Google Places And Their New Rejection Algo – It is like 7th Grade All Over Again!

Many years ago, on a Saturday night bus ride home from a 7th grade basketball game, I experienced the first, most exciting & most memorable make out session I can remember. It was with Mary G. I had always liked her but just never imagined that I could rise to “her level”. All of that weekend I was floating high with the excitement and expectation. On Monday morning, in first period class, I gave Mary my class ring and we were officially going steady… My high extended throughout the day with visions of the “future” titillating my imagination. I was successful beyond my wildest dreams.

But all good things come to end. Sometimes more quickly than we hope. In 8th period, a gofer/friend of Mary, her proxy, gave me back my ring. Rejection was hard. As fast as I had climbed the ladder of 7th grade “success”, I came crashing down.

In June of this year, Google Places introduced a new, much more aggressive listing level spam review process in the Places Dashboard. Your once flying high listing that was bringing in customers by the droves now may be buried deep within the listings or worse, banished from the listings altogether. Rejection is hard now too.

The new review can occur if you touch your listing for some reason and bring it to the attention of the new system. But it also seems that it can even occur if you don’t touch your listing. The new algo apparently is being applied on a rolling basis to every listing in Maps.

Andrew of SQLPerformance, a local listing consultant, has done an excellent job of summarizing many of the attributes of this new rejection review system in the forums and I am reproducing his post here.

*********************************

Google now has a ‘Rejected’ algorithm which runs against all changed listings and perhaps on a rolling basis existing Active listings.  This will mark your Places entry as ‘Rejected – Needs action’.

The main trigger is using any word in the business name, address and categories in the description or additional fields so you need to review these carefully before submitting any new changes.

Read the business guidelines in the Help Listings.

You are only allowed up to 3 capitals together to allow LLC or LTD on a company name.

Where you have more like LASIK you have to use Lasik or lasik.

If you use say MyWebSiteName as your business name for Places you need to make it “My Web Site Name” or “Mywebsitename”.  I would use a proper person friendly meaningful name which says ‘What you do and where you are on the tin’ and not a URL for the business name on-line.

Also in the description the sentences should not have any embedded capitals and be semantically meaningful so use synonyms for your category words.

You cannot use the word google in a Places entry, weirdly you cannot use a google site.

The nanny bot will not allow various ‘naughty’ words such as a category of ‘Sexual therapist’.

You may need make a new entry and cut and paste the contents from the Rejected listing and when you get it to go to the verify by PIN stage then you are following the guidelines, but only for non-locksmith or non-naughty words or embedded google site entries which need manual review.  Make any changes to the Rejected entry and delete the new one.

It is really up to you to submit an entry which is allowed and you need to make a re-quest here for a review:

http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?hl=en&contact_type=reinclusion

Because entries for Locksmiths and ‘medical weed’ OWHY need manual verifying by a google employee then if you make any small changes subsequently you will need that again.  This can take several weeks.

Issues:

Although a third of existing ‘real’ entries will be Rejected eventually google seem to want to manually review any Rejected entry which after changes conforms to the guidelines and this can take several weeks.  I can see no logical reason for this.

*********************

Andrew has essentially nailed the new process. I would add some details to his documentation.

He notes: “”I would use a proper person friendly meaningful name which says ‘What you do and where you are on the tin’”

I would suggest that 1)it is in violation of Google’s guidelines but more importantly 2)will, while providing a short term rank boost due to the keywords, will ultimately lead to a reduced rank (due to cluster ambiguity) and a possible penalty as well. For best long term sustainable success it is optimal to use the actual business name and go thru the hoops to get it reviewed if needed. If need be assess your business name and legally change it. Be cautious doing this as you need to rename yourself in such a way as to not precipitate cluster splitting and that respects your local name equity. (See my post on Renaming your business for Local. )

The “nanny bot” that Andrew speaks about, is a field level filter that prevents further editing of a listing until the offending word is removed. The Dashboard will not allow you to save the record with the offending word intact. Because the impediment is at the field level, it is difficult to work around and it appears that the only option is to remove the word or request a review in the forums. Certainly an unpredictable course at best. For some words like “Sex Therapist” the reason is obvious. For others, like the word “Fountain”, not so much. The problem is that once the record is cleared, if you go back and resave the record, for any reason, the problem will recur.

One of the vagaries of the new system is that Google’s new rejection checking algo, on occasion, will issue a “false positive”. This means that despite your every effort to follow the guidelines, it will stamp your listings as spammy even though it is not. If this occurs your only options are to post in the forums and hope that the listing is elevated to a Guide or to request reinculusion via Google’s form for dealing with troubled listings as noted in their help article.

“Pending” status now replaces the previous “Flagged waiting for content check”. “Pending” often appears on a temporary basis for 24 hours prior to an algo based rejection. However if it lasts for more than 24 hours it means that the record is in fact heading off for human review. This review can often take up to four weeks or more. If the listing has sat in a pending state for more than 4 weeks, Google provides a form to request a review.

