Google My Business Guidelines – A Detailed Comparison New & Old – Part 2 – Chains, Brands & Departments

Source: Teddy Kwok via Flickr Creative Commons
Source: Teddy Kwok via Flickr Creative Commons

On Friday I detailed changes in the new Google My Business Guidelines for Representing your Business that were general in nature and applied to all businesses or pertained primarily to single location businesses.

Google has also added a completely new section that applies to Chains, Brands and Departments within larger entities. In this Google is attempting to define standards of consistent naming and categorization within a given brand. While I think the goal is clear, there are enough ambiguous examples that additional thought might need to go into them or explanations provided.

Also I wanted to make available to you in Word format a complete copy of both the old guidelines and the new ones so that you can compare them for yourself if you so desire:

Original guidelines  (word doc)

New Guidelines for representing your business on Google  (word doc)

Here are my comments on these new sections:

New Guidelines for Chains, Brands & Departments Comments
Chains and brands These sections are all completely new and reflect the fact that descriptors are not allowed. But given the limits on categories as well, it implies that they both will be enforced via algo.Note that they mostly apply to bulk upload although they would also apply to large service area businesses that manually claim their listings.  Also the sections on departments would apply to auto dealers etc.But the other sections generally do not apply to single location entities.Since these are totally new, I assume these are more likely to be refined given the inconsistencies noted below.
Maintaining consistent names and categories across all of your business locations helps users quickly identify your business on Google Maps and search results.All locations must have the same name unless the business’s real world representation consistently varies from location to location. All locations must also have the same category if they provide the same service. This is the high level summary. You need to name yourself the same via bulk as you do in the real world and it needs to be consistent across the whole upload.Same goes for categories. If you pick 5 categories for Sears in Chicago then you must pick the same for Sears in Buffalo.If you want additional flexibility then do it via departments.
Name consistency
All business locations within the same country must have the same name for all locations. For example, all Home Depot locations should use the name “The Home Depot” rather than “Home Depot” or “The Home Depot at Springfield”. Ok, this is clear. Sears is Sears and Walmart is Walmart
There are two exceptions to this policy:If you have multiple types of business–sub-brands, multiple departments, or various types of operations such as retail and wholesale–these distinct entities may also have a distinct name so long as it is consistently applied to all locations of that business.Acceptable name variations: “Walmart Supercenter” and “Walmart Express” “Nordstrom” and “Nordstrom Rack” “Gap” and “babyGap” Ah, exceptions. Don’t you love them.Ok this one is clear and makes sense.The auto repair shop at BJ’s that is both a sub-brand AND a department can have its own name, number and page.
If some of your locations consistently use a different name in the real world – on their storefront, website, stationery etc. – these locations can use this different name.Acceptable name variations: “Intercontinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco” and “Intercontinental New York Barclay” “PFK” (for locations in Quebec) and “KFC” (for locations in the US and rest of Canada) OK. This is the proverbial loophole.This might cause chains that are just getting started and some smaller chains to go through the process of making sure that they are known in the real world by their brand  + their location.It might also lead to a great deal more departmentalization of locations (see below).
Category consistency Comments
All locations of a business must share the one category that best represents the business. If you have multiple types of locations (e.g. sub-brands, multiple departments, or various types of operations such as retail, distribution center, and office), this rule only applies within each of these sub-groups.All “Gap Kids” have the category “Children’s Clothing Store”All “Goodyear Auto Service Center” have the category “Tire Shop”; they also all have the category “Auto Repair Shop”All “PetSmart” have the category “Pet Supply Store”; some locations may have other categories (“Pet Store”, “Dog Day Care Center”) OK this is confusing. They must share the ONE CATEGORY that best represents them but do they need to share all of the categories that best represent them?Above it said “Maintaining consistent names and categories across all of your business”.I am asking for clarification.
Two or more brands at the same location
If your business location combines two or more brands, do not combine the brand names into a single page. Instead, pick one brand’s name for the page. If the brands operate independently, you may use a separate page for each brand at this location.Not Acceptable: “KFC / Taco Bell” or “Dunkin’ Donuts / Baskin Robbins“Acceptable: “Taco Bell”, “KFC”, “Dunkin’ Donuts”, “Baskin Robbins”If your business sells another business brand’s product(s) or service(s), use only the name of the business, excluding the name of the brand being sold, which cannot have a page for this location.Not Acceptable: “Staples / UPS”, “America’s Tire / Firestone“Acceptable: “Staples”, “America’s Tire”However, if the business location is an authorized and fully dedicated seller of the branded product or service (sometimes known as a “franchisee”), you may use the underlying brand name when creating the page.

