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!


June 29, 2009





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.






Comments(14)

One thing you forgot to mention is that if you do not have an existing Google account then you are required to create one. And Google recently is requiring all new account creations to be verified through SMS text msg service:
http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=114129

this actually has started to cause a problem for someone like myself who has hundreds of different clients that I need to claim their listing but because its coming all from the same IP block, looks like spam to Google. Im running into the same issue with Bing and Windows Live ID creation as well.

Great post-- now show people how to do the same on Yahoo! and Bing.

Nice post, like that you include the reasons. Hijacking is very popular within many industries.

More great information Miriam, and Randy, thanks for the link to Google's info on SMS text message verification.

In Step One though, I don't think you need to search from Google Maps anymore. Miriam suggests going to Google Maps to find the K-Mart business listing, but you can find specific local Maps listings now using the standard Google search box. If you search for "Kmart san mateo ca" using Google, you'll be taken to a results list with the correct K-Mart Maps business listing in first place.

This has huge implications because a Google business listing will now be displayed above a local business website, and prospects and customers may access the listing before visiting the website. If there are customer reviews, that information will be much more accessible -- someone searching for a specific local business website will very likely see that "customer review" link displayed front and center and will then click through to read the reviews. For a local business, there's now a much bigger incentive to claim and update the Maps listing and collect customer reviews displayed on Google.

there is one very serious limitation in this whole claiming business. If you are living in not so organized a country as US (pun intended), there is high possibility of your address & phone number being wrong. Now how will you claim it.
As i face this problem with many of my clients in India, only option left is to create a completely new entry and support it with content & images.

A client has approached me about his Google Maps listing telling me it is already claimed by someone else. In this instance what is the correct procedure to follow with Google?

Ipswich,
I recommend you to create a new entry and support it with authentic information, images , videos etc. it will be great if your client can get his customers write reviews on this entry.
Don't get into identity claiming struggle, create a new one and do it well.

In the last few months Google has been having major issues with local business listings, from the listing just vanishing to the category search vanishing.
From what i have read on the help forums its world wide, and as we know there employees are not able to help much with a in depth reason why this is happening.

My business has been down 3 times in 4 weeks, which has lasted 3-4 days at a time.Now only 1 of the search categories works.My business depends on google some 40%+ monthly.

Every google employee i talk with has a different story, one says my listing is fine and she has no idea why it went poof, the other says im in violation of there guidelines with no real reason why, and a third said i have changed my business name listing too many times.The only reason i have is that was how i got the listing to pop back up the first time it went down.

Please help a family run business owner out with some know how, here is my business name and google link(if its still up)

Murphys Law Roadside
San antonio texas

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=s&utm_campaign=en&utm_source=en-ha-na-us-bk-gm&utm_medium=ha&utm_term=google%20maps

the search category that brings my customers is "roadside assistance san antonio"
or "roadside service san antonio"

I just happened to have listed my business with google maps since march and today someone hijacked my business listings they have changed the title and phone number even added there own reviews but my website,address and other extra info for my listing is still there I can also still see the listing on my business centre address I have tried to remove the listing or updating it is only giving me the postcard option if i try to create another listing because the other one that has been hijacked still has most of my infoits keeps asking me to claim it well its really frustrating as I havent got a clue how to conatct google regarding this matter

Hi,

we're in England and have discovered someone hijacked the listing, put a higher rate telephone number on which they then diverted to us. We've used the process described above 3 times now over the course of about a week and still the entry is unverified. Is it a different process here from the US or something?

Sean

I have noticed that even with owner verified listings that the regular view of Google maps doesnt show all of the businesses that are there. We live in a mixed use building and some businesses show up as I zoom in my map but many do not.
For instance on the map shown, look for the Portland Sports Bar and Grill. You can do a search and find and it's a owner verified listing but in MY opinion you should be able to take the basic map and if the proper annotation layer is turned on, it will display all of the businesses in that building. This will be even more important as interior views of buildings (augmented reality/) become more prevalent.
This seems to be a disconnect between google and google maps. Or maybe I'm missing something

Greetings, Bob,

Google has historically had problems with multi-business locations, the most serious issue being that Google has frequently conflated the businesses at a single location, merging their addresses, phone numbers and other business data into garbled listings. I agree with you that being able to view all of the businesses at a location would be a really helpful thing, and I would venture to say that we will eventually see Google doing this with good consistency, but perhaps we are just not there yet.

Thank you for taking the time to comment!
Miriam

I'm a little bemused about how to get an illegitmate listing at our address (PL4 8BR in the uk). It seems they have a verified listing and yet we do too! I know of course that it is possible to have two businesses at one address but not in our case. The other listing (A in the results) has has hijacked the post code and search results for 'student accommodation plymouth' and our listing (F in the results) is in effect behind the other one!

If the way to get our listing above the other is to get reviews written etc I think this is poor as all it would take would be for the hijackers to get more reviews written (probably by spam bots!).

Do Google have a way of dealing with this issue? I'm having a nightmare trying to find it if there is one :s

Thanks

Jonathan

I don't see an "edit" button next to the listing I want to claim. Probably this is only for the US...

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