Google Clarifies Guidelines on Business Titles for Maps Listing

This post appeared yesterday in the Maps Help Forums in response to my poll and poll results as to how one should name a business for Maps:

Since we rolled out the most recent set of Local Business Center Quality Guidelines, we’ve seen a number of questions about which business titles are appropriate, and which are not. I hope this post will help clarify some of the confusion.

Our current guidelines state: “Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google Maps should match the business name.”

A recent post from Mike Blumenthal polled a number of different amalgamations of one business title, with the following results:

A. “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing and Heating” unofficial name with tag line on web & literature
B. “Jones Brothers” official name
C. “Jones Brothers – Plumbing and Heating” unofficial name on website & literature
D. “Jones Brothers – Plumbing and Heating” has a DBA or fictitious name filing
E. “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing & Heating – Air conditioning, Emergency Repairs, Hot Water Heaters” unofficial name with tag line on web & literature

Of all the above choices, the ONLY acceptable one is the one labeled official name (Jones Brothers).

You could, of course change the title of your business, as we’ve known a couple business owners to do. You could officially become “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing and Heating.” If another user flags your listings for violating our guidelines however, we should be able to verify this name change.

So where should the words “Plumbing and Heating” go? You should add them as a category.

Maps Guide Jen

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Google Clarifies Guidelines on Business Titles for Maps Listing by

16 thoughts on “Google Clarifies Guidelines on Business Titles for Maps Listing”

  1. thx to Mike for all this clarification, so if I understood well , we can’t use the name of the brand (for examlpe)+ KW, that’s right?
    if it is the case, it is preferable is to put a KW on the which we wish to be visible?

  2. It’s good to see Maps Guide Jen coming out to explain the changes and answer questions. But I question the last thing she says:

    “You could officially become “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing and Heating.” If another user flags your listings for violating our guidelines however, we should be able to verify this name change.”

    Seriously? They would verify that a business officially changed its name? At first blush, I’m a bit skeptical. But then I stop and think – what if they do try to verify a business name for a listing that has been flagged. I doubt this would be a manual process – so would they compare it to different databases (InfoUSA, Acxiom, Localeze, etc.). I’ve seen way too many instances where the business name in these various directories not only didn’t match the “official” offline business name, but they were all different.

    I don’t mean to go Google-bashing — on the contrary, I think they’re making some much needed improvements and I applaud Jen, Joel and everyone else on the Maps team for being involved in this conversation. Let’s just hope they keep the improvements (and transparency) coming.

  3. The vote the other day came up with a winner of (A) and I suspect most SEO’s do this or at least some sort of variation with name of city or keyword. How will Google combat this or have they already started?? I haven’t seen any drop in rankings yet for the LBC accounts that I created in the format similar to (A)

  4. hmmm. that was a quick response by google. I wonder if they could be as quick at fixing things, cleaning up things, responding to inquiries, etc. 😉

  5. Well it is a quick response but it appears to me to be to still have issues.

    For example Meyers Restaurants Inc is the local owner of the McDonald’s franchise. Are they supposed to have their listing as Meyer Restaurants Inc in Maps? Of course not.

    Meyer Restaurant Inc has the legal right to call their location McDonald’s. If a business filed a DBA as in example D. above is that not an official name?


  6. I appreciate Jen offering complete confirmation of Google’s position on this matter, yet, I must say, I find Google’s policy to be antithetical to the way the web has caused human beings to think as a result of prolonged and lengthening usage.

    It’s odd, because Google is the trendsetter in most things Internet-related, but here, they appear to be asking the business owner to act in a way that will have come to seem backward to him as a result of the tenets of Usability becoming basic in everything from online newspaper headlines to the layouts of print magazine pages. Making the purpose of the business clear to the customer is good business, and it is the descriptive noun or adjective that turns Jones’ Brothers from a blank to an a-ha.

