Saturday, June 06, 2009

Important Information Regarding Google Local

By: Tom Forrest

Google Local which is part of Google Maps and is a separate department in Google is becoming more and more important everyday to SEO experts, business owners and webmasters in general. I have been following Google since they first started and before there even was a Google Maps or a Google Local. It is amazing how quickly Google Local has taken over from the "Yellow Pages". Almost all of our clients have dropped expensive Yellow page advertising and other related forms of advertising as 95% of their businesses new prospects come from Google Local or regular Google search results. This brings up many questions about what are the Google guidelines for Local. I like to use case studies and a question and answer format to hopefully provide some useful information that will help you increase your traffic and grow your business while at the same time following all of Google's guidelines so you do not receive any Google penalties.

I posed the following questions to Google:
How would a business that services an area without a physical location work with Google Local?

For example: a home cleaning service, a tutor or a piano teacher. None of which might want their address published because they are home based. Yet they offer a legitimate business service in that particular community.

I suggested that these home based clients should purchase a mailing address from UPS, etc. However I do not know Google’s official policy regarding this and want to make sure I advise clients correctly and that our clients also follow all Google guidelines.

What other options do these home based clients have? Since they do not what to show their home addresses on Google for safety reasons.

Google Answers Below:

Google confirmed that the advise I have been giving clients above is correct and that "getting a PO Box was another solid alternative".

Google also said that the following interview with Carter Masian by SearchEngineLand was the best public resource for information regarding my questions.

I need to study this in more detail, most business executives and webmasters did not even know about this article so I hope this will help promote it.

The following are a few excerpts from this excellent interview with Carter Masian.

SEL: What about a business that formerly appeared among these top 10 listings and no longer does or wants to appear in those listings, what advice would you provide to such businesses?
CM: The results that appear among the top 10 local listings are based off how relevant we think the listings are to the search terms. Of course, we’re always changing how we determine relevancy. As a result, there’s no one piece of advice we would recommend beyond providing accurate, well-categorized listings and, for those businesses with web sites, following these tips including location kml in sitemap. I can say, however, that spamming Google Maps is a surefire way to remove your listings from the top 10 indefinitely.

This interview is full of good information, I suggest you go to SearchEngineLand and read it carefully. Also my guess is that Google takes some ranking information and exports it to Google Local every few months. I do not think Google Local is an island by itself that creates it's own ranking algorithms from scratch. Of course we will never know as Google rightfully is very secretive about their technology and internal processes.

Thanks to Matt Cutts of Google for helping to facilitate my research of this article.


Some Interesting Side Notes:

Some people including many Google shareholders think Google is being too generous with all these free Google Local Listings. They believe that Google Local is harming the AdWords revenue and that Google should change how free and easy it is for businesses to list themselves on Google Local. I think Google must think about this themselves and must have decided the current way they are handling this issue is best, at least for now.
Another interesting side note is how the current biggest advertiser on SearchEngineLand is Text-Link-Ads who sell paid links that violate Google guidelines. The ads TLA buys are from Google / DoubleClick . So sometimes I think one just has to smile when they go to a site Google recommends to read an outstanding article and see on the same site heavy advertising for a service that violates Google guidelines :) .