Here are the new guidelines from the Google Places Help (bolds in body are mine):
Duplicate listings for my business
Duplicates listings for a single business are often issues in both Google Maps search results as well as within a user’s account. Since there should only be one listing per business represented in one’s account and on Maps, we recommend the steps below to rectify the duplicates.
Do multiple results for your business appear in Google Maps search results
If so, you can fix it by following these steps:
- Make sure you’ve claimed one of the listings in Google Places. Verify that there’s only one active listing in your account by logging in to your Google Places account.
- If there’s more than one listing in your account for the same business, you’ll first need to fix that problem by following the steps in the section below.
- If you don’t have a listing for it at all, you should claim your business.
- For every extra result for your business, go to its Place Page, click the Report A Problem link, and select “Place has another listing”. If you can, include a link to your claimed place page in the comments section.
- Google will review these reports and fix duplicate business listings.
Are there multiple listings in your Google Places account for the same business location?
When you log in to your Google Places account, if you have multiple listings for the same location, that can be a violation of the content guidelines. You should avoid having duplicates in your account. Here’s how to ensure you have only one listing per business location:
- Choose the listing that you’d prefer to keep in your account.
- Make sure that you have all your enhanced content (photos, business hours, description) attached to this listing.
- Make sure that its status is “active”.
- Delete all other listings for the same business from your account. Choose the “Remove this listing from my Google Places account” option
- These changes can take several weeks to appear in search results
- If there are multiple results for your business in Google’s search results, follow the instructions above.
Google’s new recommended practice for removing duplicates are in strong contrast to the duplicate removal methods previously recommended by them.
Obviously, Google is attempting to make a clear statement that having multiple listings in your account, even if they are there from having following the de-duping process and carry exactly the same information, you run the risk of some violation. It seems clear from this communication that having multiples even for the benign reason of not wanting to risk weird Map behaviors if selected the “delete” option that Google will ,at some point if not already, impose a penalty. Hopefully Google will provide some reasonable window to allow those accounts with listings that are duplicates for benign reasons, some time to adjust their listings.
Given the vagaries and problems that people have experienced in “delete” behaviors and the absolutely terrible wording of the options it is incumbent on Google to both reword and perhaps rework the process & language within the Places Management area. The wrong step and all of your listings are suspended. The correct step seems counterintuitive and have left users feeling that they now have more listings than before.
The change makes sense of an otherwise confusing aspect of Google’s technology, their clustering behavior. How long it will take for a dupe to be removed remains to be seen. Hopefully Google will invest the minimal resources necessary to fix the atrocious interface that is currently associated with the “delete” option.