Updated Places Quality Guidelines – Ineligible Business Models

As a general rule, Google Places has been providing major updates to the quality guidelines in late fall with the most recent last November. Minor updates occur as needed but most frequently occur in the spring.

This update (highlighted below in yellow) occurred on June 2 and has import for a range of businesses:

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.
  • Rental or for sale 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 sales or leasing offices, rather than the individual rental or sale properties.
  • You cannot create Places listings for stores which you do not own, but which stock your products. Instead, consider asking the store owner to update their own Places listing with a custom attribute specifying brands or products they stock, including yours.

Clearly it makes sense that a local tire company that sells Bridgestone tires should not be included in Bridgestone’s local marketing efforts or bulk uploads. But the world of small business is messy. At the extremes are a single location local business and a company owned store. In between there every type of relationship from independent reps to franchises. Within franchises there are varying degrees of control and corporate identity.

As the Places Quality Guidelines have evolved they have attempted to clarify and codify what is and what isn’t a Place of business. Sometimes that has gone better than others. While this rule makes sense and if taken literally is mostly clear, it is always the edge cases that create havoc. And in this situation the edge cases are plentiful.

The example I gave above is obvious. Valley Tire should not be claimed by Bridgestone just because Valley Tire sells their brand. But what about Avon Representatives? They are independent reps that usually are dedicated to selling only the Avon line of products although since they are independent they could also sell Tupperware or Cutco. But it appears that they have been claimed.

As you move into the service area one wonders whether this guideline applies at all as it specifically refers to products. But what of the insurance agent that primarily sells a single brand of insurance? Is he eligible to be listed by national company? And what if he gave permission to the national company to do so on his behalf?

This rule on its face makes lots of sense. Businesses and SEOs alike would be best served if Google addressed some of the possible scenarios that this guideline covers and take a few minutes to clarify their thinking.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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18 thoughts on “Updated Places Quality Guidelines – Ineligible Business Models”

  1. Mike, good points, of course. This is not a guideline that is possible to clarify any further, in my opinion…Google ought to be thinking about intent here (and also the source of the local data) and review on a case-by-case basis. Surely it is easier (not to mention cheaper) to get accurate data directly from ONE marketing VP at Avon than 3000 individual Avon reps.

    From a business standpoint, who is likely to have more $$ for Boost or Offers…the national chain on the franchisee (http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/google/real-problem-with-local-search/)? It seems to me that even from a financial standpoint it should be in Google’s interest to at least consider taking these types of businesses direct from the national chain.

    The only slippery slope that I see cropping up would be a situation like this: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2064101/Cooper-Tire-Hijacked-2300-Listings-at-Yahoo-Local-Yellow-Pages where a higher-tier agency “hijacks” listings…but as long as data from corporate is not overriding, only amplifying or verifying, and it comes from a trustworthy source (same TLD Google Account) the absolute value of the downside seems much lower than that of the upside.

  2. I would agree that there are a number of cases where it would make sense. The difference between and independent contractor and a franchise is not always clear so intent would be the best criteria. But while intent would be ideal I am not sure that it scales and allows Google to automate 99.5% of the process.

    You would though think that a national brand with a clean record would be a reason for them to listen.

  3. “… Ask the store owner to update their own Places listing with a custom attribute specifying brands or products they stock, including yours.”

    Hold on a second while I roll around on the floor laughing my rump off.

    Seriously Google? That’s your best advice? First of all, there’s a good chance the store owner hasn’t even claimed their listing yet.

    Secondly, if you mentioned “custom attribute” to them, they would probably cock their head sideways and look at you all funny like.

    Thirdly, what would be their incentive to list your product? OK – maybe it’s something that their customers are looking for and it actually would benefit them to showcase your products, but is that really enough to get them to wander through the Google Places maze looking for the cheese at the end? No.

    I think David hit the nail on the head. It makes much more sense (and cents) to allow control of Places listings from one source rather than hundreds or thousands, as long as there are safeguards in place to prevent Corporate operations from taking too much control in situations where the individual location should have control. For example, why not let an insurance company claim all 18,000 listings (via verified bulk upload) for its independent agents, with the option for the agents to also “claim” their listings manually and provide further information?

