Google Places - CRITICAL New Rule Changes

43 replies
For those of you doing Places for clients, this info is mission critical.

I don't know the best way to share all the important info since I just wrote a 5 page blog post about it and there is so much to cover and I don't think I can link out to my own blog. (Plus my carpal is killing.)

So I guess I'll just try to copy and paste some of most important info, but it may not all make sense unless you read the whole thing.


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Why is this post so important? Because when Google makes changes to the Google Places Guidelines, however subtle they may be – it is almost always a precursor to a coming algo change that could result in your account being rejected or sent to “Google purgatory” which is even worse! If you don’t know about “Google purgatory”, see link at bottom of this post.

NEW GUIDELINES ABOUT GOOGLE PLACES CATEGORIES
Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
Again, subtle, but VERY important if a new algo is on the way that’s going to penalize for violating this guideline. This brings up a myriad of questions and concerns for me.

1) For those that don’t know it, the category section is where you put the most important keywords you want to get ranked for. Keywords in description and custom attributes, just don’t carry much weight with the OLD Google Places algo. (With the new Place Search algo everything is different totally different and there’s a way to compensate for this guideline change but that opens a whole other can of worms I won’t go into now.)

2) “What your business is, not what it does or things it sells” Man there are so many ways to blur the lines here. Creative copy writing could get you everywhere, or maybe get you banned! Who knows how strictly Google is going to enforce this???

SIDEBAR TO PROVE THESE SUBTLE RULE CHANGES CAN LATER RESULT IN BANS IF YOU DON'T REACT

Awhile back, don’t remember when exactly – maybe July or so, Google added this VERY subtle change to the guidelines, then a couple months later companies started getting in trouble for violating it.

“Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields.”

Small business owners & SEOs alike, just skimmed over it - because it didn’t sound like much of anything. Most didn’t even really get what it meant.

What Google REALLY meant in that subtle phrase was: Any words from your business title, address (city or state especially) or category fields CAN NEVER BE REPEATED IN YOUR DESCRIPTION or you can have your Google Place page pulled off the net and have to fight for months to get re-listed!

NOW tons of people are getting rejected or banned due to that subtle rule change.

INDUSTRY PEEPS – for the Internet marketers, Google Places optimizers and LOCAL SEOs that read this blog and who I talk to by email, phone or forums – #3 is a biggie. (Sidebar about the new algo) I’m in numerous forum discussions right now where many of us are trying to decide how to morph our business (if we currently only do Places) into what the client ultimately needs due to this new algo.

Sorry, I digressed again, but this change really affects a lot of things for someone like me who is in the business of trying to help companies with their Places ranking.

OK so here are the new Google Places Guidelines.

There are other important changes too, so read with a fine toothed comb. THEN read it again and try to read between the lines on any other subtle changes that relates to your situation or your Place Page.


================================


If you do Places for lots of clients you need to read the part with all my Dentist examples to get the full meaning of this. But don't want to copy the whole post here cuz it's too long and would be dupe content. Plus for some that aren't deeply interested it would be too much detail.


I’ll be talking to other industry leaders and doing research about this to try to decipher Google’s deeper mystery message that’s hidden in the bottle and will blog some some recommendations if I can.
#critical #google #google places #local seo #places #rule
  • Profile picture of the author adriver38
    YIKES!

    How crazy is it that mentioning your business' name or location in the description might get you sent to purgatory? Big ol' WTH to Google on that new rule change! Time to get creative I guess. I wonder if changing my clients descriptions to comply with the new rules will affect their rank?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this here! Especially with your carpal tunnel acting up Heat always helps mine. Hope you feel better!
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    Why would any one repeat their business name address and phone number in the description section, that's like keyword stuffing and just does not make sense anyways.

