Google: NAME Consistency EVEN ON PHONE Important + Other Warnings for SMBs

Linda Buquet

1
Staff member
Moderator
Yes dear, there is such a thing as phone NAP consistency... (or at least using your real business name when you answer your business line.)

IF YOU HAVE CLIENTS THAT ARE SABs (Service Area Businesses) this info is all pretty important.

Joel Headley who heads up the Google+ Local and Google Maps team raised this issue at LocalU this week and asked me to broadcast it to you guys to be sure you know this is an issue. Here is a direct quote.
(And below that, some back story from me.)

Joel Headley from Google said:


"NAP consistency is important not just online, but real world. Not just signage, but in phone conversations. I expect, and so does our quality team, to hear the full and complete name of the business over the phone. When it is answered or when specifically asked."
I always encourage consultants I train to learn to think like Google Local. (Meaning think like the algo, the spam filters, the moderators that call to verify listings and the map team.)

The algo and most rules are designed to weed out spammers, scammers, hijackers and fake Place page builders. SABs pull all kinds of things to try to rank, for instance setting up additional Place pages at employees homes to rank in other cities, which is prohibited.

Additionally the Google local algo is VERY data sensitive and is always looking for relevancy and proof the business is: A) A REAL business B) Really the name as listed C) Listed at a valid location D) Really in the industry you say it is) E) That you are really the owner or authorized representative.

COACH CLIENTS HOW TO HANDLE A GOOGLE MODERATION CALL (Especially if they are a service area business and/or home-based. I know many legit businesses that were deleted just because they didn't handle these calls right.)

If a Google moderator does a sweep of an industry or for any reason decides a listing may be suspicious, they will check all kinds of things (like street view on maps, signage etc.) to see that everything matches up and aligns to prove this is a REAL business, that the name is correctly listed and the location is valid.

IF THEY CALL THEY EXPECT A REAL BUSINESS TO ANSWER PHONE WITH THE REAL NAME WHICH SHOULD ALSO BE THE NAME LISTED ON THE G+ L PAGE!

If they call what is supposed to be a REAL business and hear "Hello" or "This is Mary, how can I help" or generically "Business Office" it will trip a warning sign.

REAL businesses answer the phone with the REAL business name.

ALSO WARNING RE SABs, HIDDEN ADDRESSES & MODERATOR CALLS

In addition to answering with their name, let clients know they need to have short VERY clear answers to location related questions and questions about whether they see clients there.

Also even if their address is properly hidden on the G+L page coach them to SPELL IT OUT short and sweet. (There is a problem where lots of hidden address listings are showing the address on MM and I don't think the moderators can see it's properly hidden in dash.)

(I've seen compliant listings get deleted and I fear this MM glitch could be part of the reason.)

So I would coach clients if a moderator call comes in to say "No we don't see customers here, but please note our address is properly hidden in our Places dashboard per the guidelines."

So learn to think like Google. Put yourself in the shoes of a moderator who is calling spammy and fake listings all day. Your client could be legit, but if YOU were a mod that saw something you find questionable (like a residential location) then you call and the phone is answered in one of the following ways, what conclusion would you jump to? Examples - phone is answered; by a kid, or a call center that generically answers "Business Office" or an answering machine that says "This is Joe, we're not home right now".

OR a different situation: Name on listing is "Dallas Roof Repair Service" and the phone is answered Johnson Roofing. What does that tell you their name is in the 'real' world? (Not that any of YOUR listings would have fake names like that, just illustrating the type of thing these mods run into all day long and part of the reason they likely think many SABs are just scammy.)

LAST TIP for moderation calls... We get TONS of complaints at the Google forum from SMBs that think these scammers that call pretending to be Google are really Google. SMBs are getting HAMMERED by these guys!

I've even helped SMBs at the G forum that were so tired of telemarketers, they start answering the phone saying "This is NOT a business line, leave me alone!" Guess what happens next, if it really WAS Google?
Yep, Google deletes their listing!


SO COACH CLIENTS TO CHECK CALLER ID. IF IT'S 650 AREA CODE, it's probably really Google.

