Googler: Don't Use business.txt Files

Aug 28, 2012 • 8:34 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Local Search Engine Tips & Optimization

business.txtOne of the latest webmaster things floating around the web today is on the businesstxt file. It is based on the concept of a robots.txt file but is there to give business owners an easy way to give search engines and local search engines a way to discover the business address(es).

Business.txt is a file that local businesses upload to their website with their business information so all website providers can update it whenever something is changed.

It is located typically at the root of the domain under a file, /business.txt.

Googler, Paul Kinlan, said on Google+ that this is a bad idea. He said:

Please don't do this. I get humans.txt, but this is content that should be on your site and discoverable and searchable. The same problems this is trying to solve will also be present in this solution.

Yelp and all similar services need to get smarter and do the page scanning and indexing automatically.. THIS WILL NOT SOLVE THAT PROBLEM.

There are markup solutions like to handle this but the developer of business.txt says it is too complicated for most business owners.

I am not sure how it can hurt to have one but I do see Paul's point about the search engine should be smarter. Truth is, Google Maps isn't that smart, there are constant issues with locations and businesses within Google Maps being totally wrong, outdated and simply incorrect.

Forum discussion at Google+.

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08/28/2012 12:58 pm

Google don't want to use it, FINE Enough. But, why they want people not to use it on their websites when other search engines do read it?

André Scholten

08/28/2012 02:03 pm

I guess all those files will be indexed by Google, and when people click on them the experience is not the one Google wants to offer them while searching for companies. But in my opinion that should be the choice of the business owner, and not Google's.


08/28/2012 02:24 pm

A great example of the attitude of Google towards data on the internet "People should learn to scrape and steal all the information they want like us, rather than discovering and using the information people want to give to us".

SEO Consult

08/28/2012 02:49 pm

I can't see where Paul Kinlan is coming from with "[it] will not solve the problem" - it will solve the problem, but it shouldn't be needed in an ideal world. The problem here is Google's algorithms not picking up the information correctly because it's formatted in so many different ways by different people that it's difficult for Google to cater for them all. The business text file would resolve that issue by making it more confined to a standard. Personally I can't think of any downfalls to doing this. It's not like it's invading any privacy because the information you put on it will only be the same as that put on your website. I do agree that schemas are difficult for any business without a dedicated web developer/maintainer. At least this way if you can type and upload a file, you'll be fine. And no doubt there will quickly be sites available to generate this file for you too. The only reason I think Paul has said no to the idea is that it then gives a bigger advantage to other search engines and websites that might not have the complicated algorithms that Google currently uses. It will make those obsolete for the sites that use business text files.

Javier Escribano

08/28/2012 03:22 pm

Disclaimer: I'm the person who proposed business.txt I still think there has to be a better way for businesses to tell the world which is their business info. Google may do it right (it doesn't because google maps has a lot of incorrect places) but they have thousands of engineers. Startups and companies shouldn't need an army of engineers to scan all the data. What Paul was defending is that all that data should be inside the main file of the webpage with the hCard standard. I still believe that's too complicated for business owners and even for developers. We would need way more plugins than if we just have a txt file. But we are discussing it. You can join the conversation :)

Michael Martinez

08/28/2012 06:18 pm

He should not have spoken out against this. It's an interesting idea that should be explored.

Javier Escribano

08/29/2012 07:51 am

I've created a google group to discuss business.txt in a single place for those interested!forum/businesstxt There are already too many threads in google+, hacker news, twitter, etc ;)

E-Platform Marketing

09/04/2012 03:16 pm

And since when did Big-G become the governor of the internet and the server space of others? I could understand a "it won't work for us" comment but to tell people to not do it???

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