    This is a good rule.
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    • Profile picture of the author adriver38
      She actually posted a good example in her blog of this and how its not necessarily blatent keyword stuffing:

      What happened was that not only were spammers in trouble for blatant keyword stuffing but totally innocent small business people were getting caught in the cross hairs left and right. Once Google tightened the algo that meant ABC Plumbing in Atlanta could not have a plain old normal sounding description that read "ABC Plumbing is a family-owned local plumbing contractor. We've been serving the Atlanta GA area for over 20 years". (5 Google violations in that simple statement!)

      Seems innocent enough to me and I have violated this a few times (unknowingly) for clients now. Guess Im gonna have to change them though.
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  • Profile picture of the author AidenChong
    Linda, maybe you can post this out in WF's Blog section too, and link it to there so people can read it right in the WF?

    Thanks for the helpful post anyway.


    Aiden Chong
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    • adriver38 Thanks for answering that question. That's exactly the type of innocent description many have gotten in trouble for.

      AidenChong, oh never thought of that. Good idea!

      FYI ALL - need to explain...

      That part about the description was simply to illustrate the point that guideline changes often preceed algo changes that trigger bans. (That description issue has been a problem for months even though lots of WSOs taught everyone to do it wrong and were breaking the rules.)

      HOWEVER I just noticed that part was REMOVED from this newest version of the guidelines. Some of us are trying to figure out if that means it's OK now or if it was just oversight.

      BUT the most important part of my post was about the new rule change about categories.

      You supposedly should only add categories that say what the business IS not what the business DOES.


      So for example a Plastic Surgeon can have Plastic Surgeon as a category but NOT breast augmentation, liposuction or botox.
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      • Profile picture of the author Bronwyn and Keith
        Hey 5star

        If you look at the categories that Google actually provides they all seem to be congruent with the 'New" rules.

        What that means to us is that they always have been and now Google are choosing to enforce it.

        Makes sense to us given that we already had the hints from the big G.

        Regards

        Bronwyn and Keith
        Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

        adriver38 Thanks for answering that question. That's exactly the type of innocent description many have gotten in trouble for.

        AidenChong, oh never thought of that. Good idea!

        FYI ALL - need to explain...

        That part about the description was simply to illustrate the point that guideline changes often preceed algo changes that trigger bans. (That description issue has been a problem for months even though lots of WSOs taught everyone to do it wrong and were breaking the rules.)

        HOWEVER I just noticed that part was REMOVED from this newest version of the guidelines. Some of us are trying to figure out if that means it's OK now or if it was just oversight.

        BUT the most important part of my post was about the new rule change about categories.

        You supposedly should only add categories that say what the business IS not what the business DOES.

        So for example a Plastic Surgeon can have Plastic Surgeon as a category but NOT breast augmentation, liposuction or botox.
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  • Profile picture of the author adriver38
    I actually just noticed it was removed as well. Which is great because that was the only thing I was "violating" in my clients listings. The new rule about the categories seems slightly easier to follow depending on your client. How to provide and package this for clients is gonna be a whole other issue, and a headache. Glad to see you've figured out the new algo though. Hopefully between you and the other Places gurus you'll post some of your less obvious findings on your blogs

    Im confused as to why some unclaimed, barely filled out listings in competitive markets are still outranking claimed, optimized ones. The Google Places gods are such a hypocrites sometimes. Any insight on that?
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  • Profile picture of the author Chad Heffelfinger
    Thanks for the post. Gotta love keeping up with Google and their never ending changes, or maybe not. Just one more good reason to sell a client on the fact they need help though. With all the changes that happen, do they want to keep up with what they need to do or not do? Most likely not.
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    • Profile picture of the author Diane S
      From the TOS:
      • Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
      • Categories should not contain location-based information (for example, Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted).
      Thanks for starting this post, I appreciate it so much. I updated my client's categories. I had included things sold as custom categories. I decided to go with just one category, the one supplied by Google itself. Seems like the safest thing to do. Not going to use any custom categories and see if that effects the placement in the Places listings. I was able to write a description approved by my client that uses all the terms that used to categories.

