has begun assigning third-party website listings to businesses that don’t have a website!! Here’s a couple examples in our old neighborhood – notice how the websites listed for both of these businesses is “Yelp.com”:
UPDATE: Here’s another example, this time linked to a Citysearch profile page:
And if you look on Google local for Homma’s, you’ll see it’s also linking to Yelp:
So I was wondering — had a person hijacked the “business owner” claim links of these restaurants?
Well, the listings in Google still had the “Edit – New!” link active. Clicking on the “Edit” link took me to the Google Maps page, which still had the link for the business owner – “Are you the owner? Claim your business” link active. So no — in fact Google itself had assigned Yelp’s (or Citysearch’s) reviews page to each of these businesses!!
Next, I talked to the owner of Printers Inc Cafe. She wasn’t real thrilled about the latest reviews on Yelp – which now were top-of-list when someone clicked on her restaurant’s name on Google. Interestingly, Printers Inc Cafe does actually have a website — http://www.printerscafe.com — which Google had NOT picked up.
So, I helped her setup and “claim” her listing on Google, validated the listing using their telephone validation step, and entered her actual website address through Google’s Local Business Center. Almost immediately, her Google maps listing was updated to the following:
Note that the Google Maps search results now include her website address in place of the old Yelp profile.
Unfortunately, Google’s main search results are not so quick to respond. As of several days later, the main Google search results have not been updated to reflect her website, and still show the Yelp url.
If this action is widespread on Google, this has pretty scary implications — that is, as a small business owner you better (1) have a website that you control, and (2) make sure Google knows what your website is, by claiming your listing through them. Otherwise, who knows WHAT Google will decide to link to from YOUR restaurant’s listing!?
In case you want a complete list of websites that offer free listings for your restaurant and/or links to your website (including Google), see my previous blog post here.