How to Handle Google Maps Mixups.
Lodging Interactive
Friday, 23rd October 2009
Google Maps has many wonderful features, and a favorite feature for businesses is the review section. When local businesses show up on a map, information and customer feedback can show up on both the map as well as the side bar.

But what happens when this information isn't entirely accurate? What happens if the information provided isn't accurate? This can range anywhere from typos to company profiles that happen to be misplaced. One common problem is a competitors reviews showing up under your business name. There is no end to the potential damage this could cause your online reputation.

With the number of businesses—especially in the hospitality industry—listed on Google Maps, it's no wonder things can go amiss sometimes. So what do you do with this kind of identity theft (or at the very least, identity borrowing?) The answer is: head for the source.

For lodging information, Google Maps takes its data from a website called ActiveHotels.com. Here, hotel users can rank their experience and share comments about what they liked (and what they didn't). Google Maps then uses this information when listing hotels in the area.

As ActiveHotels.com is a third-party website, Google doesn't have control over the content. If information in the profile is wrong, they aren't responsible, ActiveHotels.com is. Contact ActiveHotels.com directly and let them know what the problem is. You may need to provide screen shots so they can see how the mix up looks. They will then set about correcting the problem immediately. It may take Google a little longer to catch up, but over time they will automatically correct the changes you've made to your profile.

If you're impatient and don't want to have to wait long for your profile to change over, there are things you can do to minimize the affect of this mixup. One thing is to encourage clients to visit ActiveHotels.com and leave reviews (if the situation is very bad you may want to leave your own!) These newer reviews will replace—or at the very least push down—the misapplied reviews. You can also add reviews directly into Google Maps—just click "write a review" and follow the instructions.

For those not in the hotel industry, it's not as clear what sites Google Maps draws it's reviews from. Clothing boutiques may find their information has been provided by Citypages.com, restaurant review data may be taken from Chowhound or Yelp.com. It pays to look at the top customer review sites and see where the problem originated from.
As a general rule, it's always a good idea to monitor your online presence. In the modern web landscape, everyone has an opinion. Blogs, Twitters, Podcasts—seems everyone is talking. The question is, when everyone is talking about you, your company, and your reputation, how can you control what they're saying?

The truth is, you can't. You can't censor criticism anymore than you can buy praise. But there are ways to use social networking to help your company maintain a good reputation. By solving the problems people criticize and keeping an ear open for what customers like, company's can maintain—and even augment customer loyalty.

One of the best ways to listen for buzz is through consumer review sites. These sites troll the internet and compile all the reviews—good and bad—of your services and products. Many companies don't realize how powerful these websites can be. For one thing, they are often very high on search results, meaning potential customers who are searching for your product will be able to easily find these review sites. For another thing, some search engines will show these reviews directly in the search results.

This can be very scary for companies who want to cultivate a strong online presence. However, by simply incorporating some of these reviews into your SEM or Online management strategy, you can keep your reputation strong—and in many cases make that reputation for believable.

So where to start? What are the sites the average company should be monitoring? Here is a list of the most popular:

  • Citysearch.com
  • HotelGuide.com
  • Insiderpages.com
  • Mytravelguide.com
  • Priceline.com
  • Travelocity.com
  • Travelpost.com
  • Tripadvisor.com
  • Yelp.com
Whatever you do, be sure to do something. Doing nothing can kill your reputation, therefore killing your profits. A good reputation doesn't mean perfect reviews, but rather more positive reviews than negative. Consumers realize everyone disagrees, so a few negative reviews aren't going to hurt you. But responding to those negative reviews is what really counts in the eyes of their customers—especially in tough economic times.

With a little monitoring, you can keep problems like mixed up profiles from happening, and increase customer goodwill (and your reputation) by listening to customer concerns.

About Lodging Interactive

Lodging Interactive, headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, is a leading provider of Internet Marketing Services to the hospitality, spa and restaurant industries. The company provides a portfolio of effective hotel internet marketing services to hundreds of hotels, resorts, timeshares, spas and restaurants. Clients include branded hotels from nearly every major brand as well as prestigious, landmark independent hotels.

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