Acceptable: “TCC Verizon Wireless Premium Retailer”, “U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer”

The stickler here is “if the brands operate independently”.Does a KFC/Taco Bell really have different staff, different uniforms and operate independently?I think not. There is one of these in Olean and while they have two verified + pages. One for KFC and one for Taco Bell.There is only one phone number for both pages. When they finally answered the phone (15 rings…hello?) the person said “KFC”. I asked about how they normally answer the phone and he said that the managers would say “KFC/Taco Bell”.

So while their marketing is independent and their branding is independent this rule seems to break down in the real world pretty quickly. Yet they seem to get two pages for different food types. While the local restaurant that serves both Lebanese and Greek gets one. Not sure that I see the distinction here.

The same is equally true with “U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer”. They are typically independent car repair places that have added U-haul as a product line. While they may have a sign or maybe not but they don’t usually have separate staff etc. and are not dedicated sellers.

This U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer is also Cars Are Us. Same paluka answering both phones and as you can see from Streetview no obvious U Haul branding

If I were a skeptic I might suggest that this is a sop to larger, branded bulk uploaders not a customer centric policy.

The Staples / UPS example is totally clear. But I do think these rules will lead to an uptick in “departments” from these sources.

Departments within other business, universities, or institutions
Departments within businesses, universities, hospitals, and government institutions may have their own pages on Google.Publicly-facing departments that operate as distinct entities should have their own page. The exact name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. Typically such departments have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories. Their hours may sometimes differ from those of the main business.Acceptable (as distinct pages):”Walmart Vision Center””Sears Auto Center””Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology”Not acceptable (as distinct pages):

The Apple products section of Best Buy

The hot food bar inside Whole Foods Market

For each department, the category that is the most representative of that department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments.

The main business “Wells Fargo” has the category “Bank” whereas the department “Wells Fargo Advisors” has the category “Financial Consultant”

The main business “South Bay Toyota” has the category “Toyota Dealer” whereas the “South Bay Toyota Service & Parts” has the category “Auto Repair Shop” (plus the category “Auto Parts Store”)

The main business “GetGo” has the category “Convenience Store” (plus other category “Sandwich Shop”) whereas the department “GetGo Fuel” has the category “Gas Station”, and the department “WetGo” has the category “Car Wash”

“Stanford University” has the category “University” whereas “Stanford University Department of English” has the category “University Department”

Unique name, category and while it doesn’t so state phone number and they get their own page. The “Sears Auto Center” example is totally clear.But what about “Macy’s Men Department”? I guess so if they have their own phone and their own category. Although they typically don’t have a separate entrance. Hmm…..The GetGo example is totally bogus. They get three pages? Unless gas pumps are now answering phones on their own this seems totally crazy to separate from the convenience store.
Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google My Business Guidelines – A Detailed Comparison New & Old – Part 2 - Chains, Brands & Departments by

23 thoughts on “Google My Business Guidelines – A Detailed Comparison New & Old – Part 2 – Chains, Brands & Departments”

  1. Thanks for the info, Mike! For two brands that occupy the same address in reality, would you recommend just declaring some a suite designation for all citations?
    Brand 1: 123 Main St. Ste. A
    Brand 2: 123 Main St. Ste. B
    *This is assuming that Google still frowns on having two businesses that occupy the “same” address.*
    Thank you!