      Thanks again for this post.
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  • Profile picture of the author AZ
    Just remember that reviews are big with google and other users. There is going to be more changes for sure in the near future!
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  • Profile picture of the author teaball
    A friend owns a great pizza restaurant and was 5th or 6th on GP. Since you posted this, I began looking at all the different local business sectors that I follow.

    In competitive KW's like "pizza 'suburb'", the devastation was extreme. My friend, the pizza guy, is now #65. To me, that's unfindable.

    It's also interesting how the big pizza chains fared as well. Some went to the top and others disappeared.

    The ones that went to the top have real content!! Shocking!! Content??? Who would have thought content mattered?

    I think I'll go get a pizza this week and see if I get any bites from my friend.

    TB
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  • Profile picture of the author Riz
    Hey 5star,

    It's amazing how we can overlook some simple rules.

    I think once you make the changes to your categories (if you have been using categories of what your business does) you may see a drop in rankings temporarily. However, in the long term sticking with the rules is the best option.

    Also, with the new Google algos, if you have a well optimized site the issue of changing categories should not affect you greatly in the short term either.

    Riz
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    • Profile picture of the author Bronwyn and Keith
      Hey Riz

      Yeah the simple rules (Googles TOS) were important enough for Google to write so you would think that they would carry some weight and give some accepted direction.

      Unfortunately most people try to beat the rules and then complain when Google gives them a backhanded slap.

      Stick to the accepted rules and your customers will be a lot happier.

      regards

      Bronwyn and Keith
      Originally Posted by Riz View Post

      Hey 5star,

      It's amazing how we can overlook some simple rules.

      I think once you make the changes to your categories (if you have been using categories of what your business does) you may see a drop in rankings temporarily. However, in the long term sticking with the rules is the best option.

      Also, with the new Google algos, if you have a well optimized site the issue of changing categories should not affect you greatly in the short term either.

      Riz
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      • I just blogged some new news yesterday I wanted to be sure everyone here knows about.

        Awhile back I blogged a summary of the different layouts and algos showing up and showed some screen shots. You know how some KW you get the new layout and some you still get a "pack" listing and there are all kinds of crazy combos in between?

        Yesterday I blogged that fact that many of us thought all the crazy layout variations were part of a Google test, but I just found out that Google stated the variations are on purpose and will continue. So I guess we get used to variety. :rolleyes:

        That also means continuing to optimize for 2 algos since according to my tests the 7, 3, 2 and 1 pack layout still uses the old Places algo, but the new merged layout uses the new merged algo.

        So depending on the specific keyword and city, the keyword/city order, your browser and your IP your results and rankings could be totally different. For some keywords ranking will depend more on # of reviews and citations and for other keywords rank order will depend more on the client's previous organic ranking.

        The big G sure likes to keep us on our toes!

        Sure glad I'm planning to do more Place training and consulting in the new year and less hands on optimization for clients. Trying to do ranking reports for all my clients would drive me nuts!
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  • Profile picture of the author iw433
    thanks. Please show me the rules. That way I'll know how to bend them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Bennette
      @5starAffiliatePrograms.

      I've haven't been able to find the answer to this question.

      If a business runs a promotion like, give us a review of your experience and receive $5 off your next order, would it look like spam if they have a computer at the register so customers could do it on the spot?

      What I'm asking if a business gets reviews from the same IP address is that considered spam?

      And my 2nd question is if a business gets a lot of reviews at one time will that look like spam?
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      • Originally Posted by Bennette View Post

        @5starAffiliatePrograms.

        I've haven't been able to find the answer to this question.

        If a business runs a promotion like, give us a review of your experience and receive $5 off your next order, would it look like spam if they have a computer at the register so customers could do it on the spot?

        What I'm asking if a business gets reviews from the same IP address is that considered spam?

        And my 2nd question is if a business gets a lot of reviews at one time will that look like spam?
        G has new review algos that are getting stricter too and many Places are having all their reviews removed. I think multiple reviews from the same IP has always red flagged accounts but I think the algo may have gotten stricter on that point. I also believe too many reviews at one time will set off a red flag, but am not sure how many is too many.