    One last thought – it’s easy for G to update their guidelines with this additional restriction. However, it seems that this would be a difficult rule to algorithmically enforce. I wonder how they will handle it?

  4. This is a relavent article for me and my business that I just started. I created a product called the Nelson Walking Audio Tour. I have a deal with my local museum to rent out iPods which have an audio tour of the historic downtown of my town – Nelson BC.

    My business address is my “home” and obviously I don’t want to send people there to get the tour for obvious reasons.

    Is there any way I can use Google Places to set up my business and guide people to purchase the tour at the Museum?

    Would love your advice on this one Mike.

    Thanks

    Ryan

  5. @Jim

    My sense is that enforcement will come via bulk upload rejections via some sort of spot check of the locations…

    Certainly a multilevel management interface would benefit this situation as well as many others.

  6. @Jim…great comment here and Mike’s answer re: bulks is on point…

    thing of it is, we have a new client – a gas station line with over 130+ stations across Ontario….and I’ve got to find a way to get them ALL Places pages…and that’s a task that I’d really like to be “up” on before I get started…hence this discourse here is very apropos!

    …sigh….aint SEO fun!

    Jim

  7. Every time Google updates these guidelines, I find it to be such a moment of revelation…”Oh, there must be a ton of that going on if it made it into the guidelines.” So, clearly, Google is trying to clear up something here that has become significantly problematic.

    Mike, you mentioned franchises, and that was the first thing that occurred to me. The guidelines use the word ‘store’ but what about fast food restaurants, which are certainly selling the company’s products, while being locally owned (kind of)? This is something I have long wondered about and have discussed a few times with some of the other ch__ps, but I’ve never felt satisfied about whether it would ultimately be better for each franchise owner to be in control of his own listing (let alone his own website), or whether it should all be controlled at the top.

    I still don’t know, but I’m glad to see this come up in the guidelines. I’m not sure they are speaking to the exact situation I’m describing, but it’s the closest nod yet.

  8. @Miriam

    I think the conflict that you feel about franchises gets played out between corporate franchises and franchisees all the time. Corporate does a bulk upload and the more independent of the franchisees claim their listings…. there is a tension that exists in the real world and it carries over to Google Places as well…

    I don’t think there is a best way. There needs to be some consensus and a general consistency and agreement between corporate, the location and google. That being said it is much, much harder to get 2 or 5 or 10,000 franchises to do anything at a 100% success rate so from a corporate viewpoint it is always easier to just do a bulk upload.

  9. The bulk uploads can be great if someone takes the time to actually add all the correct pertinent data – including custom attributes – for each location to the spreadsheet. In most cases I see the same info, like hours, description, payment types, languages spoken, etc. in every listing, which can cause problems for the individual businesses and their prospective customers.
    I agree that the same sorts of tensions exist between parent companies and their children and stepchildren online that exist in the real world. I think the solution will eventually evolve into parent companies doing bulk uploads and child companies being permitted to individually claim their own locations, but Google needs to makes this obvious and much easier to do.

  10. @Mary

    You are so right…. the real world isn’t either or… its both. Google needs a multilevel access that would handle this situation where both parties get control to varying degrees….

  11. Hey gang,

    Mike – thanks for all of the great info here! …and to everyone else for all of your comments.

    I’ve got a question I’m wondering if you might have some insight on, one that I THINK fits under the title of this post – “Ineligible Business Models”.

    I have a client – a real estate agents – who I recently began setting up a Place page for. It has since shot up to page one and – I suspect after being flagged by the actual owner of the REMAX office – dropped back into oblivion after the owner of the office complained to my client, an independent real agent that her Places listings (the one I set up for her) violated the acceptable REMAX verbiage. …and which, also as it were, was quickly creeping up onto her space for the main REMAX office’s Places position on page 1.

    Here’s my question, and I’ve been searching the Places help forum and here on your blog and just can’t seem to get a clear answer on something that SEEMS like it should be made very clear by Google, unless I’m missing it.

