300 Seconds: Google Places

On Monday, Wired featured an article about a restaurant in Washington, D.C. The Serbian Crown, owned by Rene Bertagna, was a located off the beaten path, making it a destination restaurant. In 2012, Bertangna noticed a sharp drop in weekend traffic. A 75 percent drop. He didn’t understand why until a customer called to ask why the restaurant was closed on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

It turned out that Google Places, the search giant’s vast business directory, was misreporting the Serbian Crown’s hours. Anyone Googling Serbian Crown, or plugging it into Google Maps, was told incorrectly that the restaurant was closed on the weekends, Bertagna says. For a destination restaurant with no walk-in traffic, that was a fatal problem.

Bertangna did not own a computer, so he hired an internet consultant to help him claim his place on Google Maps. But it was too late. After 40 years in the same location, the Serbian Crown had to close its doors. Bertangna is now suing Google with the theory that “a competing restaurant sabotaged the Google Places listing to drive away the Serbian Crown’s customers.”

The moral of this story: set up your bookstore on Google Places. For 99% of you, it should be relatively easy. Click here to go to the Google Places for Business site, click on the “Get on Google” button, and follow the instructions.

Now, if you fall into the 1% (like I did), you might run into a road block which will not allow you to claim your Google Place. (Mine was because several other businesses share my same address.) If this happens to you, file a complaint with Google. And then do this next step.

Actually, do this even if you were able to claim your bookstore on Google Places. Set up Google Alerts. Set one up for your bookstore as well as key employees who might be mentioned in the news, in blogs, or in Twitter. You can receive alerts as they happen, once a day, or even once a week. The timing should fit your own preference. What is important is that you’ll notice any odd activity before it’s too late to do anything about it.

And then finally, every week you should Google your bookstore. Google your store with your city. Then Google just your store name. This way you’ll experience the search from your customer’s perspective, and you’ll be able to see if your bookstore on Google Places has been hacked.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay