This morning we heard that a gay bar in Sydney received a threat from Google to have their Google Maps listing removed. The Midnight Shift bar in Sydney receive a message from Google informing them that their business no longer met Google guidelines, and would therefore be deleted. After the news appeared in The Daily Mail, Google stepped in and resolved the problem.
The problem arose after a member of staff at The Midnight Shift on Oxford Street, Sydney, submitted a request to change the company name. Rather than an approval to change the name, The Midnight Shift was informed that the listing was no longer allowed on Google.
Naturally, The Midnight Shift updated their Facebook page with this news, saying that Google had told them that it “no longer supports gay bars”, and very quickly the message spread around the world.
Ash Doran, The Midnight Shift’s promotions worker, wrote on Facebook: “I cannot believe what I am hearing. In a conference call at the moment with Google as they are advising that they are removing Midnight Shift’s google page ‘because it’s a gay bar’ and Google ‘no longer supports gay bars’ and they will be doing it to other gay bars. So much for equality Google. This is actually insane!”
The conference call with followed up with an email, which said:
“’We’ve looked into your account and it looks like your business is not eligible for display on Google Maps per our quality guidelines. Specifically, Gay night clubs. While I understand this can be frustrating, we want to make sure that your business identity is actually represented on Google, which ultimately helps improve how real users and potential customers interact with your business in the online world.”
Poorly Trained Workers
It seems that the problem arose due to inadequate of training and a failure on the part of the Google worker to understand Google’s policies.
Google has blamed the error on a breakdown of communication, and says that they never actually removed the bar from Google Maps – although the email certainly suggested that this would happen.
Google has apologised in a statement made to Daily Mail Australia, saying “We’re truly sorry that this happened. Gay bars are welcome on Google Maps, as they have always been. We’re taking immediate action internally to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Google is an active supporter of gay and lesbian rights, sponsors Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and even signed an open letter to back same-sex marriage in Australia. However, this is a stark reminder that in an organisation is big as Google, not every employee will have the same opinion and attitude as the board of directors, and this can have a huge impact on businesses around the world.
Google Maps / Places Challenges
Although this was a mistake by a Google employee, many businesses struggle to get their company properly listed on Google maps and subsequently lose out to their competitors.
Very recently we were involved in a case, where not only did a client’s business not show on Google maps, if they searched for their own company name, a competitor showed in their place.
We managed to speak with Google, who worked with us to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, few businesses have the time and expertise to resolve such complicated problems and this results in a loss of business from one of the most popular local search engines.
Local SEO optimisation is a growing area within SEO today – as more companies move online, search becomes more competitive and companies need to focus on a smaller geographic market to maintain high positions.