    Case in point: a client with a business called Roger’s. He sells honey. When you take the client, you teach him that it will be important that his domain name and all of the titles, tags and copy on his website and in all of his marketing efforts must refer to him as Roger’s Honey. He sees that this will create a better and clearer user experience for his potential customers. He’s always been Roger’s, but once he steps onto the web, he must be Roger’s Honey.

    Once he steps onto the web. That’s the important point.

    But what Google wants is a step backward. Everywhere on the web EXCEPT the LBC, act with premium concern for the user. That’s what Google’s present policy says to me. Roger’s Honey is no more of an attempt to spam than is Jones’ Brother Plumbing and Heating. At least, I don’t see it that way.

    Google has to put spam-fighting measures in place to create a usable index of data, but confusing human usability with spam is taking things to a level of suspicion that strikes me as being extreme. Not neighborly. I’d like to see them reconsider this.

  7. @Miriam

    Great points. The issue is complicated to define and will be complicated to enforce.

    Certainly the users needs should be the ultimate consideration but if I am hearing Google correctly then the business owner needs to file a dba (ficticious filein in CA?) for his partnership/sole proprietor ship to be totally acceptable under these guidelines.

    As Jim points out above an algorythmic approach to verifying business name is likely to fail a fairly high percentage of time.

    That all being said: Hear, Hear to Google for responding! even if the answer is not the one you thought.

  8. Well if thats the case, why is it that despite multiple spam reports do they allow these businesses with fake names to control the 1, 3, and 10 packs?

    I changed my name and sent my DBA to G.

  9. Why doesn’t Google simply eliminate keywords in the company name as a ranking factor? That would eliminate any incentive to do so.

    1. @Richard

      Good question. That isn’t totally clear. I am punting here…Perhaps they do not yet have enough other signals from across the web on a wide enough range of businesses to properly determine relevance to a query?

  10. Wow.

    This is a new wrinkle to the naming game. As a guy that names stuff for a living – specifically companies, usually – we’ll need to start factoring in the legal name for Google searches.

    Perhaps having people utilize their Legal Name for Google and a DBA for regular purposes would help…

  11. I have been battling a large national chain (H&R Block – Official Name). Recently they added the keywords “Income Tax Preparation Service” to their title. If you search for “new york tax preparation they are the first 3 and half pages of listings since they did this. I have reported many locations locally in Atlanta as Spam but nothing has been done. I am a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service franchisee and our legal name is “Jackson Hewitt Tax Service”. We have claimed all of our locations and published them by the guidelines but are getting killed by the Spam listings. Nationally many of the other Jackson Hewitt franchisees are reporting H&R Block’s in their local areas but they have 12,000 stores.

  12. After reporting H&R Block for the past month or so they have stopped dominating the local listings for “city name tax preparation”. The still list the extra keywords “income tax preparation service” so maybe Google changed its algorithim. Many times they have the first listing but now they don’t have all the listings. Thanks for the great info on this board.

  13. google business name guide is against natural justice since the ‘1,3 and 7’ pack change. Lucky businesses who have the search category in their name come up as a 1 pack. This is unfair when they are 10 miles away and there are many closer businesses.

    I did some work on a Semantic Web database in 2001 as I believe an algorithm cannot have semantic knowledge. google believe they can write an algorithm which picks out the perfect match to a clients search.

    Maybe they are trying to save space on the screen or have belatedly woken up to WAP phones and PDA phones. As part of my database I had a Composite Capabilities table to describe the content which can be served. Also a Personal Profile Preference table to say what the client would like to be served with, maybe its total capability or say how much space you want a stock ticker service to take up on your screen.

    If google were a little cleverer we could choose to have a 1 pack on our WAP phone, a 3 pack on our PDA phone and a 7 pack on our web tablet and the good old 10 pack on our desktop or 17″ luggable laptop.

    I think the small businesses would be happier if the ‘1,3 and 7’ pack was implemented this way.

    Cheers. Andrew.

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