Google has tweaked its guidelines for local businesses that use the Google Maps Local Business Center. The new guidelines are listed on Google’s Business Listing Quality Guidelines page. On Search Engine Roundtable, Barry Schwartz shows both the old and new guidelines, while on his blog, Mike Blumenthal charts the differences between the two versions.
According to Mike’s tracking, there are five new guidelines:
- The business name on Google Maps must be your full legal business name.
- PO Boxes do not count as physical locations.
- A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first new guideline targets the spamming of keywords in a business name. But it’s problematic in that many local businesses consist of partnerships with legal business names that don’t match the actual business name. As is suggested in the comments on Mike’s post, Google Maps should allow the use DBA names, not only legal business entity names. And if they do allow DBA names, the guidelines should explicitly say as much.
Either way, Google’s heavy reliance on keywords in the business name as a ranking factor means that companies will continue to benefit from generic names like “Spokane Auto Repair” and “Tucson Dry Cleaning,” and continue to try to game the system with keywords and category names in their business listings.
The second new guideline targets businesses that either a) don’t have a physical location, but use a PO box address to get a local business listing, or b) have a physical location, but try to get additional listings in nearby towns by using PO box addresses.
The third new guideline appears to specifically target real estate and property management businesses that list properties as unique business locations in the Local Business Center.
The last two new guidelines are listed as “Best Practices” and don’t really address the long-running spam and gaming problems that have plagued Google Maps and the Local Business Center. Despite the new guidelines, it’s safe to assume that the spam and gaming will continue … and Google will continue to update its business listing guidelines accordingly.