There is a new “suspension” state that accompanies the new system. Previously, “suspended” accounts could not get into the Places Dashboard to review or edit their listing. Now, if the guideline violating activity applies to the bulk of the listings, the listings will be rejected and a notice of suspension will appear at the top of the account. In this situation, editing the listings and removing any violations will still result in immediate rejections regardless of the quality. The listing can only be reacitivated after the account has been reviewed and the suspension lifted. Reconsideration requests are made via this form.

The system offers some improvements over the previous flow. Being able to get into a suspended account to review and revise makes sense. Having a contact form, even if its location is not obvious, is a step in the right direction. The problems though are still many. The flakey word filter, the lack of feedback and the guessing game about the rejection status made all the harder by the occasional false positive make the system very difficult to navigate for many.

Rejection is hard. Who knows why Mary G gave me my ring back after 8th period. Maybe she had her reasons, she never did say. The world seemed confusing, messages came via unwelcome proxies, the path forward was often unclear, the feedback was non existent. With Google Places and their new rejection algo, it is much like being back in 7th grade.

The advice that someone would have given me then is the same I will give to you now: Hang in there. It will get better….. someday.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places And Their New Rejection Algo - It is like 7th Grade All Over Again! by

29 thoughts on “Google Places And Their New Rejection Algo – It is like 7th Grade All Over Again!”

  1. Hi Mike,

    All I can say is Mary G. missed out!

    Thank you very much for this incredibly helpful and detailed post (A big thanks to Andrew as well). Looking forward to applying new information to a few new accounts that called from Google jail.

    Ed

  2. I don’t understand the restriction about repeating a word from your business name or categories in the description. This seems far too strict. The restriction must affect at least half of the listings in Google Places. If the business name if “Mary’s Hair Salon”, then it makes perfect sense for her description to be “We specialize in hair cuts, styles, and colouring”. If they are doing rolling changes, then there is going to be flood of rejected listings coming soon.

  3. @Ed

    Thanks… :)

    @Darren

    I do not speak for Google but if I were to interpret their guideline…. the Category is for “What you are” and the description if for “What you do”….

    IE the category you choose (by their definition) should be able to answer the question: “What are you?”. You could answer Salon, Barber or even Hair Cutter but not hair cuts.

    I think if you keep that distinction in mind you might be able to creatively navigate the guideline successfully.

  4. GREAT JOB ON THIS PROFESSOR!

    I have been seeing more and more random issues with places becuase of a tighter grip.

    The only thing I think is utterly ridiculous is as followed…

    1. A business name should not have any ranking value.
    2. A description shouldn’t have any ranking value.

    How do you describe a chicago plumber?

    “Um, I can’t use words in this that explain who I am so please refer to me as the Windy City guy who repairs mends tubes that things flow through.”

  5. Mike: Wonderful intro!!! :D BTW: Who did Mary G end up with?? and how did she rate to get a gofer in Middle School in the first place??

    The rejection process is long complex and involved. If Google is going to actively reject listings and generate changes, interactions, etc….don’t they have to staff up to handle this???

    You’d think that staffing up…would also mean more appearances in the Google forums by personnel, wouldn’t you.

    Meanwhile one of my accts suffers from an ongoing problem for abt 1 month now. It was in a thread that received attention from Google. Supposedly they cleaned up a part of it….but its been a month and the problem remains.

    Rejections, buggy algo’s, etc. This place needs a lot of staff, IMHO.

  6. Much of this can be solved by providing a simple reason for why a listing has been rejected, or at least a list of requirements/guidelines.

    “Baby, I can change!!”

  7. @Earl
    When you are at the top of the food chain you can always find a gofer…. look at the TC’s in the Google forums… :)

    @Andrew
    Thanks

    @Jason

    Yes, a very little feedback would go a long way as most of the “offenders” are folks that just want to be in the index and not spammers. Google however fears that any clues would create an onslaught of spammer work arounds.

  8. Funny that I just had a client have their (two) Places listings human reviewed, and yet still they managed to pass this whole “rejection” process and are now BOTH #1 and #2 for the keyword phrases that I was trying to rank them for, which are also included in the “business name”, mind you.

    The reason I know they were both human reviewed is because there was a serious problem with google pulling up wrong information from a competitor, and pulling it into my client’s listing, so I asked Google to be review the listings and fix the problem. It took about a week, and the problem is fixed and now they’re both ranking. (same mailing address!) But I gotta wonder, for how long? And are they just giving me the top positions for a couple weeks in order to make up for the mistake they made? ha!

    btw, this is a very, very competitive keyword.

  9. Had 2 city specific domains that redirect to our main site listing fine. Just added 12 more city specific domains to my Google Places account. 5 new ones are ‘pending’ and 7 are active and showing impressions and actions in my dash.

    Not sure why some are pending (more then a week now) and some were immediately approved.

  10. This post is a ‘word fountain’ of information, Mike. Thanks so much and a thank you to Andrew of SQLP, too.

    I am with Mike R. on the category/description thing. This feels so unnatural to me. I want to be able to use the right words in both cases. I end up feeling like I’m playing a game of Twister, bending in every direction to try to fit the client into the rules. I wish Google would alter their policy on this. As a spam-fighting tool, it hasn’t kept the index clean and for legitimate businesses, it is confusing and awkward.

