Registered Google users are now permitted to adjust the place markers for businesses on Google Maps and soon will have the ability to more broadly edit local business information. Changes will initially go through a human editorial process to ensure the accuracy and propriety of information as the new capabilities are rolled out. Google told us that business owners will have final authority over their listings. More about the changes below, including an illustrated how-to guide.
The move is consistent with increasing "socialization" or openness of Google and part of a broader effort to obtain fresher and better local data. Allowing the community and business owners to edit and update information is the only viable way to have an accurate database. As diligent as the various providers are in updating and correcting local listings, the commercial databases are full of inaccurate and outdated information. For these reasons, Yahoo has had a similar system in place since January 2007.
Google’s My Maps, rolled out in April (see Google My Maps: Mashups For The Masses), has already become an enormously successful product for the company, resulting in creative and often non-traditional data on the map. In some cases, My Maps has allowed the creation of content that wouldn’t otherwise exist because of the absence of commercial databases (i.e., in some non-Western countries). It’s also been recently used more by news publishers, such as with the recent Southern California fires or the San Francisco Bay oil spill.
In addition to My Maps, in June Google started allowing users to write reviews about local businesses directly on Google. Now the business locations themselves can be adjusted. Here are some examples of how it works.
The search below is to find Albertsons supermarket in Newport Beach, California (see it on Google Maps here; it’s marker A in the screenshot below):
Google Maps actually places the store along Balboa Boulevard, while it is instead within a shopping center between Balboa and Newport boulevards. The arrow below shows where it should be:
Unfortunately for the user, the marker location can’t be moved. That’s because the business owner has already claimed the listing, as you can see when you zoom in for more details:
That’s an additional reason business owners may want to claim their listings on Google Maps — to prevent others from editing them (though Google does say editors will review changes to prevent abuses).
Next is a search for Let It Roll, a bicycle rental shop next to Albertsons (again, see it on the map here):
As you can see, it appears in the same incorrect spot as Albertsons. But since this business listing has not been claimed, it can be edited. That’s why the "Edit" link appears in the business pop-up window:
Clicking on edit gives an option to "Move Marker," as shown below:
And selecting that brings up the move window:
After dragging it to the correct location:
You then save and get a confirmation:
In the window, in something that feels like Wikipedia’s history feature, you can also see the person who made the change (in this case, our editor-in-chief Danny Sullivan, a former Newport Beach resident). You can also click on the "Show original" link to jump back to where the placeholder was originally.
John Hanke, director of Google Earth & Maps, told Danny and me on a call last week that the number of local businesses that had interacted with Google’s Local Business Center was in the "low seven figures" which is a "fraction" of the total businesses that Google Maps lists (there are about 20 million "entities" with information about them, Google says). I found that to be a remarkable statement and a reflection of the potential that Google has to directly tap into the SMB market.
Arguably, Maps is Google’s most successful product outside its core search engine. The company has certainly committed the resources to making it an increasingly rich user experience (e.g., StreetView) . However, all the "bells & whistles" don’t mean as much if the base data are inaccurate or incomplete; hence, the new edit feature.
For more about the new feature, see Google’s blog post that’s now live, as well as the new dedicated help area, FAQ page, and advice for business owners (including links on how to claim your listing). The new feature currently only works within the US, Australia and New Zealand versions of Google Maps but will roll out to other versions in the near future. See also discussion on Techmeme.