Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison

The newest Places Quality guidelines include a number of significant changes.

In this update Google has not just added new rules but has removed a few specific guidelines from the previous set. A significant one that was noted by Linda Buquet was the removal of the following phrase in regards to content used in the description and the custom attribute fields: This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields. It won’t be missed as it was a nearly impossible guideline to comply with.

Google is formally embracing an idea that was previously accepted by them of allowing creation of one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the office. They are also making their clearest statement yet about virtual businesses and their relationship to Places: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.

Besides the obvious ban on the common use of Tag lines in a business name and the ban on the use of keyword information in the address field, the biggest changes and ones that will be hard to comply with, (and interesting to see how it is enforced) are the changes on categorization.

Here is a comparison of the previously published guidelines to the new ones on a line by line basis to help better understand these changes. I have italicized the differences in both directions if a significant rule was removed from the older guidelines.

Previous Guidelines (reordered to match new guidelines) New Quality Guidelines
Only business owners or authorized representatives may claim their business listings on Google Maps. Ownership: Only business owners or authorized representatives may verify their business listings on Google Places.
Use a shared, business email account, if multiple users will be updating your business listing.If possible, use an email account with a domain that matches your business URL.

For example, if your business website is www.giraffetoys.com, a matching email address would be you@giraffetoys.com.

Account Email Address: Use a shared business email account, if multiple users will be updating your business listing. If possible, use an email account under your business domain.

For example, if your business website is www.google.com, a matching email address would be you@google.com.

Your Business Listing
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. Business Name: Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world.
Do not include marketing taglines in your business name.
Do not include phone numbers or URLs in the business name. Do not include phone numbers or URLs in the business name field, unless they are part of your business name.
Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords or a description of your business into the business name. Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords or a description of your business in the business name field.
Use standard capitalization & punctuation, unless your business name or address in the real world contains unusual capitalization & punctuation.
Business Location: Use a precise, accurate address to describe your business location.
Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. PO Boxes do not count as physical locations. Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.
The precise address for the business must be provided in place of broad city names or cross-streets. Use the precise address for the business in place of broad city names or cross-streets.
Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts. Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.
Businesses that operate in a service area as opposed to a single location should not create a listing for every city they service. Service area businesses should create one listing for the central office of the business only. Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a listing for every city they service.Businesses that operate in a service area should create one listing for the central office or location and designate service areas. Learn how to add service areas to your listing.
Businesses with special services, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties. Businesses with multiple specializations, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties. You may create one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the office.
Do not include information in address lines that does not pertain your business’s physical location (e.g. URLs, keywords).
Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible. For example, you should provide an individual location phone number in place of a call center. Provide one URL that best identifies your individual business Website & Phone: Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible, and provide one website that represents your individual business location.
Use a local phone number instead of a call center number whenever possible.
Do not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or ‘refer’ users to other landing pages or phone numbers other than those of the actual business. Do not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or “refer” users to landing pages or phone numbers other than those of the actual business.
Categories: Provide at least one category from the suggestions provided in the form as you type. Aim for categories that are specific, but brief.
Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
Categories should not contain location-based information (for example, Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted).
Only one category is permitted per entry field. Do not “stuff” entry fields with multiple categories.
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. Please see this page of the LBC User Guide for examples of Custom Attributes & Description: Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. Learn more about acceptable custom attributes.
Other Items of Note
Ineligible Business Models: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.
Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public are not eligible for a listing on Google Places.
A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals. Rental properties, such as vacation homes or vacant apartments, are not eligible for a listing on Google Places. Create a listing for the central office that processes the rentals, rather than the individual rental properties. If you’d like, you can then add your real estate properties to Google Maps so that they are available on our Real Estate layer.
Disclaimer: Google reserves the right to suspend access to Google Places or other Google Services to individuals or businesses that violate these guidelines, and may work with law enforcement in the event that the violation is unlawful.

