Garett Rogers at Googling Google has reported that a search on Google Maps for microsoft has returned an anti-Microsoft image within the Microsoft listing, as shown to the left. The image was originally on a Yelp.com page and automatically inserted into the Google Maps result. It appears to now have been removed, but Garett has a screen capture showing it was there just a day or so ago. So how did this happen?
Barry Schwartz and I dived in to explore more. It appears that Google runs a special geographically-targeted image search behind the scenes and tries to find images on pages that match a company’s name, as well as having an address and/or phone number that is the same or near to the company’s listing.
For example, look at the Google Maps result for ask.com. Notice how the photo for that result is taken from here. If you look at this page, notice how it mentions the company name (Ask.com) and has a phone number. This phone number, in this case, matches the number in the Google Maps results for Ask.com.
Another example is a Google Maps search for microsoft corporation, which returns an image from a Smart Computing article here (note, if you click through the Google Maps result, you will get the full article, otherwise, you get a shorter article). If you scroll down to the bottom of the full article, you will see a link to microsoft.com with phone number details.
With this case, the phone number listed is NOT an exact match. That’s the same situation with the microsoft search. The image came from this page on Yelp about Microsoft. The phone number and address don’t match the Microsoft listing. Our guess is that the images get used anyway, because Google can tell the phone numbers or addresses are in the same general area. It may be Google making a "best guess" decision that, as with Microsoft, can go wrong.
It’s not a good thing for businesses, that you can accidentally have a bad picture for your company in Google Maps. Indeed, potentially someone could "logo bomb" you by putting an image on a page along with your company name and contact information.
The good news is that business owners can easily solve this potential problem. Google Local Business Center Adds Photos, Attributes, Maps Corrections & Stats from Barry earlier this month explains how you can take control of your image in local listings.
Not everyone will do this, of course. That’s one reason Google should consider NOT using images automatically, to avoid situations like with Microsoft. Let a business owner provide an image. If they don’t, leave it blank!