Google My Business recently rolled out a new feature called Google My Business short names. Each verified Google My Business listing can add a short name, which is essentially a URL link to their Google My Business listing, along with a link to the listing’s reviews. A sample Google My Business is one that I set up recently, which is g.page/hartzer-consulting/, which redirects visitors directly to my company’s Google My Business listing. This is certainly a welcome new feature, as it makes it easier for businesses to promote their Google My Business listings both online and offline. It’s easier to ask for reviews, as well, as g.page/hartzer-consulting/reviews/ redirect directly to reviews for the business. I analyzed these new URLs and redirects, though, and I see a few problems and potential issues.
302 Temporary and not 301 Permanent Redirects
I’m not sure exactly what Google’s thinking is behind the new Google My Business short names redirecting with 302 temporary redirects rather than 301 Permanent Redirects. The redirects still happen just fine–but they’re temporary, and it also means that they’re getting indexed in Google’s search results.
I’m surprised that Google is allowing these pages to get indexed. That also means that some interesting things could be done (temporarily) if someone were to build links and send traffic to those URLs. The 302 redirects are actually not surprising, though, as many other similar Google services in the past have used 302 redirects rather than 301 redirects. The best practice is typically to use a 301 Permanent Redirect, especially as a short URL service. But Google may have their reasons?
No Robots.txt File
As with any domain name (and subsequent website), the domain name g.page is, in fact a domain and website–it just has redirects set up on the domain name. Well, it turns out that there is no robots.txt file for this particular domain/website, g.page. In fact, going to g.page/robots.txt ends up redirecting users to a Google search results page for robots.txt. Which I find kind of odd. But, that brings me to my next point.
Google My Business Short Names are Only Redirects
These Google My Business short names are only redirects to a Google search engine results URL, with a search query attached to it, along with a location ID. Let’s look at the server header for my Google My Business short name, g.page/hartzer-consulting/:
HTTP/1.0 302 Found => Content-Type => application/binary Cache-Control => no-cache, no-store, max-age=0, must-revalidate Pragma => no-cache Expires => Mon, 01 Jan 1990 00:00:00 GMT Date => Tue, 25 Jun 2019 01:33:38 GMT Location => https://www.google.com/search?q=hartzer-consulting&ludocid=15073592083084471746&ibp=gwp;0,7&source=g.page.default Strict-Transport-Security => max-age=31536000 Content-Security-Policy => script-src 'report-sample' 'nonce-/L83/CZBXtQLy+FovJoOpQ' 'unsafe-inline';object-src 'none';base-uri 'self';report-uri /_/LocalVanityurlRedirectHttp/cspreport;worker-src 'self' Server => ESF Content-Length => 0 X-XSS-Protection => 0 X-Frame-Options => SAMEORIGIN X-Content-Type-Options => nosniff Alt-Svc => quic=":443"; ma=2592000; v="46,44,43,39"
As you can see, it’s a 302 temporary redirect to a URL: https://www.google.com/search?q=hartzer-consulting&ludocid=15073592083084471746&ibp=gwp;0,7&source=g.page.default
And, you can see that https://www.google.com/search?q=hartzer-consulting is literally a keyword search for hartzer-consulting as a keyword. If you were to replace hartzer-consulting with hartzer%20consulting in the URL you’d get the search query for “hartzer consulting”, like this:
Then, take a look at the location ID. That’s the Google My Business location ID for the GMB listing for “Hartzer Consulting”. I won’t provide a screen shot here, but what would happen if you were to replace the location ID in that 302 temporary redirect to the location ID of another Google My Business listing? Well, that’s just a search query with a location ID attached to it. So, adding the location ID of another business to that search query will, in fact, bring up the Google My Business listing alongside ANY search query.
Earlier this evening I demonstrated this with someone, and gave them the URL of the search query. The location ID was attached at the end of the Google search query, and they literally didn’t see the location ID. The location ID forces Google to show the GMB listing in the search results of ANY search query, regardless of the GMB listing and regardless of the keyword used.
Here’s a few examples. You can literally go to any of these Google search engine results pages and you’ll see Hartzer Consulting show up for ANY keyword. Even ones that have absolutely nothing to do with my business or the work that I do.
I literally should NOT be able to show up in Google’s search results pages for “Dallas restaurants” and “Walmart Orlando”. It appears that if a local business name is searched for and the location ID is present in the URL, then the location ID will cause Google to completely remove the GMB listing that SHOULD be there and actually replace it with the GMB listing of the location ID. As you can see, that’s the case with “Walmart Canton”, as there is a GMB listing for Walmart in Canton, Texas. But it’s easily replaced with my location ID in the URL.
I have a few concerns here with the implementation of the Google My Business short names, and hopefully Google can address these issues. I realize some may have been intended, and some may have not.
- 302 Redirects instead of 301 Permanent Redirects
- No Robots.txt file
- Short name URLs are getting indexed in Google.
- Short name URLs redirect to a Google search query. The Google search query can be replaced with another keyword, potentially a non-branded keyword.
- The Google short name redirected URL can be “manipulated” so any GMB listing will show up in the search results for any search query.
- There is no noindex tag on the pages, so they are getting indexed in Google’s search results pages.
As I’ve mentioned, there are some issues–hopefully these can be updated or taken care of if Google finds that they’re an issue worth pursuing. Right now I do recommend reserving your location’s Google My Business short name if it’s available. A few that I wanted were not available, and I’m surprised at that–but regardless, I don’t mind having the short name of my business name.