Having a client get suspended or deleted can take them offline for months, waste a lot of your time and cause all kinds of grief for the client and even lost income!

A little pro-active warning and coaching for how to handle a Google call is well worth your time!
And I would go so far as to say coaching clients is a MUST DO if they are a SAB and/or home-based.
Tell them to keep answers short, specific and honest!

But the main point of this post which branched off into related issues I've been wanting to stress to you guys, is Joel's point about business name and moderation calls.

So remember "Real" businesses usually answer the phone with the "real" business name.
Let your clients know it could be an issue.
 

Nick.SEOSpark

Local Search Pro
Ah, thanks so much for spelling all of this out Linda. It really needed to be done.

Anyway, I think (although I have trained clients up a bit, there is definitely room for improvement as some of them are just plain "laid back" about it.

I have just one question. You mentioned that they do lots of quality checks like street view etc. With street view, surely they aren't looking for lots of signage from an SAB? After all, they are not claiming to have a street presence. In fact, there are even plenty of non-SABs that don't have fancy signage.
 

Linda Buquet

1
Staff member
Moderator
I have just one question. You mentioned that they do lots of quality checks like street view etc. With street view, surely they aren't looking for lots of signage from an SAB? After all, they are not claiming to have a street presence. In fact, there are even plenty of non-SABs that don't have fancy signage.
Oh you bet they do. Joel even said it "NAP consistency is important not just online, but real world.
Not just signage…"

"surely they aren't looking for lots of signage from an SAB". Where I've seen it come up a lot is home based SABs that insist customers come to their home on a regular basis. One I remember was a mechanic that did repairs out of his garage. Swore he had a sign but moderators could not see it on street view so didn't believe he really saw customers there.

Another reason they check signs even on B&M businesses is to see if the G+L title is correct or KW stuffing.

There is a big long heated thread here about it. With mappers and they say Google too checked a bunch of State Farm agents physical signs on doors and in front of buildings. Name on listings is State Farm Insurance, mappers said Google ruled in part due to signage, the name should only be listed as State Farm. It’s being debated between the MM and Places team, but point being real world signage was evaluated and was part of Google's decision.

Several posts in this thread by Gregg and Andrew mention Google checking signage to determine what version of the name was correct as displayed in the 'real' world.
http://localsearchforum.catalystema...-listings-google-search-results.html#post9451
 

Russ

Forum Member
It's getting more stupid every day, seriously!

My dentist has his practice in a high rise building, ZERO signage for obvious reasons. So is Google taking the time to park the car, get out, go into the building, find the building directory to see if the practice is named there?

and...

Now businesses have to worry that any one who answers the phone states the exact name of the business as it's listed on their + page?

What about businesses that use calling systems that are automated which funnel callers to the proper department in the business? Are they taking the time to get through to a live person or do they just decide to moderate the listing and delete it. Hmm I think we know the answer to that question don't we.

GET REALISTIC GOOGLE PLEASE!!

My old construction company's name was pretty long so we always answered the phone using an abbreviated version of the name. Prospects and customers were never confused but I can guarantee you the Google overseas English as a second language moderators don't get it.

When you outsource the moderation from the same area in the World that most spammers are calling from tell me again how you expect the business owner to know the difference? Oh wait yes we must screen each call for the area code! PLEASE!

Sorry for the rant but as each day goes by the more I get pissed about Google's level of arrogance towards small businesses.
 

Nick.SEOSpark

Local Search Pro
It's getting more stupid every day, seriously!

My dentist has his practice in a high rise building, ZERO signage for obvious reasons. So is Google taking the time to park the car, get out, go into the building, find the building directory to see if the practice is named there?

and...

Now businesses have to worry that any one who answers the phone states the exact name of the business as it's listed on their + page?

What about businesses that use calling systems that are automated which funnel callers to the proper department in the business? Are they taking the time to get through to a live person or do they just decide to moderate the listing and delete it. Hmm I think we know the answer to that question don't we.

GET REALISTIC GOOGLE PLEASE!!

