Google recently rolled out new guidelines for its local pages and maps. These Google guidelines depict how your business is seen on Google via Google My Business. Watch this Daily Brown Bag to learn where your business should start when it comes to local. You'll also discover how following these updated Google guidelines can help enhance the value of your local listings and make it easier for people to find your local business.

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Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to be talking about Google Local and your business. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good afternoon, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. Google recently rolled out some new guidelines for its local pages and maps, and these are the guidelines representing how your business is seen on Google via Google My Business (or places or pages, lots of names for these). I want to go through these, Chad, and then have a discussion. Mike Blumenthal provided a pretty concise list of the biggest changes, and these are pulled directly from his post, so I want to go over each of these.

First is that descriptors of any sort are not allowed. You must use your real business name. I know that people often try to game that a little bit for positioning, but that’s just not going to be the case anymore. Categories should be more specific. Categories should be: the more specific category and not the overarching, general category. Many of you know, when you choose, there is the overarching and then there is the more specific one. You need to be in the more specific now.

There is now increased name and category consistency among mutli-location chains. This is something that they’re working on. Two or more brands at the same location must pick one name. If different departments are to have their own page, they must have unique categories, so it seems like they’re tightening up here, Chad, a little bit on these different ins and outs. Practitioner pages, a whole nother ball of wax: a multi-location practice should have their name only and not the name of the practice. Solo practitioners, who are just solo practitioners, can use the format of: practice, colon, and then the practitioner. Virtual offices are not allowed unless staffed. These are some of the new rules and changes coming out from Google. Barry Schwartz has commented and weighed in on this, Chad, and he wonders if Google will actually be able to enforce these new guidelines. The local maps area has always been a bit like the Wild West. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, Adam, listening to you go through those, I had to think through each of those two or three times because it’s complicated. In any case, any day of the week, if you look in the search results, you’re going to find people that are ranking very well who are violating more than one or all of those different categories. This is a big shift for people, and it’s going to take a lot for people in our business to start to convince people that they should follow the new guidelines and not sort of stick to what worked a year ago or more. There are a couple pieces of advice we have here. Nothing new. I just want to reiterate what you always should start with.

The key thing about what Google’s really trying to do is to make the most relevant search results for their users; they don’t want to show a page of results with a bunch of keyword stuffed business names. They’re really trying to pare this down so what you see in the results should be the same thing you would see if you were driving down the street -- the name of the business itself. Kudos to Google for trying to really make this a more useful experience.

This always starts with the website. You want to make sure you've optimized your website -- you include those categories you mentioned, Adam, so not the broad, overarching category. If you have specific types of services you provide, make sure you’re getting those into your website with pages that specifically mention the types of services that you do. You need to do a full on-site analysis of your website -- something we always start with. You want to make sure that the name of your business is in the header or the footer, your phone number is also in the header or footer, you’re using the same phone number that you’re using for your Google Local page on your website, you’re not different tracking numbers... All of that information needs to be synchronized as much as possible. You want to claim your local listings. Again, as part of our service, we claim Google manually, but then we use Yext to actually claim other local listings out there. You want to manually claim Google. Make sure your information is complete there.

Another thing that’s important -- and there were days of astroturfing and things -- you want to try to encourage your users to leave online reviews. That can be done by including that in different email correspondence that goes out. For example, in a monthly newsletter that goes out, you might want to say, “Review us on Google.” You can add it to your website. Some people even, after people come visit their business or make a purchase, they’ll send an email out and, in the footer area or the sign off of that email, they might say, “If you were satisfied with our service, please go to Google+ and review us.”

These are all smart ways to enhance or increase the value of your local listings and make it easier for more people to find you. I think the final point is social media still does matter; you want to make sure that you are using Google+, which has a social component. If there are opportunities to update information in your Google+ profile, as well as any of your other social media accounts, you should do that because that sends reinforcement that you’re in business. People out there looking are going to see that and say, “This is a well-kept business that’s up-to-date and still open.”

Wow. That’s a whole lot to consider. That’s our coverage on this Brown Bag for the updated Google guidelines for their local pages and for Google Maps. If you find any of these confusing, we’d love to hear from you. The whole Semify team is here. We would be happy to assist you. While you’re at it, go ahead and subscribe to our video series, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.