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Local Business Search - Unethical or against the rules?

3:22 pm on May 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 25, 2008
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First post on here so I apologise if I break any of your codes of conduct.

I am running a kind-of directory for a local city/town in the uk. When I say "kind-of" I mean that, yes, it is a directory of business in the local area but essentially each business will have their own "page/profile" similar to a myspace idea (without social networking, comments, etc). The business' will be able to make changes such as products, prices, opening times, about the company, pictures/photos, colors, etc, etc. Each business also gets a "pretty" url for their page such as directorysite.com/business-name.... this url is chosen by the user.

At the minute I have some people manually entering a lot of this information for me and we have started to mail (yes snail mail) login details to each business in our directory allowing them to make changes to their page.

So theres the background, now what I have started doing, a little bit, has worried me a little. And I'm starting to think I should reverse my actions but on the other hand its providing good traffic to my site and is giving the business, exposure.

So what have I done?
I (not necessarily me but people on my behalf) have been looking through google local business listings for companies in our directory that are either
a) no listed on local business
b) already listed but with only limited information and obviously have no website
If they meet either of the above criteria we have been updating their listing (for anyone that hasn't used local business listings, its really easy to do) for them including items that dont benefit us such as new phone numbers, etc but have also been setting their website as directorysite.com/business-name.

I can see this situation from both sides of the fence... it gives the business more exposure if they dont have a website and gets them listed in google when they weren't there at all previously. On the negative side I have essentially hijacked someones listing...BUT I have not given any false information.

What does everyone think to this? I'm really keen to hear your throughts, thanks for your time.

12:21 pm on May 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Oct 9, 2004
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Hi Avalor and welcome to WebmasterWorld,

I think that there's a potential issue with what you are doing, but I can also see that many businesses could benefit from what you are doing.

The problem I see is this:

Suppose a business does have a website, but you don't know about it. You then add the information and tell Google that your page is the website for that business. From that point on Google may choose to trust that information or not, but if it does then your page will be seen as more important for that business than the actual website (which Google may find/match automatically).

This is a problem you have described as 'Hijacking' and an irate business owner may see it that way too - you don't want the expense and time issues that surround defending any legal action. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say you could be stepping over the line by specifically asking Google to favour your website (especially if your site is commercial in any way).

It's your decision, but I would probably not add the directory as the business URL and let Google make that association - they should pick up the page on your site as related to that business and (if the comapny doesn't have a website) you may find your directory picking up traffic that way.

Good luck

3:37 pm on May 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Apr 12, 2006
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I think what you've done is risky for your long-term survival. If you just had one or two complaints sent to Google, they well might yank all your listings in one fell swoop.

Google might easily provide links to your profile pages as related info links if you have the only biz profile information page for a business, anyway. Or, if you had a significant enough number of special business profiles, you could make a business deal with Google and they'd likely accept a feed from you in order to enhance their Maps content.

What you've described is mostly benign and mutually beneficial in most cases to businesses, the search engine, endusers, and yourself. However, as inbound points out, it only really takes one upset business to topple this house of cards -- that one business could make you look really slimy really fast.

Find some way to get those businesses to opt into allowing you to manage their internet presence so you can remove this risk.

4:57 am on May 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Dec 5, 2002
posts: 529
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Google is taking a hurt now and ask questions later policy in local.

Unless the business owner agrees to it ... don't bother.