The Full List of Google Local Business Listing Crimes

Google’s rules for local business listings are notoriously and unnecessarily confusing.  Always have been.  All the more so now, given that some business owners have to know and follow both the guidelines for Google Places and for Google Plus.

You can learn the rules by reading them, or in the School of Hard Knocks.  But even the former isn’t as simple as it sounds: Google’s guidelines change frequently, they’re not all on one page, and different types of businesses have to follow different sets of rules.

So I’ve rounded up every single violation – or “crime” – that can get your Google listing dinged or whisked off the map.  Some of them are clearly stated in Google’s sundry rules, but others aren’t.  Some of these are harder to atone for than others.

You still should read Google’s “quality guidelines.”  This is just meant to be a quick but comprehensive list of all the no-nos.   Think of it as an anti-checklist.

 

Violations common to Google Places and Google Plus business pages

(You need to follow these no matter what, regardless of whether you have an “upgraded” Google+Local page.  Here’s more info on the difference between the two types of pages.  Thanks to the ever-astute Nyagoslav Zhekov for helping me make these rules as clear as possible.)

“Business name” field

  • Including “keywords” that aren’t part of your official business name
  • Including city names that aren’t part of your official business name
  • Including slogans
  • Including a URL (unless the official business name is “example.com”)
  • Including a phone number
  • Including banned words – unless they are officially part of the business name

1st “Address” field

  • Entering an address other than the one in which your business is located
  • Entering a PO Box, UPS box, or other fake address
  • Mentioning landmarks
  • Mentioning buildings in which your business is located (e.g. a mall); do this in the 2nd “Address” field

2nd “Address” field

  • Inserting city names

“City” field

  • Including anything but the city in which your business is physically located
  • Including more than one city (even if you’re on a city line)

“Phone” field

  • Using a toll-free number, unless it is your main phone number
  • Entering additional phone numbers; click the “Add more phone numbers” link if you’d like to enter alternate numbers

“Website” field

  • Entering a domain that forwards to another domain
  • Entering a shortened URL

“Description” field

“Fix incorrect marker location” option

  • Moving the marker to a place on the map other than where you’re physically located
  • Moving the marker (even a little) closer to the center of your city

Other

  • Creating more than one listing for the same business (don’t try to “fool” Google with different DBAs, slightly different addresses, etc.)

 

Violations specific to the Google Places “Dashboard”

(You also need to follow these rules regardless of whether you have an “upgraded” page, but because Google is transitioning away from the Google Places “dashboard” and toward Google+, these rules may become obsolete pretty soon.)

“Category” fields

  • Specifying custom categories that describe your services rather than your business itself (e.g. “Cosmetic Dentistry = bad, “Cosmetic Dentist” = good)
  • Including more than one search-phrase in custom categories (e.g. “Cosmetic and Sedation and Implant Dentistry” = bad)
  • Including city names in custom categories

Service area & location settings

  • Not “hiding” your address IF you travel to where your customers are located, rather than the other way around.  (More detail here)

“Photos” and “Videos” areas

 

Violations specific to Google Plus “Local Business” pages

(You only need to follow these if you have an “upgraded” Google+Local page.)

“Description” field

  • Including too many keywords
  • Including too many links, or too much keyword-rich / exact-match anchor text

“Photos” and “Videos” areas

By the way, those aren’t even all the things that can hurt your rankings; just infractions that won’t even give you a chance at those rankings.

I was thinking of calling this post “The Wrath of Google.”

Google’s rules are a hard reality – even more so than Khan’s genetically-engineered pecs.  If you don’t know and follow the rules, you may not be a happy camper later.

Are there any rules I missed?  Any stories you’d like to relate about the Wrath of Google?  Leave a comment!

How to Edit Your Google+Local Page – Step by Step

 Update – 5:33pm, 6/10:

Be sure to read Linda’s super-helpful and clarifying comment at the bottom of this post.  The steps I lay out here may help you, but in a different way from how I thought they would.  Long story short, it seems I got my wired crossed 🙂

The switchover from Google Places to Google+Local pages has probably been pretty hands-free for you: Your Places page automatically became Google+Local page.

Unless you’ve already gone into your new listing, it probably looks a little bare.  Some of the info from your old Places page may be missing on your new page.  But making edits or adding info to your Google+Local page can be confusing – especially if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page yet.  It’s easy to get lost.

I think it’ll once again be easy to make edits to your local listing once Google goes through the next round of changes and switches over completely to “Google+ for Business” pages.

But in the meantime, during the long transition, you need to be able to navigate the confusion.  That’s why I’ve put together this step-by-step walkthrough on how to edit your Google+Local page.

(By the way, I’m assuming you created and claimed your Google Places page some time ago, and that you just want to know how to edit your listing through the new Google+Local interface.)

Follow steps 1-19 if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page, edited it, or added information to it since May 30, 2012.  In other words, if you haven’t done anything with your Google+Local page, follow ALL the below steps, 1 -19.

Follow steps 13-19 if you’ve spent some time in your Google+Local page but simply want to know how to edit it (or forgot how to).  If this describes you, scroll down to step 13.

How to edit your Google+Local page IF you’re logging into it for the first time:

1.  Click the “+You” button in the top-left of Google’s homepage.

2.  Click “Sign In” and sign in with the Google account you used to create your Google Places page.  (If this isn’t possible, it’s still fine if you use a different one.)

 

3.  Fill in your name and click “Upgrade.”

 

4.  Feel free to skip the next few steps – the ones that ask you to find your “friends,” add a profile photo, etc.  You can always loop back to these later.

 

5.  You should now be on your Google+ page.  In the bottom-left corner of the screen, click the “More” button, then click “Pages.”

 

6.  Click “Create new page.”

 

7.  Under “Pick a category,” select “Local Business or Place, enter the phone number of your business on the right, then click “Locate.”

 

8.  Click on your business listing (it should have a red map pin).

 

9.  Select a category from the dropdown menu.  These are only rough categories, so just pick whichever one seems most applicable.

 

10.  Click “Create.”

 

11.  Add a main photo to your Google+Local page, or click “Continue” if you feel like skipping this step.

 

12.  Click “Finish.”

 

How to edit your Google+Local after the initial setup (above):

13.  While logged into your Google+ page, hover over the “Pages” button on the left, and click on your business name when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

IF you don’t see the “Pages” button on the left, hover over the “More” button in the bottom-left, and then select the “Pages” button when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

14.  Your business name should appear.  Click “Switch to this page.”

 

15.  On the left, click “Profile.”

 

16.  Click “Edit profile” (near top of page).

 

17.  You’ll see a menu of info that you can edit (“Introduction,” “Hours,” etc.).  Click once on each area you’d like to edit, make any changes you’d like, and hit “Save.”

(Make sure to use the same info you put on your Google Places page, if it’s not already showing up.)

 

18.  When you’re done editing or adding your info, click “Done editing” (near the top of the page).

 

19.  Grab a cold brew to reward yourself for a job well done.  Then get back to work on the other steps toward more local visibility in Google, getting reviews, etc. 🙂

(In case you weren’t sure, despite the switch to Google+Local, these steps are as applicable and necessary as ever).

Also make sure to request to be notified by Google when the next changes roll out.