This past January, we noted that the number-one way to get your business banned from Google Places (a.k.a. Google Maps) is to “keyword-stuff” your Google Maps listing. That is, instead of correctly listing your business as “Bob’s Services” in Google Places, you list it as “Bob’s Appliance HVAC Plumbing Heating Cooling and AC Services of New York, Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens.” If your business is listed as “Bob’s Services” everywhere else on the Internet except for Google, Google will know your Places name is not legitimate. This results in Google flagging your listing as a suspected spammer and then your listing will have to be reviewed manually by a human. It’s a lengthy process. As a result of this review, your Google Places listing will most likely be penalized severely. The worst-care scenario could mean that your paid ads, organic results, and even your business name could fall under this penalty. Have More Than One Map Listing? Get a Commercial Suite Instead It’s simple: If your business doesn’t physically exist in two or more distinct locations, then it shouldn’t have more than one listing on Google Places. Despite the fact that some spammers are truly dishonest and sneaky, there are legitimate reasons that some people list more than one location. For example, you might think that if you list your actual address, which is in the boondocks, then your downtown customers won’t call because they’ll think you’re too far away. Additionally, you may just want to make it clear that you and your workers are willing to travel all over to provide service to multiple areas. However, no matter how good your intentions, Google rarely makes exceptions. Google basically puts addresses into two categories: commercial locations, and everything else. According to Google’s ideal world, every business would have a physical building in a commercially zoned area. The reality, however, is much more complicated. For example, many plumbers use their home address as their official business address because they travel from customer to customer, which means they have no need for a storefront. If this is your situation, moving your business address to a commercial box provided by a packing supply company like the UPS Store or Mailboxes, Etc. is probably the best plan. These companies can provide you with a street address and suite number in an existing location, which gives you the commercial zone that Google expects, while still maintaining a local presence in the region that you service. Keep in mind, though, that you should then make this your official business address and use it exclusively in your online marketing efforts. You risk being flagged as a spammer if you list this commercial address along with your home address. If you’re thinking, “This isn’t fair,” since you work out of your home and don’t want the hassle of acquiring a UPS box, know that Google probably won’t penalize you if you exclusively use your home address. However, you should note that using a commercial location is generally more effective because Google tends to favor commercial addresses over residential ones. But I’m Not Trying to Be a Spammer! According to Google’s guidelines, it’s essential for you have all of your business information match (especially your business name and address) wherever it appears on the Internet. Google may issue a penalty for spamming if it doesn’t match. Sometimes, this even happens to business owners who have no memory of listing their business anywhere else outside of Google Places. This begs the questions, “How did inaccurate information about my business get onto other websites in the first place?” Information posted on one site is often copied, or “harvested,” by automated programs and used to populate other sites. Basically, the Internet is a giant recycling center for information, so even though you haven’t personally listed your business in any directories, it’s very likely your information is out there due to a variety of potential happenings. For example:
- If you hired a company to promote your business online, it might have placed your information on a few popular business directories.
- If you’re a member of the BBB, then your business information is automatically listed on their website.
- If you use the phone book for advertising, then your information could now be included in the phone company’s Internet directory.
Unfortunately, even though it seems unfair to be penalized for something you didn’t personally do, Google doesn’t differentiate between intentional and unintentional spamming. The best way to counteract this is to make sure all of the information about your business matches at all times. This will get you the best placement for your business, once its web presence is well optimized, and help ensure that none of your listings gets rejected. Unsure of What’s Out There? Have you heard about our WebFax™ Report? In the same way that you should never buy a car without a full report on its history, you should always keep close tabs on your company’s online footprint. The more muddled your web presence becomes, the more difficult and ineffective ALL of your online marketing efforts will become. Our WebFax Report will tell you all about your business’s history on the Internet, and you can use that information to keep your online advertising campaigns working as effectively as possible. Contact us for more details!