WARNING: Google+ Local Category KW Spam & Conflicting Guidelines


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If you deal with Google+ Local you know getting categories right is a big deal when it comes to ranking!

I've been telling consultants in my Advanced training that even though it's not spelled out in the Places guidelines, knowing the algo and spam filters like I do (or think I do) I believe the best rule of thumb for G+L cats is: Don't repeat the same KW more than twice.

Keyword repetition is what spammers do. So I think to having the following in categories would be considered spammy: Plumber, plumbers, plumbing company, plumbing service, plumbing contractor.

Once again Map Maker vs Places guidelines conflict or at least are not in alignment. Turns out the MM guidelines or at least the unwritten rules that "power mappers" and reviewers are privately told by Google are MUCH stricter than what Places guidelines allow.

Or really I think it's more like this: There are just so many unwritten or purposely vague Places guidelines that are not spelled out. So knowing the underlying MM guidelines gives us more of a clue about what is really allowed and what could be challenged as unacceptable.

REMEMBER if a Googler or Mapper (or even a bot) gets eyes on a listing,
they MAY edit or delete it based on MM rules - not Places guidelines!

CHECK OUT THIS IMPORTANT THREAD FROM THE GOOGLE FORUM. (Bold & red by me.)
It's from Flash AKA Gregg, a Google Regional Expert Reviewer and an active member here.

Acceptable Categories on the New Google+Page - Google Groups

Nick - You are quoting the Places category. Again, Places is a small portion of your listing. Once on the map, the Maps rules take over.

Joy - Read the part {MM Guidelines} about using Restaurant and then adding Mexican Restaurant as a secondary category, because Mexican Restaurant does not exist as a primary category. However, if you are a Chinese Restaurant, which is a primary category, you are to put that and nothing more. You are not to start adding extra categories like "restaurant" "restaurants" "wonton restaurant", as you already have a specific category that covers it.

To quote: Never change the category from the best possible category to a generic or less specific one.

You are to pick the most specific category, and not add other ones. If there isn't something specific due to category limitations, then it is OK to choose a generic one as the primary and then add one specific custom one (but since the primary is not even accessible within Places, this doesn't translate over that you should put the generic in there. The generic would then end up as a secondary category and would be deleted by a Maps editor). The other category boxes are for other aspects of your business, not to add more generic categories. So adding "Takeout Restaurant" is fine, as that is not automatically implied and is another aspect of the business.

The concept of category spam is explained a lot more in the guidelines for reviewers, which are not public and thus I cannot directly quote. But it stresses more that similar categories that just repeat the same thing are spam.

This is where we are pointed by Google employees when they are explaining the concept. They themselves do the exact same type of edit I just did all the time, and deny edits that don't meet these requirements I'm not interpreting the guidelines, but rather I'm providing you what over a dozen Google employees have each consistently provided our group or me directly. They are also the ones that have stressed that the existing categories should be used, and exceptions should only be applied in cases such as the example where the specific category is missing. This is how it is consistently done within Maps, whether they use Map Maker or other tools. Places is the only exception, and you'll notice that they've been telling people "Sorry, your extra categories not from the list won't show" and "Sorry, in Google+ Business we won't allow these custom categories any more." It seems this is yet another place where Places is now being made to conform to the rules of Maps.

As for my choices, Plumber is a category. Plumbing Company is not a category. Thus Plumber should be the one used. Plumbing Contractor is somewhat implied by Plumber, but I looked at the Contractor categories and found all the construction ones were present except for Plumbing Company. They likely left it out since Plumber exists, but I applied a bit of leeway and added it in case general contractors are searching for subtrades. In reality it is sort of against the guidelines, but we're allowed a bit of leeway when we consider how it might be searched.

After putting Plumber as the primary and and leaving Plumbing Contractor as the acceptable categories, I removed "plumbing contractor", "Plumbing Contractors", "Plumber", "Service Plumber", "service plumber", "re pipe plumber", "plumbers", "Water Heaters", "water heaters", "drain cleaning" among others. If you can't see how that is category spam, I don't know what to tell you.

