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What Are “Relations” in Google My Business?

A relation is basically a way for Google to connect different Google My Business listings to each other. There are 4 different types of relations in Google My Business that I have run across thus far. 2 of them are visible and 2 are invisible.

I first heard the term “relation” when talking to Google My Business (GMB) support and had no clue what they were talking about. Most people don’t know these exist because they aren’t present inside the Google My Business (now called “Google Business Places” or “GBP”) dashboard and some types are invisible on the actual listing itself.

“Located In” in Google My Business

This is meant for businesses located inside other businesses. It is not intended for practitioners or departments.

How Can You Add or Change “Located In” on Google?

As of September 2018, you can add “Located in” without contacting GMB support by suggesting an edit on Google Maps. Here’s how to add “Located in” to your Google Business listing:

    1. Use the Google account that manages the listing inside GMB.
    2. Once you press suggest an edit, you can add the place it’s located in, as per the screenshot below.
    3. IMPORTANT: You must also adjust the map marker and move it to be right near the place you’re moving it inside (failure to do this part often keeps the edit from publishing right away).

How Does the Directory Tab Work on Google Maps

Sometimes you will see a “directory” tab on the Google Maps app for some businesses. For example, The Home Depot has a tab on the Google Maps app that lists its department listings.

You will only see these on listings that have the located in relation set up correctly.  So, for example, this Home Depot location does not have a directory tab on mobile currently because their Garden Center listing says it’s located in the plaza instead of saying it’s inside the Home Depot listing.

This actually causes it to show up on the directory tab for the plaza instead of showing up on a directory tab for the Home Depot listing.


“Departments” in Google My Business

This is a type of visible relation that is meant for businesses with departments. There are certain business types like department stores, hospitals, auto dealers, and universities that are allowed department listings on Google. The departments should have different categories, their hours will normally differ, and they often have separate entrances. Departments can show up on your Knowledge Panel and show up in a different space than the “located in” relation. If you have a department listing, it won’t always automatically connect to your main listing. If you’re not seeing the “Departments” section on your Knowledge Panel, you can contact Google My Business and have them add it for you.

“Works At” in Google My Business

This is an invisible relation (backend) that connects a practitioner listing with the place they work. For an example of how this impacts how they show up in the search results, read this case study. In this case, an old practitioner that left the practice still had the relation on their listing. This was really problematic until it was removed.

“Chain” in Google My Business

This is another invisible relation that exists for listings that are a part of a chain. Ben Fisher detailed out a case where this didn’t get set up properly:

“We also ran a check via the GMB API called “parentChain” at the location level. This field should be set if a location is part of a chain, and it did not appear to be set for this location.”

Potentially, if this relation is not set on the listing, it could keep it from showing up for searches for the brand. This is easier to see on mobile as Google actually clumps the local pack into a carousel nested under the parent brand (below is an example of what I see on Google on my Android for “East Side Marios”). Take note of the “Locations” tab.


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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Re: Adding “Located In”
    My experience is when adding “Located in” (i.e. containment) to an existing listing, or changing/correcting “Located in” to an existing listing, the POI marker in the map (above it) MUST be moved (just a tad/smidge) – – otherwise the new “Located in” information WILL NOT STICK, and will revert to the existing information.

    I think, but am not 100% sure, that adding “Located in” information when creating a new listing will stick.

    And from the “Captain Obvious” Department: The POI/listing/feature you want to show as the “Container” for “Located in” must already exist and be indexed in order for it to display as an option.

  2. [newbie question] I noticed when searching on Maps for A&W (on desktop) the results included results for Long John Silvers. Both A&W and Long John Silvers were sold by YUM in 2011 to two different franchise groups (see reference).

    Is there any explanation for these search results? An unintended feature? A
    “Relations” setting incorrectly made, or not updated? – Thanks!

        1. Interesting. I can see it now. It definitely could be the result of a chain relation set incorrectly. To confirm that though they’d have to reach out to GMB support.

  3. Thanks Joy Hawkins, words are too small for the value you add through your content, This is the best guide I have seen so far on the internet. What Are “Relations” in Google My Business? was easy to understand with comprehensive and easy explanation.

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