In case you’ve been living under a rock and have not heard, there is a fairly new Google Places rule, that is causing lots of small business listings to be deleted. I call it the hide your ass (address) or lose your Place page rule.

Aside from the obvious issues around the hide your address guideline, there is another problem you should be aware of that I have not seen anyone mention – Hidden map markers due to what I call a Google Maps StackUp. (See screenshot and explanation below.) FYI if by chance anyone missed the news about this guideline change, which has resulted in Google deleting THOUSANDS of small business listings, see the bottom of this post.

People worry about hiding their address on their Place page assuming it will result in a ranking drop. But that does not seem to happen currently. You’ll find lots of hidden addresses ranking #1. Here is a great example of high rankings even with address hidden. The top 3 – listings: A, B, C have address hidden and the lower ranking listings all have visible addresses.

But here is a new problem I am seeing with increasing frequency as more businesses are forced to hide addresses. I call this a Google Maps StackUp.

CLICK TO VIEW FULL SIZE

Here’s an even more dramatic example. That’s a screenshot I did a couple months ago when I 1st discovered this problem. Sorry, been trying to find time to blog this for awhile.

When you hide your address a couple things happen:

1) Your map marker turns from teardrop shape to round. (So you look odd if you are only business in your market that has hidden address.) Oddly Bob’s plumbing has hidden address, but still has a normally shaped map marker

2) To keep your location private Google moves your marker to the center of your service area (in this case it resulted in her putting businesses in the middle of a body of water.

3) If you set a city or your own address as center of your service area and do a radius, Google will put your marker in the center of that city OR that zip code.
This results in what you see in the screen shot above.

So in the screenshot above, there is only one map marker visible. All those other plumbers are HIDDEN behind the A marker. So if a customer is looking visually at the map, to find a plumber nearby, they’ll only see the lucky guy with the A spot & may miss the rest. Of course in this case, they would probably zoom out to find a Plumber who wasn’t located in the middle of a lake. šŸ˜‰

I mention this for a couple reasons. First of all, I am in no way suggesting you should NOT hide address. You MUST or you can lose your listing. But am sharing this because I’ve had businesses contact me saying my map marker is missing. I assumed they meant their listing was GONE – as in deleted. But in reality, the problem they were trying to describe to me was something different. They literally could not find their marker on the map because it was hidden behind a competitor’s marker. Secondly, if you have service area clients it may be worth checking this out on maps. Zoom into their area and see if other competitors have that same exact location setting. If there is a cluster of competitors all at that exact same spot, may be worth slightly tweaking their service area settings to get them unburied.

FYI if anyone missed the news about this guideline change, I first blogged about this change back in March. THOUSANDS of listings have been deleted for violating this rule which primarily affects home-based businesses that only go OUT to service the client on location and don’t have a walk-in office – industries like Plumbers, Roofers, Carpet Cleaners and many others.

If you have clients that are service area businesses and are getting the “do not support location” message, it’s likely their listing has been deleted. Note, even if they are in compliance and have already hidden their address, they can be deleted. It’s a really big problem. Here is one of NUMEROUS recent threads about it at the forum. I have exhausted all points in the “”We currently do not support this location” on your listing” FAQ and have given it time

Additionally even businesses with COMMERCIAL OFFICES have been getting emails from Google Support, saying they have to hide their address – even though they have ‘real’ offices and are not affected by this guideline. So it’s something you really need to be aware of and should start coaching clients how to identify a Google verification call and exactly what to say if they get one. I’ll have more coming out about all these issues soon.