My old construction company's name was pretty long so we always answered the phone using an abbreviated version of the name. Prospects and customers were never confused but I can guarantee you the Google overseas English as a second language moderators don't get it.

When you outsource the moderation from the same area in the World that most spammers are calling from tell me again how you expect the business owner to know the difference? Oh wait yes we must screen each call for the area code! PLEASE!

Sorry for the rant but as each day goes by the more I get pissed about Google's level of arrogance towards small businesses.
I have to echo the rant from Russ as this does seem way too strict for all of the reasons listed above. I can't help but laugh thinking of them zooming in on street view to have a look for the signage. I can think of so many businesses in my city (large and small) with signage that would be difficult to see.
 

Marie Ysais

Local Search Pro
I think the way they are checking is a bit unrealistic with today's typical business. Many small businesses work out of their homes may or may not have a sign and may or may not answer the phone correctly. I have a client that actually owns several businesses and he has all of his calls funneled to his office phone. He always answers with just his name. We have spammers to thank for the strict guidelines but I do think Google needs to get a bit more in touch with today's small business owner.

I do appreciate you passing along the information because very little bit helps with each client!
 

Russ

Forum Member
Marie Ysais

Agreed, I've been saying for the past year that Google is totally out of touch with how SBO's operate.

As for home based businesses, many municipalities don't require them to post signage and charge extra if the owner wants a sign. Additionally many areas have covenants that don't allow any type of signage except political signage. Does that automatically discount them as a legit business? Not by any means.

Again Google is just out of touch and ignorant in my opinion.
 

Nick.SEOSpark

Local Search Pro
I think the way they are checking is a bit unrealistic with today's typical business. Many small businesses work out of their homes may or may not have a sign and may or may not answer the phone correctly. I have a client that actually owns several businesses and he has all of his calls funneled to his office phone. He always answers with just his name. We have spammers to thank for the strict guidelines but I do think Google needs to get a bit more in touch with today's small business owner.

I do appreciate you passing along the information because very little bit helps with each client!
Yes, thanks a lot to Linda for passing on the valuable information. :)

It does seem like a very strict and difficult system for small businesses to deal with. It would be nice if they got the people employed for all this "checking" and fixed the problems with G+ Local. (just a thought for them!).. ;)
 
The examples of high rises is not one where someone would be deleted for not having a sign.

Again, if you are an SAB and hiding your address, no one expects you to have a sign. If you insist you have a storefront at your house or industrial park site and your address should be displayed, then they'd expect to see a sign.

But it is reasonable and expected that a non-SAB business in a high rise would not necessarily have an exterior sign. I would expect them to be listed on the lobby directory, but that is not something that can be checked from Street View, unless there is an interior tour. No one would delete a non-SAB in a high rise for not showing signage. There are lots of other checks that are done to determine legitimacy.

What this topic about is making sure your business name is real world. So if you signage that we can clearly see in Street View says "Joe's Plumbing", but make your listing name "San Francisco 24 Hour Plumber", and then try to say "That's our DBA name, you can find it on our website"; you can expect at the minimum the name to be deleted and possibly the entire listing to be taken down.

Your name is to be what is being used in the real world. Signage, if visible, is one way to check it. Joel is letting you know that how the phone is answered is another check that is done because that is also real world.
 
Linda,
Thanks for the timely and sage warning regarding this. Really good tips.

Doesn't it seem to you all that Google is great at trying to make LBOs walk a fine line, but they are all over the place with their own policies and practices in Local? Kind of ironic.
 

Linda Buquet

1
Staff member
Moderator
Miriam so true. And I also agree with above comments from Marie, Russ and Nick that Google is also out of touch with reality sometimes when it comes to SMBs and esp SABs.

However in the specific case of answering phone with the right name and business signs…
the point is not that just one thing missing or off is going to get you deleted.

I think the point is that phone answering, business signage and other signals Google can find that prove how the business represents itself in the real world, are among the things that Google can and does evaluate.

So word to the wise - be consistent - everywhere!
 