  2. Thanks a lot for the breakdown, Mike.

    One question I’m mulling over is the unclear delineation between a practitioner and an individual within a department. Google says that multiple practitioner listings shouldn’t include the brand in their names, but can/should individuals that fall within a department be counted as a department and therefore be able to use the brand name in the business title? The example Google gave was Wells Fargo Advisors, so would a Wells Fargo advisor create a listing for John Smith or Wells Fargo Advisor: John Smith?

  3. @Alexis
    No. An individual is an individual professional.

    If the practitioner is one of several public facing practitioners at this location: The organization should create a page for this location, separate from that of the practitioner. The page for the practitioner should be titled with name of the practitioner only, excluding that of the organization.

    This is a general guideline that applies to all individual professionals EXCEPT single practitioner practices.

  4. Even though it wasn’t explicitly stated before, I started listing practitioners with their names only some time ago. Even though guidelines allowed their listings and Google’s own format was Business: Practitioner, I found it caused issues with merged listings – though that issue has improved tremendously over the past year. I’m still listing departments as Hospital Name: Department but now I’m seeing Google’s been adding the hospital name to the street address as an overarching location – though it’s not part of the editable address. As this happens, I’m removing the hospital name from the listing name. Otherwise, Hospital Name: Department Name, Hospital Name, Address, gets to be too much.

  5. Mike, Have you received any further clarification on : “They must share the ONE CATEGORY that best represents them but do they need to share all of the categories that best represent them?”

    Google looks to be creating the impetus for aggressive and over-aggressive marketers (you know, spammers) to add department listings like crazy. I already have lawyers wanting to add “departments”. This is going to get ugly!

  6. @Mike regarding Alexis’ question above, I think financial advisors and a bunch of other people – like realtors, loan officers, insurance agents, managers, maybe even SEO’s, plumbers and pet groomers – consider themselves to be “individual professionals”. How does Google decide who qualifies as such and who does not ?

  7. @Mary
    From my perspective, it seems to be somewhat class based. Hair dressers are independent professionals who often rent a chair in a salon. But I went round and round with Google and they said no way.

    I think that they stick their thumb up there patooty and pull it out to find an answer.

    If they have letters after their name and usually where a tie they are probably ok.

  8. Re practitioner listings, I think the whole issue is rooted in YP and directory listings and thinking of it that way helps tell the tale of who gets a listing or not.

    With the clear practitioner categories: Drs, Dentists and Attys, there are lots of directories that list each professional with full NAP on their own page as individual business entities.

    Google scrapes directories and when she finds NAP for a professional, creates a listing. That’s the main reason we have this exception for practitioners. She finds all these listings on professional directories for the individual and auto creates pages for them.

    But I don’t think there are many public Plumber directories or YPs that list the owners and employees and give them each their own page with full NAP.

    So there are not multiple listings for John Smith at 123 Main St. All the listings would be for Alpine Plumbing, the company he owns. The directories all list the business, not a page for each owner and employee.

    That’s the way I look at it anyway.

    And Alexis, the bottom line is, I don’t think you usually would even want to create listings for individuals anyway. They will usually compete and interfere with the main practice or company listing, hurt the rankings and split up the review profile. And again Google will typically only create them if she finds them on a bunch of directories which usually only happens for the type of professionals I talked about above.

  9. I specifically recall a Googler we all know saying that practitioner listings were created to satisfy the realtor profession. And there are a lot of professions where you can get letters after your names – engineers, teachers, lab technicians, medical assistants, ski lift techs, etc, etc, etc. It is all so mixed up and random-seeming.

  10. “I specifically recall a Googler we all know saying that practitioner listings were created to satisfy the realtor profession. ”

    That’s odd. I would have thought Drs. and attys.

