Local Guide ‎Best Practice: Get rid of legal names

[This is one of a series of articles originally published on Local Guides Connect]

Google Maps has been around much longer than there have been local guides, so I think it safe to assume that most of the points of interest (POI) did not appear on the map because a local guide added it. My best guess is that there has been some kind of original import to populate the map with POIs. And it would then make sense that, for a lot of countries, this was an import of databases coming from official government or chamber of commerce listings.

That would explain the fact that so many businesses are listed on the map with a name that looks like it comes from such a database. One clue pointing in this direction is the addition of legal terms as part of the business name: ‘LLC’ in English, ‘GmbH’ in German, etc. The format of the name can be another telltale sign, which is something you typically come across in very small businesses like hairdressers, butchers or doctors. An example from my personal experience in Belgium: a lot of those POIs have a name in the ‘fixed’ format [last name+space+slash+space+first name], like ‘Janssens / Peter’. The third indication is that most of those businesses are not claimed.

The official Google guideline for naming businesses on Maps (as published on the Google My Business help pages) is that the name should reflect the business’ real-world name, as used on the storefront, website, and stationery. It is also specifically mentioned that ‘irrelevant legal terms’ should not be included in business names (unless they are part of the business’s real world representation). So: whenever you come across a POI with a legal term in the name or with the name in an odd-looking format, you should have a closer look to determine whether or not the business name needs to be changed.

To do this, you can obviously visit the places to have a look yourself, but also online tools can provide the information you need. The images already posted (either StreetView images or those added by the business owners or local guides) can show the way the name is represented on the storefront. And of course the company website (especially if there is an ‘About us’ or ‘History’ page) will feature multiple instances of the name as it is most commonly used.

In some cases the URL of the website can already be an indication that the legal term is integral part of the company name as it is part of the URL – in which case it should not be removed. But you should not consider that to be a rule set in stone, as I’ve also seen cases where the URL contains the legal term, but the texts on the website clearly show that the name without legal term is the one most commonly used (typically with short or common company names that probably added it to the URL because the shorter URL was already taken – think ‘smith-llc.com’ because ‘smith.com’ was not available). On the other hand: if the URL does not include the legal term, that is a first indication that it should be removed. But please do have a look at the website itself to make sure you draw the correct conclusion.

And by the way, good to know for those eager to score the 5 points that each suggested edit can bring: my experience is that removing legal terms where this is appropriate is one of the edits that gets approved algorithmically quite easily (which is certainly not the case for more invasive name changes).

A final tip: when looking at the details of those POIs, make sure to also check the category. Quite a few of the ones I have come across had no or not the best possible category (often a general one like ‘Company’).

The original article can be found here


Disclaimer: the practices described here as best practice are my personal interpretation, and I don’t claim any level of official endorsement.

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