Google Maps Updates Business Listing Guidelines

Barry at SEORoundtable has just reported that Google Maps has just updated the Business Listing Guidelines.

Here are the new Guidelines:

Business Listing Quality Guidelines

Local Business Center Guidelines

Business Listings in Local Business Center must have correct information about physical, local businesses, as they appear in the real world. Google reserves the right to suspend access to Local Business Center or to other Google Services to individuals or businesses violating these guidelines.

Ownership

  • Only business owners or authorized representatives may claim their business listings on Google Maps.

Business Name

  • The business name on Google Maps must be your full legal 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 include phone numbers or URLs in the business name.

Physical 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 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 with special services, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.
  • The precise address for the business must be provided in place of broad city names or cross-streets.
  • A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals.

URL & Phone

  • 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 location.
  • 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.

Custom Attributes & Description

  • 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 acceptable custom attributes.

Best Practices

  • 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.

Contact Us

For more information about the Local Business Center, please visit the Local Business Center user guide.

Google Maps Learns About E-Mail – Is this a Trend?

Google Maps has never been very good about feedback. If a business had a problem in the past, posting in the forums was always a crap shoot as to whether they would get an answer and even determining if a listing was in Maps was sometimes problematic. But Google of late has surprised me with a number of activities that have upgraded both the usability and communications out from the Maps Group.

They recently added the “See your listing” link to the Local Business Center so that a business could actually know if their business was in Maps or not. (Tip to Google: Add the link to the Dashboard as well as the list view so that a business with a single listing can find the link). Most significantly, with Google replacing TeleAtlas data with their own, they have added a Report a Problem link visibly in Maps and have committed to both feedback and timeliness when they receive a report.

On October 30th I reported, using the new Google Maps Report a Problem link, a geocoding error that placed the office building in which I was located some 3000 feet north of its actual location. At the time I received a note that I would recieve feedback from Google and if a problem was determined to be actual, resolution within 30 days.

Well this morning I received this email: Continue reading Google Maps Learns About E-Mail – Is this a Trend?

Google Maps Update: See your Listing in Maps (Or not) & What to do about it.

Lisa Barone in reporting that Google Maps now provides a direct link To “Find Yourself” noted that it is not exactly clear what is going on with the missing listings. In the past many reported cases in the forums of missing listings were in fact due to falling rank or a business not knowing how to locate their listing.

I think have identified a cause of some verifiably missing listings that seems to occur rarely. It appears that if Google is completely unable to geocode the address of the business, the listing has no place to appear on the Map and will not be shown. In some situations when this happens, Google will show the business listing as a circle but in other instances like the one below, the listing will disappear completely even when the link in the LBC is followed.

Here is the screen shot from the LBC and the view upon clicking the link to find the listing in Maps:

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When you search for the address of the business in Maps (11110-C. S 82nd Pl E Bixby OK 74008) you are presented with this screen:

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This is most likely due to the recent change away from using TeleAtlas mapping data. It is possible that it was also occurring using the old geodata but relatively unsophisticated users were unable to document it properly in the forums.

The recent change in base geodata has led to two situations that can lead to a listing dropping off the map. One is the rare, situation mentioned above where a listing completely disappears.

Another, which appears to be more common, is where Google is now geocoding the location incorrectly, placing it on the wrong side of town, even if it was correctly geocoded prior to the change.
Continue reading Google Maps Update: See your Listing in Maps (Or not) & What to do about it.

Market Responds to Google Maps Navigation – Google Offers app for iPhone

Today’s announcement by Google of their Google Maps Navigation GPS app for phones running Android 2.0 has caused a significant decline in the stocks of Garmin and TomTom:

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In related news, according to AppleInsider, Google has said it would also like to support the iPhone with Maps Navigation if Apple approved the app:

“Apple is a close partner,” a Google spokesperson told AppleInsider Wednesday. “Millions of users experience Google Maps on the iPhone. We will continue to work with Apple to bring innovation, including Latitude and Navigation, to users but you’ll have to speak to Apple about availability.”

Yelp Reaching Out to Businesses

I received this in my inbox this afternoon. It is a nice, informative announcement that will encourage a business to revisit Yelp and learn more about responding to reviews and creating announcements.
*****************

Yelp.com
October 27, 2009

Introducing Your Business on Yelp!

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Your Business On Yelp, a weekly summary of your business’s presence on the site. Each week, you’ll receive updates about your Yelp listing. In addition to page traffic, we’ll include notifications of any new photos, bookmarks, and messages from your customers. Additionally, we’ll include examples of nearby businesses with special offers; maybe some of them will inspire you in the creation of your own offer or announcement.

