The question of the differences between Google+ Local and Google Map Maker, and the potential difficulties they cause for the local businesses, has been opened recently by Mike Blumenthal. He focused on categories, but I believe a more major problem might be hidden even lower at the ladder – the listing creation itself.
1. Escort agencies.
There have been many discussions in the past few months related to the eligibility of escort service businesses on Google Maps. Here is what Google+ Local Quality Guidelines says: “Fraudulent or illegal activities aren’t tolerated on Google and may result in account suspension and removal of listing information from search results.” The legal status of escort agencies in many countries is not clear, but as long as sexual services are not included, they would normally be considered confining with the law. However, according to Map Maker’s guide to “Permitted Businesses and Points of Interest” escort services are considered “non-fixed location” businesses and therefore are prohibited from being listed on Google Maps. Theoretically, this inconsistency in the guidelines means that an owner of an escort agency could list the agency via Google+ Local, but it is very possible that it would later be removed by a Google moderator or by a spam fighter via Map Maker. Additionally, the rules might be interpreted in another way – an escort agency might be eligible for a listing as long as it does not advertise itself as offering escort services (note that Map Maker prohibits the service, not the agency).
2. Vacation rentals.
The eligibility of vacation homes is another problem which has never been given a clear answer (that I know of) by any Google representative. According to the Google+ Local Quality Guidelines:
“Rental or for-sale properties, such as vacation homes or vacant apartments, are not eligible to be listed on Google Maps and should not be verified. Instead, verify the listing for your sales or leasing office or offices. If you have a property with an on-site office, you may verify that office location.”
At the same time the Map Maker “Permitted Businesses and Points of Interest” says that as long as the vacation homes have “permanent on-site management” they are eligible for a listing on Google Maps. If we decide to trust both sources (although at first they seem contradicting), we could conclude that while a business owner cannot list their vacation home(s) via Google+ Local, and cannot claim an already existing listing, such a listing could exist on Google Maps, as long as all-year on-site management is present. A way to add such a listing would be directly via Map Maker or via a trusted data provider (Localeze, for instance).
3. Non-permanent location businesses.
If you thought the above two issues are complicated, wait until you read the rules related to non-permanent location businesses. Back in October 2011, Google introduced the following guideline:
“You also can’t create a Places listing for an ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent. Please coordinate with your host to have your information displayed on their Place Page within their Description field.”
There is no further information or clarification on what is considered as a legitimate “authority to represent” status. However, this rule seems to mostly cater to businesses that have irregular or rather rare events happening at particular location(s), such as the ones mentioned in the guideline itself – classes, meetings. As you can see, though, there is no explanation on how often/rarely these classes/meetings should happen in order to be ineligible for an individual listing. According to the Map Maker guide “seasonal businesses without a permanent, recurring location”, “temporary, one-time events”, “meeting places” are prohibited from being listed on Google Maps. However, the following types of businesses are permitted: “farmer’s markets”, “recurring performances”.
If we again trust both sources, it turns out that any type of businesses/organization organizing meetings are ineligible for listings on Google Maps. Additionally, any type of businesses that have their events/classes organized at one particular location would also be ineligible. The same goes for the ones that organize seasonal, temporary, or one-time events. Thus, if your business is, for example, yoga class that is being held twice per week at two (or more) different locations, you might not be allowed to have a listing on Google Maps. If your classes are conducted only at one specific location, you would be eligible, though. It also seems that even if you do not have the “authority to represent” a location (whatever this means), you might still have your listing as long as you are classified as “recurring performance” (Google gives Penn & Teller at the Rio as an example).
Everything related to Google’s local listings is completely messed up. Starting with the determination of if a business could even be listed, going through the process of creating and maintaining a listing, and finishing with the process of representing a listing publicly. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – if Google doesn’t get the basics right, they can never expect to have the best product.