The Importance of Google’s Business Listings
As a sign that it’s growing up and is getting ready to kick you in the throat for spamming, Google Maps has officially created the Local Business Center Guidelines to put it in writing what is and what is not allowed in your Google Local Business Listing. Because Google has true faith in your ability to hold to the law, they’ve also gone ahead and created a reinclusion request form for when you inevitably get kicked out for being the slimy spammer that you are.
The new guidelines include:
- Representing your business exactly as it appears in real life.
- List information that provides as direct a path to the business as you can.
- Only include listings for businesses that you represent.
- Don’t participate in any behavior with the intention or result of listing your business more times than it exists. Service area businesses, for example, should not create a listing for every town they service.
- 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 or address fields.
Blumenthals doesn’t seem completely satisfied with the guidelines set out by Google because they leave too much wiggle room. As he states, there’s no mention of whether or not businesses can list affiliate phone numbers in their listing or if that’s considered spam. He’s right in that there really could be a lot more explanation to what Google will and will not allow, but it’s a start. And really, when has Google ever given you the degree of information you secretly hoped for? Maybe one day that’ll change, but today it’s still Google’s world.
I’m just glad that some semblance of rule has been put into place over there. Watching spammy local search results pop up makes my skin crawl. I need local search to be as spam-free and relevant as it can be, because that’s the search I go to when I don’t have time to play around and I need answers now.
Take yesterday, for example. If you follow me on Twitter you know I took my two devil-spawn cats to the vet. At the same time. By myself. (I clearly have self-hate issues.)
Once I had the cats all strapped in and was driving on my merry way, I realized that I had no idea where the heck I was going. The only time I had been to this particular vet was well over a year ago when Jack ate a dead bird (he’s disgusting but he’s mine). All I remembered was that I had to turn by the train tracks. I forgot just how many pairs of train tracks run through Simi Valley. After three wrong turns, I realized I had no clue where I was going.
I didn’t have the phone number on me so instead I pulled out my BlackBerry (um, after pulling over and coming to a complete stop, of course) and hit up Google Maps. I typed in [simi valley vet] and was relieved when my vet’s name was the first listed on the Map, with a phone number right next to it so that I could call and ask for directions. If that listing had been overtaken by spammers, it wouldn’t have only been my two cats that were crying and howling in the backseat. I would have been right there with them. Luckily, it was still highly relevant.
But I got lucky. Because as awesome as the American Veterinary Hospital is at taking care of my cats, their local search engine optimization kind of sucks. The reason Google had their information was because they found it elsewhere. American Veterinary Hospital had never claimed their business. They didn’t go out of their way to make sure that Google had the current address and phone number. They just left it to chance. You can’t do that. Or at least, you can’t do that without risking that you’re leaving targeted customers who want to convert on the table because of your own laziness.
I can’t stress how important it is to have your business listed in Google’s Local Business Listings. It’s your gateway to users who are looking for you right now. Who want what you offer at this very moment. If you’re not there for them, they’re going to go somewhere else. Probably to your competitor down the street.
It’s also important to claim your business to protect yourself against fraud and inaccurate information. Because my vet hasn’t claimed their listing, I can click on Edit Details and put whatever I want in there.
If I was an ill-intentioned competitor, I could put in the wrong phone number, I could get rid of the Web site information, change the name so it doesn’t show up when people search for it. You want to make sure you that you claim your business and make sure that you’re providing as much accurate information as you can. It only takes a few minutes to verify that you’re the owner of that site and get the real stuff in there.
Local search is only going to take off more as searchers get more comfortable using devices like the iPhone. And the fact that Google has now established guidelines for these types of listings shows how serious they are about them. You should be equally serious about your business.