March 2012

Hide Address Guideline Language Has Been Changed – Don’t Miss This

You think it’s Saturday. Put that picnic basket down. Take off those skis. An update to the Google Places Quality Guidelines regarding the much-publicized ‘hide address’ function has happened again. If you were confused by the previous language in the controversial guideline, check out the edit and see if this seems clearer to you now – even though it’s Saturday.

The previous language read:
If you don’t receive customers at your location, you must select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard. If you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.

The new language reads:
If you don’t conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard. If you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.

Why This Is Important
I discovered from my post at SEOmoz on this topic just how much the Local SEO and Local Business Community cared about the new guideline. 100+ comments later, it’s clear that when Google makes a public policy change, it affects so many people. But the way the new guideline was written left many people undecided about whether it applied to them or not. Mike Blumenthal’s excellent post on this, entitled Is Google’s New Requirement To Hide A Home Business Appropriate, is a good example of how some of us saw the guideline as speaking to home-based businesses, necessarily giving rise to the question: what about taxi companies, plumbers, electricians, etc? Frequently, such companies are not home-based, but no customer ever goes to their locations to visit them, right?

With the new language, it seems quite clear to me now that Google wasn’t just thinking about home-based businesses. The new guideline refers to any business that doesn’t conduct face-to-face business at the company’s location. So, yes, this means all of the businesses in my previous post on this. I’ll excerpt my brainstorm list here from that post for review purposes:

Gas & Electric Companies
Cable Companies
Phone Companies
Local Internet Service Providers
Plumbers
Taxi Companies
Carpet Cleaners
Construction Companies
General Contractors
Painting Contractors
Fence Builders
Landscapers
Maid Services
At-home Elder Care Providers
Arborists
Mobile Notaries
Interior Decorators
Caterers
Photographers
Maintenance Men
Dog Walkers
CSAs
Chimney Sweeps
Large Animal Vets
Window Washers
Music Teachers
Tutors
DJs
And let’s not forget…Locksmiths

You can add countless other business models to this for which Google does not want an address to be shown.

There have been many thoughtful posts written on this topic, some even pointing out good qualities they see in the new guideline. I haven’t been swayed from my original opinion. I do not want to pay extra charges for service people having to drive a long way to get to me because I chose their company without knowing they were far away. So long as Google hides the addresses of plumbers, taxis, carpet cleaners, painters, and other go-to-client business models, I can’t get the information I actually use local search for – I can’t see HOW local a business is to me.

I think this really matters. Don’t you?

My First Ever SEOmoz Post – The Google Places Hide Address Feature

Hope you will check out my SEOmoz blog post Why You May Need To Hide Your Places Address ASAP. Local SEOs will enjoy the big discussion going on there, and Google, will perhaps take note of the fact that people are not responding with much happiness to this change of policy. Please, stop by!

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Hide Your Google Places Address Or To Heck With You

Andrew Shotland had just posted a solution to a mystery that has been circulating through the Local SEO industry every since his Google Places listing was obliterated after he had a phone conversation with a Google Rep.

Apparently, he had violated a guideline I’ve never heard about, and that he’d never heard about and that I doubt a single SEO or local business owner has ever heard about:

“If you business serves customers at their locations but does not receive customers at your location, you should select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard.”

I’ve got to say, I’ve seen Google come up with some weird things in the 5+ years I’ve been paying attention to Local, but this takes the cake. So, from this day forward, let it be known that the following businesses (and more) had better hide their addresses lest they be cast into the outer darkness:

Gas & Electric Companies
Cable Companies
Phone Companies
Local Internet Service Providers
Plumbers
Taxi Companies
Carpet Cleaners
Construction Companies
General Contractors
Painting Contractors
Fence Builders
Landscapers
Maid Services
At-home Elder Care Providers
Arborists
Mobile Notaries
Interior Decorators
Caterers
Photographers
Maintenance Men
Dog Walkers
CSAs
Chimney Sweeps
Large Animal Vets
Window Washers
Music Teachers
Tutors
DJs
And let’s not forget…Locksmiths

That’s just off the top of my head…but HONESTLY…how does Google plan to get the word across to the millions of professionals working in these fields that they are now considered to be in violation of an obscure guideline that I couldn’t even find a direct link to and that they are in danger of having their listing axed?

In my mind, I see lines of local business people jumping through hoops just to deal with the whole claiming-my-advertisment-that-Google-made-without-telling-me-first business, and then there is the very thorny issue of reviews that come and go like the tide, and merging and bugs and on and on. I think Google has confused local business owners with circus animals. It’s undignified to jump through hoops. Here’s just one more hoop, and a really big and dumb one, that we just don’t need.

Please, Google, reconsider this. It’s stupid.

Google Places Help Forum Archives Rescued By Blumenthal

The Local SEO and Local Business Owner community owes a vote of thanks to Mike Blumenthal for his swift work in saving the Archives Of The Old Google Places Help Forum from the burn pile.

Google’s decision to delete the library of information present in the old forum as they move over to a new location has been universally unpopular with the 20 or so Local SEOs I count as friends and colleagues. It has been personally unpopular with me because it threw a monkey wrench in my ability to search for historic records of issues in Local to aid me in my work answering Local SEO questions in places like the SEOmoz Q&A forum.

And, as Mike points out in his post on this topic, saving this information is an act of honoring all of the volunteers who have contributed countless hours of time to answering questions over the past few years.

3 cheers for Mike for archiving the archives. I know I really, really appreciate it!