Rankings in Google Maps Dancing All Over

The last few days have been exciting for business listed in Google Maps. And, by “exciting”, I mean irritating has hell as I’ve watched some longtime 10-pack rankings for clients drop away.

A visit to Google Maps Help shows that my clients are not alone. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was constant. Clearly there were (are?) problems across the US and Canada.

And so the conspiracy theories began. Many thought it was connected to edits made in the Local Business Center. Others thought it was algorithm changes. Having multiple businesses at the same address was thrown out as a possibility.

None of these theories matched what I was seeing. I saw drops in competitive markets and in non-competitive markets. I saw some clients stay exactly where they were.

What I did notice is that the “Pages” tab in the detail for a company’s LBL seemed to have changed. In some cases, the number of pages had dropped; in others, the tab had disappeared completely.

There were reports of Reviews disappearing as well, but I did not see this happen to any of my own clients.

My instincts were telling me to wait it out, but I’m not a patient man. So, I emailed Mike Blumenthal, who has probably forgotten more about Google Maps than I know.

Mike had two theories, both speculative and unproven:

1) Switch to (Google) Places has caused disruption with associating businesses with underlying cluster data thus leading to loss of reviews, and web pages and attendant loss of rank.

2) They have implemented some sort of more draconian penalty system for keyword or business title stuffing.

Of those, the first seems more likely, and sounds like the sort of mistake Google might make (especially within the Google Maps system).

If it was an anti-spam smack, it was a rather ineffectual one. Mike says he hasn’t eliminated it as a possibility, even if the odds are slight.

Surprisingly, after the conversation with Mike, the listings for my clients began to come back. As a result, I really believe it was some sort of data error within Google Maps, and that they are in the process of fixing it.

I would not be surprised, however, to see continued volatility in the rankings for the next few days.