It’s monumentally important for any business open to the public to make sure it appears on Google Maps. It’s such a big deal that property management and commercial leasing professionals are adding consulting and value-added services to help tenants get that critical chore accomplished. It’s not a fire-and-forget process, either: keeping your Google presence in presentable shape is tightly tied to maintaining a business’s general online presence. It goes far beyond filling out forms and establishing accounts — online presence management is a holistic, ongoing maintenance process that touches everything your business does online and off. That is, if you’re doing it right.
What Are The Rules?
There are guidelines for online presence management in Google both published and unpublished. Let’s look at what Google’s published:
Guidelines For Representing Your Business On Google is the essential starting point for getting things right with “The Big G”. A look at this set of steps will show an important concept in obtaining decent local Google ranking, a concept that you should carry with you for the entire lifecycle of your business. That concept is: assume nothing. Here’s what I mean:
Google is not an army of people reading web pages and making determinations about what’s on them. That job falls to software that Google has developed for the purpose. The software is built more for speed and handling huge volume of pages than it is for understanding the implications of your business. You should not assume that Google understands plain English and will display your search results the way you want: you have to tell it, using keywords and highly specific and accurate information, about your business.
Commercial Real Estate Practice
Consider the overwhelmingly common case of the tertiary-market or small town real estate agent whose business is mainly residential but also handles the commercial property transactions in her territory. When the time comes to develop her website and reflect her practice in Google, should there be different pages for her residential practice and her commercial practice? Generally, no. Here’s what Google advises:
Individual practitioners (e.g. doctors, lawyers, real estate agents)
An individual practitioner is a public facing professional, typically with his or her own customer base. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents all are individual practitioners. Pages for practitioners may include title or degree certification (e.g. Dr., MD, JD, Esq., CFA).
An individual practitioner should create his or her own dedicated page if:
- He or she operates in a public-facing role. Support staff should not create their own page.
- He or she is directly contactable at the verified location during stated hours.
A practitioner should not have multiple pages to cover all of his or her specializations.
Why Is This?
The exact specifics of why Google wants what it wants are known only to Google’s own software engineers and management: we users of Google are advised about best practices but only to a point. Which leaves plenty of questions unanswered: why shouldn’t a real estate pro with different practices represent those practices separately in Google?
The common consensus about this concerns the control of spam — unwanted communication, duplicated endlessly, clogging up systems. The Google Webspam team, led by Matt Cutts, is a major source of best practices on the web for best Google results, and I’ve noticed over the years that when duplication of information is the topic, even if it’s innocent duplication, the uniform response from the Google webspam team is a frown.
That means that Jane Realestate, REALTOR, should list her commercial practice in the context of a single page outlining her general real estate practice, rather than construct a second Jane Realestate page focused on her commercial work — in short because two Jane Realestates at 123 Main St. would be seen by Google as spam or potential spam, and will be correspondingly ranked lower.