Workarounds for Google Places Verification

by Nyagoslav Zhekov September 21st, 2011 

If you are (or have a client who is) a small business in the United States, Canada, or any other "Google Places country", you know that verifying ownership of a Place page can be a painful experience.

Google Places Verification

While it is frustrating to have to wait "2-3 weeks" to receive a postcard, a bigger problem is any of these cases:

  • the postal service doesn't deliver to the physical address, but only to the business's post-office box
  • the postal service is bad or irregular
  • the business has a room in a large business building but they don't have specified unique address

Google stopped offering phone verification for new listings in January 2011, and since then problems started popping up more frequently.

Here are a few workarounds; note that they should be used fairly, not for spamming Google Maps.

1. How To Get The Verification Letter Sent To A P.o. Box

According to the Quality Guidelines for Google Places "P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations" and "Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed." Therefore, even if you are receiving mail only via a post-office box, you practically cannot use it as Google automatically sends the verification letter to the address stated in the Google Places listing. When you use the word PO box in the address, the listing is getting auto-rejected.

The workaround: use Address Line 2 to insert your postal address! Yes, Google, as per current, does not penalize the usage of whatever terms in this box. Of course it would be strongly advisable to delete the whole second address line once you receive the postcard. As the mail is being processed by the local postal service you will have to help them understand where you actually want it sent. Therefore, it is recommended that you type something like: "Send to: PO Box [number] [City] [State] [ZIP]" replacing the words in brackets with the correct information. You can do the same if you get business mail to your home address.

PO Box Address in Google Places

I had an interesting case with a veterinarian from Sweden. Instead of "Send to" I was going to write the Swedish "Skicka till" when I found out that the Irish office of Google Places is processing mail verification in the big part of Northwest Europe. If you are from a non-English speaking country you will first have to dig out such information, otherwise you risk your postcard being directed to the business address.

2. How To Get Phone Verification

This is one of the most frequent questions we're asked these days. We always begin by explaining in which cases phone verification is impossible:

  • if you have already used 3 times the same phone number for verification
  • if you are trying to change your listing's phone number
  • if you have no direct line, i.e. the call has to pass by answer machine or extension

If your situation is none of these, keep reading.

The answer is hidden in the (semi) official statements of Google. When the phone verification was first tightened, they gave the following answer:

I understand there have been some recent questions about verification methods. If a business is new to Google, certain verification methods may be unavailable depending on the information provided for the business.

Recently, Google offered an opportunity for everyone to express their thoughts on what could be improved in Google Places. Google Places Community Manager Vanessa Schneider is answering some of the suggestions and here is one lucky enough to get Google's attention: "Please bring back phone verification for Google Places verification." Vanessa replied:

We do have phone verification, but only in this case: If you see an existing listing on Google Maps that is NOT verified, and you want to verify it, you'll have the option to use your business phone. If you are creating a brand new listing  i.e. it does not exist on Google Maps already then you will only receive the option to verify via postcard.

The information hidden in these few sentences is invaluable. What we understand from the first statement is that if a business is "new to Google" they would not be able to verify their ownership by phone. The second statement gives further light to what a "new to Google" listing means: "it does not exist on Google Maps."

The workaround: what we need to do is get the listing on Google Maps before claiming it. I am listing the top methods to achieve that below.

2A. Creating citations

Citations are mentions of the business name, address and/or phone number in close proximity on the same webpage. Everything from a listing on a business directory to mention in a blog post might be considered as a citation. However, some of these have more value for Google than others. In the United States, for instance, if you add your business to Localeze, InfoUSA, Yelp, and a few others, you will have a Place page automatically created by Google in a few weeks. If you get reviewed by customers on sites such as Citysearch, Judy's Book, Qype, or Yahoo Local, the process will be even faster.

While this method takes almost the same time as the postcard verification, it is a workaround, and a good opportunity to start improving your online presence and visibility.

2B. Google Map Maker

Map Maker is the mapping tool of Google. It is currently available in 187 countries;  it's not available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe. In fact, Map Maker was introduced to the US just this April.

Nevertheless, it is one of the most useful tools when talking Google Maps and problems with erroneous data. At the same time, one could add anything from a pathway to a building using it. Here is how to add your business:

1. Log in to your Google account

2. Go to www.google.com/mapmaker

3. Type the address your business is located at in the search box and press "Enter"

4. Click on the pin image in the upper part of the screen

Adding business via Map Maker

5. Select the appropriate category – it should be as close as possible to your main business type

6. Simply fill in the boxes with your business information

7. Click "Save" in the upper left corner

Now your listing would be awaiting review by a "trusted user". The process usually takes less than 24 hours, but sometimes you might have to wait 3-4 days. When your listing is approved you will receive an email notification. Then you can go and search for it on Google Maps and claim it. Google will allow you to verify the ownership by phone.

2C. For Canadians and British only

After reading the previous section, you might be disappointed that Google Map Maker is not yet available in your country. Don't panic – there is a workaround for this too!