In the end, when someone has a leak, they look up "plumber". It is a valid category, and fits the "I am ..." statement, so it is the best choice. A map editor was going to change it to that, and likely would have dropped Plumbing Contractor also.
The Top Contributors have raised the issue with Google again about guideline inconsistencies between Places and Map Maker. Waiting for clarity.

More info on Map Maker categories: http://localsearchforum.catalystema...ep-dive-into-google-map-maker-categories.html

Google+ Local Category Guidelines: Remember that one thing the Places guidelines DOES clearly spell out is the "IS not DOES" rule. So be you understand how to 'test' that rule, be careful and abide by that one as well.

I know at least one Dentist that was suspended for violating the "IS not DOES" rule and the cats were Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Implants, Invisalign and Laser Dentistry. ALL VERY COMMON DENTAL CAT AND ALL ARE A VIOLATION!

ADDITIONALLY now we also have the new Google+ category situation to deal with and where categories are more narrowly defined and custom cats are not allowed like they are in the Places dashboard.

OH AND ONE MORE THING... If it's a smaller town or especially if more of a niche category, you need to set location to that city and search for city + KW to be sure it even PULLS local results. It can vary by city because depends on KW volume. For example "Atlanta Notary Public" may pull local, whereas "Podunk Notary Public" may not. If Google does not show local results for that KW then you are wasting one of your 5 precious cats.

So category selection is MUCH trickier now and you really need to eval cats on numerous levels. I do a whole section of training on cats which was already very in-depth and now need to expand it AGAIN, to include the MM and G+ category issues. OR better yet, I'll just link to this post. :)

Another crazy Google Local conundrum! :eek:

What do you think?
 

DJLocal

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Very helpful post, as always thanks for the update. The discrepancies between Local and MM have always been very frustrating. That being said, it is good information to know and helps us make we are within the guidelines.
 
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To be clear, when I stated "This is where we are pointed by Google employees when they are explaining the concept.", I was not referring to the review guidelines that you can't see; but rather the portion of the guidelines that uses the restaurants as examples of being specific and leaving out the generic. All the staff on the Map Maker side point to that as the reason why you are to use the specific category and nothing more when the others would be implied.
 
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I should perhaps mention that the phrasing "category spam" is from Google. They have identified it as something they don't want and have given it a name and definiton.
 
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Thanks Gregg and I agree. In fact any type of KW repetition is what spammers do so it can trip a spam filter and cause problems.

And we know Google hates spam, doing the common things that spammers do.
 
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FANTASTIC post. I'm a firm believer that having appropriate categories set in your Google Places dash is the single most important factor to ranking locally. This clears things up a bit, however Google likes 100% profiles.

So, in the plumber example, to best suit Google's quality guidelines, if you choose 'plumber' and Google apparently 'implies' that plumbers, plumbing company, plumbing contractor are included, how do you fill up the remaining categories ... or is that just the answer - you don't?
 

Alex

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I have a couple of questions. Using the plumbers logic, should landscapers have only landscapers as their category? Landscape designer OK to add? What's your opinion about including lawn care? Can't seem to "enter" to create a new paragraph! What about a general practice attorney that covers divorce, estate planning, family, collections, business law, & criminal? Can each be listed as a cat without penalty? Home improvement company that does mostly siding, additions, kitchen & bath remodeling. Is it spammy to list kitchen & bath remodelers & siding? He doesn't build homes but he could be considered a construction company. So I'm a little confused about what would be best.
 
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If I was editing those features as a mapper, here's what I'd likely do:

Landscaper and landscape designer - I'd probably leave both, neither implies the other. My condo building has a landscaper, he just knows a lot about plant care and doesn't do any designing. I look at plans at work from landscape designers all the time, they are part of building plans and the designer works for the same firm as the architect. The architect never swings a hammer and the landscape designer never touches dirt. So neither implies the other.

