What to do when Google changes your GBP information

Google Business Profiles (GBP) has long been a cornerstone of local SEO efforts.

Google has devised various mechanisms and processes to deter abuse and enhance the accuracy of information on GBP listings and their appearance on Maps. Consequently, Google frequently updates business listings without prior notice.

Understanding how, when and why Google makes these updates can help businesses be better prepared and implement defensive strategies to prevent incorrect information from surfacing and negatively impacting the business.

How often does Google update GBP listings?

Whenever Google “updated” Google Business Profiles over the past three years, it also updated three data fields each time, as observed by Mirador Local, a GBP listings management platform. (Disclosure: Mirador Local is a tool created by my employer, SALT.agency.)

Based on data from Google Business Profiles managed by the software, 44% of GBP listings in their database have seen at least one of these updates in the past 36 months.

Their data also suggests a pattern and seasonality when Google rolls out more updates to GBP profiles. November, December and before Easter, see higher change frequencies and updates of data fields, such as opening hours, than any other times of the year.

Another interesting finding from the Mirador Local data was that Google simultaneously updated the names of 192 profiles of a single brand, removing the “™” from the brand name.

You’re not usually notified of changes made to your profile by Google (or suggested by other users); some changes can be more problematic than others.

Removing a “™” from a brand might be frustrating for stakeholders. Still, incorrect updates to your opening hours, phone number, or website URL can impact your business and potential customers.

Where does Google get the information it uses to change your GBP listings?

While you can edit your own Google Business Profile information, Google verifies changes against several data sources to prevent abuse of the GBP system. 

These data sources include:

  • Information about the business from the “owned” website (i.e., contact page information and schema declarations).
  • Information about the business on “external” websites (i.e., BBB, Companies House, authoritative directories).
  • Public user contributions (i.e., Local Guides program, reviews, photos, manual edits).
  • User engagement data with location.

Consistency in name, address and phone number (NAP) has long been crucial for local search optimization. While being showcased in the Map Pack can offer significant benefits, it has unfortunately been subject to excessive exploitation. This has led Google to take measures to validate and utilize alternative data sources to mitigate such abuse.

As Google’s systems have worked to prevent spam and improve accuracy, genuine businesses have been caught up in the fight and required additional verification requests.

Dig deeper: How to follow Google Business Profile guidelines

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Optimizing for Google’s GBP validation systems

While there is no direct way to optimize for algorithms or AI, it is possible to ensure that everything within your sphere of influence is as accurate, consistent and optimized as possible.

NAP and brand consistency

Ensuring your business name, address and phone number are accurate across the web has been a staple rule for at least the last decade (as far back as I can remember), but with how Google operates now, you need to go beyond this box tick.

Google’s validation systems compare information found online about the business against the information submitted by businesses on their Google Business Profiles from sources such as:

  • Online directories
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Government databases
  • Local business associations

Consistency across these platforms can prevent Google from making incorrect data assumptions and amends. Because of this, I often encourage clients to only build citations on prominent directories and platforms that they can amend in the future if needed.

Monitoring and leveraging user feedback

Google places a lot of weight and value on the input from searchers (and the Local Guides community), who mostly work to improve the accuracy and quality of listings.

They provide real-time insights that can be used to identify inaccuracies or outdated information that either hasn’t been picked up algorithmically or the overall digital footprint of the business isn’t sufficient to validate against.

When a user submits feedback, Google reviews the suggestion to assess its credibility. This might involve comparing the suggested edit against other available data sources. 

In some cases, this might lead to requests for additional information or verification, such as asking the business owner to provide evidence to refute or amend the suggested edit within a certain time frame.

In addition to encouraging positive reviews, businesses can ask customers to validate business claims such as opening hours by simply mentioning that they stopped by the location “at lunch” or including wording akin to “a nice evening at.”

It is important to highlight that Google also has mechanisms in place to prevent “spikes” in content that violate its content policies.

“To detect policy-violating content, our machine-learning algorithms scan contributions for signals of suspicious user activity. The policy-violating content is either removed by our automated models or flagged for further review by trained operators and analysts who conduct content evaluations that might be difficult for algorithms to perform alone.”

Leveraging user feedback this way can reinforce your business information and contribute to your E-E-A-T strategy.

Dig deeper: How to build an E-E-A-T strategy for local SEO

Solidifying your entity

Ensuring your place in Google’s Knowledge Graph is also important to safeguard against Google updating your Google Business Profile with incorrect information.

An entity defines a “thing” or a concept within Google’s Knowledge Graph that is singular, defined and distinguishable. They are characterized by attributes such as name and type and their relationship to other entities.

As it’s using various data points across the web, any confusion with businesses of a similar name and in the same arena/service category could lead to their information being misplaced on your profile.

Dig deeper: How to establish your brand entity for SEO: A 5-step guide

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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