The Places Quality guidelines have grown significantly longer over time. It is interesting to look at the ones issued in May of 2009 which were longer yet then the first guidelines issued in September of 2008. For those of you curious about the evolution and many changes in these documents I have created a new blog category, Google Quality Guidelines.

I would love your take on these new guidelines, if you have seen any indication of penalties in the category area and what you think are now best practices for coping with them.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison by

31 thoughts on “Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison”

  1. @Eric

    Thanks. I have a hard time remembering the old when looking at the new, so this format, helps me think straight. :)

  2. Great post Mike (as always!) I am very interested in changes relating to multiple doctors in a clinic. I am not quite sure I am willing to do this yet. Do you think it would be better for Drs. in the same clinic to have different phone numbers? Would you classify the office with the category “Dental Clinic” and leave off the other categories? Then give the individual docs the “dentist” “cosmetic dentist” categories? It seems it may be counter intuitive towards search results.

  3. @Jason

    The topic deserves a post all its own but my assessment is that you really have no choice as Google is bringing in all of the doctors as well as the practice from multiple sources. If you have more than 2 doctors in the practice it becomes very difficult in practice to get them all to merge.

    I would classify the strongest listing (usually the practice) with the main categories and use the doctors for longer tail categories UNLESS one of the drs was the strongest listing.

  4. Thanks for the link and for the side-by-side Mike. It really does help to keep things straight.

    FYI someone just commented in that post on my blog that she’s seeing some of the previous Google default categories she used to use go away.

    Anyone else seeing that?

  5. @Linda
    I will have to check into that

    @Jason
    Thanks! (at least on the scholar part… not so sure what I think about the other :) )

  6. So some trial and error is going to be required here. I am about to test the idea for a national business with a head office but capital locations as well.
    same main URL used for all listings, but adding pages for locations where they don’t exist, then using the location page in GP as the url, different phone numbers
    url.com = head office
    url.com/city1 + different ph no
    url.com/city2 + different ph no
    url.com/city3 + different ph no
    Wish me luck …

  7. When I read stuff like this, a dilemma sets in.

    At the moment, I am number one in local results for many of the keyword phrases for my telecom business.

    The dilemma…

    If I make the changes outlined in the posts NOW, I risk LOSING my position to a competitor, or even getting dropped entirely off the page BECAUSE the present rules are in effect. No-one really knows if / when the NEW “rules” will go into effect… or whether there will be revisions that will be incorporated if / when they do implement the changes that will make any changes I do today detrimental when the FINAL changes actually DO occur.

    But on the other hand… if I WAIT to make the changes, I could end up in purgatory if they boot me out because of the fact that I was non-compliant when the changes do / did kick in!

    It seems to be a roll of the dice, and either way, I could cost myself (or my SEO’d customers) weeks or even months of de-listing by trying to simply comply with a set of rules that aren’t in place at the moment, and could be weeks or months off in actual implementation… or may be different when they actually do change to the new rules!

    If you screw up, it can be hell to pay, and you may not even know why or what you did to incur their wrath!

    Then the issue comes into play with my SEO customers… with the same potential problem with them… make the change to soon, and they drop… too late and it’s purgatory.

    Just venting!!!!!!!!!!

    John Palma

  8. Hi Mike,

    Great Post!

    Regarding………..”In this update Google has not just added new rules but has removed a few specific guidelines from the previous set. A significant one that was noted by Linda Buquet was the removal of the following phrase in regards to content used in the description and the custom attribute fields: This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields. It won’t be missed as it was a nearly impossible guideline to comply with.”

    Did Google add this to the new quality guidelines or delete it?

    I recall Linda pointing out that Any words from your business title, address (city or state especially) or category fields CAN NEVER BE REPEATED IN YOUR DESCRIPTION or you can have your Google Place page pulled off the net and have to fight for months to get re-listed

  9. @Nathan

    It has been removed. You can see the old narrative in italics mid way under the section Custom Attributes & Description on the left but it is missing from the new guidelines on the right side.