Lawn care, on the other hand, is normal for a landscaper to do. Also, lawn care is not a proper category... it is a service. Services and products do not belong in categories. I would delete it if I saw it.

When you have a general practice attorney where you then start putting every type of practice into every blank category, you really are again describing products/services rather than categorizing. I see most mappers trim that back to just the general category. It is no different than putting Paint Store, Lighting Store, Tool Store, Lumber Store and Plumbing Store when Hardware Store would have covered it. You are to put the most specific category, and in that case General Practice Attorney is as specific as it gets. The extra blanks are not for keyword stuffing, but rather for filling in other aspects of the business if they are not implied by the existing category(s).

Similarly with a home improvement company, they should use General Contractor or Construction Company, whichever of the two is more appropriate, and then the others are implied. Now if all they do is kitchen and bathroom reno, then you would put Kitchen Remodeler and Bathroom Remodeler as the two categories and NOT put General Contractor.

So in each case, as specific as possible; but not overly specific if they do general work of all sorts.

Don't forget, the restriction of five categories only exists in Places/Local. Maps itself has not limits, so instead there needs to be rules such as these to prevent over-stuffing them with the excuse "but they do that service too". When you start breaking a business down into dozens of individual services (or five services) that are all implied by the proper main category, then what you are doing is keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing in the category fields is considering category spam.
 

Alex

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Thanks a bunch. I made the construction & attorney changes. I am assuming Google will know what specific areas of the law he practices from the website. Now another question? A wellness & holistic health center. I have the cats of wellness program, holistic, & alternative medicine. is this being "spammy" and would adding massage therapy to the list be "stuffing" also?
 
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Alex, there is another category rule to be aware of. The IS not DOES rule.

holistic, alternative medicine and massage therapy all violate the guideline. Those are services or treatment modatities, not business/industry categories.

To test this rule say "I am a" or "My business is a" and see if it works.

"I am a holistic" or "I am a massage therapy" do not work.

You can often add a word to bring it into compliance.

So could maybe use holistic practitioner, alternative medicine provider or massage therapIST instead of theraPY.

Now whether Flash and other mappers would think they were redundant, by MM standards is a question I can't answer.

But as far as the Places guidelines that "are" spelled out you could do it since custom cats are allowed and those are not totally redundant to me. But of course you would need to find at least one default Google cat.
 

Marie Ysais

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I wanted to ask the exact question that Andrew asked:
So, in the plumber example, to best suit Google's quality guidelines, if you choose 'plumber' and Google apparently 'implies' that plumbers, plumbing company, plumbing contractor are included, how do you fill up the remaining categories ... or is that just the answer - you don't?

It seems like in the Plumber example there really isn't anything else you can add as a sub category with out using it to describe services offered which is not allowed.
But to have one category and not five feels scary. I guess most of us are from the school of filling everything out such as categories to make it more complete.
 
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Again, remember that Places is just one contributor of many to Maps. Maps has no limits on the number of categories. Five seems to be an arbitrary number that they have chosen to set as a limit. If there were 25 fields, or unlimited, imagine what would happen on many of the listings. A limit had to be set to cut down on the inevitable spamming. Using them all is fine if appropriate, but if you use them all no matter what, aren't you doing exactly what that limit seems to have been set to prevent?

Also, look to how Google treats KW stuffing elsewhere. They have made it very clear that it is a bad thing that will be penalized. I would think that the last place you would want to do it is on one of their own sites.
 

Alex

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So a good rule to LSO by is to try never to use services or treatment modatities for a business listing but to use them only for personal professional listings?
 
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What about in a situation where Google has pre-determined categories for a variety of services e.g

I am a psychologist

However there is also: child psychologist, marriage counselor, counselor, family counselor

Isn't it implied that I would offer child psychology even though I am a psychologist, or does Google view them as specialties?
 
