How do I claim a business on Google Places?
Dave, I have several businesses that I do their websites for, but they want me to submit them to Google Places. Unfortunately, Google needs the owner of the business to obtain a 'pin' that is used to verify business ownership. Do you know of a way I can obtain those pins for my clients?
That's an interesting question because it's obvious that Google's goal is to avoid having people scam businesses in Google Places. If you aren't associated with a company -- or you used to be but are no longer affiliated -- it's a huge hassle for them to deal with, research the legitimate owner and untangle what could be a messy situation.
On the other hand, there are a lot of business owners who simply don't want to deal with all the nitpicking details of the online world, with account creation, fan page management, business ownership claims, etc.
So what's a consultant to do?
Actually, the solution isn't that difficult. In the basic information about Google Places, it says: "Every business listing must have a mailing address -- This is the physical address where mail can be sent to your business. If you work from home or you are a mobile-only business you can specify service areas and choose to hide your physical address later on!"
Even better, Google offers three different ways you can verify your new Google Places business listing: by phone, by SMS text message or by postcard. The latter used to be the only option, but note the warnings: "Not all verification options may be available due to several reasons: 1) The mailing address or the phone number do not match the listing, meaning our records indicate different information than what you are providing, or 2) Too many businesses have been verified with the same phone number or the same address."
The latter could definitely happen if you're representing a lot of different companies / businesses or venues on Google Places, and if you're entering their phone number as the number for potential customers to call, well, that's the number that'll get the phone call or text message and if that's a typical business line and they're a company with a bunch of employees (I'm thinking a café) odds are excellent that none of them will know what to say when Google calls.
That's why I'm a fan of using the Postcard solution. With this, Google sends out a simple postcard that has a random 8-digit code that you then enter on the Google Places Web site. Enter it correctly and, de facto, you must have access to the company's mailbox and are a legitimate venue owner.
Note that, again, you can't use your own address because not only would that be potentially confusing for customers who see the wrong address (or see twenty businesses with your office as their physical address) but it can seem to Google like some sort of spam or con. As they say in the note about why a postcard might not work for verification purposes: "Too many businesses have been verified with the same phone number or the same address"
If you're working with these different local businesses, though, then it should be no problem for you to tell them "in a few weeks you're going to get a postcard from Google. When you do, please let me know and I'll stop by to pick it up and deal with it." In all cases, I encourage businesses to have their retail address and customer phone number in the Google Places database, not that of a consultant or contractor.
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