        Plus the type of biz is a factor. Restaurants naturally get lots of reviews, insurance agents don't for example. So if an agent suddenly got lots of reviews and his competitors all had 0 - 2 it would look fishy, no?
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        • Profile picture of the author Bennette
          Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

          G has new review algos that are getting stricter too and many Places are having all their reviews removed. I think multiple reviews from the same IP has always red flagged accounts but I think the algo may have gotten stricter on that point. I also believe too many reviews at one time will set off a red flag, but am not sure how many is too many.

          Plus the type of biz is a factor. Restaurants naturally get lots of reviews, insurance agents don't for example. So if an agent suddenly got lots of reviews and his competitors all had 0 - 2 it would look fishy, no?
          Ok thanks for answering my question. I always wondered how some restaurants can get their customers to take the time and review, while other restaurants stuggle with getting reviews even when they give people something of value for their time.
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  • Profile picture of the author russellprisco
    OK, but what to do if the client's business name is keyword rich. It kind of makes it hard to describe what your business does if you can't mention the MAIN keywords simply because they're in their business name...

    I understand why they did it, but it seems like someone said earlier, that legitimate businesses that aren't abusing this are getting screwed over as a result.

    Russell =P
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    • Originally Posted by russellprisco View Post

      OK, but what to do if the client's business name is keyword rich. It kind of makes it hard to describe what your business does if you can't mention the MAIN keywords simply because they're in their business name...

      I understand why they did it, but it seems like someone said earlier, that legitimate businesses that aren't abusing this are getting screwed over as a result.

      Russell =P
      Hi Russel,

      If a company has a keyword rich name and has been around for a few years their citations and other trust signals will help show that's a legit name. G WANTS companies to use their real name, so if it has kws, then it does. They just don't want people ADDING kws. Having said that however sometimes innocent businesses get dinged for kw in name just like some get dinged for spam reviews that were really honest reviews. G's algo makes LOTS of mistakes.
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      • Profile picture of the author russellprisco
        Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

        Hi Russel,

        If a company has a keyword rich name and has been around for a few years their citations and other trust signals will help show that's a legit name. G WANTS companies to use their real name, so if it has kws, then it does. They just don't want people ADDING kws. Having said that however sometimes innocent businesses get dinged for kw in name just like some get dinged for spam reviews that were really honest reviews. G's algo makes LOTS of mistakes.
        Thanks for the reply and agreed. Has anyone else seen the crack down on RELEVANT Keywords in business titles?

        I still see all sorts of business ranking higher using Relevant keywords in the title (that are NOT in their business name) than those just using their business name. Has google just not gotten to them yet?

        Thanks,

        Russell =P
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        • Profile picture of the author LiquidSeo
          Originally Posted by russellprisco View Post

          Thanks for the reply and agreed. Has anyone else seen the crack down on RELEVANT Keywords in business titles?

          I still see all sorts of business ranking higher using Relevant keywords in the title (that are NOT in their business name) than those just using their business name. Has google just not gotten to them yet?

          Thanks,

          Russell =P

          Russell - I'm in Atlanta and keep waiting for the crackdown. I've shifted to comply with the new rules, but am still seeing many 7-pak listings with categories using city names and other descriptive terms that are outside of the new guidelines.

          Brian
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          • Profile picture of the author Dhira
            Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post


            BUT the most important part of my post was about the new rule change about categories.

            You supposedly should only add categories that say what the business IS not what the business DOES.


            So for example a Plastic Surgeon can have Plastic Surgeon as a category but NOT breast augmentation, liposuction or botox.
            Very important clarification. thanks for pointing that out.

            I feel this is where so many will fall through the cracks.