    When you have a given office – let’s say a real estate office with 10-12 independent agents operating under that same address/location, or say 5 dentists all operating out of the same clinic…is it not acceptable by Google’s own guidelines and TOS to create one Place page for the business itself and one for each professional therein?

    I could swear I read that on one of Google’s pages somewhere fairly recently…but now my client (the independent real estate agent)’s listing has dropped nearly into oblivion and I can’t figure out if that’s because the main woman who owns the local franchise flagged the listing, or possible if I somehow violated Google’s TOS and it sandboxed the listing.

    I am very well aware of general form, quality guidelines, etc. and have taken great care not to spam the listing in any way.

    The other problem with the listing is that Google is merging data from the main company – photos and other data – in spite of the fact that I set up my listing with a phone number (and suite number) discreet from that of the parent company.

    Am I missing the big obvious here?

    Same thing I’m wondering for the dental clinic I’ve got right now as a client. I set up their Place page and claimed it on their behalf for the actual clinic.

    And Google has actually created distint listings for each of the 5 doctors operation out of that clinic – each of which are unclaimed.

    I assume since Google itself is creating these – one for the company, and then additional listings for each practitioner within the business, that this is acceptable to do.

    But how in the @#$% does one keep from getting all of the data merged and mixed up in the end?

    Any thoughts on this? Thanks much!!

    -Aubrey

  12. @Aubrey
    Google has acknowledged that there can be one listing for the office and one for each professional. So you are not in violation of Google’s guidelines. However, Google has been known to merge these agent/office listings and can’t always keep them straight. It is imperative that the secondary agent listings have very strong and independent scent… their own phone number, lots of citations with exact match on the name etc…

  13. Most of my clients don’t have a clue when it comes to Google Places or anything to do with their web presence. They just throw up their hands and say ‘you do it’!
    I think Google really needs to look at simplfying the process and being more transparent especially when we’re waiting in ‘Google Purgatory’ for a listing to show up in the searches!

  14. Does anyone know what going on with Google Places? Most of my accounts are in review/pending status all of the sudden. We follow all the Google guidelines here and we cant pull up any reporting.

  15. Hmm.. ours has just left Verified & Active (though really really hard to find) to Pending (Being reviewed)
    Tooltip says “This listing needs to be reviewed further before appearing on Google. Please allow several weeks”

    Arggh…

  16. i have having big problem with guidelines. i have update them more than 3 times now , but now result , every time i wait about one month , again check add. do you think the address it should complete ( number of the house is needed and road name is no enough)

  17. Just to update; our listing on Google Places has now returned to ‘active’ again. I have now been able to bring it up in a search but only if I search for the company name and the town.
    @Alex I’m not entirely sure what the problem you’re having is but if you don’t have a house number it may be a problem. Have you tried using a house name? I have a friend who’s business is on an industrial estate and his first line of the address is ‘Unit 33′ which works fine.

    I found this PDF today h–p://seo-factor.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Ranking-in-Google-Places.pdf which has a lot of good information about getting your listing on Google Places and improving your ranking.

    (Replace the — with tt to get the URL above. I’m in no way affiliated with the above site or information – I just thought it may help someone. If it’s a problem Mike, I’m sorry – please remove it.)

  18. Mike,

    Google’s guidance on listings for businesses selling products at non-owned locations has changed a little, but it’s substantially the same as you’ve highlighted. I have a client sod farm competing with another sod farm in Colorado and the competition has created Google Plus Local sod farm listings for the 65 Home Depot and Lowes store locations across Colorado that stock its products. I reported about 10 of these Google Plus Local listings in the Denver area to Google using the link in each listing and the responses from Google were “we checked it” and nothing was changed, and if something is still wrong, report it again.

    This practice seems to be a clear violation of Google’s permitted business guidelines and I’m wondering if I need to report it again to get Google’s attention or if I’m wasting my time in trying.

    Have a great Thanksgiving and I hope you and Local U can make it to Houston next year!

    Paul

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