Google My Business. It’s the Google business directory. Over the years it’s had as many names as it’s had problems with spam.
Actually that’s not true, there have been fewer than 10 names (let’s see: Google Places, Google Places for Business, Google Maps listing, some have called it Google Local, Google Local Business listing) – any more?
Spam no more?
Spam in Google My Business was, for years, a huge problem. These days it seems to be less of a problem, it’s a better service and has more support.
It used to be the easiest thing to knock up a listing and get it verified, first time, with a call to your business number.
This was great for all businesses, including those who’d just setup a listing with a fake postcode in the centre of town and a popular keyword for their business name. Listings were verified in seconds, and showing up on the first page of results quickly. That was when there were 10 results in the “local pack”. 10. 10 results, which often (anecdotally) included spam.
Now, there are not 10 first page spots, but 3.
What do you do when the GMB postcard doesn’t arrive?
Thankfully – bare with me – first time listings can only be verified by postcard (usually). Why is this good? Simply, to stop spam like the above.
With there only being three places available on the first page of search results, it’s now more important than ever to target the main ranking factors for local SEO.
With GMB listings, ranking factors include:
- Location – businesses with addresses in the centre of the named location do well
- Business Name & Categories – picking the right business categories, and being lucky enough to have a service/product keyword in the business name
- Citations & Links – occurrences of structured Name, Address and Phone Number, appearing in other local website directories, links to the site
- Reviews – listings with a good number of reviews do well
But wait, the first ranking factor in Google My Business is this: having a listing.
Recently we managed series of listings for a business who’d just opened a new office. Good news I thought – new office, new location + GMB = fast way to get some traction in the SERPs.
So we gathered the data, checked it for accuracy and submitted a listing, got the usual message that a postcard containing a verification code would be on its way.
The postcard didn’t arrive. Another postcard was requested. That didn’t arrive. Double and triple-checking with the office resulted in “Nope, not had it”.
What else can you do in this situation? We requested another postcard, while seeking support from Google.
Google wanted a photograph
The process for verifying when a postcard doesn’t arrive includes taking a photography of the location and sending it to Google. A quick snap of the front of the building from a phone was enough. They weren’t asking for a selfie, nor a professional shot – they weren’t even asking for a photograph that contains meta data including GPS coordinates.
So we got the picture (a nice shot of the stairs leading to the door) and sent it to Google.
Negotiating Google My Business verification
What happened? Nothing. Not a thing.
I called Google, and got to hear these beautiful words:
“Okay no problem, we will send out a postcard to the business address for verification”
This had, reasonably enough I think, become a little wearing. So after reiterating the fact that postcards had not arrived (which is still something of a mystery) and any further postcards wouldn’t, I went on to ensure I negotiated this verification.
This included mentioning a few things that Google might have found useful in finding the business trustworthy, legitimate and not associated with spam (which I assume is the primary reason for postcard verification):
- The client was an Google Ads/AdWords advertiser for a few years
- The Google Ads/AdWords account features keywords targeting the locations of its other premises
- The website is verified in Google Search Console
- The other Google My Business listings in the account were linked with the Google Ads/AdWords account and in use as Local ad extensions
- Google can call the office if they want
- We’d taken the time to stand outside the building and take a photograph of the place, as per the support pages
The support person disappeared for a moment, then came back and was happy to tell me they’d verify the listing.
Things I’m taking from this:
- GMB has some good processes but for some reason didn’t follow through with all of them
- Getting on the phone earlier might have done the trick, as the Google Ads/AdWords account and the other info represent some cold hard business legitimacy
- Don’t take no for an answer
On the whole, this is usually (by a long way) the easiest part of running a Local SEO campaign, the harder (and more exciting) stuff comes with ranking a listing.
Google My Business is a good service/product that has made big improvements. I really hope they don’t transition to a paid model, but that may well be the case…