            Originally Posted by adriver38 View Post

            Im confused as to why some unclaimed, barely filled out listings in competitive markets are still outranking claimed, optimized ones. The Google Places gods are such a hypocrites sometimes. Any insight on that?
            I believe this would be because google has an algo that takes into consideration listings that were already in places Kind of like how they give 'aging' credit to older domains.
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            • Profile picture of the author russellprisco
              Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms
              So for example a Plastic Surgeon can have Plastic Surgeon as a category but NOT breast augmentation, liposuction or botox.
              So...could the categories then become:

              Plastic Surgeon
              Breast Augmentation Surgeon
              Liposuction Surgeon
              Botox Surgeon

              ????

              Playing with fire....?

              Russell =P
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          • Originally Posted by LiquidSeo View Post

            …but am still seeing many 7-pak listings with categories using city names and other descriptive terms that are outside of the new guidelines. Brian
            Yes there are all kinds of tricks that still rank high, even GEO keywords in title and cats.

            However most of us think that's because Google does not spider and police every listing since so many are dormant. We think that what happens is when someone make even a minor edit to a Place page it trips a flag which says to the spider "Hey someone made a change - we got a live one here! Better re-check to be sure it's in compliance with all the latest guidelines."

            So when the KW stuffers make an edit, they'll get rejected or suspended. Can you imagine being the one that put that company's listing in jeopardy and caused it to be pulled offline for months? I can't. So I stay inside the guidelines. Now, when I find a loophole that's NOT prohibited I sometimes take advantage of my little discovery, :p but nothing that I think will get them rejected.
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            • Profile picture of the author Norman Smith
              Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

              Yes there are all kinds of tricks that still rank high, even GEO keywords in title and cats.

              However most of us think that's because Google does not spider and police every listing since so many are dormant. We think that what happens is when someone make even a minor edit to a Place page it trips a flag which says to the spider "Hey someone made a change - we got a live one here! Better re-check to be sure it's in compliance with all the latest guidelines."

              So when the KW stuffers make an edit, they'll get rejected or suspended. Can you imagine being the one that put that company's listing in jeopardy and caused it to be pulled offline for months? I can't. So I stay inside the guidelines. Now, when I find a loophole that's NOT prohibited I sometimes take advantage of my little discovery, :p but nothing that I think will get them rejected.
              I agree with this i have found exactly the same thing happen. Google is activated when the listings are modified and then it's " you are the weakest link BY " and the listing disappears.Stay within the guidelines and improve the listing and citations etc
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              • Google slipped in another totally crazy guideline everyone here REALLY needs to be aware of.
                I just wrote a super long blog post about it yesterday with some contradictory quotes from G.

                They say now that home businesses that DON'T see clients face to face and only work via phone and Internet are PROHIBITED from having a Place page!

                The example they use is web designers, but that would include Internet marketers like me and most of you. (Unless you primarily just work in your own city and meet clients.)

                That's just CRAZY and very discriminatory! If you look at home based web designers for instance, many work locally and meet with clients. So how is Google to know who works in person and who doesn't???

                Another example I gave in my blog is that all kinds of people work remotely from home BUT in their local market these days. Independent sales reps, consultants, even accounts and bookkeepers. How is Google supposed to know who sees clients and who works by phone/net?

                WORSE THING is one of the Google employees said they can determine the above ALGORITHMICALLY!
                The algo knows if we go out to meet clients??? Right. :rolleyes:
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  • Profile picture of the author Anthony Gardner
    I've also read about some of these changes and wonder how it will change the current high ranking listings.
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  • Profile picture of the author godsgood
    Thank you for this post, very helpful
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  • Profile picture of the author deus ex
    I'm trying to get together all of the ranking factors to rank in the google places section. These are cool, good, new rules to work with. Thank you.
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  • Profile picture of the author asnorth
    Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

    Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
    Again, subtle, but VERY important if a new algo is on the way that's going to penalize for violating this guideline. This brings up a myriad of questions and concerns for me.

