Episode 5: POI Names

The first thing you see about a point of interest (POI) on Google Maps is the name. What is the proper way to enter it? What are the best practices? What should you not do?



Jan Van Haver 0:05
Hello, and welcome to episode five of the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. Today we will be talking about point of interest names. So the names of the places on Google Maps. Obviously the first thing you see about the place on maps is the name. But what is the proper way to enter it? What are some of the best practices and what should you not do? Before we dive in, I want to point out that I have no official affiliation to Google or the Google Local Guides team whatsoever. I’m just a local guide like most of you. Therefore, my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. (Yes, that is a Baz Luhrmann quote – for those who recognize it – and you should indeed wear sunscreen). This episode is recorded at the beginning of April 2019, and therefore the situation described is the one as it is today.It might change at any point in time.

Vanessa P. 1:06
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:10
If you’re adding a place to Google Maps, you obviously have to give it a name. That’s one of the mandatory fields. It makes perfect sense, of course, because if a place has no name, how can you refer to it, right? But what is the proper way to enter the name? Well, it sounds quite easy. Just check the instructions and go along with those. That is still a bit of a problem, because the instructions, in my view, are rather vague. If you look at the Google Maps helps Help page it just says: “use the official name of a place, the one used on the storefront or website. Don’t add any extra comments in the name fields.” Apparently there used to be more detailed instructions, but right now they’re not there. They’re gone. So that’s only hearsay. We’ll have to do it with with with what we have right now.

Jan Van Haver 2:00
Another important source of adding information to Google Maps is the Google My Business program – check episode 4 of the podcast if you’re not familiar with Google My Business. So, let’s check the guidelines that you can find on Google My Business. There it says: “The name should reflect the businesses real world name as used consistently on storefront website and stationery and additional details”, it continues, “like address, business hours and category go in the other sections”. Okay, so that’s already a bit more information, but still a lot of things are to be cleared. Fortunately, you can then click on the link to get more information. And there you mainly get a list of things that you should not include. That list opens with marketing taglines. So an example of what is not acceptable would be ‘TD Bank, America’s most convenient bank’; should be simply ‘TD Bank’. We’ll get back to this later in more detail.

Jan Van Haver 3:10
Second thing which should not be included is store codes. Those refer to chains, of course. An example would be ‘The UPS Store – 2872’; it should simply be ‘The UPS Store’. Also, trademark or registered signs and special characters are unwanted unless – and here’s a phrase that you will hear a number of times – they are part of the business’ real world representation. So, not acceptable is ‘Burger King’ with then the ‘registered’ sign behind it; should simply be ‘Burger King’. We’re still in the list of things that should not be included. And the next topic is: business hours information including the status whether it’s open or closed. So an example of what is not acceptable there will be ‘Regal Pizzeria open 24 hours’; should simply be ‘Regal Pizzeria’. Or the status information I was referring to: an example there is ‘Sears outlet closed’, where probably some local guide noticed that the store was closed and changed the name to ‘Sears outlet closed’. That’s not what should be done. In fact, the proper thing to do is mark the business as closed. We’ll cover that kind of things in one of the upcoming episodes, probably. Next up are phone numbers or website URLs, and once again: unless they reflect the business’ consistently used and recognized real world representation. So a place name like ‘Airport Direct 1-8855-78953’ would not be acceptable; should just be ‘Airport Direct’. On the other hand: if your place it called ‘1-800-got-junk’ and that’s the telephone number and also the name of the place, that is acceptable as a name, because it’s the real word representation of that point of interest.

Jan Van Haver 5:14
Some of the items on the list of things that should not be included in point of interest names are actually the source of quite a bit of discussion. And one of those is the fact that you should not include a service or product. “Service information”, we read on the Google My Business Help page “is best represented by categories”. Check again episode 2 of the LetsGuide Podcast if you want to find out more about categories. With respect to this, the example Google gives is ‘Verizon Wireless 4G LTE’. That’s not correct: this ‘4G LTE’ refers to a service or a product, so it should be left out. ‘Verizon Wireless’ is what it should be. Another example is ‘Midas Auto Service Experts’; just ‘Midas’ is correct.

Jan Van Haver 6:07
However, the Google My Business page also says there is an exception for departments. If the information is needed to identify a department within a business, then you can include this kind of additions. And an example they give themselves is ‘Best Buy Mobile’. To use this correctly, of course, it’s needed to have a definition of what a department is. And the definition is ‘kinda’ given, because once again it’s, let’s say, vague-ish. The literal quote is “publicly facing departments that operate as distinct entities”, another vague term, “should have their own entry”. Now, they also say that the name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. That explains, of course, our example of ‘Best Buy Mobile’ which is different from the main ‘Best Buy’, and probably also different from some other departments Best Buy something something. “Typically”, another vague term, “such departments”, we read, “have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories”. An example here would be a gas station that also has a convenience store next to it, or as part of it, and a car wash. The first two, the gas station itself, and the convenience store typically have the same entrance – or at least where you have to pay. The car wash could have its own entrance. But this ‘own entrance’-principle is sometimes also hard to define, with a lot of shop-in-shop concepts. What exactly counts as a separate entrance? Another way that might be helpful, or another indication that might be helpful to see if it’s another department or not, is that there might be different opening hours. And to go back to our example of the gas station: it is very well possible that the gas station itself is open 24/7, while the convenience store obviously has other opening hours, and the car wash might still have separate opening hours, different from the other two.

