Important Google Places Change For At-Your-Door Service Based Business (And Google Place Spammers)

google placesGoogle Places updated their Guidelines on March 22, 2012

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.

I first read that Andrew Shotland got a call from Google Maps, asking if he serviced clients at his business address.  When replied: “No.” that was the end of his Google Places listing.  So if Google Maps calls you may not want to answer. 😉 

In all seriousness, Andrew was able to sort it out with at the Google Places Troubleshooter.    This is when we learned of that any business that does not serve customers or clients at their Google Places address should choose “hide your address” option in Google Places, then choose your service area.

‘Hide My Address’ Option in Google Places

This ‘hide your address’ option has been available for quite some time, but among us local SEO’ers it was always considered the kiss of death to your Google Places rankings as soon as you choose to hide your address. 

There is a great post outlining the specifics of this new Google Places update by Miriam Ellis at SEOmoz yesterday.

So you don’t have to necessarily go to the post to read it, I’ll just quote Miriam here:

“Thanks to Google Places Help Forum Top Contributor, Mike Blumenthal, I feel that I have arrived at a fairly clear understanding of how Google is now classifying different business models. I’d like to pass this information on in hopes that it will help you determine whether your business needs to hide its address on its Place Page.

  • Type A – Your business is brick-and-mortar and serves all customers at its location. Show your address.
  • Type B  – Your business is home-based and serves some customers at your home and some on the road. Show your address and use the Service Radius tool.
  • Type C – Your business is home-based and does not serve any customers at your home. Hide your address.”

How will this Google Places’ Guideline Change Things?

Hopefully, it won’t too much.  I am personally waiting to see what it does to rankings for our at-your-door service based client’s Google Places rankings.  I think it may be a strange attempt at getting rid of some map spam.  As Google Places employee Vanessa stated on the Google Places Forum:

“We do have teams calling business owners to check the quality of listings, especially service area businesses where we often see a lot of spam. If you don’t take customers at your address, you should leave the address hidden.”

I really think Google Places really needs to think twice about this guideline and how it addresses mailing address to make sure legit local at-you-door small businesses do not get penalized for not having a traditional brick-and-mortar office.

Personally I like seeing an address (even if it’s only a mailing address) because it elicits more trust to me that a business has one.  I think for most at-your-door type businesses (like plumbers, electricians, any home improvement)  it’s kinda obvious they don’t have office for drop in visits.  I think leaving the address and marking up the Google Places listing in some other manner could been a better option.

At the end of the day, businesses are more complicated than what Google’s guidelines give us, and it’s shame they choose to make strange updates like this without weighing out all the options.

Have questions or what to share your opinion on this Google Places’ ‘Hide Your Address’ Update?

Let us know your questions and thoughts about this Google Places’ guideline update in the comment section below.



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2 Responses to “Important Google Places Change For At-Your-Door Service Based Business (And Google Place Spammers)”

  1. I personally see the point of Google. They want to deliver the best possible user experience. However, they sacrifice one very important part of the user experience which is trust (as you noted) to gain benefits in terms of time saving. I believe none of these should be sacrificed. Instead, Google might have added some snippet similar to the one about the shop container, stating that the business does not serve clients at their location. I suppose adding such feature is not that easy with a system as complicate as GP’s, but if your ultimate goal is to deliver greatest user experience as close to the real world as possible, you might need to spend a little engineer time and effort on such an addition.

  2. Nyagoslav, adding a simple snippet stating the business status is a great idea. Yes implementing such a feature would be quite the undertaking but it would be an actual long term solution. My real concern is the lack of warning, these actions do not follow Google’s typical procedures. Lately Google has been fairly good about notifying the public about important changes within GP. Matthew, thank you for sharing I am very concerned and trying to find all the info I can regarding the issue.

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