Quite a few service or home-based small business owners have come to me and questioned whether their Google Places listing should display their address. Up until recently it wasn't clear how Google treated these listings - but that has changed.
An updated "Google Places quality guideline" has been posted, and it very clearly states Google's position:
"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." (emphasis mine).
This appears to be a quality assurance initiative for Google Maps results. Google wants to draw a bright line between storefront or "brick & mortar" locations and service businesses that travel to a client's place of business to perform work. The clarification is welcomed - the local SMB community has received mixed messages on this in the past. What's odd about the clarification is the action Google has started to take - though it's unclear how widespread their enforcement efforts have gone. Read here for an interesting case from Local SEO Guide's Andrew Shotland, where a phone call from Google staff resulted in his business being dumped from local listings.
Say you're looking for a good cup of coffee, and all you can see is grimy gas stations. But low & behold - Google Maps locates a potential "gourmet coffee" roaster tucked into a residential neighborhood. You drive by, and are disappointed to realize it's a home, with someone roasting beans in their garage. They might roast great beans, but they can't satisfy your immediate need for a decent Cup of Joe. This is the poor experience Google is trying to avoid.
Some home-based businesses do invite clients/customers into their home. If this is an important feature of your business, then you may want to dismiss the rule. Be aware however of Google's new policy - and take Andrew's experience as fair warning. If Google contacts you about your Places listing, be clear that you do serve customers and/or conduct significant vendor relations at the address. For even more on the topic, see Blumenthal's most recent entry, "Is Google’s New Requirement to Hide a Home Business Appropriate?"
Does anyone have any recent experiences to report on this topic? I'd love to hear from you - if your case is noteworthy I'd be interested in conducting a short interview on the topic.
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