    But now Realtor searches are often packless, therefore seem to be seen as less important in local. So Google giveth with the one hand, then taketh away with the other. 🙁

  11. Does anyone have any insight as to how this new guideline for GMB would affect how you submit listings for services such as Yext or Moz Local? Someone from Yext told me that services such as Yelp may not update the business name to reflect the [Practice Name] : [Practitioner Name] format if it does not recognize it listed that way on the clients website. Sounds like for those sites, they’d want you to go in and change the name of the business on the website. That doesn’t sit well with me.

    1. @Zane every service handles practitioners differently. Moz local however requires that you post the name exactly as it is on Google. Yext, doesn’t really care but are advising you that they are ultimately beholden to the rules of the sites to which you submit. Yelp being the most particular. That being said, I am not sure the problem with just using practitioner name at Yelp and practice: practitioner at Moz.

  12. Hi Mike, thanks for the summary with part 1 and 2. I’m new to Google My Business and was wondering if you could provide some clarification regarding its setup.

    Our company has nine locations within two provinces in Canada. We have one website. However, the offices fall under three different corporate identities. That is, six have one name, two have another name and one has another name. I suppose you could call them ‘sister’ companies, so to speak.

    Would I setup one Google My Business account and add the multiple locations? Is this possible? Or, does each location need its own? How do I select the right dashboard as mentioned on this page ?

    Also, how would our office locations be done in Google+? All together or individually?

    I’ve read pages of info on how to setup things, but it still seems clear as mud. Any help would be appreciated.

  13. 1- Because you only have 9 locations you would use Google My Business NOT Google My Business Locations. The later is 10 or more and really only become useful when you have 20 or more

    2- You should start with ONE My Business account and add each location to that account. Each locations gets ONE G+ Page for Local.

    3- Optionally you can add managers from each division to the locations that they might be able to add content to or want to post to.

    4- Optionally you could create one or several brand pages. I find them mostly a waste of time unless you are truly a recognized national brand.

  14. I cannot find the functionality within the Business Account to add additional locations. Could anyone provide a screenshot?

    Thanks for the incredibly educational site

  15. Hi Mike,

    This is great, thanks so much for contributing this article.

    I also have the same question as Mitch above that wasn’t addressed.

    It’s not clear what you think the best way to proceed with having two distinct businesses that exist at the same address. We got a verification code for one of our businesses the other day, and we aren’t confident we’ll receive the second (same address, same phone etc).

    It’s critical for us to have both businesses listed separately.


    1. @Brian
      If you are a major brand like a Taco Bell & KFC combo store you will get an auto approval. If you are a local company than you
      need to be sure that you are compliant to the nth degree.

      That means:
      1-unique categories
      2-distinct phone numbers
      3-distinct answering of the phone (i.e. not the same answer to incoming calls)
      4-preferably a separate entrance that is visible with signage
      5-distinct market presence in the major list providers.

      With the exception of #4, any less and you run a risk of both of your listings being buried so deep no one will find them

  16. This is a great post, and the only straightforward info I could find on this problem.
    Question: I have a group of plastic surgeons as a client, and we have had one website, where they present as a group, for many years. They have a large subdepartment for skincare, with its own name and logo. The skincare dept advertises in print and in the yellow pages separately, but has always been included online only in the plastic surgery website. (Well, we hardly do any YP now!) We have always promoted them on the plastic surgeons website, but I’m finding that that is hindering our success for searches for skincare: other much less established skincare businesses come up much higher in Google local and Google generally. If I do a Google my business page for the skincare component and put up their own website, will I run into trouble? The skincare dept has its own entrance, but the same phone number. Also, their name incorporates part of the plastic surgery name.

    1. @Leslie
      If you want to promote that business separately it would need a separate phone number and need to be answered as the separate business and have non overlapping categories to comply with Google’s guidelines. If you don’t follow them then your main listing will likely be impacted.

  17. Mike,
    Any idea when this guideline dropped off:
    Some businesses may be located within a mall or a container store, which is a store that contains another business. If your business is within a container store or mall, and you’d like to include this information in your listing, specify the container store in parentheses in the business name field. For example, Starbucks (inside Safeway).

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