Linda Buquet

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The Google Places Quality Guidelines (Yes, according to that page it's still called Places) are written in a very subtle way and you need to be able to think like Google and read between the lines. If you are a consultant you also need to understand what some of the unwritten rules are that are not even spelled out. It's tricky because Google does not want to be specific enough to draw a line in the sand because they feel that just helps the spammers know exactly how to work around things.

But those vague, not totally spelled out rules can also trip up a perfectly legit business owner and get them in trouble. GREAT EXAMPLE at the bottom of this post regarding home-based businesses.

Mary Bowling yesterday just did an excellent write up over at LocalU yesterday where she broke down and clarified some of the guidelines as well as pointing out any that are new or changed within the past year.

Updated: Rules for Google+Local for Business Listings - Local University

Google publishes quality guidelines for its local business listings. Think of these as rules, not guidelines, because failure to follow most of them will either keep you from being listed at all OR from ever ranking well in Google. The exceptions are where it clearly states “if possible”. But if it is possible, just do it.

I suspect that there are unpublished guidelines, too, that are not visible to us. Some of them eventually make it onto the list we can all see, but in the meantime, we just have to guess at what may or may not be acceptable now or in the future. To confuse matters more, Google sometimes leaves old, but undated information up on its pages, so you’re not really sure if what you’re reading is currently applicable or not.

Whether you are creating a new business listing or modifying an existing one, it’s wise to follow Google’s current Places quality guidelines. Here they are as of April 2014, with my notes about them in blue. Additions and changes made in the past year are written in green.

Head over to read the rest and below is that great example I mentioned, which came up in comments over on Mary's post.

At the top of this post I said you need to learn to think like Google and read between the lines.

HOME ADDRESS - HIDE IT!

One place I see SMBs often try to cross the lines is home based businesses that try to justify why they should not have to hide their address. They justify it by saying "But we DO occasionally have customers come to the house to pay bills or whatever so we don't think we need to hide address."

Knowing how Google thinks, what I've always told folks but I've never heard Google support come right out and say is that if it's a home address you MUST hide address no matter what. And I've had to go on and on trying to prove my point and explain it, even though it's not clearly spelled out anywhere.

THE GUIDELINES SAY:


"If you don't conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select "Yes, this business serves customers at their locations" under the "Service Areas and Location Settings" section of your dashboard, and then select the "Do not show my business address on my Maps listing" option."

So again SMBs take that and say "But I DO sometimes see customers face-to-face here." To which I reply, how is Google to know that AND then I point out the following part of the guidelines:

"If you wish to display your complete business address while setting your service area(s), your business location should be staffed and able to receive customers during its stated hours."

But it does not say anything specifically about home-bases businesses, which I've always said should hide their address no matter what.

In the comments of Mary's post, Ron Onni quoted support and their stance is as clear as day. (It's just not spelled out in the guidelines where a business can know this.)

GOOGLE SUPPORT REPORTEDLY WROTE:

”In order to display your address at a residential location you must have a sign displaying your business name and allow customer walk-ins anytime during your operating business hours”,

“Only locations that have regular store hours and accept walk in customers ‘off the street’ are allowed to have their address shown”,

“Residential addresses or locations that require appointments are not allowed to show their address”.


Ron then went on to say: "Through many requests, I was never pointed to where these ‘rules’ are posted or available. Arguing the point was like having a conversation with an auto-responder. Since I need my listing, I eventually just gave up, and hid my location. It’s been several days, and I’m still waiting for my listing to be reactivated."

What's interesting about that too is that my understanding is that Google was no longer taking down listings that don't comply with the hide your address rule, but maybe he had other violations as well. Key take-away if you value your listing, don't take chances, just hide address, if it's a home business.

So anyway, great post Mary and it never hurts to point out the guidelines again just to make sure everyone is up to speed.

What do you guys think?
 

Adam Zahler

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Great share, thanks Linda. I read through Mary's post quickly (will need to go back and re-read later) and I'm a little confused about email accounts. When setting up a listing we use a Google Account but Mary said 'Using a domain-associated email address adds a layer of trust to your submission..' and I think I've heard you mention this also. Do I set up a Google Account and somehow associate it with a name@clientdomain.com email address and if so how do I set that up properly?

Am I just missing the point and it is just about ensuring the contact email displayed on the Google+ page should be a sales@clientdomain.com address?

Thanks
 

Linda Buquet

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Adam no it's not about he email on the page it's the email the account is set up on.

Don't worry about it on existing accounts, but on new ones use info@mydomain.com or whatever if you possibly can. Can help in case of a listing dispute too, but those don't happen going forward because you can't reclaim accounts any more like you could before.

Learning to think like Google, what do you think spammers and hijackers do? They set up quick and easy Gmail accounts because they don't have access to the company email. But that does not prove they are associated with the connected site/business.
 
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