It is called Community Edits. Unfortunately, the actual edit option is not available in Canada and the UK, as they are from the so called "Add Only" type, i.e. they can only add information, but not edit old data.

This is enough for the purposes of our goal – getting the phone verification.  Google prepared a nice video for us:

The video briefly explains the process of adding a new place to the map via a community edit. After you do that, it takes from a few minutes to a day for the Place page to show up on Google Maps. I recommend that you fill in all the information, and especially stress on the working hours, as I am noticing much faster update rate when doing this.

3. Avoiding Re-verification

Google requests re-verification every time one changes their business name, address or phone number. In some cases it is possible to avoid this. If you need to modify or update the phone # or the city ZIP code, this workaround would not do the job.

Instead, you can use Google Map Maker or Community Edits (if "Edit" is available). However, these changes have to get approved by Google Moderator, so it might take some time.

Instead, if for some reason you need to fix your business name or address, simply go to your Google Places dashboard and click "Edit". Then you need to delete letter by letter (using the backspace button) the mistaken or outdated name, and then write the correct one (kudos to Linda Buquet for this tactic).

Conclusion

We recommend all the workarounds are used with caution. If not done correctly they might lead to unsatisfactory results.

Nyagoslav Zhekov

I believe local-mobile-social is the future of Internet marketing. I specialize in local search marketing. In my daily job I help businesses succeed online.

Local Search Marketing Blog

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19 Responses to “Workarounds for Google Places Verification”

  1. Anthony says:

    That's brilliant! I've been looking for a workaround like this for close to a year. I'm going to see how well this works!

  2. Thanks that article was really useful as Places is never as straight forward as it should be. I have found that you can't use the phone option until you delete the listing you are trying to claim and then start from scratch. Then magically you can avoid the postcards. Keep the advice coming, cheers

    • Nyagoslav says:

      Hi Kevin,

      In fact it is rather complicated if you would get the phone verification or not. If the listing has previously been claimed via postcard, or 3 times via phone you will not get a phone verification option most of the times.

      Thank you for the feedback!

  3. [...] Canada, and a little more exposure for my articles is always welcome. The topic I picked was “Workarounds for Google Places Verification” – problem, which many business owners are facing daily. We are asked all the time [...]

  4. Lynn H says:

    Wow, I can't believe how many workarounds there are to get a listing on the map. I have a client who teaches martial arts out of a residence and he cannot get the postcard to be delivered using the business name. I will definitely be taking advantage of the Phone Verification tips above. Thank you for continually sharing your expertise!

    • Nyagoslav says:

      It's amazing, isn't it! I believe I will have to make a note here that for some time now Map Maker is available in Canada too, so the opportunities expand :)

  5. Jonathan says:

    I have used method 2A -Creating citations and can attest that it works. Although the process may take as long to complete as you would wait for a post card the work you put in building your citations will help your search rankings once the page is created.

    • Nyagoslav says:

      Perfectly true! There are two ways to do that actually:

      1) First create the listing and start waiting for the postcard. In the meantime create citations (this way hides a little risk of duplicates popping up).

      2) First create a lot of citations, wait for Google to create a listing for you and then claim it by phone.

  6. Susan Walsh says:

    Thanks for the post! It's very helpful. We have a client that we need to verify whose business mail gets delivered to a home address not the business location. Your #1 tip really helps. If we do as you say and take out the second line after its verified, will Google want to re-verify the listing? Or, after we edit and take out the mailing address, will it update with no problems?

    Thanks again,
    Susan

  7. Julian says:

    Thanks for the PO box work around. I have had a night mare trying to get a client who uses a virtual office verified. Hoping I can just get it to work with the same method.

    • Nyagoslav says:

      Julian, here is a rule from the Google Places Quality Guidelines:

      "Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed."

      I'd suggest you warn your client about that.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I know that with several clients I have had to set up Google places for them. Since Google has taken away the phone verification opt-in things have become more than a little pain in the butt.

    This definitely help.

    Thanks again

  9. These work-a-rounds are exactly the info I've been looking for…I live in Canada but want to do Places in the US. I'm considering using an elite proxy with a US ip in or close to my chosen city(cities).
    What's your opinion on this?

  10. Len says:

    .. in fact Google Mapmaker is available in Canada and is very effective in correct map errors. My recommendation is to correct you map error, and then get a group of Google account holders to review & verify it. Once that's done and it's approved the Mapmaker Map will be corrected, but that does not guarantee that Google Maps will adopt the change. I only have one experience, and in my case Google Maps was changed successfully.

    • Nyagoslav says:

      Yep, MapMaker is now available in Canada, and will soon be available in Australia and New Zealand, too. However, it was not at the time this article was written, which is more than 9 months ago :)

  11. [...] in a blue moon you might get to use phone verification (and that is why so many are interested in workarounds to make this happen more often). But what if you have some kind of automated phone system and the [...]

  12. michael says:

    Using the second line for address hasnt worked for me?