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Google Places Now Allows Business Descriptors

Google Places Now Allows Business Descriptors

Google Places for Business has long been one of the most important directories to list a business. For many businesses without a website, this service allows them to be found online through one of the most trusted services on the web. Companies can post key business information, photos, and videos without charge through Google Places for Business, sometimes eliminating the need for an independent website.

In February, Google announced that businesses may now list a single descriptor that better enables customers to find the organization or understand how the business can serve them. Prior to this, only the exact name of the establishment was permitted in the title. Now, according to Google’s quality guidelines, this descriptor cannot be a URL, phone number, store code, or tagline.  Descriptors that attempt to elevate the repute of the business are not permitted; only accurate, factual information is permitted.

Many industry experts have criticized the move by Google because of the likelihood that companies will misuse the descriptor.  Critics suggest that many companies will attempt to use keywords in the descriptor to elevate rankings or obtain a marketing advantage. They also contend that this will compromise Google’s ability to accurately distinguish the actual business name from a modified version.  For example a business officially named “Ted’s Steakhouse” could accidentally become “Ted’s London Steakhouse” if the Google Places user introduces a descriptor.  Obviously this can create considerable confusion for consumers and may even provide difficulty for the search engine.

This confusion may actually manifest in a variety of ways.  Legitimate companies who introduce a descriptor into their business title may be penalized for unknowingly using a keyword.  They may actually change lose their current SERP ranking because Google has difficulty linking them to the original name and, inadvertently labeling them as spam.

In effect, marketing experts argue that Google has gone too far in giving users the authority to damage their own brand name.  On the other hand, unscrupulous marketers may take this as carte blanche to introduce a variety of unfair branding practices. Unique product names, employee names or services could be used in the descriptor.

While Google Places has not officially responded to the criticisms, it is recognized by the online community that the change it has instituted has been occurring for some time. Many companies have already included an extra word or two in their title to help distinguish themselves from other locations or competitors.  It appears that Google Places for Business is merely adopting a practice that has been widespread tactic among its users.

In the past, Google has issued a list of quality guidelines which include:

  • Do not create more than one listing for a business
  • Businesses which do not conduct business face-to-face cannot display their business address and must designate locations where public transactions are offered
  • Select the type of business from among the listed categories
  • List a local phone number if possible

If a user fails to comply with Google’s list of quality guidelines, Google reserved the right to delist them.

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About James Nicholson

James Nicholson is the founder of Rocket Marketing Hub. He’s worked in Digital Marketing for over 10 years for companies like Utility Warehouse, NHS and hundreds more.

You can connect with James on Twitter and Facebook

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