Places within Places – Google Maps Going Indoors


Google’s desire to know everything and to provide the most comprehensive information keeps evolving. One of their newest efforts is mapping the business’ indoors and making connections between container and contained stores. The first step was a Google Places Quality Guidelines addition from the beginning of August this year. The following rule was introduced:

Some businesses may be located within a mall or a container store, which is a store that contains another business. If your business is within a container store or mall, and you’d like to include this information in your listing, specify the container store in parentheses in the business name field. For example, Starbucks (inside Safeway).

However, this raised a lot of concerns regarding NAP consistency and since then has not been promoted as a good practice.

In the end of November Google announced that users would be able to look inside shopping malls and other container stores directly via Google Maps (v6.0) for Android. The official launch partners included:

  • Mall of America, IKEA, The Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Daimaru, Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi locations and more.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Narita International (NRT), among others.
  • JR and Tokyu Corporation
Additionally a Floor Plans (Beta) tool for Google Maps was introduced – again based on crowd sourcing. 

A week ago, Google announced that the information for container stores will start appearing on Google Places even if the business owner hasn’t added it to their business title (as suggested by the Quality Guidelines). Furthermore, a section will be added to the overarching location’s Places listing, where all the business locations within it will be listed. Naturally, the following question pops up: “If my business is within a container store, how could I make sure that Google finds this out and adds this information to my listing?” Here is Google’s answer(note: the feature is currently available only in the US):

Our maps algorithms will automatically add an association to your listing if they determine that you’re located within another business. You will not be able to add or request an overarching location to your listing.

If, however, the overarching location generated for your listing is wrong, or you aren’t located within another business, you can let us know using the Report a problem link:

  1. At the bottom of your Place page, click Report a problem.
  2. Choose Listing has incorrect information or spam.
  3. Select Located at for the type of information that is incorrect and explain what is wrong in the Details box.
  4. Submit the form by clicking Report problem.

This practically means that once again the business owners would not have the deciding word when dealing with Google Places. I suppose that the algorithm would look for the address of a business in order to associate it with an already known mall/hospital/business building at this location. If this is so, I expect many problems to occur in no time. Moreover, the Report a problem feature is proven to be working slower than it needs to and it would not be a proper solution to the problem. Is Google once again beta testing with millions of listings?

  1. Phil Rozek
    Phil Rozek12-14-2011

    Great analysis, Nyagoslav. I agree that this has massive FUBAR potential.

    What I don’t get is why Google says the “container” needs to be specified in the “business name” field. For a system that supposedly–and increasingly–tries to have its search results reflect the way businesses appear in the “real world,” this is sheer lunacy. If I’m mailing a rebate to my local Sears, I’m not going to write “Sears, Emerald Square Mall, Level 3” in the addressee line; I’m going to write “Sears,” then I’d specify the “container” in either a C/O or in the address.

    It’s also stupid from the standpoint of implementation. Let’s see…they could change millions of business names (with varying levels of accuracy or success), OR they could simply add another field to the address, which could be filled at some point or left empty as need-be.

    Hell, Google could simply add a line to the “preview” area and to the Places page itself that would specify the container–rather than rock the boat of millions of businesses.

    Last but not least, it only hurts usability. As the searcher, my first question is *whether* a given business is located near me, not its precise location. I *first* want to know if there’s a good Dachshund groomer in my town, and *then* I’m interested in knowing whether that person works at the pet store at the mall–not the other way around.

    I’d sort of felt this way when Google first announced the “container” rule, but your post helped me get at exactly what are the many problems with it.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-15-2011

      Hey Phil,

      You are completely right regarding the Quality Guidelines rule and I would completely support the idea for it to be removed. I have never encouraged anyone to take advantage of it ever since it was introduced, as it seemed to me more trouble-making than problem-solving. And now with the addition of the “business within business” feature, I believe this “guideline” should go directly to the dustbin.

  2. Epanko

    Great information! How in the world do you stay updated with all this excellent info? You must have excellent sources ;)

  3. Epanko

    Now an important question, has anyone experimented with the floor plan to see if it affects ranking in any way?

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-15-2011

      Elad, my sources are usually RSS and email notifications :) However, I do thank you for pointing me to the floor plans feature some time ago.

      I do not believe that floor plans would affect the organic rankings in any way, as this is a mapping tool similar to mapping roads, bridges, bike alleys, etc. It does not affect the “relevance”, “prominence” and definitely not “distance” of a business that is being mapped inside.

  4. Mary Bowling
    Mary Bowling12-15-2011

    Great analysis Nyagoslav. What, if any, implications do you see for businesses with UPS Store or Mailboxes, Etc type addresses? Do you think they will be listed as stores within those containers?

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov12-16-2011

      This is a really interesting question, Mary. And one neither I, nor I think many people at Google have the answer to. Time will show how the algorithm would resolve these problems. One thing is known – Google currently does not make difference between UPS addresses, and normal street addresses.

  1. Places within Places – Google Maps Going Indoors | Local SEO + Local Search Marketing News | Scoop.it12-15-11

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