You’re a business owner. You’ve heard about Google Places, and after some digging around online, you discover that your business already has a listing! What is it? How did it get there? Most importantly – how exactly do you make it your own? Below you’ll find information about how Google Places became the service it is today and step by step instructions for claiming your Places listing.
Google has long been on a quest to index the world’s information and make it accessible to the people who are looking for it. As it rose to prominence in the web search market, Google started expanding and cataloging other types of information: books, images, videos, and… businesses?
That’s right. As Google Maps grew, Google Local Business Center was born – Google envisioned a central location for business owners to list their information and customers to search it. In April of 2010, the product name was transitioned to “Google Places,” a more accurate reflection of the many entities that had begun creating listings through Google. Museums, city parks, and historical monuments are all among the locations a user can expect to find through a Google Places search, in addition to local bakeries, auto repair shops, and salons.
But Google had to start their service with something, right? Where did their initial data set come from? By and large, the answer to that is – their competitors. Local business listing directories, chamber of commerce sites, internet yellow pages, any and all places that held directories of business information, Google harvested the data and used it as a launching point for their Places product.
Now you, like many business owners, may have found yourself in a position where you have a listing on Google that you didn’t create. Maybe the business information isn’t accurate any longer, maybe you want to spruce up your Places page with some photos and details; in either case, you’ll need to verify your listing.
Sign in to Google with your Google Account; if you don’t already have one, you’ll need to create one. You won’t be able to transfer your Google Places listing to another email account, so choose wisely here. Once you’re logged in, visit the existing Places page for your business. A Google search for either your business name or phone number should pull it up. Alternatively, visit google.com/places, click the link at the bottom for “Places for Businesses,” go to “List your business,” and search for your business phone number.
On your Places page, you’ll see a link toward the top that says, “Business Owner?” Clicking that link will yield options to edit the listing, suspend it, or add your business if this listing isn’t you. The option you’re looking to choose is to edit the listing.
Once you’re in the edit pane, take the time to ensure that all of your business information is correct and up to date – especially your name, address, and business phone number. After you’ve added the details of your business, such as hours of operation, payment options, and business categories, Google will let you preview your listing and then ask you to choose how you’d like to verify your listing. There are 3 methods offered by Google for verification.
Verification by Phone
Phone verification is arguably the fastest verification method available; the phone number listed on your Google Places page will ring immediately after you click “Submit.” Don’t choose this option if you can’t answer that phone right away. You will receive a unique PIN on this phone call, which you should then enter into the box you’re seeing on your Places page. After you receive the PIN, give it a minute before you enter it; this gives Google’s systems time to record the PIN.
If you’re not using a touch-tone phone, or if you have a phone tree or automated phone system, this method may not work for you. If your phone verification doesn’t work, you’ll need to verify by postcard in the mail.
Verification by Postcard
Pretty simple – Google will send you a postcard via regular mail with the PIN to verify your listing. This postcard is going to be sent to your business address and can take 2-3 weeks to arrive, so patience is of the essence. According to Google, only one PIN is valid at a time, so if you request a second postcard and then receive the first one in the mail, the first PIN will be invalid. The same goes for phone PIN requests; whichever method you attempted most recently is the PIN you should use.
Verification by SMS
Currently only available for businesses outside of the US, SMS verification allows for the PIN to be sent via text message to the mobile phone number associated with the Places listing. Once the PIN is entered, the business listing will be verified and added to Google Places within six weeks.
Whatever path you take to verification, be aware that if you enter an incorrect PIN five times, you will no longer be able to verify the listing. The only option at that point is to delete the listing and start over by creating a brand new Places page.
Claiming your listing lets Google know that they have the most accurate and up-to-date information about your business; it also puts you in control, preventing others from claiming it and giving you the ability to make corrections and updates at will. The details you add during the verification process are the first steps to achieving good rankings for your listing. Remember, though, that claiming your listing is only the first step. Thoroughly building out your profile with great information about your services is what will really help your listing rank well, and that information is what your potential customers want to see too.