Yelp is all about connecting people with great local businesses, and we care deeply about the business community. We hope this weekly digest will offer helpful insights to you and your colleagues. Let us know what you think at outreach@yelp.com.

Best,
The Yelp Business Outreach Team

Did you know?
You can respond to your reviews on Yelp — both privately and publicly. Check it out: http://biz.yelp.com

Last Week’s Business Activity on Yelp

October 21 – 28, 2009

The Option House Restaurant
41 Main St
Bradford, PA
Your business had 1 view

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Google Maps Navigation Demonstration: Why you won’t want to invest in TomTom

This video demonstrating Google Maps Navigation, the free Android 2.0 app from Google. It is clear that the days of the PND are numbered. On his blog, Alex Chitu points out a likely explanation for the recent release of this product: “In the past, this wasn’t possible [to offer turn by turn naviagtion] because of the licensing fees that had to be paid for each user of the navigation system. Now that Google no longer uses data from TeleAtlas in the US, turn-by-turn navigation can be added for free.”

Some features highlighted by TechCrunch:

Search in plain English. No need to know the address. You can type a business name (e.g. “starbucks”) or even a kind of a business (e.g. “thai restaurant”), just like you would on Google.

Search by voice. Speak your destination instead of typing (English only): “Navigate to the de Young Museum in San Francisco”.

Traffic view. An on-screen indicator glows green, yellow, or red based on the current traffic conditions along your route. A single touch on the indicator toggles a traffic view that shows the traffic ahead.

Search along route. Search for any kind of business along your route, or turn on popular layers such as gas stations, restaurants, or parking.

Satellite view. View your route overlaid on 3D satellite views with Google’s high-resolution aerial imagery.

Street View. Visualize turns overlaid on Google’s Street View imagery. Navigation automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.

Car dock mode. For certain devices, placing your phone in a car dock activates a special mode that makes it easy to use your device at arm’s length.

Here are Garmin and TomTom stock values on the day:

Picture 89

Google Local Listing Ads; Report from Users

It has been a while since Google introduced Local Listing Ads and offered a limited test in the San Francisco and San Diego markets. I recently received this note from Tom O’Leary, who specializes in attorney marketing, with some observations about the program. He also put me in touch with two clients currently participating in the program; Brett Burlison, a personal injury attorney in San Francisco & Gali Gordon, a San Francisco immigration attorney.

Hi Mike. Tom here – Enjoy your blog. I wanted to send you a quick note about what I am seeing with the new Google Ads program.

I have two clients (law firms) in San Francisco that are participating in the new Google Local Ads program.

They are getting calls, but sometimes the calls are from potential clients looking for legal services that they do not provide.

For example, my two clients are set up for the following terms – Personal Injury Attorney and Immigration Attorney.

If you search for san francisco personal injury attorney, the result is spot on. I’ve seen no issues at all.

But if you search for san francisco immigration attorney, it appears Google is having some minor growing pains – although the issue has almost disappeared.

Over the past two weeks (for the immigration search term), I’ve seen not only one, two or three immigration attorneys, but occasionally a bankruptcy attorney that is participating in the program will show as well. I’ve also seen my injury client show up as well. But again, the result for the immigration search term is providing the correct result almost every time now.

Here is where the problem really is – doing a search for san francisco injury attorney (deleting the word personal) will usually show no injury attorneys. The only results I’ve seen are employment, bankruptcy, and immigration attorneys.

Here’s another – do a search for san francisco attorney. Again, it’s a mixed bag of law firms.

What do you think? No law firm has requested that search term so Google drops other law firm participants in the program in that spot?

Tom
www.the-attorneys-atm.com

Here are the additional questions that I put to Brett Burlison and Gali Gordon as conveyed and answered by Tom:

Me: Can you share any info about the pricing?
The Personal Injury Category is $70 a month with the first month free.
The Immigration Category is $50 a month and also had the first month free.

Can you have multiple Ads?
Only one Ad per Google Local Business Listing. One of the attorneys does have another Local Business Listing for another URL. He attempted to set up another Google Ad using that URL, but his application was rejected. Although he has multiple physical addresses, he used the same address for the already approved Ad. It took two days from the date of application to be rejected on the second Ad.

Were the ads placed in the narrower category for personal injury attorney or a broader category?
An extensive list of options are shown – but only one category was able to be chosen.

Can you create a custom category?
No “create your own” options were presented.

In the contract, did Google indicate how frequently they could raise the “fixed” price?
None were noticed – although we did not review the agreement in its entirety. We did not make a copy of the agreement.

Any idea if the GoogleVoice call tracking is optional?
It was not optional – An introduction from Google is made once the call is answered – then the caller is connected.

