Major Update: New Guidelines for Google My Business (Google Places)

Linda Buquet

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<img src="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/GMBguidelines.jpg" alt="GMBguidelines" width="35%" />​

Google has been working on updating the Google My Business guidelines to try to make them clearer and they just went live. There are a lot more examples and many of the guidelines are spelled out in greater detail.

Some important things have changed as well so be sure to read VERY carefully.

2 ITEMS TO NOTE:

DESCRIPTORS NO LONGER ALLOWED

There was a reversal of the recent guideline that said you COULD add a descriptor. (One of the reasons I've advised against adding one, is I was pretty sure this would be overturned.) Now we are back to real-world names only.

NAME

Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.

Any additional information, when relevant, can be included in other sections of your business information (e.g., "Addresss", "Categories"). Adding unnecessary information to your name (e.g., "Google Inc. - Mountain View Corporate Headquarters" instead of "Google") by including marketing taglines, store codes, special characters, hours or closed/open status, phone numbers, website URLs, service/product information, location/address or directions, or containment information (e.g. "Chase ATM in Duane Reade") is not permitted.

More details + examples in this section - so be sure to read.

CATEGORIES

Categories help your customers find accurate, specific results for services they’re interested in. In order to keep your business information accurate and live, make sure that you:

Use as few categories as possible to describe your overall core business from the provided list.

Choose categories that are as specific as possible, but representative of your main business.

Do not use categories solely as keywords or to describe attributes of your business.

More inside this section - so be sure to read.


Read all the new guidelines here:
Guidelines for representing your business on Google


There is a lot more detail about practitioners and several other things as well.

Overall I think they did a really good job. The guidelines are much more granular and many things are spelled out much more clearly. I think all the detailed examples will help SMBs understand better too.

What do you think???

Please point out anything else noteworthy below.


The Top Contributors got a preview of an initial draft, but changes have been made since then, so I'm still reading the final version. I may have more things to point out once I get through it all.

ADDED 12/2 - Copy of previous guidelines below. (Quick copy/paste didn't take time to format.)
<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="Major guideline updates - see inside">
<meta property="og:image" content="http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/GMBguidelines.jpg">
 

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Linda Buquet

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ALSO NOTE:

Virtual offices like Regus are now specifically excluded.


"If your business rents a temporary, "virtual" office at a different address from your primary business, do not create a page for that location unless it is staffed during your normal business hours."
(They were not allowed before, it was just not clearly spelled out.)

Apologies - the forum server is very slow and almost timing out due to the increased traffic.
 

Nick Rink

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Thanks for the heads up on the new guidelines Linda. They're way more extensive and it's interesting that they've reversed the name descriptor. Just putting a proposal together where I was thinking of using that tactic but will leave that well alone now!

There are a ton of businesses that don't stick to these guidelines, whether or purpose or out of ignorance. What does Google actually do, if anything, when they find a naughty listing?
 

Phil Rozek

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Great scooping, Linda.

@Nick

As I commented over at Mike's blog, I call BS. I doubt Google will enforce these rules. Not saying they can't, but why suddenly would they be motivated to get into gray areas like trying to determine whether or not a virtual office is "staffed" or a category is too broad? (Rhetorical question, of course :))

I suspect Google will make an example of a few business owners and leave it at that - until they change the rules again.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Nick and Phil.

Here is Mike's post with other nuances I had not gotten around to yet.

<a href="http://blumenthals.com/blog/2014/12/01/google-rolls-out-major-update-to-google-my-business-guidelines/">Google Rolls Out Major Update to Google My Business Guidelines | Understanding Google Places & Local Search</a>

Sorry, my server keeps crashing every time I try to add to this thread so I'm all backed up trying to add feedback.

FYI I scored a copy of the previous guidelines right before they were updated. Have been trying to upload a copy so you have it if you ever need to compare, but server keeps timing out and won't take the attachment. Will try to do later.
 
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Great scooping, Linda.

@Nick

As I commented over at Mike's blog, I call BS. I doubt Google will enforce these rules. Not saying they can't, but why suddenly would they be motivated to get into gray areas like trying to determine whether or not a virtual office is "staffed" or a category is too broad? (Rhetorical question, of course :))

I suspect Google will make an example of a few business owners and leave it at that - until they change the rules again.
I agree and would bet that we will continue to see listings using descriptors with no repercussions.
 

Jim Froling

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Jul 19, 2012
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@Nick, concur completely with @PhilRozek and the BS meter. Higher on their guidelines infraction radar, Google should look toward an oldie but goodie: Service Area Businesses displaying addresses and ranking high:(. Been waiting for that smack down now for three years (at least). So I don't think they will or even could take issue with descriptors.
 

Celeste

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OK - thanks Linda for the link to Mike's summary points. One item on Mike's list really stuck out for me:

"If Different departments are to have their own page they must have unique categories."

In working with businesses that have multiple listings for different locations and/or departments I can only wonder how the heck that will work given the really poor list of categories Google offers without any ability to customize.

Any thoughts or experience out there on this?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

:confused:
 

Lloyd Silver

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I actually look at the virtual office statement differently. I see it as specifically allowing a virtual office location as long as it is staffed during normal business hours. There has definitely been confusion as to whether a business that properly used a virtual office could in fact have a GMB page.

And the answer to that is "Yes". As long as it's staffed (during normal business hours).

They don't say by whom it should be staffed but I'll read between those lines and assume they mean by a full time employee of the company.

---------- Post Merged at 05:06 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:03 PM ----------

Celeste,

Google, in these updated guidelines, specifically says to list as few categories as possible because "Google can also detect category information from your website and from mentions about your business throughout the web".

From their perspective, they don't really care much about categories because their search algo is likely looking at external factors even more so than what is in the Google My Business page.

