Andrew Shotland’s blog post about how his Google Places listing was removed has generated a lot of discussion in the past few weeks about Google’s local search guidelines. The listing was removed because the home address was listed as the service area and he did not receive clients at this address.
Here is the latest updated information in Google Places guidelines about how to define service area:
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.
Andrew asks some very valid questions – why he was penalized for a brand new guideline that Google introduced when he already had his listing up and running for 2 years, why the rep on the phone did not update him about the latest requirement to hide the home address, and why he was not notified of the problem in the dashboard.
Earlier, Google penalized you if you hid your address. Now, depending on the nature of the business and where you receive your clients, you are required to either display or hide the results.
For blended search results, the best way to decide whether an address must be displayed or not seems to be dependent on whether a user can and should use Google Maps to find the business location.
It does make sense of course that the address needs to be listed only if you receive clients at the said address. Google is obviously streamlining Places guidelines for a better user experience, but they have neglected (or considered it unnecessary) to publicize the new updates first instead of axing hundreds of listings which were perfectly in the good books till now.
A phone call or a notification which alerts the small business of the new change would have made the process a lot smoother instead of this punishing approach.
Google must learn how to communicate updates and guideline changes in a less confrontational manner.