Monday 10 Nov 2008
Google is no longer allowing emergency service providers to contact them directly regarding misrepresented business contact information. To read about and comment on this important change in Google’s policy, come to this post.
I’d like to follow up regarding the post I wrote last week about my experience using Google local listings during a medical emergency.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Maps Guide Jen regarding the 4 incorrect medical listings I encountered in the 10-Pack/One Box while seeking medical aid. It was good of her to write to me, and I’m thankful for that. Google is looking into the matter, and in the meantime, Jen showed me something I hadn’t seen before. I’m wondering if any of you have noticed the link referenced in Jen’s email:
Thank you again for providing those search results. We’ve traced the information back to some of our third-party data providers, and are pursuing investigations into the best way to correct the listings. I’ll follow up with you as soon as this is done.
I understand that the main concern expressed is that the repercussions for incorrect information on hospital listings is much greater than that of non-emergency service businesses. We completely agree with this. In fact, we allow hospital and medical service listings to be edited partly for the reasons that you’ve expressed (outdated or misdirected information). Community edits for these listings come under great scrutiny. Our contact options in the help center http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=contact_policy allows users to tell us specifically when emergency service, shelter, and other hospital data is incorrect, and we aim to resolve these within 48 hours. While it’s not possible for us to go through every single hospital listing in our index, we do our best to ensure the accuracy of major listings.
We’re always working on new ways to connect in with and hear the voices of all our business owners. Driven, solution-oriented feedback like yours really helps us in knowing what improvements will make the biggest impact for you, SEOs and other business owners. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions or questions!
Sure enough, there is a link right on the page Jen directed me to that reads:
I see incorrect business information for emergency services, hospitals or shelters
I had never seen this before. Had you?
I am concerned that most folks will not know that this link exists, or that it is a way for people to hopefully get a faster response from Google in the case of incorrect emergency/medical provider data. Owing to my recent experience, I’m in that frame of mind where one realizes, “If it happened to me, it’s probably happening to lots of people.” And, in very strange case of coincidence, reader Dana Lookadoo of Pixel Position left a comment on my blog relating her extremely similar experience a year ago, in her own city, when her husband’s appendix ruptured:
Since my husband knew the area better than me, he drove there, no map needed. However, he was in the hospital 2.5 days. I was now on my own. I relied on Google Localâ€™s maps to guide me. The map gave the wrong street name. I drove in circles across a freeway and back multiple times. I walked into the hospital frustrated at Google.
I’m doubting that Dana knew of the link on the Google contact page, and I continue to feel concern about this.
As it seems pretty clear that Google plans to continue depending upon the public to correct errors in their LBC database, I made a suggestion in my response to Jen’s email, based upon the fact that Google does have this feature in place to facilitate reporting this specific class of errors. Why not have a little icon like a red cross or something in 10-pack, One Box or Maps listings of emergency/medical providers accompanied by a link reading REPORT INCORRECT DATA. It can’t take the place of Google committing to ensure that their data is correct by contacting hospitals, doctors, police stations, firehouses, etc., but something like this might take us one step closer to creating public awareness that Google’s data on emergency services providers may not be correct, and that if it is incorrect, the public can easily bring this to Google’s notice.
I continue to feel that this is a critical situation, where pubic safety is at stake, and I’m glad that Google is trying to figure out what to do about it. I don’t envy them their job. They have taken on a huge responsibility – maybe one that they didn’t fully understand when they pulled Local into their Universal SERPs. I must say, it feels wrong to me that accuracy for Google’s data is being placed on the shoulders of the public, without the public understanding that. Yet, if this is the route Google is determined to pursue, then I would say that every effort should be made to make the reporting system as prominent and accessible as possible.
What do you think? I’d like to know.