A Plan to Fix Google Editorial Content. An #OccupyGoogleMaps post

Hospital systems have struggled with Google editorial content for years.

It’s the problem of inaccurate information on a multitude of Google listings. This includes wrong phone numbers, names and addresses which cause problems for patients, visitor and staff.

Now the problem has expanded. What was once limited to Google Maps now shows up in auto-generated content on Google+, Google Places and worst of all, Google search results.  None of this data is sourced – in fact it’s presented by Google as accurate editorial content.

Recent articles have detailed the issues. For background, I recommend reading:

The goal of this post is to suggest solutions that:

  • Acknowledge that Google will not change its “No Customer Service” business model. They won’t be hiring thousands of humans to take our phone calls or respond to emails.
  • Are appropriate for large, complex organizations like hospitals, universities, government agencies, Fortune 500 firms, etc.  Not your local dry cleaner or pizza shop.

Four Ways to Fix The Google Editorial Content Problem

1. Google must display the source of their editorial content. This allows us to track down and fix  erroneous data.

2. Make it easier to claim ownership as an organization. For example, my hospital system has over 100 physical locations. 500+ program names, and over  1,000 affiliated physicians. All of them come to me when Google gets it wrong.

3. Automatic ownership of the numerous current  listings based on metadata unique to the organization. Some examples using my hospital system include:

Unique Name – Any listing that uses “University of Maryland Medical Center”,  “Greenebaum Cancer Center”, “Maryland Shock Trauma”, and dozens of others.  It has to be unique.  There are many places across the country called “Childrens Hospital” and “St. Joseph Hospital” which couldn’t be automatically claimed.

Unique Phone Number – This could be a single phone number or an entire exchange. At my hospital we use 410-328-XXXX. Any Google phone listing that begins with “410-328” should automatically be owned by us.

Unique Domain – We have over twenty websites in our healthcare system.  Any listing that uses umm.edu, umgcc.org, umms,org, etc. are automatically ours.

Unique Location – We have over  100 street addresses, and most are completely owned by us. For example 22 S. Greene St., Baltimore, MD 21201 is our main hospital. Any listing with that address is ours.

4. Automated updating of Google listings. Google currently uses a clumsy process with web forms and spreadsheets. A better way uses a tool already in place at large organizations – the Web Content Management System

For example, once Google agrees that UMM.EDU is the official website of my hospital, we could embed metadata to feed our Google listings. Information would include:

  • Official name
  • Address
  • Contact phone number
  • Email address
  • Geo coordinates for map pins
  • Descriptive text for Google listings
  • Links to images, approved logos
  • etc.

Using inheritance rules, we could provide different metadata for each of our departments, and custom information for each physician.

Google would need to provide a structured data framework for each field in Google Maps, Places, etc. plus the ability to create tags unique to our industry.

If Google sets this up, they would:

  1. Offload responsibility for accurate data to the organization in question
  2. Have a single “source of truth” for all Google products
  3. Enable the organization to manage 1,000’s of records from their own website.

This only works because large, complex organizations (the ones having problems with Google data) are also likely to have content management systems for website management – making metadata control possible.

What’s Next?

I was contacted by Google last month about this problem, followed by  several conversations with one of their representatives. They claim to be working on a solution and wanted my ideas. I provided everything in this post.

I want your suggestions. Comment on this post or email your ideas to me at FixGoogle@EBMail.org and I promise they will be shared with Google.

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17 Responses to A Plan to Fix Google Editorial Content. An #OccupyGoogleMaps post

  1. Jeff Stewart says:

    I was beginning to wonder if I was the only digital marketer in healthcare dealing with the constant calls about incorrect info in Google. YES! Google needs to make this easier to fix. For us, the problem hasn’t been having one accurate location – it’s been preventing the 50 inaccurate ones.

    • edbennett says:

      No question, the biggest problem is incorrect existing listings. That’s what the first three steps aim to fix.

  2. Peter says:

    There’s a big problem with the way Google Maps does addresses. When I put in the postcode or latitude and longitude of my office – in a hospital ward – it remaps this to a point nearby. The problem is that there are barriers meaning you have to walk or drive a mile around them to get to my office. So patients would be unable to use google maps to find me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    • edbennett says:

      That’s a common problem. My hospital covers four square blocks, with three different entrances, yet we have a single street address.

  3. Charlie Dierker says:

    Thanks, Ed. I think this is spot-on and very much reflects my thinking as well regarding our efforts and frustrations at Texas Health Resources.

  4. Chris Boyer says:

    I am trying to approach this in steps: 1) try claiming my hospital locations first (they seem to be the easiest), 2) try claiming the physician practice locations part of our health system (much more difficult!), and then 3) try claiming the ambulatory locations.

    Today, we batch uploaded the hospital locations and requested a validation code. We also marked 27 locations as “closed” since they had wrong addresses. Crossing fingers to see where this goes.

    Lastly, I started noticing that some of the “authentic sources” that Google uses include such disreputable sites such as Vital and HealthGrades. Guess what that means: hybrid locations appearing in Google maps with the hospital and physician names mixed together. Sigh,,,

    • edbennett says:

      How do you get around the verification problem?

      • Chris Boyer says:

        You can actually set up a verification contact information in the Google Batch upload process. It’s not intuitive – it’s a small menu item that you need to select along the way. If this process works, I’ll be posting how I did it.

        If it doesn’t, I’ll be posting about it as well.

        • edbennett says:

          That would be very good news, and potentially solve half of the problem. We’d still need a fix for the auto-generated listings

  5. Chris Boyer says:

    Oh yeah – today in a meeting, someone asked about claiming Bing listings. I rolled my eyes so far, I saw the back of my head.

    • edbennett says:

      Don’t discount Bing – I’ve heard they provide good tools for managing your listings

      • Chris Boyer says:

        I actually tried claiming a listing in Bing – you’re right. Their tools are much easier to use. I’ll let you know how long until I get a resolution.

        • edbennett says:

          I’d started the Bing claim process, but it needs confirmation by phone or snail mail. The same two roadblocks we face with Google

      • Jennifer Walker says:

        I’ve had good luck (once you can get someone on the phone) having them delete listings for us. You run into problems with large numbers of listings the same way you do with google though.

  6. Scott Mowery says:

    Another challenge that I see with local listings is educating physicians on why they make the problem worse when they go off on their own and create their own listings on disreputable sites. Having a listing that isn’t managed in some ways is worse than not having one at all.

    • edbennett says:

      Good point. Fortunately for me, that’s a very minor issue at my hospital. The bigger problem is with 100’s of Google+, Google Maps and Google Places pages auto-generated by Google. Our docs are surprised and concerned when these show up – not to mention the confusion created for their patients.

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