  11. My latest version:

    Hi,
    Google now has a ‘Rejected’ algorithm which runs against all changed listings and perhaps on a rolling basis existing Active listings. This will mark your Places entry as ‘Rejected – Needs action’.
    The main trigger is using any word in the business name, address and categories in the description or additional fields so you need to review these carefully against the Business Guidelines before submitting any new changes.
    Also in the description the sentences should not have any embedded capitals and be semantically meaningful so use synonyms for your category words.
    You are only allowed up to 3 capitals together to allow LLC or LTD on a company name.
    Where you have more like LASIK you have to use Lasik or lasik.
    If you use say EinsteinCleanersBoston.com as your business name for Places you need to make it “Einstein Cleaners Boston”. I would use a proper person friendly meaningful name which says ‘What you do and where you are on the tin’ and not a URL for your business name. For advice:
    http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/06/02/renaming-your-business-for-local/

    You may need make a new entry and cut and paste the contents from the Rejected listing and when you have made changes to get it to go to the verify by PIN stage then you are following the guidelines, but only for non-locksmith, or non-naughty words, or embedded google site entries which need a manual review. Make any changes to the Rejected entry and delete the new one.

    It is really up to you to submit an entry which is allowed and you need to make a request here for a review:
    http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=maps_flagged_listings

    Because entries for Locksmiths and ‘medical weed’ OWHY need manual verifying by a google employee then if you make any small changes subsequently you will need that again. This can take several weeks.

    Issues:
    Although a third of existing ‘real’ entries will be Rejected eventually google seem to want to manually review any Rejected entry which after changes conforms to the guidelines and this can take several weeks. I can see no logical reason for this.

    Comments:
    For some reason when building a search in the Maps index google do not just take the category from your Categories, location from the Address and any unique name from Business Name after parsing out any Category or Address words from the Business Name.

    Cheers. Andrew.
    V1.02

  12. Hi Paul,

    See Mikes link to my website at the top of the post.

    I am doing an introductory offer of 10 Pounds to review one Rejected or new Pending listing(With Rejection algorithm issues) and tidy it up to meet googles requirements.

    Just donate the 10 pounds through Paypal and email me the listing details and I will be back promptly.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  13. @Jason & Mike,

    Giving clues to the violating content would be sensible – I understand that Google doesn’t want to be exposing its internal mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of being exploited, but they could put something in place similar to Adwords advertising, where for example if you used a trademarked term or excessive punctuation then it would stop you in your tracks and say you’re not allowed to do that – while at the same time you could request an exception (if you could provide a valid reason) and the ad is sent for review.

  14. Thank you for this post, Mike! I’m glad to see Google addressing these items as I see so many companies that are obviously spamming their listings with keywords, unrelated categories, etc. This should mean good things for my local search engine marketing clients that I’ve always insisted on following the guidelines and implementing best practices!

  15. This is really interesting, I wasn’t aware of this. I have 2 listings in Google places. This will be helpful just in case. Thanks.

  16. Local is becoming more and more important in terms of visibility and personalized search. It is normal Google takes a firmer stance on their guidelines to prevent abuse.

    Meanwhile, thank you Mike for letting us know that we can make a re-inclusion request.

    Brian

  17. Hi,

    I have been maintaining a business listing for my client over the past few months. Yesterday when i logged into check the stats it showed “Account suspended. Make sure your listings meet the quality guidelines”. I haven’t done any updates recently. The listing still appears when I search in maps.google.com, but i cant see any stats or impressions.

    I have sent a request to reinstate this, so fat haven’t heard from them.
    If I try to claim the listing with a new email address will I lose the reviews? I have about 400 reviews there, dont want to lose those.
    Can you please tell me what my options are to save this listing? Many Thanks

  18. I have yet to see any “false positives” on a suspension (it does’t mean they don’t occur…but I haven’t seen one yet)…. ie I have yet to see one that wasn’t for a cause. The lack of your doing updates is irrelevant if they perceive an egregious violation. Usually suspensions are for multiple abusers. for example having 3 or 4 listings for the same business location in the account.

    Prior to requesting reinclusion, you really need to scour the guidelines and make whatever changes are necessary. It would be impossible for me or anyone here to tell you your options without greater understanding of the account.

    The fact that the record is still showing in the index is just an artifact of the index update schedule.

  19. Anne, it would be advisable to carefully study the Google guidelines and eliminate any violations before requesting reinclusion – If you have already submitted the request, you may still have some time to fix things until a moderator/reviewer sees your request, so move quickly and fix any problems immediately.

  20. Has anyone had any experience with map solutions from others such as Bing? Thinking of migrating my clients away from google services including PPC. I have been waiting almost four weeks for a review of rejected listings. I am concerned that one company can have such a devastating impact on small business performance online. I recently had a wonderful experience with Facebook PPC that was over the top successful. Perhaps social media and related geographic map service is where its at. IE Four Squared etc.

  21. @Brian
    Google is a royal PITA, unregulated and unresponsive…. but that being said, at least in Places they generate business… Until Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Foursquare, Bing or Yahoo send significant traffic, it isn’t clear that they can be ignored…

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