Latest Google Places Guideline Flip-Flop: Natural Extension of Pigeon Update?

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As you may have read from Mike or Linda, Google just updated the “My Business” guidelines (again).

Among several rule-updates that will Google will probably enforce haphazardly or temporarily, here are the two updates that have stuck in my craw:

  1. The reversal of the “descriptors” rule. For years Google said you had to use your official business name as the name of your Google Places page.  Then in February they said you could add a keyword or city name or a similarly short “descriptor.”  Now they reversed that rule.
  1. You can only pick the most-specific category (or categories) for your page. For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer, you pick “Divorce Attorneys,” but not “Attorneys.”

I think this fits into the big-picture changes that Google’s “Pigeon” update represents.  Since July, Google has put even more emphasis on classic organic ranking factors – especially the quality of your links.

Google is now telling you to provide less information about your business on your Places page – in your name and in your categories.  Google would rather sift through your site’s pages and links and draw its own conclusions about what your business offers, and rank you accordingly.

At least in theory, if you’re not trying to use your Google Places name and categories to maximum advantage, you’re trying to rank based on your ability to earn good links (read this) and reviews.  That, plus searchers’ behavior, is what Google seems to care about above all.

Enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.  Who knows if Google will enforce the new rules uniformly, or how it will affect who ranks and who doesn’t?  I predict continued chaos.

What’s my advice?  I think Greg Gifford nailed it.

What are your thoughts on the update?  Leave a comment!


  1. Very astute observation, Phil. I think you nailed it. Google doesn’t care about what you say about yourself (because it’s usually embellished). Since the Pigeon update, they’re bringing in enough data from other sources to tell them about your business.

  2. Stay Puft Phil

  3. Hi,

    I am working with a business that has 2 websites. I know that I should only link to one from the Google Local listing, but is it ok to link to the same Google local listing from each website?



    • Yup.

      • Just noticed that they have 2 Google + pages setup. One for each website, but the phone numbers are the same. Both listings are verified. I assume I should just go with one listing?

        They are an insurance agency. One website is geared towards personal lines and the other towards professionals. The sites are branded under different names, but as I stated, they operate out of the same office and use the same phone number.

        Their personal website is really the “parent” business, so that is the one I planned on promoting/building citations to.

        Is that a good plan?


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