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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
|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 email@example.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.