Google is Flip-Flopping on Practitioner and Practice Listing Quality Guidelines

December 6th, 2012 by Joseph Henson

Back in June, Linda Buquet posted a great piece detailing Google’s new policy on practice and practitioner listings. In that piece, there was a direct email response from Google stating that “…at the moment we do not remove or merge individual practitioners.” Now it seems that there is a split from this policy if the practitioner is the sole practitioner at the practice. However, Google isn’t exactly being straightforward in how best to handle these particular practitioner and practice listings.

Recently, we have had two instances where a doctor’s listing and their practice listings were merged together by Google. With both of these doctors, they were the sole practitioner at the practice, but there has never been (and still isn’t) a specific rule against listing a sole practitioner and their practice in the quality guidelines. The section that mentions practitioner and practice listings in the quality guidelines is as follows: “You may create one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the hospital or clinic at large.”

To add to the confusion, the way that these issues were pointed out by local-help@google.com varied greatly from one another.

With one of the doctors, we got this seemingly clear cut response:

“Upon further review it appears that [doctor] is the only surgeon at [practice], as such, he can only have one listing on Google+ local since [practice] is his private practice.”

While for the other doctor, after I pointed out there was no part of the quality guidelines that said anything about sole practitioners not being able to have a practice and practitioner listing, I got this response:

“It is fine having 2 listings, one for regular business and one for the practitioner. But currently our system is combining your 2 listings into one because the data in each one is so similar (same address, same phone number etc.) If it is not important for you to have the practitioner listing, I would recommend only having one listing for this business.”

While it ultimately seems that Google does not want sole practitioners to have a practice and a practitioner listing, it doesn’t mean that they have stopped creating what in this case would be a duplicate listing. Practitioner listings often show up on their own due to trusted citation sources like Healthgrades and WebMD having listings specifically for the practitioners. For both of our doctors with this issue, the practitioner listings were generated by Google and were claimed by us in order to clean up the NAP in the listing.

So now that a sole practitioner listing would technically be considered a duplicate of the practice listing, does this mean that they should not be claimed and corrected, and should instead be reported as a duplicate? Because this goes against the previously-held best practice of claiming practitioner listings that are generated from niche citation sources.

With Google sending mixed signals on how to correct this issue, not specifically stating that it is against quality guidelines, and automatically generating practitioner listings from niche citation sources, this is an area that needs to be ironed out and updated in the quality guidelines if it is to become the status quo.