Google believes what many dead, wise people have said – that with great power comes great responsibility, and that’s why they strongly encourage business owners to “claim” their business on Google Maps.

Today, Google is the first stop for most folks looking to spend money in eateries, shops, and other businesses. After all, “Google” isn’t just a noun, it’s a verb, too.

It’s so much easier to Google business hours or addresses than it is to phone. If that information is incorrect, it’s not uncommon for would-be money-spenders to blame the shop, not Google. The search giant knows this. Wanting to save businesses from such wrath, they’ve made “business claims” possible.

So, have you started the process to claim your business on Google? If not, do it today.

An unclaimed business is an opportunity for nefarious sorts to claim it for themselves. Before you shrug this off, consider the potential consequences.

What if someone claimed your business, then entered a ‘correction’ for the business phone number? Maybe it’s some pranking teen, but what if it’s a competing business? What if they enter their number in place of yours, and your would-be inquiries reach them, not you? How much might that cost you?

What if they changed your business hours? How easily could customers go somewhere that “is” open instead?

A hair salon in Toronto had their business was sabotaged by someone who changed their Google listing to say they sold falafel instead of styling hair. Luckily for them, the so-called “Internet Police” rode in to the rescue, putting an end to phone calls for falafel orders and confused walk-ins.

Who are the Internet Police? They’re power users Google has dubbed as “Local Guides,” volunteers whose mission is to improve search success for local businesses. There are over 33 million Local Guides around the world, in over 240 communities, constantly trying to improve information in Google listings to aid both customers and business owners.

In fact, I’m a Local Guide myself, as a home-free nomad moving from city to city. Recently, in Istanbul, I raced to reach a shop before closing – listed as 7 p.m. on Google Maps. With only 13 minutes to walk nearly a kilometre after a long day on cobblestones, I debated blowing it off, but you know how travel is – our well-intentioned plans often fall apart.

I made it! I said how glad I was to beat the shop’s closing, but the staffer replied that they were open till 8:30, not 7:00. Putting on my Internet Police cap, I showed them Google’s listed hours. He was shocked, said they were open seven days weekly, not the listed six days, and from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., not 9 to 7. Added up, they’re open for 24 more hours per week than Google had listed. I fixed it in less than two minutes, with tourist peak season just beginning. Phew!

In 10 minutes, including the Google fix, I spent $28 in the shop. It’s just a block from one of the world’s busiest tourist sites. Let’s imagine they make $75 in sales per hour – a conservative off-season estimate, ridiculously low for peak season. That’s potentially $1,800 a week in lost sales, in a country where the average person earns $600 a month.

How many times have customers deferred a visit because they thought the place was closed? As a specialty shop selling the last of Turkey’s village-loomed towels, it’s a destination shop, with a world-wide reputation among collectors of such products.

It’s impossible to know the dollar value of correcting shop information on Google, but, as a business owner, isn’t it critical to you that every dollar out there with your name on it make its way to you?

And this is just my experience, only a week ago, as a tourist with some one-location shop. I run into wrong listings frequently.

The danger with incorrect listings

Even claimed companies have mistakes in their Google info. With changing seasons and the day-to-day chaos of running a retail location, it’s easy to overlook something like updating Google. Imagine a corporate giant like Starbucks somehow having wrong hours at locations throughout the country, if not the world, because managers don’t realize the stakes.

Starbucks says 60 million customers visit their nearly 18,000 stores weekly. That’s a daily average of 476 customers filing into every shop. Suppose they spend $5 each, for a store daily total of $2,380.

Now, let’s say, instead of the usual 13 hours the average Starbucks is open, Google has them listed for 12. That’s a potential loss of $183 in an hour. Over a year, that single wrong hour a day stands the potential of costing $66,000 in lost income for a single location. Globally, that’d be $1.2 million, or the combined income for around 49,500 baristas.

But, as my example showed, being wrong by just one hour a day may be a dramatic understatement. In the case of the Turkish towel store, being “closed” 24 hours a week could cripple that company by a conservative $93,000 in a year, if people Google to see if that shop is open.

Accurate Google search results are fundamental in helping you as a business owner, no matter how you feel about Google. If you’re not using that free tool to its best advantage by claiming your business and regularly ensuring its information is accurate for your store hours, your offerings, and your map location, then you’re possibly losing money.

Worse, you could be frustrating people who had already decided to spend money with you and who change their mind.

According to Richard Trus, one of the world’s top Local Guides, sabotaged businesses report as much as a 20% hit on their income. With stats showing that four out of five searches on Google Maps leads to a purchase or visit, there’s no room for error.

With so much going on for businesses, it’s easy to understand that wrong information may be overlooked for a week, a month, or even longer. If a competitor sabotages your information, how soon would you to realize it? How much of a financial toll could “closed” listings, a wrong address or phone number, or even wrong business services take on your bottom line?

How to get started

ICUC understands that your online identity is everything today. Whether it’s a small business with a few locations or a national giant with dozens of stores, the threat of online sabotage through wrongly “corrected” location information is an ever-present danger.

That’s why ICUC prioritizes monitoring your online listings to ensure hours, locations, and services are accurate on Google and beyond. In fact, when onboarding new clients, business listings anywhere and everywhere are their first priority, because if that ain’t right… that’s just wrong.

With ICUC on your side, you’ll be able to rest knowing you’re in control of your online identity. Whether it’s locations, operations, or what’s said about you, you’ll know, and like all those wise, dead folks said, knowing really is half the battle.

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