If you own SEO at a multi-location brand (or an agency that works with them), it can be hard to sleep at night.
Once upon a time, we were approached by a multi-location retailer about a Google My Business (GMB) problem. Apparently, at some point, Google updated the phone number on a decent percentage of their GMB pages from the local store number to their national customer support number.
They had discovered this because their customer support calls — and cost — had gone through the roof virtually overnight. The problem got fixed, and things went back to normal, but I doubt the person managing their GMB program ever got a good night’s sleep after that.
Over the years, most of us in the Local SEO world have become accustomed to Google updating GMB pages, even those that have been claimed, seemingly on an algorithmic whim. We’ve noticed this is particularly common with images:
The old ‘change your dealership photo to a cat picture’ trick
If you’ve seen any of our Local SEO presentations in the past year or two, this shot is probably familiar, but it’s so good I can’t stop sharing it! Nor can I stop sharing a more recent example we call, “You Want a Slice With That Jeep?”
And because a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s take a look at this luxury apartment building turned Porta-Potty depot:
When Google shut down MapMaker earlier this year, a metric ton of images in the Local Knowledge Graph got changed. And while I am sure Google’s engineers did a ton of testing, what we’ve seen over and over again is that Google often doesn’t know exactly how changes to one part of its systems will affect other parts. It’s one of the reasons we Local SEO types have jobs. It’s also the reason why we find ourselves a bit cranky in the morning.
This issue was happening so often, we actually built a tool to monitor front-end GMB changes because we were pretty sure that GMB’s dashboard was not alerting us to a good portion of updates that were getting published.
Auto-generated retailer department GMB pages
Often, the problem is not that Google updated a GMB page you have already claimed, but that it creates new pages for you that you don’t know exist. This issue can be acute for multi-location retailers that have, or appear to have, multiple departments. Over the past year or two, we have seen Google auto-generate department GMB pages, often with disastrous results. Following are a few special ones.
The image below shows a typical GMB page for a store with multiple departments. Often, these “stores within a store” are legitimately created by the brand and can be great when it comes to ranking for local, category-specific queries.
But if you click on the “Costco Hearing Aids Center” link in the Department listings, it takes you to an unclaimed, clearly auto-generated GMB page that is marked as “Closed today” — this screenshot was taken at 12:00 noon on a Wednesday.
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