Markets with home service ads: Service-area businesses are coming back to the local results

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After my column about Home Service Ads came out last week, I got a message from Google with some great news. They told me two things:

  1. Google plans to add pure service-area businesses (SABs) back into the local results — this includes home-based businesses.
  2. The disappearance of results for home-based businesses in markets without Home Service Ads was due to a bug (not intentional), which Google says should be resolved soon.

So, almost a year after deciding to remove service-area businesses from the local results, I’m starting to see that Google is adding them back.

Here is an example of a search result I spotted this morning.

A few days ago, it looked like this (Notice how every listing has a directions icon — meaning the address is showing on the listing):

Although owners of service-area businesses will be extremely excited about this change, service-area businesses aren’t the only listings returning to the local results.

The return of spam

One of the good things about Google’s decision to take SABs out of the results was that it eliminated the majority of spammy listings (but definitely not all of them). Looking at this one example, one of the listings that just returned to the local results is a keyword-stuffed duplicate for a business that already has a listing in a neighboring city — they are not allowed two. Their listing in the neighboring city is also using an address that doesn’t exist.

I recently shared at the State of Search event how I got 17 of the 28 home security business listings removed from the local results in one market — as they weren’t eligible for listings on Google My Business — after I combed through the competitors of a client of mine.

Spam is, unfortunately, alive and well.

The return of junk

Not all the results that don’t qualify for a listing are necessarily “spam.” The term “spam” connotes that there is malicious intent. (“I know about the guidelines, and I don’t care that I’m breaking them because I want more business.”)

For example, one of the three listings that returned in this example has no phone number, no address and no website.

This listing shouldn’t be on Maps at all, but it just replaced some other legit business in the 3-pack because Google likes to rank businesses with keywords in business, despite the fact that keyword stuffing is against the Google My Business guidelines.

I find it intriguing that this is the second major thing Google changed at the end of last year that has now reverted to be more similar to the way it was originally.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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