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I wanted to ask the exact question that Andrew asked:
So, in the plumber example, to best suit Google's quality guidelines, if you choose 'plumber' and Google apparently 'implies' that plumbers, plumbing company, plumbing contractor are included, how do you fill up the remaining categories ... or is that just the answer - you don't?

It seems like in the Plumber example there really isn't anything else you can add as a sub category with out using it to describe services offered which is not allowed.
But to have one category and not five feels scary. I guess most of us are from the school of filling everything out such as categories to make it more complete.
My opinion differs a little from Flash's. I mean I know what he's saying and agree with it from a MAPs data integrity point of view.

BUT from a Places IE business search results point of view AND DEF from a RANKING point of view which is what business owners are most concerned about, his very strict interpretation of the MM guidelines I think could be detrimental to your ranking, on a couple levels.

1) Re Marie's Q about 5 cats. From what I've seen if you DON'T fill in all 5 cats and only list one then Google seems much more likely to fill in the blanks, make assumptions and add cats that MAY not even be applicable.

2) You AREN'T going to rank for things if they aren't in cats. So yes I agree plumber, plumbers, plumbing company and plumbing contractor is way too redundant, spammy and not needed.

However I totally disagree with this part...

When you have a general practice attorney where you then start putting every type of practice into every blank category, you really are again describing products/services rather than categorizing.
An attorney is not best served by listing one cat: General practice attorney. They won't rank for any of the indiv practice area keywords. If they want to show up at all for Divorce Attorney and Personal Injury Attorney and Criminal Law Attorney, they need to list those in their cats.

Yes those are services in a way, but they are also distinct business categories. Distinct TYPEs of attorneys that are within that practice and accurate categories for what that business IS - because it is multi-faceted. I bet money if I ask Jade and Joel they will say they are allowed!

I also think it's allowed for a General contractor to list: Painter, Roofing Contractor, Plumber because those are not redundant or repetitive KW stuffing, but accurately describe different categories that one business falls under.

(I feel a Venus/Mars convo coming on!) :p
 
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Sure. Just be careful what account you use. I would not be logged into client's account because if his name shows on the edit in MM, it could cause a feud with his competitor. PLUS he didn't make the edit personally, you did.

PLUS you want to build your own personal rep for doing sound edits. So I'd have one main account you do all your edits in.
 

Marie Ysais

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Re: WARNING: Google+ Local Category KW Spam & Conflicting Guidelines

And this is exactly the problem of having multiple rules over lapping. So from Linda's perspective could then Flash see this and edit the content since as per map maker rules he considers it wrong?
I find it gets confusing trying to balance between both. Is there a happy middle?:eek:
Linda, lets get them over here to weigh in!

---------- Post Merged at 12:53 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 12:52 PM ----------

Thanks for the tip Linda. Just searching around it can actually become addictive to search and find spam.....at least I find it addictive. I wonder if that could be my hobby ? :rolleyes: Since I have so much time on my hands.......:D
 
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Re: WARNING: Google+ Local Category KW Spam & Conflicting Guidelines

So from Linda's perspective could then Flash see this and edit the content since as per map maker rules he considers it wrong?
EXACTLY!

But the way I see it, if you stick to the Places guidelines and use good judgement and are careful and keep MM guidelines in mind you should do fine. UNLESS a mapper that's overly strict gets eyes on the listing.

But I don't believe most mappers or even Google are going to go ape shit over a perfectly acceptable list of categories that are different and distinct and edit them down to one - unless there are a bunch of other spammy signals with the listing or something.

Thanks for the tip Linda. Just searching around it can actually become addictive to search and find spam.....at least I find it addictive. I wonder if that could be my hobby ? :rolleyes: Since I have so much time on my hands.......:D
If you have time on your hands I have a proposition for you. Been meaning to ask you anyway. Will try to email you this weekend. Think you'll like it! :p
 

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