Not too take this thread too far off course, but I thought I'd address what people have said, because they seem to have a misconception that a sign determines if you are allowed a listing or not. If that's what you're advising your clients, you need to learn a lot more about how it is approached. Places/Local is an extension of the map, and mapping rules thus apply. In addition, there is a clear rule to use your real world name, which is completely understandable considering what some SEOs attempt to try to do.


Now businesses have to worry that any one who answers the phone states the exact name of the business as it's listed on their + page?
No, its sort of the opposite. Businesses would normally answer the phone with their business name. That should be what is being used as the name on the listing. If they are out of sync, it is more likely that the listing is wrong.

What about businesses that use calling systems that are automated which funnel callers to the proper department in the business? Are they taking the time to get through to a live person or do they just decide to moderate the listing and delete it. Hmm I think we know the answer to that question don't we.
I would expect that on an automated answering system that there is no excuse as to why the name the recorded greeting uses should not be expected to be the business name.

My old construction company's name was pretty long so we always answered the phone using an abbreviated version of the name. Prospects and customers were never confused but I can guarantee you the Google overseas English as a second language moderators don't get it.
Google understands this. Let's look at an example I often cite.

There is a restaurant down the road from me that has a long name, and is referred to by it's shortened name. In Maps both names can be indicated, and one marked as Primary (commonly known, should be displayed on the map) and the other as Official (long legal name, don't display it). They are:

McDonalds (Primary)
McDonalds Restaurants of Canada Ltd. (Official)​

So Google does recognize that people shorten names. However, when they do, it's normally logical and/or reflected on the signage. Places only has the ability to enter one name, so they ask for your real world name. McDonalds would suffice, it is how it is used in the real word. But now if you try to create a listing named "Best Hamburgers" or "McDonalds Hamburgers and Fries"; but answer the phone with "McDonalds" because corporate would pull your franchise if you didn't use your proper name; you can expect to be deleted.


I can't help but laugh thinking of them zooming in on street view to have a look for the signage. I can think of so many businesses in my city (large and small) with signage that would be difficult to see.
Again, it's one tool. Some areas have higher res photos than others. If they signage clearly says something else, that rings alarm bells. If there is no sign at all when they claim to have a storefront, that too rings alarm bells. But no one ever said that your sign must be clearly visible in Street View to be listed. It's just one tool that might or might not confirm or call into question the information in the listing. If it was the only tool then we wouldn't be talking about how the phone should be answered.


I have a client that actually owns several businesses and he has all of his calls funneled to his office phone. He always answers with just his name. We have spammers to thank for the strict guidelines but I do think Google needs to get a bit more in touch with today's small business owner.
I myself would call into question if he has several businesses, or several aspects of the same business. If I have two completely different businesses and I don't want them confused by not only companies like Google, but also not by my customers, then I pay $5 for the second phone number. Professional businesses answer the phone with their business name. Don't you?


As for home based businesses, many municipalities don't require them to post signage and charge extra if the owner wants a sign. Additionally many areas have covenants that don't allow any type of signage except political signage. Does that automatically discount them as a legit business? Not by any means.
That's an indication that they likely should be hiding their address. This is not a business directory, but rather an extension of maps. Not every business qualifies. But since they want to help small SABs, they did create the hiding option.

This is because having a marker on the map is an invitation to visit. If I can't even find it when I get there, it shouldn't be on the map. But use the correct options and it can be featured in local search. The other option is not to be listed at all.

Most municipalities that ban signs in residential areas do so because they ban storefronts in residential areas. Your neighbour is not expected to put up with people coming and going to view and purchase your products. If you don't have the storefront, but instead go to your customers, then hide your address as required. If you hide your address, then no one expects a sign.

My point is that this is actually thought out, and it reflects how the map user gets the best experience. The user is the customer here. If you have a client that doesn't operate how must businesses operate, that's an issue for your client, not for Google.


If you'd like to take it beyond this, please start a new thread to keep this one on track.
 
On a similar note, I got an interesting call today. I have a business line and a legit business address, and I always answer the phone and say "Good morning/afternoon, Touch Point." The woman asked me if this was Touch Point Digital Marketing Agency. I said yes. She said, "Are you still at 4035 Washington Ave....?" I said yes. She asked, "Is David Deering still the owner of the business?" I said, "Yep, that's me." She said, "Ok, thank you" and was about to hang up. I had to ask her who she was and what company she was with. She told me her name and that she was with Express Update USA (Infogroup). I wasn't aware that they made actual calls to verify information, but Phil told me that they sometimes do.

