Google Maps Guidelines: What has Changed?

Google updated the Maps Listing Guidelines earlier today. It is difficult to understand the differences without a direct comparison to the old guidelines. I have attempted to highlight the changes in italics:

Original Guidelines

New Guidlelines
  Modified Guidelines  
Represent your business exactly as it appears in real life. The name on Google Maps should match the business name, as should the address, phone number and website.   Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google Maps should match the business name, as should the address, phone number and website.
Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business’s title or address fields.   Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields.
List information that provides as direct a path to the business as you can. Given the choice, you may want to list individual location phone numbers over a central phone line, official website pages rather than a directory page, and as exact of an address as you can.   Provide information that best identifies your individual locations and provides users with the most direct path to your business. For example, you should provide individual location phone numbers in place of central phone lines and the precise address for the business in place of broad city names or cross-streets.
Only include listings for businesses that you represent.   Only enter listings for businesses that you own or are explicitly authorized to represent.
Don’t participate in any behavior with the intention or result of listing your business more times than it exists. Service area businesses, for example, should not create a listing for every town they service. Likewise, law firms or doctors should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.   Create only one listing for each physical location of your business. Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts. Service area businesses, for example, should not create a listing for every town they service. Likewise, law firms or doctors should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.
  New  
    Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords into the title field, and do not include phone numbers or URLs in the title along with your proper business name.
    When entering categories, use only those that directly describe your business. Do not submit related categories that do not define your business. For example, a taxi company might properly categorize itself as "Airport Transportation", but it would be inaccurate to also use the category “Airport”. Also, please use each category field to enter a single category. Do not list multiple categories or keywords in one field.
    Provide the one URL that belongs to your business both in terms of the landing page and the displayed URL. Pages that redirect to another domain, or act as "click through" sites may lead to penalization.
    Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields.

In these new guidelines it appears that Google is making explict more cases of abuse. Obviously affiliate abuse and directories claiming of listings is targeted as well as category spam and title stuffing. It is unclear whether enforcement will be more proactive.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps Guidelines: What has Changed? by

25 thoughts on “Google Maps Guidelines: What has Changed?”

  1. Reading the 2 sets of guidelines, you can almost track Google’s growing experience with specific types of spam and abuse. Interesting to see them laid out side by side like that, Mike.

    I wonder if these new specifics will have any effect.

    In the case of innocent folks who may have made mistakes because they didn’t really know what they were doing, the answer could be yes.

    In the the case of spammers, well, they’ve already decided not to obey guidelines. Laws for the lawless seldom work.

  2. Your statements are particularly true if there isn’t active enforcement as opposed to reactive.

  3. Ive seen Google add keywords in titles of companies I work with due to the mash-up and override the “claimed” info I entered.

    Can they really enforce something they’ve yet to have figured out?

  4. @bobthebuilder

    Yes the guidelines are much more specific and clear as to what is not legal. Although I am not sure it wasn’t clear before, it is clearer now.

    @Erik
    The business title is one area that needs significantly more clarification regardless. See the comments in the previous post.

    Regardless, rules schmules if Google does not allocate the resources to clean up, police and prevent spamming it will continue because the rewards are so high and the costs are so low.

  5. Thanks for the effort, Mike. As always you are so generous in sharing and publishing your research. This is very helpful. Looks like Google is making progress. “baby steps” This business listing stuff is tough :) !

  6. Excellent work, Mike. btw I first noticed this via Gib tweeting it.

    Just this morning I was contemplating some changes to some records that would violate the guidelines. I won’t make those changes.

    I am curious both about future enforcement and about the ability of Google to catch existing listings that might violate these guidelines. It would be helpful if one of Google’s employees could speak to these and other questions regarding the local business center and the operations of Google Maps.

    Very nice job.

    Dave

  7. @Gib
    Thanks
    @Dave
    I have been thinking about enforcement. Currently it is somewhat of a black hole. If you report via the spam reporting it very rarely seems to be taken down. Whether they are tweaking their algos is unclear.

    Obviously there are 3 possible paths:
    1)Tweak the algo or the lbc to automatically recognize violations and pull them down – for example phone number in business name…
    2)Increase human power and respond manaully to all incoming requests
    3)Some combo of the above 2

    Currently my sense is that Google is following #3 but the human element is very minimal. Its not working all that well.

    Google needs to up the ante that’s for sure. At the moment the rewards for a good spam job are way to high and the costs are way too low for people not to game the system.

  8. Again: I repeat it would be terrific if some Google employees who work in this area would be willing to comment on these issues. Take it out to the bigger world. Communicate with the users, implementers, and those that deal with this element of Google.

    Get some interaction and give us a feel as to how Google will move forward.

    In any case, thanks for the updates.

  9. so you all want to stop businesses using google for marketing? thats never going to happen have you no notice the amount of users of the internet compared to the amount of spam?

  10. This is my favorite:
    “Create only one listing for each physical location of your business.”

    Interesting, given the fact that some of my clients have multiple listings that were created not by me or the client – they were seemingly created by Google itself from information that is pulled from outside sources (Yellow pages and other industry-related directories).

    How to reconcile the fact that the system doesn’t follow it’s own guidelines?

  11. @Melissa

    That’s a great question and one that is compounded by the complexity of Google’s way of doing local. There really are two sources for bad information:
    -Intentionally misleading listings entered by the bad guys
    -The many sources and resources that Google relies on to create their listings

    In the end they both go thru some sort of merge and purge that hopefully will clarify the situation but often doesn’t.

    Some of this is caused by faulty basic information that Google is grabbing and some by quirks in their algo. These are a function of the process where as the spam is a function of individuals gaming the system.

    In the end though these “data quality” issues all affect us all.

  12. Any suggestions on what to do when you’re faced with multiple listings and you want to encourage them to merge?

  13. Oh, I did find the May 8th post you linked very helpful! But I should have been more clear – any new ideas, given all of the changes that have occurred in the last couple of weeks?

  14. Well it took me 4 months of back and forth with Google to get this much clarity about the process…I am not clear on what problem of dupes this doesn’t solve?

  15. I’m just wondering what about accounts that are still having a ‘system error’. You don’t have any access to your listings, which means you can’t change them nor remove them from Maps.
    Is there any solution for that?
    Is there any individual on Google we can turn to & ask for help in removing all lisitngs from those problematic accounts?
    Thanks!

  16. If it isn’t obvious you have been “ejected” from Maps for violating the guidelines.

    There is an indeterminate length of banishment with your option being to file and re-file periodically a reinclusion request.

    There may be other more radical techniques but none that are on the up and up as far as I know

  17. Umm. Hey it would be great if Google would actually let me claim my unverified listing that is stealing all the link juice from my live listing. Cant send postcard bc the address and zip are wrong. Community edits wont merge the listing, even after several weeks and no one at G really answers the question.

    What sucks most, is that I spent a lot of time getting linked up, and cant even benefit from that!!

  18. The google map updates were extremely confusing. Thank you for clarifying them in this manner. They are definitely easier to understand now.

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