Google Places Quality Guideline Update

Google has recently added a new section to the Google Places quality guidelines concerning Custom Attributes & Description fields. From the updated guidelines (bold is mine):

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 Google Places User Guide for examples of acceptable custom attributes.

Google typically prefers to provide less rather than more guidance in the quality guidelines unless there is significant abuse, a significant decline in end user experience and/or a ranking penalty. This update is consistent with the geo-spamming penalties we have seen in the past. Obviously if you are in Columbus Oh, Google already knows that and including the phrase in the description and custom fields has no purpose other than to “fool” Google. It is unclear to me though, what situations this new rule applies to besides the excessive use of geographic terms.

I see some difficulties with the guideline as well. If a business title includes the word physician, the category is also physician, might it not make sense to perhaps include the word physician in the description (i.e. Dr. Alvarez is a caring physician) and perhaps in the custom attributes as well to describe additional medical practices performed that didn’t fit in the 5 categories?

You thoughts on this change and its import?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Quality Guideline Update by

12 thoughts on “Google Places Quality Guideline Update”

  1. That’s a problem for hotels too. Most hotels have the word hotel in their registered brand name so does that mean I can’t list it in the category? WTF!!

  2. Very good point Mike!

    Like Olivier, I can think of many businesses that officialy use a category as part of their business name.

    The word “never” seems extreme. I believe a better guideline would be:

    “Content in the the title and category fields should have a very low density in the description and custom attribute fields, if not at all.”

    This guideline leaves a real catch 22 for a lot of businesses.

    Be in compliance by removing categories that contain the business name, and most likely lose rank


    Don’t comply and eventually lose rank via a spam penalty.

  3. @David

    You have described the catch-22 better than I could have. Thanks

    @Olivier & Payne

    It is, as David points out, a rule that is very difficult to be in compliance with. It is unclear Google’s intent with the new rule and if and when it will be applied

  4. Seems to me this is the kind of rule that cannot be enforced to the letter. So then by having the rule in place they can selectively enforce it as they see fit.

    A coffee shop cannot describe the coffee they serve, using the word coffee? (We only sell fair trade organic coffee)

    A pizza shop cannot describe its signature dish? (Home of the double deep dish pizza).

    An independent auto repair shop cannot mention its accomplishments? (voted the best auto repair shop in Cincinnati by WKRP listeners.)

    Those are accurate and fair descriptions. – fact

    I do however see some people stuffing description fields and custom attribute fields with nothing but comma separated keywords, or repetitive uses of category and location keywords (new york limo- our new york limousines are the best limos in new york city, rent a NY limo today). Google obviously wants to curb that.

    If they plan to enforce this algorithmically then it becomes a matter of how many occurrences of the “bad words” will trigger the filter. Surely they wont set it to 1.

  5. @Stever

    I would agree with you but then why write a rule that makes “criminals” of basically all of us? Could they have not written a rule that targets the abuses that they are looking to curb and not cut such a wide swatch?

  6. I would really like a Google employee to come to this post and clarify this. It’s hard for me to believe this is what Google means (Re. pizza, hotel, coffee etc.) They can’t mean that, can they?

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