Google My Business: A Necessary Nightmare

As the largest search engine in the world, Google has a variety of products and services outside of Google Search. Email accounts, domains, digital storage, and even shared documents. Google’s platform can be used by just about any company! One that we will focus on is Google My Business.

Starting back in June 2014, Google My Business, or GMB, has drastically changed since then. The process to claim, verify, and manage a listing has had many changes, as well. If you’re not sure what GMB is used for, there is a fair chance you’ve used it before. Typically, when we search for local businesses on Google, we type in something like “Coffee Shop Near Me.” The results that come up under the map are what we call Google Business Listings. 

Coffee Shops near me search on Google

With GMB, businesses display their name, phone, address, website, hours, and more. Along with this, your business can view a variety of analytics:

  • Number of times you appeared under search results
  • Number of times you appeared under map results
  • Website Visits
  • Calls
  • Direction Requests
  • Photo Views
  • Reviews

These insights come straight from how online users interact with your business listing.

Google My Business Verification

While this is exciting for businesses to take advantage of, getting claimed and verified is not always easy. Google requires us to go through a verification process, sometimes more than one. Why is it necessary? Well, one, it protects your business. Two, it protects consumers. Verification validates that you say who you are and where you are located. GMB does want a local business in New York to display in Florida. 

Verification comes in a few forms. The main one is via a postcard. Once you set up your listing on business.google.com, your first option will say, “Send a postcard.” Containing a pin, it will be sent to your business in a time frame of about 7 days. While receiving mail is an easy task, the postcard does not always make it. We’ve worked with many businesses where we sent 2, 3, 4, 5, even 6 cards! Some companies only receive mail at a PO Box, which can never be used on a listing. This is a significant flaw in GMB’s system. 

Another option is SOMETIMES available is over the phone. This process is easy to complete and requires you only to answer your business line. An automated voice reads off numbers to you, and then you get that entered in. 

What if we can’t get verified?

The sad truth is Google My Business Support is very unhelpful. It’s challenging to get into contact with a live person over the phone or through chat. When you do get ahold of someone, there’s a solid chance that they’ll say, “Due to Google’s policy, XYZ.” In other words, “We can’t help you.”

Depending on your industry, though, there are workarounds. If you’re a service area business that does not display a physical address, you can typically try to send a postcard to a friend or family member in the area. Their address won’t show, as long as you choose the correct settings. For storefront businesses, it is a more involved process.

If your business has a website, there are some things you need to do. First, make sure your website’s contact information matches your listing. This includes phone number, email, and address. Next, have your site indexed by Google Search Console. It is a reasonably straightforward process, but you will need access to manage your domain’s DNS. Their instructions walk you through the process. Lastly, make sure that Google Analytics is connected and tracking on your website. Setting all of this up is also a good SEO practice. An important step to remember is to do it all under one account.

After waiting a day or two, when you go to verify your listing, you should be presented with a phone or email verification. We have personally seen this work with a few businesses we could not get the postcard delivered to.

What if its already verified, but I don’t have access?

Often, we have clients that have a claimed listing but are unsure who has access to it. Sometimes an employee or family member ends up claiming the listing. Is it a lost cause? No, of course not! Google allows for listings to be reclaimed. When submitting your information, we are prompted with, “This listing has already been claimed.” Typically, we are given an email hint, which can job the memory of who has access to it. The majority of the time, owners have no clue.

This is fine, though, because after we send the request, the person who has access to the listing has about 7 days to respond to it. Either to accept or deny the request. If we get a rejection or no response, we can go on and claim the listing as if it were brand new.

With service area businesses, this process is double the work. You must first try to verify the listing as if it were not claimed. Then once a pin code is entered, that listing gets marked as a duplicate in your account, and you can now send the request to the current manager. Again, after waiting 7 days for a response, if it is denied or unanswered, we will verify the listing as if it were unclaimed. Then you will have access to the listing!

Do I really need a business listing?

For local businesses, we believe it’s critical to have a Google Business Listing. With a majority of searches being done on Google daily, not having a listing is lost opportunity. While being a nightmare to work with, its utilization shows many benefits. Remember, GMB is free. While the process can be annoying, it’s worth it. If you have a local business, make sure you’re showing up through Google My Business. If it looks like more than you want to handle, look into listing management services!