    1) For those that don't know it, the category section is where you put the most important keywords you want to get ranked for. Keywords in description and custom attributes, just don't carry much weight with the OLD Google Places algo. (With the new Place Search algo everything is different totally different and there's a way to compensate for this guideline change but that opens a whole other can of worms I won't go into now.)
    So does that mean you can no longer target multiple keywords other than in the description? For example if I had identified 5 or 6 keywords or phrases to target I would have to fit them into the description field and try to make it readable?

    Thanks
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    • Profile picture of the author Dhira
      Originally Posted by asnorth View Post

      So does that mean you can no longer target multiple keywords other than in the description? For example if I had identified 5 or 6 keywords or phrases to target I would have to fit them into the description field and try to make it readable?

      Thanks
      That's not what it means, and yes you can.
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    • Originally Posted by asnorth View Post

      So does that mean you can no longer target multiple keywords other than in the description? For example if I had identified 5 or 6 keywords or phrases to target I would have to fit them into the description field and try to make it readable?
      "So does that mean you can no longer target multiple keywords other than in the description?"

      Not sure what you mean. Keywords in the description don't really rank well and that's not where your main KW go. Your main keywords go in the category fields. That's primarily what you'll rank for. Then sometimes less competitive KW can rank down in the additional details section.
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      • Profile picture of the author asnorth
        Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

        "So does that mean you can no longer target multiple keywords other than in the description?"

        Not sure what you mean. Keywords in the description don't really rank well and that's not where your main KW go. Your main keywords go in the category fields. That's primarily what you'll rank for. Then sometimes less competitive KW can rank down in the additional details section.
        Ok thanks for the clarification. I read the following part of your post as meaning keywords in categories was now off limits. I'll have to look around for some samples just to make sure I've understood it correctly.
        Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

        NEW GUIDELINES ABOUT GOOGLE PLACES CATEGORIESCategories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
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  • Profile picture of the author Creativegirl
    Thank you!
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  • Profile picture of the author mcmillad
    Thank you so much for the heads up. It is always better to stay on top of the game than to try and play catch up or worse..start over.
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  • Profile picture of the author jacquic
    Thanks for that update, 5star
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    • Profile picture of the author caryduke
      Wow, that's quite a piece of news 5Star.

      Maybe that's why the "area of service" tag doesn't rank as well as "customer come to us".

      Heading to your blog now...
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  • Profile picture of the author Lauryn
    5Star, thanks for the update.

    That is a bit crazy. I guess it's time to rent office space huh?
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  • Profile picture of the author Dhira
    Google is full of sh!t. And that's why their rules need to be circumvented... untraceably
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  • Profile picture of the author Supafly
    Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

    "Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. This type of content should never appear in your business's title, address or category fields."

    Small business owners & SEOs alike, just skimmed over it - because it didn't sound like much of anything. Most didn't even really get what it meant.

    What Google REALLY meant in that subtle phrase was: Any words from your business title, address (city or state especially) or category fields CAN NEVER BE REPEATED IN YOUR DESCRIPTION or you can have your Google Place page pulled off the net and have to fight for months to get re-listed!
    Originally Posted by 5starAffiliatePrograms View Post

    That part about the description was simply to illustrate the point that guideline changes often preceed algo changes that trigger bans. (That description issue has been a problem for months even though lots of WSOs taught everyone to do it wrong and were breaking the rules.)

    HOWEVER I just noticed that part was REMOVED from this newest version of the guidelines. Some of us are trying to figure out if that means it's OK now or if it was just oversight.
    Thanks for the post and for your terrific blog. I know it wasn't the focus of your post and used as an illustration, but have you determined if this omission was an oversight?

    I've repeated my KW and location in the custom fields (but not in the description) and wondering if I should remove them.

    I'm going over the Google Places Guidelines now and will update my post if I find anything new on the topic, but thought I'd check with you as well.

    Regards,
    Dino
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  • Profile picture of the author justalfe
    im seeing alot of businesses also use free hosting that have high pr and ranking on top with no citations and 2 b.s. reviews and one picture , while my listing is 100 percent completed and working my ass off to get it on top , im thinking of doing a test.
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