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Google Working Toward Solution For Farmers Markets

farmers' market in Google Maps

Back in November of 2009, I included the above graphic in a post citing conflicts in the Google Maps system. If you look at that screenshot, you will see a one box for a farmer’s market with one big thing listing – an actual street address. There’s a street name, but no street numbers.
Now, you and I both know that Google Maps is an address-based index, supposed to feature solely those businesses which have a physical location. So what is this number-less farm market doing with a one box and inclusion in maps? Well, I was really intrigued to see this problem come up in the Google Places Help Forum yesterday. Here’s what the farm market admin/employee, blbrocks, had to say:

I can’t verify my business… farmers mkts dont have mailing address on location. only postcard option is given to me

I wasn’t sure whether this person would receive a direct reply from a Google rep, so I took a moment to shoot them an answer:

Your question is one I’d love to see a Google rep answer, blbrocks.
Google Maps is an address-based application. You are only meant to list your business in it if you have an address. Most farmer’s markets I’ve attended don’t have an address – they are held in parking lots, vacant fields, etc. Because of this, you’d think that a business like yours does not belong in Google Maps.
However, the odd thing is that Farmers Markets is a category in Google Maps – indicating that they do want these types of businesses listed in their index.
This is one of the frustrating conflicts I see in the Maps system. It’s especially tough for you, if the location you are in doesn’t support a phone verification call. No one really knows why some businesses are allowed to claimed by phone and others get the postcard-only option. Unless a Google rep can solve this for you, my bet is that you may have to abandon the idea of having a verified listing in Google Maps, until Google catches up with the complexity of the many types of businesses that exist in the U.S., and instead try to create strong profiles elsewhere such as in Yahoo, Yelp and at specific industry directories such as Local Harvest.
I’ll check back on this thread to see if you receive any reply from Google. You do deserve an answer.

As I wrote back in 2009, what I find most conflicting about this is that Google Maps has a category for Farmers Markets, but few of them (at least out here in the West) are going to have a permanent physical address. Interestingly, another Forum member chimed in to show how his local farm market is also being listed without a street number. I think this is happening frequently. So, while Google appears to have aggregated data about Farmers Markets and is listing many of them, there is almost no hope of the farmers being able to claim their listing. This is a real problem, and I was very interested when Google Rep, Helen L., stepped in with this reply:

Hi blbrocks and SolasWebDesign,
Thanks for bringing this up. Solas, you’re correct that not all business models are eligible for Google Places. We’re working on clarifying that on our business listing quality guidelines page [1].
At this time, in order to be eligible for a Google Places listing, a business must either have a dedicated physical location that customers can visit, or it must make in-person contact with a customer at the his location.
Businesses that do not fulfill one of these requirements are not a fit for Google Places right now. This includes businesses who operate in a physical location on a temporary basis, like a farmer’s market; businesses who operate in a physical location owned by another business, like a drug testing service; or businesses who make no in-person interaction with users, like an Etsy shop.
We are working on making options available for businesses like yours, blbrocks. Thank you for your feedback!

I was extremely glad to hear from Helen L. that Google is aware of this problem and is working towards a solution. I will stand up and cheer the day they figure this one out. Readers know how crazy I am about farming, local eating, etc. and I’d like to see farmers given highest consideration for the value of what they provide to our communities. A solution to this address problem may also come as a happy surprise to many other kinds of businesses, too. Stay tuned on this one. A move in the right direction on Google’s part will help Maps to become more reflective of the real business world in which all types of businesses – including ones without a permanent physical address – are part of the local commercial scene.