Now, if you're a business/university/etc that has multiple departments and is entitled to multiple pages with different categories, it just means you really have to know what you're doing with citations (both structured and unstructured) and on creating appropriate location (or department specific) landing pages. And that those landing pages might in fact need to include more information than just basic contact info.
 

Linda Buquet

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OK - thanks Linda for the link to Mike's summary points. One item on Mike's list really stuck out for me:

"If Different departments are to have their own page they must have unique categories."

In working with businesses that have multiple listings for different locations and/or departments I can only wonder how the heck that will work given the really poor list of categories Google offers without any ability to customize.

Any thoughts or experience out there on this?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

:confused:
Well if distinct and different departments the way I think Google wants them, it would be clear with no crossover. Like say different departments at a hospital or university. But you are right about the limited categories making that a challenge in some cases.
 

Linda Buquet

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I actually look at the virtual office statement differently. I see it as specifically allowing a virtual office location as long as it is staffed during normal business hours. There has definitely been confusion as to whether a business that properly used a virtual office could in fact have a GMB page.

And the answer to that is "Yes". As long as it's staffed (during normal business hours).

They don't say by whom it should be staffed but I'll read between those lines and assume they mean by a full time employee of the company.
Yes that's what they mean. But again folks that are trying to game the system will read it differently since it's not spelled out.
 

Lloyd Silver

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Another small change:

NEW GUIDELINES

a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.

OLD GUIDELINE

Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a local page on Google My Business

____

So added clarification regarding stated hours. That's now the second time stated hours is being addressed in the new guidelines versus the old (the other being virtual offices).

---------- Post Merged at 05:22 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:20 PM ----------

Yes that's what they mean. But again folks that are trying to game the system will read it differently since it's not spelled out.
Agreed, but like with many laws in our fine country, upstanding and law abiding citizens will play by the rules while those who don't gain a (temporary, hopefully) unfair advantage.

But at least for my clients who do use virtual offices I have a clear understanding of when they are allowed.

---------- Post Merged at 05:27 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:22 PM ----------

Oh, and regarding categories and multiple departments:

Semantic markup just got more important in my opinion.

---------- Post Merged at 05:30 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:27 PM ----------

And here's one more slight change:

Pages for practitioners may include title or degree certification (e.g. Dr., MD, JD, Esq., CFA).

That might have been allowed previously but wasn't specified in the guidelines. I actually see that being huge in the financial services industry.
 

heckler

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To be completely honest, I'm really surprised they even allowed descriptors in the first place.

Changes like this make me wonder if Google sometimes rolls out changes to simply see how SEOs react.
 

Linda Buquet

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Added a copy of the previous guidelines in Word doc attachment to bottom of the 1st post. Tried to do it yesterday but my server kept timing out due to traffic.

Now you have it for comparison in case a client says "that was never in the previous guidelines" or "are you sure that wasn't allowed before?"
 

cdawg2610

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So as I read this, even though a business name combines to brands (Buick and GMC for example) Google says now I am suppose to have two pages...
 

russofford

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In terms of descriptors in the business name, how might you think that would affect lawyers or doctors who use a name such as 'Attorney John Smith' or "Jane Doe Atty" or such?

Also, it is a shame that Google lumped the 'irrelevant legal terms' in with the 'special characters explanation. It sort of overshadows it.

A couple of their examples of a not acceptable name is "Re/Max LLC" and "LAX Parking Ltd"... (LLC and LTD) would you think that also applies to 'Inc'? (BTW, Google just recently auto-updated a G+ Listing for one of my clients and removed the 'Inc' from their name, thought it could be because there are variations in the aggregators and IYPs with and without the 'Inc' in their name.)

I wonder how this would affect doctors, dentists, psychologists, etc... where they use DDS or PhD, etc, in their names.

I suppose most of these questions can be answered by Google's metion of 'real world' representation (they used the phrase 9x in the guideline document!) :)

Does that mean that if you put LLC on your business card and answer the phone as 'Hello, you've reached Blue Widgets LLC'... then you can keep it in your G+ Local business name? Then there is the difference between 'real world' and 'business registration' (legal) name. :S

Russ
 

Linda Buquet

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Hi cdawg,

Think it depends on what the real world name and branding is.

If it's always been Alpine Buick and GMC then it should be fine. But if there are separate buildings or entrances and different phone #s and they always represent as Alpine Buick and Alpine GMC - 2 distinct businesses, then they could have 2 pages.
 

Linda Buquet

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Here are Phil's thoughts on the topic.

<a href="http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2014/12/01/latest-google-places-guideline-flip-flop-natural-extension-of-pigeon-update/">Latest Google Places Guideline Flip-Flop: Natural Extension of Pigeon Update? | LocalVisibilitySystem.com</a>
 

HurricaneK8

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Apr 16, 2014
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I didn't know about the photo submission guidelines that say:
"Photos should also be relevant to the business represented by the page. Specifically they should:

Not be merely text, unless it is relevant to the place. For example, the menu of a restaurant or a photo of the storefront with large fonts would be permitted."

I know some businesses that have cover photos that are only text or a picture that's actually just text saying "Platinum Award Winner" for real estate agents.

Is this a new guideline? Or has it always been that way.
 

cdawg2610

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Hi cdawg,

Think it depends on what the real world name and branding is.

If it's always been Alpine Buick and GMC then it should be fine. But if there are separate buildings or entrances and different phone #s and they always represent as Alpine Buick and Alpine GMC - 2 distinct businesses, then they could have 2 pages.
Makes sense when said that way Linda - though the reading of Google's explanation, there's an entirely different takeway (multiple people have asked me already this morning if this means they have to build second pages)
 

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