Mike Blumenthal, who runs a great Google & Yahoo! Maps Blog has dug incredibly deep on this issue. He first found the theory that this was a manual change to be wrong. He stated "I investigated it was just an overly aggressive algorithm."
Then a Google Rep came in and posted;
I understand that a competitor’s website is appearing with the business information for one of your clients. Currently, Google Maps for the US compiles information from web search results, data submitted directly by local business owners, and sources such as publicly available Yellow Pages directories.
The algorithms on Google Maps automatically select relevant web pages to appear with each business listing. These algorithms work to link each business listing with the most accurate web page the algorithm can find. However, it sometimes misses the most appropriate site for an individual business. If your client would like to display his URL with his listing, we encourage him to submit this information through the Google Maps Local Business Center at http://www.google.com/local/add
There are detailed instructions at the link that rustybrick provided: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=15391&topic=1481
You might want to note that in order to alter the business details for a listing, you have to have access to that business’ mail or phone. As rustybrick noted, the Google group is a good place to ask questions – I’m on hand to answer many of them. If you have really specific questions about your listing even after reading the Help Center page, you can submit a support ticket at http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py. You'll get a faster response too if you include the full name, address and phone number of your client's business in your initial ticket.
This confirmed that the "hijack" was purely a mistake by Google's algorithm.
An example of this provided by Mike is a search on the met sarasota which brings up the following result.
You can see the listed URL is kubotadayspa.com but that is not the correct one. It is, however, currently the first listing under a Google local search for web pages found. It is clear that Google puts the first match in the web pages section as the URL for the site.
Last night, Mike reports seeing a feature on the maps results that allow others to easily report incorrect information. Next to results that are unverified, he spotted a link that says "Report incorrect information." The link takes you to a page where you can give more details. For example, this local result has the link.
Clicking on that link takes you here and gives you three choices of problems to choose from:
- The name, phone number, or address is incorrect
- Business information (e.g. hours or payment accepted), reviews, or web references are incorrect
- My home phone number or address appears in this listing
This is a quick way to report issues. It is a quick response by Google to give local business owners a way out. Nice work Mike on pressing the issue that needed to be pressed.
Here is most of Mike's coverage on the topic: - Beware: Competitor Hijacks Google Local Business Listing? Maybe, Maybe Not! - Google’s forced choice for the Authoritative Website - Google allows corrections to unverified Map entries
I did push these articles and stories to some folks at Google, but I think Mike's work in getting Google's map team to spot it was the reason for the new way to report issues on unverified listings.
Forum discussion continued at DigitalPoint Forums.