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Something seems off with Google local results



10:26 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

We have a local tailor in our town that comes up when you google "Our Town Taxi" instead of "Our Town tailor".

Due to this, this tailor is getting bad reviews, which are all about the taxi service and completely irrelevant to the services that the tailor provides.

What's up with this?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 12:27 am (utc) on Mar 2, 2012]
[edit reason] removed actual placename [/edit]

Robert Charlton

2:05 am on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hi olgiepolgie, and welcome to WebmasterWorld. As the Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com] explains, we generally don't allow specific search terms here, so I've taken the liberty of Using "Our Town" for the placename. I did run the search, though, and I'll describe what I saw happening, as I think it might be of general interest.

It's an odd hybrid of results, illustrating where Google is often getting it wrong in local queries (among others) as it juggles multiple considerations.

First, our town taxi is both a generic search phrase, for all the taxi companies in Our Town, and it's also a search for a particular company, Our Town Taxi, which, as it turns out, has a wretched reputation but an SEO-friendly company name. The company does not have an active website, and the ourtowntaxi domain is on a placeholder page offering it for sale. Google doesn't return the placeholder page, even when you search in quotes. Bing will return that page if you search it in quotes.

For the [our town taxi] search, both Google and Bing are returning Local results for taxi companies in the Our Town area up at the top of the serps. Bing has Our Town Taxi as #2 in the local "place" results up at the top".

I'm making some assumptions here about how Google is sorting data... As I see it, part of Google's database would have put Our Town Taxi as #1... but there's a step(s) in Google's ranking/indexing processes that substitutes Our Town Tailor.

Our Town Tailor, I should note, has reviews are great for him as a tailor, but not great for him as a taxi company. Our Town Taxi gets awful reviews. I'm seeing Our Town Taxi reviewed in Yelp, etc, but I'm not seeing any sort of a Place Page for Our Town Taxi, even in the Our Town Local results.

Several factors possible here. It could be that someone posted a taxi review on the tailor Place Page, and that started a series of cumulative errors... kind of like a canonicalization error that grows over time.

Also... based on observations I've made in many other searches, Google is much more likely than Bing to assume a misspelling in the query, particularly if other aspects of the query make the match statistically unlikely. Google is also very likely to skew results because of those fabled quality signals.

Conceivably, correcting these intertwined problems could be as simple as Google's needing to get some data sort criteria straight (as in adjusting the order of data table priorities)... but my guess is that it would be a huge oversimplification to put it that way.

From the small amount I know about very large data base systems, I'm assuming that Google's system, in order to scale, needs to tolerate a certain degree of error. This in fact is mentioned somewhere in the phrase-based indexing patents. I'm also conjecturing that for Google to develop algorithms that allow them to look at a larger amount of data than Bing does, their Artificial Intelligence-based system forces them to stumble before they can walk.

In part, Google counts on both user behavior and feedback to make corrections. That's also built into their system, and it has been for many years. They've now gone full blast with it.

That's the short version of my answer. ;) I'm sorry we can't post your specific example.


5:32 am on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Since I'm a Google Top Contributor at the Places forum and deal with Places issues all day, I'll take a guess.

Are BOTH Place pages visible if you search for them?

If not what happened was likely a merged listing. G often combines 2 listings together if there are any similarities in the name, address, phone or certain other data. I've had a Chiropractor listing get merged with a restaurant across town for instance. Most of the business data was for the Chiro but all the reviews were for great pasta. ;-)

When a merge happens the data gets mashed together in odd ways. The single listing may show the name and phone of one business, the address, images and reviews for the other business.

Again without being able to see the listings, I'm only guessing. Does that sound like a possibility?

Linda Buquet

Robert Charlton

9:09 am on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Linda - I think you've nailed it, and though my explanation describes some organic glitches, I agree that this is basically a Places glitch, or perhaps a combination of some data sorting overtones as you're used to seeing in Places and I'm used to seeing in organic.

Are BOTH Place pages visible if you search for them?

No... as I'd mentioned, I wasn't seeing any sort of Place page for the taxi company. I've rechecked that extra carefully, and it's not there.

I should point out, btw, as I know you know, that it's not necessary for a business to have a website in order to have a Place page. All the companies ranking on page one of the serps for the [our town taxi] search do have both place pages and websites... the oddity being that neither the tailor's website nor Place page exactly matches the query. ;)

In this case, both the taxi company and the tailor share (or shared) the same street address. Google Local shows at least 29 businesses in the building, so what kind of glitch caused a tailor to appear in place of Our Town Taxi is a question to consider.

I checked a bunch of the key business directories ranked in Google for the queries, and there's no overlap or similarity in either suite numbers or phone number. The tailor has a very clear and prominent address on the home page of his website.

Our Town Taxi, I should note, has been somewhere between sloppy and deceptive about its address info. Various directories show up to three different taxi companies in this particular building, with Bing Local and yellowpages.com showing Our Town Taxi and one other sharing the same suite. Additionally, the company returned as sharing this suite shows the same phone number that Our Town Taxi used at a previous address... probably a cell phone number.

I find it interesting that Google did not pick one of the other taxi companies when it merged listings. Google might have picked one of those sharing either the suite or the phone number. Perhaps this confusion is why Our Town Taxi was dropped out of Places.

When the "Our Town Tailor" Place page appears for the taxi query, all of the ads are for taxi companies, and all of the Related places are for tailors. When it appears for the tailor query, the Related places again are for tailors, and there aren't any ads. The graphic in both cases was supplied by the tailor, so he's obviously claimed the page.

Running through the possibilities again makes me continue to believe it might be a data table sequencing issue, but combining aspects of both the organic and Places algos.


2:36 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks guys. So how does this issue get fixed? As noted the tailor gets fantastic reviews, but since people are confusing him for the taxi company (which is subpar) his record is being tainted numbers wise since people are leaving awful reviews for the taxi company under the tailors listing.


5:16 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

olgiepolgie, it's not clear to me, are you managing his Places account and doing his local SEO or just a curious bystander?

Because if you are the one working to get this fixed I'd give you more details. BUT have carpal probs so if you are just curious I'd give you the short answer.

The short answer IF it's a merge you or he need to get Google to unmerge them. There is no way to fix it yourself.

BUT we don't know for sure yet if it's a merge. If you are helping him then I'd need to ask a bunch more Qs.

But IF it's merge and IF you are in charge of his Places account and need to know how let me know. I need to ask more Qs and then can tell you how to get Google to help you.



5:55 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Linda, I am the tailor's office neighbor and he has brought this to my attention. I would like to help him out if I could because he is not very computer/internet savvy. Any information that you have, would be appreciated.



1:50 am on Mar 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator anallawalla is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Ask him to report the listing and explain who he is. I got partial success that way - I took over an office previously used by an SEO company, then found my listing gone but my testimonials merged with his. Since they mention my name, it caused confusion as I have no association with them. Now the listing is mine again, but their testimonials are still mixed with mine. :)

Google often creates such glitches but is usually good about fixing them.

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