I also wonder if the call announce is optional: “this is a call from Google”
You are not given an option.

What questions would you ask of participants in the program? Do you have personal experience with the program that you could share?

GoogleVoice now allows use of an SMB’s primary phone number, is call tracking far behind?

Late yesterday, Google announced that GoogleVoice can now be used with an SMB’s existing phone number. This announcement, while noting the loss of several features as a result of this capability, removes the final barrier for many to SMB’s to move GoogleVoice.

This announcement also seems to insert Google forcefully and directly into the discussion over call tracking of business listings in Local. The time for reckoning is upon us in the debate on whether a call tracking number can and should be used for tracking the response to local listing placements.

As David Mihm has pointed out, there have been instances where Google effectively penalizes, or worse mischaracterizes, records that use multiple phone numbers for this purpose. Gib Olander of Localeze, one of Google’s primary data suppliers, has been a strong proponent of why you need to maintain integrity of your NAP (name, address & phone #) across the local ecosystem.

At Greg Sterling’s blog last week there was an interesting post by Bill Dinan of Telmetrics, clearly laying out the case for call tracking in Local. As I pointed out, while the goal is worthwhile, until such time as Google, working together with other industry leaders, develops a system to not penalize businesses using call tracking then it should not be used. Most folks involved with Local have first hand experience with this problem of listings loosing visibility, completely disappearing or worse.

Google, though, seems to be lobbing salvos at the call tracking industry. First by using Google Voice as a tracking mechanism in the Local Listing Ads and, once again today, by allowing GoogleVoice to used with an SMB’s existing phone numbers.

The new capability, announced late yesterday at the GoogleVoiceBlog, will provide every small business the final motivation to use Google Voice as an effective, free and powerful virtual PBX. This feature, in and of itself, will not cause problems with your Google local listing as it still uses your primary number.

However, it is not a huge step to envision Google provisioning additional numbers for your Local Listing Ads, your PPC ads, your website, your local listing, your YP placements and your local newspaper ads so that for the first time SMBs will be able to cheaply & effectively track every medium in play. Clearly, one of Google’s principal aims, has been to differentiate their advertising products with accountability.

Before that happens, Google, Localeze, InfoUSA, Bing, Yahoo, the major IYPS and directories need to establish a standard that allows call tracking numbers to be used while maintaining integrity of a business’s basic listing information.

I seem to be saying or thinking this just about every day but, the world of local just got a lot more interesting.

Merchant Circle: How are they profiting from your business name this week?

hotelsbycitylinks

Merchant Circle has made a fine art out of leveraging the very long tail of local search by returning results in the main Google SERPs on virtually every U.S. business’ trade name. They have carefully optimized their pages and link structure so as to be frequently highlighted in Google on “business name + locale” type searches. They are so good at getting these pages indexed and ranked that it can be used as a tactic to help a new business that needs exposure show up quickly in Google’s index.

They have, over the years, developed a number of models to profit from this form of search arbitrage, some less savory than others, some not very savory at all.

Their newest “tactic” seems to fall into the less savory category. Merchant Circle has apparently replaced the primary display number for many of the hotels in their US business listing index with an #800 for HotelsByCity.net. HotelsbyCity.net is a affliate model hotel booking site that is a member of Priceline’s Partner Network. Rob Mauer, Partner Relations Manager at Priceline, confirmed that this relationship was initiated by MC (that was just before he ended our phone conversation, go figure).

One presumes that Merchant Circle is getting their share of the 20-30% of the hotel reservation that HotelsbyCity.net receives. It is not exactly clear, exactly on how many hotels MC has added this number, but it appears to be most of them, and that is a very large number. Google unfortunately, stops displaying results at a thousand but shows a total of 84,900 for a search on this particular phone number.

It is not clear, if once a listing is claimed, the number is still replaced. It is does appear that the Hotel category is the main recipient of this affiliate “strategy”. I did not see it in the floral industry but it could very well be on listings in other industries.

Do you think that MC has the right, legal, ethical or otherwise, to replace a business’s phone number in their business directory with a number that provides them with a commission on every booking at the expense of the hotel?

Regardless, if you are hotel or represent a hotel, I would suggest that you head right over to Merchant Circle and claim your record.

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Google Places Pages & IE8 Display Bug

Apparently we are not the only web design firm that gets indigestion making pages compatible with the many versions Internet Explorer.

There are a number of reports (here, here, here, here) in the Google Maps forums detailing a display bug when viewing Google’s recently introduced Places pages in IE 8.

The bug, first identified & detailed in the forum by EHG, prevents a user from seeing some details of the listing. Apparently when viewed in Firefox and Chrome the information is able to be viewed.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search