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Common Myths About
Google Places

Myth #1: A business owns its Google Places listing.

Google Places owns all the business listings it publishes. Adapting to this fact may be difficult for some small business owners, because they are accustomed to having complete control over their listings in other directories, especially in the print yellow pages.  Businesses pay dearly for print ads in phone directories, and thus have control of their content. A Google Places listing is free, but the business owner has little control over it.

Myth #2: Google Places uses only the info that a business owner provides.

The myth that once a Google Places listing is verified, a business owner provides the information that appears in the online listing is just that: a myth. If Google simply published what people put in their business listings, their local index would be warped into uselessness by spammers. The information a business owner provides via the Places dashboard is just one set of data that Google takes into account. Google also considers the data it receives from data providers, trusted local and industry directories, government records, phone and utility companies, what is published on the business’s own website(s), and what it learns from other reliable sources. If multiple trusted sources disagree with what the business owner provides, that version of the facts may prevail over the owner’s input. David Mihm provides a great explanation of how Google gathers and uses data here.

Myth #3: You don’t need a website to prosper in Local Search.

In the past, many businesses with no website have been able to rank well in Google’s Local Search results. This trend has been changing over the past few years. The top 2-4 positions in most Local Packs that appear within the organic search results tend to be held by companies that have both a strong Google Maps ranking and a website with a strong Google organic ranking. If your local market is competitive, you are more likely to need a strong website to rank near the top of the Local Packs.

Search results for local locksmith

Myth #4: Your Business’s Google+ Page is now your Google Places listing.

Google Places and Google+ are not the same thing.  Places is still your local business listing and Google+ Business is the platform on which you can be social using Google’s network of connections. In many cases, but not all, the two can be associated with each other within one Google account, resulting in a Places business listing which has Google+ social features.  Your About page on Google+ is one of the spots where your business information from Places can appear.

Conclusion: 

As you can see, Google Places can be a great tool for your business, but it has to be managed deliberately, like any other aspect of your business communication strategy.

Is That Really Google Calling?

Your phone rings, and the person on the other end says they are calling from Google.  How do you know if it’s a legitimate call from Google?

phone photo two-001

Photo Credit: Mary Bowling

Listen to what the caller says. Many of these calls are from salespeople at not-so-reputable companies, who have been given a script intentionally designed to mislead you. They want you to think they are calling from Google, but they do not actually come out and say that. Instead, they refer to themselves as “Google specialists” or something similar, although there are some callers unscrupulous enough to actually lie about it.

Many of them will try to use scare tactics and tell you your Google Places listing will disappear if you do not buy their services. They will make wild promises about how what they’ll put you at the top of Google. Sometimes it’s not even a human that calls, but a robo-dialer that broadcasts a recorded message, which prompts you to respond by pressing a number on your keypad. When you get one of these calls, either hang up, or ask them to remove you from their calling list immediately.  They are up to no good!  They are most definitely NOT calling from Google.

There are only a few circumstances when you might receive a call that is actually coming from Google:

  • You claimed a Google Places listing or made significant changes to it, and are verifying it by phone. When you choose to do this, the business phone number will immediately ring, and a robot on the other end will provide you with a PIN number to enter into the verification field in your dashboard.
  • You put in a Google Places call-back support request. When you do this, your phone will ring immediately, and you will be placed on hold to talk to the next available support specialist. (How long you stay on hold depends on call volume.)
  • You requested Google Places support via an online form, provided your phone number as a point of contact, and someone from Google is calling you back to discuss the problem. This is not a common occurrence: support usually communicates via email. However, you will know if you have asked for assistance in correcting your business listing, and then, you will look forward to hearing from Google.
  • A salesperson calls from Google trying to interest you in AdWords Express, which is a paid advertising product that Google is pushing to local businesses. I am not sure if these callers are really Googlers or contractors, but most of these are legitimate calls. If you are interested, listen to the pitch. If not, politely end the conversation and ask them to remove you from their calling list.
  • A Google fact-checker calls to, well, check the facts about your business. These callers will identify themselves as calling from Google, but the questions they ask you may not make much sense, so they are often mistaken for the unwelcomed sales calls mentioned above. They are trying to determine that your business is legitimate, and that the information you entered in your Places listing meets Google’s quality guidelines. The goal of this process is to weed out of the local business listings as many spammers as possible.

All of these calls appear on caller ID as coming from Google, and show (650) 253-0000 as the phone number.

Hopefully, this information helps you to determine whether a caller contacting you and claiming to be from Google is really from Google.