So, it just goes to show ya that you never know who's calling and for what reason. But it's important that you set everything up right from the start and do things the right way, and you shouldn't have to worry (at least in theory).
 
Nope.

But I'm a trusted reviewer, which means I can approve or deny things on the map due to demonstrating to Google that I understand the guidelines in detail. I also have a very high trust level as an editor, which is earned separately. These both mean I've read and learned the requirements back and forth, and when they don't make sense I have internal methods to escalate them to Google. I've gotten some things changed, and some other things have been explained to me. But by an large most of my comments come from studying thousands of edits and listings and figuring out if they should be allowed or not. When I delve into it in that detail, almost all the rules make sense, and when I see people not following them it usually is an attempt to exploit the system (whether they think so or not). Its rare to see someone not following the guideline because the guideline doesn't fit the real world. The ones that were like that get adjusted when we point them out.

Sometimes I will say "we" to refer to reviewers. Trusted reviewers are both Google employees and volunteers.

---------- Post Merged at 03:41 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 03:39 PM ----------

I always answer the phone and say "Good morning/afternoon, Touch Point."
Dave, you're a professional business man; would you ever think of not answering the phone with your business name (we'll leave out seeing your significant other's number on the call display).
 

Linda Buquet

1
Staff member
Moderator
She told me her name and that she was with Express Update USA (Infogroup). I wasn't aware that they made actual calls to verify information, but Phil told me that they sometimes do.
I think they usually do. So important when you do citations for clients to warn them about verification calls and tell them, they need to take them. Otherwise some of your most important citation work, like submitting to Infogroup who submits to tons of other places, can go down the tubes.

SMBs get hammered by verification calls, often they are bogus. I've had lots of clients tell me "if someone says they are with Google or say they want to verify our address I just hang up on them because they are all scammers."
 

Marie Ysais

Local Search Pro
Hi Flash,

"I myself would call into question if he has several businesses, or several aspects of the same business. If I have two completely different businesses and I don't want them confused by not only companies like Google, but also not by my customers, then I pay $5 for the second phone number. Professional businesses answer the phone with their business name. Don't you?"

Just to clarify a bit, the professional has paid the extra money to have multiple phone numbers. The businesses are separate from each and not the same type of services. But he does have the phone numbers forwarding to ONE phone......so he answers the one phone with multiple numbers. He is very professional but laid back over here in Texas it is very common to answer the phone with your name and not necessarily your business name. Remember these are businesses that don't get a lot of phone calls multiple times a day and they aren't customer service types of calls. I guess to describe it is his clients know him well more by his name than his company name. We aren't talking big business and a lot more laid back. this isn't all of my clients but some of them do answer the phone with their names and not the company name.

Personally, I also answer the phone with my name. It just isn't that odd in my area.
 
I think they usually do. So important when you do citations for clients to warn them about verification calls and tell them, they need to take them. Otherwise some of your most important citation work, like submitting to Infogroup who submits to tons of other places, can go down the tubes.

SMBs get hammered by verification calls, often they are bogus. I've had lots of clients tell me "if someone says they are with Google or say they want to verify our address I just hang up on them because they are all scammers."
I agree. I think that when creating citations for clients, warn them that someone may call, so for the time being, use your full business name (if reasonable) when answering the phone.

It's a shame about those scammers pretending to be Google. The smb's don't know who to trust anymore. But one thing you can be sure of: if a company is calling you to solicit SEO business, they're probably not any good, or they're just a scam. Either way, find someone that you can trust, preferably someone local so you know where to find them if things do go wrong.
 

mborgelt

Top Contributor
Hello,

I'm just replying to this thread as a whole. After reading everyone's responses, I "re-found" the value with educating clients to consistently to represent and answer their phone in a way that properly expresses their business. Thanks for the excellent topic everyone!
 

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