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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

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.