  10. So according to that being pulled off then Google is NOT penalizing companies that repeat words from the business title, address, city, or category fields in the description section?

  11. @Nathan

    Much of this is covered under different rules… for example”
    Categories should not contain location-based information (for example, Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted)

    So my suggestion is read the above VERY carefully before you go wild and crazy

  12. I love this blog and post.

    Question about medical, legal and other professional offices. Looks like both the office and doctor(s) can have one listing each. I am working with a chiropractor whose practice name does not include her name. Does she need to have two separate telephone numbers to have the two listings? Also, for a small business – how to handle reviews if the business and the solo practitioner have separate listings? I’ve tried putting her name and the name of the practice in the name field but it’s too long for Yahoo, InfoUSA, UBL, etc.

  13. @Lisa

    IN the case of a small practice it is not necessary to have separate phone numbers. However as the practice grows and the likelihood of a merge of records occurs if they do not have distinct phone numbers.

    In small practices, I usually recommend not having an office and a practitioner record for cost/time reasons as well as confusion of reviews… it makes more sense to consolidate around one listings. In larger practices it probably makes more sense to have multiple listings although it depends on the phone situation.

  14. Thanks Mike. That’s my inclination too – one listing for a one-person practice. However the client and I decided to create the listing across the internet as follows:

    Practitioner Name – Practice Name
    ie something similar to
    John Jones, DC – Downtown Oakland Integrative Chiropractic

    The value of the practitioner name and the 15-year-old business name seem to have equal marketing weight, however the whole phrase is too long for infoUSA, Yahoo, UBL…

    That’s why I thought of then breaking the listing into two: name of practice and name of practitioner…

    Do you have any follow-up advice? I really appreciate your blog and your mentorship!

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  16. Regarding John Palma’s post:

    John you are correct.

    If you make changes to your Google Local profile (places page) you risk losing your position on Google 7 when your keywords are searched for.

    My Google Place page was for the most part compliant however I had the city name in one or two words in the categories section. I decided to make my page 100% compliant so I removed the city name.

    Net result – I still appear in Google local 7 when certain keywords are searched for HOWEVER my place page was dropped on one of my main keywords.

    What are you to do?

  17. HI Mike,

    My site is optimized…..more so than most of my competition. And continues to be. Removing the city name from a custom category definitely had an effect.

  18. How does it rank on your primary search phrase at AOL.com? If it is in the top 7 or 8 you should do fine, if not, you need to do more for the site.

  19. That’s interesting that you ask that. Is AOL indirectly tied to the google place page? More so than Yahoo or Bing?

    Right now I am Top 7 in AOL

  20. AOL is “pure” organic search. Its a quick way to see how Google ranks the site. If you are in the Top 7 there then either there is a time lag for it to reassociate after the name change or you are being “punished”

  21. Hi Mike,

    I’ve always been a little confused about the:

    Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.

    guideline. Home Depot, McDonalds obviously many locations. Does this guideline simply not apply the same way to them? Or are we misinterpreting it?

    I work with law firms that have several office locations throughout a state. Seems silly (and inconsistent with user experience) to limit the firm to a single office.

    Each office has it’s own physical address and unique phone number.

    Do you think we should really only have a listing for one office and the lawyers at that office? What about lawyers at other offices? Should they be added to a single office?

    Seems to me that each office should have a listing and each lawyer should have a single listing at their respective office.

    What do you think?

  22. I am inquring as to the guidelines of a similar business who purchases another similar business at the same location and the seller refuses to give up their Google places spot for the new business? In other words, if a hairdresser is forced to sell their business to another hairdresser or goes out of business but refuses to “surrender” their Google places, how does one go about alerting Google that their is a violation of Google’s guidelines?

    Thank you,

  23. Sandra Cantu

    You should be able to use the “Report a Problem” feature to report the business as closed. That will precipitate a call from Google to confirm their status.

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