Surprise, surprise: Google is revising its local search policies again. At Prospect Genius, it’s our responsibility to stay on top of these ever-changing policies and how they could potentially impact you, our valued clients. As Google adapts their policies, we must adapt ours to ensure the ongoing success of your business’s lead generation program. Fortunately, we haven’t had to make many changes on our end this time, but there are certain things that you and we will have to do a bit differently in order to accommodate Google’s demands. Below, we’ve outlined the latest policy changes as they stand at the time of this writing. We’ve also included the ways in which they could affect your business and our suggestions for how to deal with them.
New Policy: Google Gives You 30 Days to Submit Your PIN
In an attempt to crack down on fake addresses and businesses, Google+ Local mails a postcard (or, on rare occasions, calls you directly) with a PIN to your physical location as soon as you attempt to create a new listing or claim an existing one. They require you to submit that PIN on Google+ Local as a means of verifying that the address exists and that you live or work there. Your PIN is set to expire in 30 days as a way of preventing spam and fraud.
How Will It Affect You?
Because Prospect Genius is in charge of maintaining your company’s Google+ Local listing, you need to provide us with your PIN as soon as you receive it. The timeframe used to be much more flexible, but now that Google is getting strict, they’ve instituted a concrete limit on how long you can take. Now, you only have 30 days to call Prospect Genius with your PIN so that we can verify your listing. If you don’t get it to us in time, your listing could be suspended indefinitely. Bottom line: Call Prospect Genius as soon as you receive your Google PIN!
New Policy: Google+ Local Will Call Your Business Directly
This is the most important policy to keep in mind. Google+ Local has begun calling business owners directly in order to confirm whether the business is actually where it’s supposed to be. When Google representatives call businesses, they ask difficult questions about the company location that are meant to trip up the individual who answered the phone. Ultimately, Google’s aim is to catch fraudulent business owners in their lies and take down their listings.
How Will It Affect You?
With this policy, you’ll need to be on your toes. You might think you don’t have anything to worry about, given the fact that you’re being honest about your business, but that’s not necessarily true. The Google representative on the phone will ask you specific questions about your location (e.g. What’s the nearest intersection? Is there a CVS nearby? Are you close to I-95?). Any hesitations or inaccuracies in your answers could lead Google to become suspicious and flag your listing. When navigating any interaction with Google, it helps to think of them as the judge, jury, and executioner. They have sole discretion when assessing the quality of a website or business listing’s content, and they have the final say in what ultimately makes it (or stays) on their results pages. In this way, Google is very much like the federal government of local search. This means that you don’t have to incriminate yourself—instead, you can “plead the fifth” and remain silent, at least temporarily. Rather than answering their questions right away and inadvertently incriminating yourself, you can postpone talking to them until you’ve sought counsel with Prospect Genius, your “defense lawyer,” if you will. Simply tell the Google representative to call you back in a couple of hours (for any reason you like), and then call your Prospect Genius campaign coordinator right away. We’ll walk you through the questions that they’re most likely to ask you and help you prepare the correct responses. Then, when Google calls you back, you’ll be able to answer their questions with honesty, accuracy, and confidence. Some of you may have already received a phone call from Google. Hopefully it went well. For the rest of you who have not yet had the pleasure of being grilled by a Google+ Local representative, we’ve included snippets of real phone calls that our clients have received. The below audio clips from real conversations should give you an idea of what to expect. Click to Listen This first conversation is relatively straightforward: the Google rep asks for the address of the company’s main office and then for the website. Pay attention around the one-minute mark, when the business owner pauses to take out his Prospect Genius wallet card and read off the URL of his website. Click to Listen In the above clip, a business owner is rightfully suspicious of a Google rep who fails to verify his identity. Ultimately, the conversation is anticlimactic: when the business owner refuses to divulge personal information, the call ends. It’s important to remember that you have this option. Click to Listen This truncated clip is simply intended to show you that there won’t always be a language barrier between you and the representative. Some calls will go more smoothly than others. However, Google will sometimes go the extra mile to trick you through flat-out deception. Listen to this clip of a Google+ Local representative posing as a prospective home restoration customer.
Bottom line: Study your business’s surroundings, call Prospect Genius for assistance, and be prepared to answer any questions about your locale. When you receive a phone call from 650-253-2000 in Mountain View, CA, you’ll know that Google+ Local is on the other end.
New Policy: Changed Addresses Will Get New Listings
Not so long ago, you could change the address on your company’s listing without much of a consequence. This was helpful for businesses that moved locations or wanted to counteract an unfavorable reputation. However, there were also a lot of spammers who took advantage of this and created listings for locations in every nearby city. To crack down on this, Google+ Local has implemented a new policy for changed addresses. Now, instead of simply updating your current listing with the new address, Google will create an entirely new one that will have a note indicating that your company relocated from its previous address. Simultaneously, a note that says your company moved to a different location will be tacked onto your old listing.
How Will It Affect You?
This will only have a major effect on clients who have exhibited spammy behavior (e.g. creating a different listing for each city) in the past, as you will no longer be able to hide the number of times you’ve changed your address. But if you’re a business owner who has never moved or has only changed addresses once or twice in your entire time of operation, then there’s not much to worry about. For now, we’ll just reiterate how important it is for you to make certain that you input the correct information in the first place, since it’s nearly impossible to cover up any mistakes or revisions, as honest as they might be. Bottom line: Get your address right the first time and don’t commit any factual errors on your Google+ Local listing, or else you’ll have a highly difficult time covering your tracks.
New Policy: Poorly Managed Listings Will Be Suspended
In addition to monitoring your address changes, Google+ Local carefully watches how your listing is being handled in general. If it seems like there is more than one entity in charge of your listing, Google will grow suspicious and most likely yank your listing until it gets sorted out. Most commonly, this happens when more than one person tries to edit a listing or gain access to the account by requesting another PIN.
How Will It Affect You?
When you began your campaign with Prospect Genius, we asked you to tell us about any Google+ Local listings that may exist for your business. That’s because if we try to gain access to your listing without knowing that you or another SEO company is managing it, then the validity of the listing will be called into question. For the same reason, it’s equally important that you don’t attempt to edit the listing yourself while Prospect Genius is managing it. If at any point it appears to Google that multiple parties are vying for control over the same listing, then that listing will be pulled. Bottom line: Tell your Prospect Genius campaign coordinator about all of your existing listings and don’t attempt to edit listings yourself. Instead, call us and request a revision; one of our content specialists will take care of it.
When in Doubt, Call Prospect Genius!
Our team is here to help. If you ever encounter a situation that you don’t know how to handle or you simply need some clarification on these new policies, don’t hesitate to contact us! Your campaign coordinator, account manager, and content specialists are all standing by to ensure your business’s total success.