For finding things, it’s hard to beat Google, whether it be concept, place or thing. If you are looking for a local business using Google Maps, that information is provided by another Google platform called “Places”, which consists of listings provided by business owners and “crowdsourcing”, which can either be a boon or bane to your business, especially if you were unaware that your business even has a Places listing. A restaurant owner in Virginia found out the hard way how impactful the internet can be, despite the low tech way he ran his business. The Serbian Crown only discovered that it had a Google Places listing after it was on a rapid decline in weekend receipts that eventually led to its closure. After months of struggling to find out why, the owner received a call from a regular who asked why they were closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. They weren’t, but Google’s search results said they were. The owner hired a consultant to take control of the places listing and correct the information, but the damage was already done.
What this means for you:
It’s unclear whether the misinformation found in the above Google Places listing was a mistake entered by an anonymous visitor just trying to be helpful, or deliberate sabotage by a competitor. Though the Serbian Crown’s owner alleges the latter and has sued Google for creating a platform that enables this sort of sabotage, Google has dismissed the claim as meritless. Anyone who has done any work managing a brand online, especially through Yelp, can understand how the Serbian Crown’s downfall could be wrought. The restaurant spent months walking around unaware with the equivalent of a “Kick me” sign stuck to its back. As more and more people get their information from the Internet, how your business appears online matters immensely, regardless of what service you perform, and it’s essentially impossible for any organization with a public-facing element to remain invisible or “off the grid.” If you don’t actively maintain an online presence, it’s still important to regularly search for your organization online to see what the internet has to say about it.