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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Maps: Listing Guidelines – Good enough?

Lisa Barone of Bruce Clay picked up my reporting of the new Google Maps Business Listing Guidelines . She commented:

Blumenthals doesn’t seem completely satisfied with the guidelines set out by Google because they leave too much wiggle room….. He’s right in that there really could be a lot more explanation to what Google will and will not allow, but it’s a start. And really, when has Google ever given you the degree of information you secretly hoped for? Maybe one day that’ll change, but today it’s still Google’s world.

I’m just glad that some semblance of rule has been put into place over there. Watching spammy local search results pop up makes my skin crawl. I need local search to be as spam-free and relevant as it can be, because that’s the search I go to when I don’t have time to play around and I need answers now.

My question to Lisa is why should we accept mediocrity from Google on any level? Google has had ample time to make more than just a start in Maps quality. Here is the answer that I posted on her blog:

Hi Lisa

It isn’t that I am not completely satisfied with Google’s guidelines, it is that I am dissatisfied with Google’s approach to Mapspam in specific and Local quality standards in general.

These guidelines are a start but the important issue is how they are implemented and whether they are expanded and further clarified.

Google Maps is very unlike Google organic in that the standard for showing results should be truthfulness not just relevance. Your personal story on your blog about needing to know where you were and how to get someplace, show just how critical truth is when you are lost and you need trustworthy directions. If the listing had been hijacked due to your vet’s lack of awareness of the process then you would have been up the veritable creek without a paddle.

Given that the Local listings need to be truthful, the test of these new guidelines is whether Google implements them proactively or reactively. The other test will be whether Google’s explores all use cases and makes it clear whether Local is about local or about being just a marketing tool for the unscrupulous.

If Google only responds after a spam instance has been reported in Local, it will not work. This reactive response has been Google’s approach in organic and for the most part it works there because an algo can provide relevant results and truthfulness is less of an issue. 

In Local that just isn’t the case. I don’t think that an algo can check for truthfulness. Google needs to proactively ferret out all of the spam that they have allowed into the system and create code and human processes that prevent more from occurring. Changes to records need much more thorough vetting both algorithmically and ultimately by a human to be sure that they are accurate. Google, because of their culture, approaches most problems as computing problems and I am worried that they will persist in that approach in Local.

Google is the one company that appears to be in the driver’s seat in pushing Local data out to the greatest number of people. If Local ultimately succeeds, Google will play a large part of that. 

We can only hope that they implement high enough technical & listing review standards that Local really needs to be successful. Local has the chance to be a truly useful resource but if that opportunity is lost due to inadequate standards than it will become nothing more than the snake oil salesman of the new millennium.