Jan Van Haver 8:28
Sometimes it’s really hard, in my view, to decide whether or not to include an extra word that refers to the product or to the category. Take for example, cafes. You could have something like ‘Cafe The Black Horse’ or ‘Cafe Rene’, with the word ‘cafe’ being on the storefront, so as part of the name, although sometimes in another font. I find it always very hard to decide what to do in these examples. So ‘cafe’ refers to the category – should you include it or not? In this ‘The Black Horse’: okay, that can be used without the word ‘cafe’. But should you just put ‘Rene’ on the map and have no further indication of the name? In that case, ‘Cafe Rene’ might not be wrong, if you ask me.

Jan Van Haver 9:27
And also a problematic situation with the ‘no product or category indication in the name’-concept: what if the category that a specific place has, is not listed in the list of categories on Google Maps, and it’s only a very general category that can be applied, and the shop or the place has a very general name? I’m thinking of a fictional place called ‘Jones, who is a manufacturer of toothbrushes. Very hard to find a proper way to give a name here and give a category. Because if you look it up in the list, there are categories that refer to household articles or hygiene articles, but only in combination with wholesale. So it’s really tough to make a classification and it’s really only leaving as category ‘manufacturer’. So, then you would end up on the with the place on the map just ‘Jones’, manufacturer. Doesn’t give a lot of information, if you ask me. What about just having ‘Jones Toothbrushes’ and that category ‘manufacturer’? That, in my view, has added value for the users of Google Maps.

Jan Van Haver 10:51
Another huge source of discussion is also the guideline that you should not include indications of where a point of interest is. There are two types of those, the first one being ‘containment information’ – that’s indicating that the business is located inside another business, which might be from the same owner or might not be from the same owner. The example given here is ‘Apple Store at Stanford shopping center’, or ‘Geek Squad inside Best Buy’. Should simply be ‘Apple Store’ and ‘Geek Squad’. The other type of indication where a point of interest is, is ‘location information’ such as the neighborhood, the city or the street name. Those should not be included unless – and you’ll know this phrase by heart by the end of the podcast I think – unless it is part of the business’ consistently used and recognized real world representation. So, the name must not include a street address or direction information. Specific examples given here are ‘Holiday Inn I-93 at exit 2’ or ‘Equinox near Soho’. But then – and that’s where it gets really interesting -, what is acceptable according to the instructions on the Google My Business Page is ‘Holiday Inn Salem’ or ‘Equinox Soho’. Really a lot of discussion has been going on on this topic in the local guides forums. And I think, or it seems that the guidelines on this on this specific topic have changed over time. They used to be quite strict, that nothing, no indication whatsoever of the locations should be included. But if you see these examples: it seems to be different now. Some local guides like to stick to the old doctrine, others find it easier to also include this kind of information. And by the way, it’s explicitly mentioned also on the help pages that chains should be consistent in their naming. So all of them with a place indication or all of them without place indication – we’ll probably have an episode about chains later on, in one of the upcoming weeks or months.

Jan Van Haver 13:15
The next point I want to focus on is capitalization, because fully capitalized words are also not accepted as the name of a point of interest, except of course, if it’s an acronym. So ‘KFC’ in all caps is perfectly acceptable, because it stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. But ‘SUBWAY’ written in all caps is not acceptable. It should be capital S and lowercase for all the rest. This can actually be quite a good source of points you earn on in the Google Local Guides program for making edits, because quite a lot of points of interest have their name written in all caps already on the map. So you can correct that. My experience, however, is that if the name is quite long, and you want to change it from all caps to the way it should be written, you often get a ‘not applied’. The other way around, everything is written in lowercase, is also sometimes seen on the map. And that’s also something you can correct, of course, by just capitalizing the first letter, or the first letter of every word. You should check it on the storefront, check it on the website, and then see how it’s supposed to be written. This, however, can cause some conflict with the rule that the real world name should be used as written consistently on storefronts and website. Take for example, the French bank and insurance company AXA. They write their name on every website, on every sign, on every official document AXA in all caps, and it’s not an acronym. Please do let me know if you find it somewhere written, in one of the countries, where it’s not in all caps, but everything I found so far from AXA is always in all caps. Does this mean that we should start changing all of that to capital A and then lowercase ‘xa’? I doubt it, actually.

