Google enjoys informing its visitors about places. They enjoy it so much that they created Google Maps. They enjoy it so much that they just might create a Google Maps listing for your organization if you don’t do it first. (To see if they already have, search Google Maps.) Before we got them settled down and straightened out, Google had created over a dozen map listings for Texas A&M University. As one of the largest university campuses in the country, we don’t have a single physical address. But using their algorithms over several months, Google picked out various addresses and phone numbers to represent the University. At one point, Google decided that Texas A&M University was headquartered in a Northgate apartment – they had apparently crawled a Chinese graduate engineering student’s thesis which had included his address.
For several of these listings, I clicked “Report a problem,” “Suggest an edit” and provided “Feedback” sometimes pasting in my Texas A&M University Webmasters Office email signature to show my authenticity. A few weeks later, I was surprised to receive a call from a representative of Google Maps. Assuming this would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I stated the University’s basic information clearly and repetitiously. Possibly I didn’t state it clearly enough, because within a few days I began receiving calls from prospective students and delivery truck drivers. My office phone number was now listed on Google as the official university phone number.
Fortunately, I soon received a second call from Google Maps, where I was able to state the correct phone number for the Texas A&M University switchboard (979-845-3211) even more firmly and repetitiously. They corrected the problem and I was able to answer my phone again.
Two years later, our social media team informed me that Google wasn’t listing our official Google+ page in their search results, as they had been. It turned out that they had converted my Google Maps page into a Google+ page. At least it had the right phone number now. But Google was displaying a map link to that page (with 57 followers), and farther down and less prominently, a Google+ link to the official page (5,833 followers). Meanwhile, people had visited the wrong page 7,000,0000 times.
So how to get the problem corrected? Fortunately, Google had just developed a way to merge a Google+ local page (my page auto-created by Google) with a Google+ brand page (the official one lovingly created by the Division of Marketing and Communications). But in the end, I simply deleted the original Google+ local page. Instantly Google stopped displaying it (because it was no more) and people stopped clicking on it.
Like it or not, experts agree that your Google+ page will become your college or department’s official home on Google. And Google has been increasingly displaying local places in prominent places in search results. In my next installment, I’ll provide more details about how to claim your Google listings. If you have further questions, I’ll be glad to help. Just don’t give Google my phone number.
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