A few day ago, a business owner told me about a rather complex problem with his Google Maps business listing and asked me what to do about it. My explanation was pretty long, starting with the need to claim his listing and ending with a warning that fixing errors in Google Maps isn't always simple.
It took several paragraphs of detailed text to cover what I felt the business owner needed to do and he came back to me with a, "That's great, but how do I claim my listing?" Sometimes, I get ahead of myself when I'm answering questions and in this case, I forgot for a moment that such a huge number of the business listings that make up Google's local index are still unclaimed. Let's get down to basics with this article. If you've been mystified by the verification process, read on!
Why Do You Need To Claim Your Google Maps Listing?
Important Reason #1 - Just as you keep careful tabs on the content you have published on your website about your business, you need to be in control of what content Google is publishing about your business. You may discover that Google has errors or blank spots in their data about you. The way for you to correct this is to let Google know you own the business, which I'll describe how to do, so that you can officially edit the content of your business listing. Claiming your listing gives you improved control over how you are being represented by Google.
Important Reason #2 - Just like the rest of the web, Google's local index is plagued with spammers and crooks. Unclaimed business listings are at risk of competitive hijacking. If you haven't claimed your business listing, malicious parties can step in and alter its content for their own benefit - not yours. This has been an acute problem in Google Maps and your best defense is to lock down your listing by claiming it.
How To Claim Your Google Maps Listing
Step one is to go to Google Maps and do a search for your business. Let's imagine we own K-Mart in San Mateo, California. So, we do a search for k-mart san mateo ca. Unless your business is brand new, chances are it will have been indexed by Google already. So, all we have to do is click the More info link next to the business title, as shown:
This brings up the big popup to the right of the business listing. Click the Edit link, as shown:
This will bring up a second popup, this time a smaller one. In this popup, we see the question, Are you the owner? Claim your business:
Click that link and you will be taken to Google's Local Business Center login page. If you already have a Google account of some kind, such as for gmail or Adwords, you can use your pre-existent login information to get into the Local Business Center. If you do not already have a Google account of some kind, you will need to create one at this point. Once you have logged in, you will be shown the business you want to claim.
Look carefully at all of the data in the listing! Are the address and phone number correct? Are the categories the business is listed in accurate? Are there additional details you could include, such as hours of operation, languages spoken or forms of payment accepted? Make sure the description of your business is as thorough and accurate as possible.
Once you have edited the data so that it is the best possible representation of your business, the Local Business Center asks you whether you would like to verify your changes to the listing by either phone or postcard. A phone call is the fastest way to go, but sometimes, the phone call doesn't work because of weaknesses in Google's phone system and you have to select the postcard route. In this case, Google will send you a small postcard containing a pin number that you need to phone in with when you receive it.
And that's how you claim your Google Local Business Center listing.
Despite the fact that Google has given major prominence to their local search results in the Universal SERPs, they have done very little to alert business owners to the need to verify ownership of the listings. No one, that I know of, has calculated what percentage of the listings in Google's local index are unclaimed, but pretty much everyone agrees the number is staggering. So, don't feel badly if you didn't realize you needed to take control of your listing. You've got the information you need to do it now.
Once you've got this initial, and utterly vital, task completed, you can work towards starting to win reviews from your happy customers and encourage citations from relevant websites. But that's a subject for another post!
Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.
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