New Google Local Listing Guidelines

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on November 4, 2009 14 Comments

Google has published a new set of guidelines for local businesses using the Local Business Center — guidelines that continue to get more specific to counter the very specific ways small businesses spammers try to bend or completely get around the rules.

In a nutshell, there are three completely new guidelines that deal with spam/attempts to take advantage of the LBC system:

  1. The business name on Google Maps must be your full legal business name.
  2. PO Boxes do not count as physical locations.
  3. A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals.

I went into more detail on the changes in this Search Engine Land post. There’s also some great discussion in the comments on Mike Blumenthal’s post about the new guidelines.

Comments (14)

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  1. Laurent says:

    Can local websites be included in there or does a brick and mortar business need to exist?

  2. Matt McGee says:

    You need a physical location in order to have a listing in the Local Business Center. “Local Business” – that’s the key part.

  3. Mike Ramsey says:

    Matt,

    The keyword Go Burley produced a list of Burley, Idaho companies that had the word Go in the business name. This wasn’t what I wanted to have appearing before my news site. So, I got a UPS (non P.O. Box) address for the GoBurley.com business, and created an LBC listing for the news site. I had a one box for my listing appearing until people started to click on the organic listing more, then the one box disappeared. If you search on the maps tab, I am still in the top spot for “go burley” and rightfully so.

    P.O. boxes don’t necessarily have a physical location on a map. But, a UPS address does. I am still wondering if these addresses are ok. It has been mentioned on Mike Blumenthal’s blog, and I am hoping for a little more guidance on this matter. I am all for UPS mail physical addresses in the many industries where location of the business doesn’t matter.

  4. The “No PO box” rule is a bit concerning. I know the service is geared at making user experience more enjoyable, but PO Boxes should have their own category or something so searches can still bring that business up in SERP’s.

  5. Pete Mason says:

    The new rules on business name are great – but I wish Google would reduce the its importance for ranking purposes.

    Any ideas on whether Google wants business names to include the type? (i.e. in the US, it might be Acme Inc or Acme LLP; in the UK it might be Acme Ltd or Acme Plc)

  6. The issue of PO Boxes is very troublesome for all those local businesses and service people who don’t have customers coming to a “shop or office” and there are millions.

    However, I think you might be overstating the change on the business name when you say:
    “The business name on Google Maps must be your full legal business name”
    What Google says is:”Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world.”

    This is a big difference for all the restaurants and dentists and suchlike who have legal incorporated LLC names, for example. That would be the legal name, but I believe you would be fine listing the actual restaurant or “street-name” offline name per the guidelines.

  7. Matt McGee says:

    I’m not overstating it, Chris. Google changed it back about 1-2 days after all the objections in this blog post and others about the “full legal business name.” :-)

  8. Seems like there is a conflict between their current Quality guidelines for the listings, which is where I copied that quote form today and the User Guide which does indeed say “This is the official/registered name of your business.” Although that is still slightly ambiguous for “Doing Business As”, if it has to be the pure legal corporate name a lot of folks are not going to be able to find restaurants, doctors offices and other businesses that operate every day under “sign names”. This really is not workable – the cure seems worse than the ailment!

  9. Jordan says:

    I completely understand why Google is being so strict with the company name guidelines but I must also agree with Chris when he states that such a strict policy will keep many true brick and mortar businesses from being found. I think Google will eventually strike a balance between the two extremes.

  10. Folks, I think Google is trying to stop businesses from using spammy tactics with the business name — including keywords, locations, and phone numbers with the business name. I’ve seen a number of small businesses use these tactics and they seem to work pretty well in creating good placement. However if someone reports a business like that to Google, the listing generally disappears in a day or so, and the business faces filing a reinclusion request to bring its listing live again.

    I don’t get the impression that Google is policing minor variations in the business name like “LLC” or “no LLC.” If you have a registered DBA name, that is also your official business name.

    Something to remember here is that it probably helps the “reputation” of your listing if there are other web listings using the same business name like BOTW, Superpages, Lawyers.com for attorneys, the local Chamber, and so on. And if you refer to a website, it helps if the website also refers to the same business name and physical address.

  11. Albert says:

    Matt you mention above:

    “A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals.”

    I rent a flat in my own house for people staying there for a couple of days in their holidays. I have also a website about this AND a Google Map. This map was a couple of weeks ago on the first page in the map listings. Now it appears when you click on the link under the first page maps for additional maps on the second page. There probably people would not look at. My question now is: Can this move to the second page relate to the new guideline mentioned above.

    Thanks for your help in advance.

    Albert

  12. Jason Hyman says:

    it appears that Google has sent the favorite place tag to a PO BOX.

  13. Chris Wilson says:

    I am wondering why they don’t design a process for companies that don’t want to market large scale, but want to appear in front of more users than just their business location. ie a plumber that will travel 50 miles for jobs depending on what they are and if he does not want to do the job or doesn’t have time he can pass it off to another plumber. Because if I’m a plumber and I will serve a 50 mile radius I want anyone within that fifty mile radius to find me and know that I am local. I feel the negative is when you wind up with a national company infiltrating the local market.

  14. Chris, Google Places (formerly Google Local) now allows you to specify a service radius or specify zip codes that you service. Just log into your business Google listing and the option to select a service radius or service area will be provided when you edit your listing.

    This option is available in the Houston area — not sure if it’s implemented everywhere yet.

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