Jan Van Haver 15:31
The final item on the list of things not to be included in point of interest names are irrelevant legal terms. Think of things like ‘LLC’ or ‘Ltd.’ or ‘Inc.’ after the name of a place. Often those are on the map not because somebody consciously entered them as part of the name, but because the places were added to Google Maps as an initial import of some database that Google acquired, from a local authority for example. So whether or not they are included is very much dependent on the database quality and there are big differences per country. But once again, this can be a huge source of local guides points, if you live in a country where the initial database was stuffed with them, and you still find them often with smaller, unclaimed businesses. So what you can do is make a search on your local equivalent of ‘Ltd.’ or ‘Inc.’ and just enter that search term in Google Maps. You’ll probably find dozens of places that can be edited or corrected with regards to the name. By the way, an academic title such as ‘Dr.’ is not considered to be an irrelevant legal term, because those are specifically allowed. For example ‘Dr. Mary Jones’ is perfectly OK as the name of a place on Google Maps. There are some very specific instructions on the Google My Business guidelines page about how to represent, for example, doctors. And I’ll make sure to include a link to that in the shownotes for those who want to really dig that deep.

Jan Van Haver 17:20
An extra tip, by the way: if you find a place with an irrelevant legal term, also check the other information, especially the category. Often you can find a more specific or a more suitable category for those points of interest. Then again, the legal terms should not be removed all of the time. Because, for example, in a country like Germany, the most frequent legal terms there are ‘GmbH’ and ‘AG’, and those are often considered to be part of the name. So it’s not always easy to do the right thing.

Jan Van Haver 17:54
You should be very, very careful, because if you make edits that in the end are marked as ‘OK’, and those were not the right thing to do, this might be harmful to your trust score – a topic for one of the upcoming episodes, no doubt. Finally, the specific legal formats can also be something you can correct. And my example here is my own experience from Belgium, where I’ve come across quite a lot of points of interest with the name in a specific format, being: last name, space, slash, space, first name. Ths is, in my view, probably from some database import. And obviously, you can correct that to the real world name by checking the place itself, by checking the website, and then making the correction.

Jan Van Haver 18:52
At the beginning of the list, I said I would be coming back to the marketing claims that are sometimes seen in names of points of interest. And you might also have seen those yourself already. Things like ‘Simply the best’ or ‘20% off this month’. Sometimes these kinds of additions – and a lot of them are keywords – are there more or less by accident, but most of the time, it’s really on purpose, and mainly with the purpose of SEO (search engine optimization), getting higher in the search results. The name of a point of interest is of course, something that shows up immediately if you scroll around on the map. Sometimes the category is shown, sometimes a special icon is shown for a bar or a bank, but the name is always shown. So a lot of people try to give extra information in this name. Often, this is done by stuffing a lot of keywords in it, or these special promo claims, by agencies or spammers – and it’s really hard to distinguish between those two from time to time. That’s really one of the points where there are conflicts between the efforts from the Google My Business side and the efforts of the local guides. I myself, I have come across a place – it was, I think, an insurance agency – where I found such a marketing claim as part of the name. I removed it. The change was approved within seconds. But then I noticed 15 minutes later, that the name on the map had already changed again with a different marketing claim. So obviously, this is not an accident. This is on purpose, and it’s really, really annoying and frustrating for well meaning local guides to see the map being vandalized like this. If you want to find out more information, you can do this on Twitter by following the #stopcraponthemap.

Vanessa P. 21:05
What a great idea.

Jan Van Haver 21:09
In what a great idea, I want to draw your attention to one of the ideas submitted to the Idea Exchange, a part of the official forum for local guides, Local Guides Connect – I’ll link to that in the shownotes, of course. And usually an idea that has not had so many votes and could use some more – like this one, only five so far. The idea is from a Local Guides with the name 6LinksRule. And the idea is called ‘Sorting options on contribution edits’. I like this very much, because the idea is that, like you can sort your photos by most views or most reasons, you should also be able to sort your edits in Google Maps – which is really useful if you have hundreds of edits, like most of the high level local guides. You can sort them by status (are they approved, pending, not applied); you could sort them alphabetically on the point of interest name, or, for example, on the type of edit (are these edits to the opening hours, is to the map marker and so on). Really nice one.

Jan Van Haver 22:20
Before wrapping up, I still want to draw your attention to the European meetup, which will take place in June, the 7th through the 10th of June, in Ghent, Belgium. Participants from about 10 countries have signed up so far. So please do check out the post on Local Guides Connects, where I will of course also include a link in the shownotes. And perhaps you can also join. Up to now more than 25 people have signed up, so it’s really going to be a great event and a great opportunity to meet some local guys from really a lot of countries.

Jan Van Haver 23:00
That’s all I have for today. Do please get in touch with me if you have any remarks or questions about the podcast. You can reach me through email by sending an email to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com. Or you can just find me on Twitter, under the name of LocalGuidesGuru. On connects, you can find me as well under my usual, real name JanVanHaver. The show notes can be found on letsguidepodcast.com. And of course, please do give a rating or review to the podcast in your favorite podcasting app – it does make a real difference. I hope to find you back in the audience in about two weeks for the next episodes and the topic of that one will be: breaking the rules.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

6 thoughts on “Episode 5: POI Names

  1. Great presentation, Jan. Your diction, clarity and pace are are spot on. I could understand every word.(I have a hearing loss) Also, I thought you covered the subject matter very thoroughly. Bless you for your initiative in providing this service. Regards, Koby

    Liked by 1 person

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