Visibility in Google Places is now one of the cornerstones to a successful Local SEO campaign. Especially after Google so kindly bumped organic listings to make room for local search result, causing many businesses to rush to get verified and be found by their potential customers. However, it’s not just local businesses that have rushed to the stage. Many internet marketers have taken advantage of these changes and are working diligently to rank fake businesses, and once ranked, renting and/or selling the listings to real companies. Among many other techniques, these skilled marketers are selling leads to companies as well. This type of gaming has forced Google to make various changes to its parameters almost on a daily basis – making it much harder to rank well.
Most recently Google announced there will be no phone verification system, which used to allow a business to instantly verify a new listing. This method has been used successfully for a long time, but was thrown out in lieu of a more “patient” and “legitimate” approach to weed out spammers.
Rather than a simple phone call, Google is sending the newly listed businesses a postcard with a verification code. The whole process is supposed to limit spammers, but from my perspective, it hinders the rest of us too. In fact, it can take up to four weeks to finally get your postcard, IF you get it at all. I don’t know about you, but for me that seems like a long time to wait.
Contrary to popular belief I am not convinced this is permanent. Often Google will test things when certain trends begin to take hold. In fact, only 9 months ago Google did the same thing, lasting only 3 weeks tops. If Google intends to compete with the likes of Yelp and other social review sites, they will have to find another solution to keep the dirt out. Today only 5% of listings have been claimed, and this is only going to further hinder businesses from claiming listings. Thus, in my mind it is highly probable that phone verification will come back once Google sees its limitations. Who knows though? At the end of the day Google is still Google, which means they can do whatever they want. I think they’ve earned that, right?
My opinion is that this is just a temporary solution to the permanent problem of spammers. Anyone who has created enough of these listings has already found a work-around. Unfortunately, as long as spammers exist, like organic listings, your average Joe will eventually have no chance of ranking for even the most unique, non-competitive keywords.
We appreciate you reading our blog. So, here’s a great tip and for those clever readers, a tip within a tip:
Instead of creating a new listing, if your business info (company name, address, phone number) has been published on the internet for more than 1 month, it is likely Google has already created a listing for you. You can check this by searching your phone number in Google Maps is one of the cornerstones to a good Local SEO. If it is listed, you can claim it, and still often benefit from the phone verification process. Not always, but often.