Google Maps has been dealing with spam in its business listings for well over a year now. The problem has gotten so bad that Google recently invited users to help report spam found inside the Google Maps business listings.
In many cases, the spam is obvious; when Company XYZ has listings with the same address and phone number showing up for every zip code in the U.S., there’s no doubt about the intent behind the company’s actions. But in other situations, it’s not as clear. Imagine a lawyer whose office is in Minneapolis, but who serves Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding suburbs. Is it spam when that lawyer rents a mailbox address in nearby St. Paul so s/he can submit an extra listing to Google and be found for “St. Paul lawyer” searches?
Google has finally taken steps to help clear up what’s spam and what isn’t where Google Maps business listings are concerned. Today they published a set of Business Listing Quality Guidelines, and warned that ignoring these rules “could result in your business listings being permanently removed from Google Maps.”
Here’s what Google wants you to do when listing your business in Google Maps:
- Represent 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.
- Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing.
There’s some additional information on the guidelines page, including a specific warning to local service providers not to create listings for every city you serve.
The guidelines seem to me to be right on the money, and are a good first step in cleaning up a problem that’s gone on too long.
What are your thoughts on the new Google Maps business listing guidelines?