Last December Google introduced the Local Business Center and allowed businesses to provide their address, phone numbers, website, offered services, business hours, accepted payment methods, special coupons and more.
After you provided all the information, is it necessary to get your information active and used by Google. The activiation is done by either Google sending a post card with a pin to the provided address to verify that it exists and in some cases is also a verification over the telephone possible.
Once verified and after the next update of the local database will your business show up in the Google Local search results. A great opportunity to get targeted customers. Throw a special and Google Local exclusive coupon into the mix and you got yourself a very effective new customer acquisition tool.
What is also nice, is the fact that you will also show up for queries that indicate locality in the regular Google search results, such as queries that include the name of a city or region .
Google uses the OneBox or Plus Box feature to show the top three local business that match the location and the other terms that were used by the user. You can see an example of how the OneBox/Plus Box results look like here:
A nice top listing without organic SEO. Okay, all this is nice information, but a bit old you might say. That is correct, but what happened earlier this week was new to me. I received a message on my toll free 24/7 voice mail number which was weird.
A person who did not mention a name or anything else that would have useful as identification left a short message. The message stated roughly “I just drove by your address and can’t find your business. I the address correct or a P.O.Box or what?”.
The only thing that provided a clue was the caller id which was captured by my VM service. The number was not local (area code 559), which made it even more odd.
The number started with 650, the area code of the peninsula south of San Francisco, California (San Mateo county, parts of Santa Clara county). Mhhh….
I called the number and got a recorded message from Google Local Business Center. I left a message that explained things and never heard back from them since. I got the call on Wednesday morning.
Now it’s Friday and my listing at the Google Local Business Center is the same as before. So I guess my message was clarification enough.
I wonder how many locations Google is checking by actually have somebody on their behalf drive by the location of your business to see if it is really there.
They are going through a great length here, just to verify that you are who you are and that you are where you say you are. I don’t know who much addresses Google checks in person, but even if it is only a small percentage, then the cost of doing so still be huge.
This means, that Google must have some very serious plans that involve the Local Business Center for the coming future.
I don’t think that Google does this, just to check that a company is more than just a mailbox and could upset customers who try to visit the business location and are unable to find it.
Did anybody else made a similar experience to mine?
Important Update My assumptions were incorrect. The incident was clarified. Please see the comments below. The phone number 650-253-4401 is used by Google’s click-to-call service. The caller who called me was an unknown person who did not identify himself. If you see this number in your caller history and call it, it will sound like a Google Local support VM.
Beware of pranksters or fraudsters who might abuse this. I encourage Google to change the message and state clearly that this number is used for outgoing calls by anonymous users on their website and not by Google staff. I am glad that this was clarified and that I have been wrong in my assumptions, but it did not make my post be in vain.