Google My Business Mails Verification Postcard to the Wrong Address: What to Do

Did your Google My Business verification postcard end up in the wrong neighborhood?

(goo.gl/S6DEks)

Yesterday I did a consultation for a guy whose client – an HVAC contractor – had a problem with duplicate Google pages.

Just two pages – one for each office location.  Each location served mostly different cities, with a little overlap.

Page A was set up fine.  Page B was also fine, except it used the same street address as Page A.  The client didn’t want it that way.  He entered the right address into the dashboard, but when it came time to seal the deal by owner-verifying Page B, Google put the street address of Page A – the other location – on the postcard.

The client was creating Page B for the first time, and didn’t see a way to make Google send the postcard to the correct address, so he went ahead and had it sent anyway, and owner-verified his page.  Soon after that, his local 3-pack rankings dried up, and his SEO/marketing dude booked a consultation with me.

Somehow, Google was messing up the addresses between when the client entered the correct address in the dashboard and when it showed him the preview of where the postcard would be mailed.

If you’ve run into a similar problem, you probably want to know what’s going on.

The problem seems to be overlapping “service area” settings, if you’ve got a service-area businesses with multiple Google My Business pages.

Let’s say you’re a plumber in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  You’ve got a location in Dallas, and your plumbers there travel up to 20 miles for a job.  But your plumbers in Fort Worth also travel up to 20 miles for a job.  So for each Google page you set a service area with a 20-mile radius.  The trouble is now the service areas overlap.

It gets worse if you get greedy.  If you’re like many owners of service-area businesses I’ve spoken with, you probably picked a 70-mile-radius service area, thinking that you’ll rank throughout that huge swath of land.  You will not.  It’s like putting 30 gifts on your Christmas wish-list.  You’ll be lucky if Google Claus gets you 3 of them.

We finally got Google to send the postcard to the correct address once I went into the Google My Business dashboards of both pages, removed all the service-area targeting, and un-hid the address of Page B.

(No, Google doesn’t care about un-hidden addresses anymore, and only did for a year or so.)

Maybe your case is different, and all you’ll have to do is change the service-area radii, for example.  Who knows.  But now you know what to tinker with.

Have you run into this problem – of Google mailing the postcard to the wrong address?  Did my solution do the trick?

Leave a comment!

Private Local Citations: Where Can You List Your Business But “Hide” Your Address?

You might be thinking that this sounds a lot like my post titled “Can You Rank Well in Local Google without Revealing Your Street Address Anywhere?

That’s because this is an unofficial “sequel” (for good reason, as you’ll see).

How about taking a few minutes to read that older post.  Then come back here.

Done?

If you just buzzed through the first post because you’re hanging on my every word in this one – or if memory is your weapon of choice today – it’s time for a quick recap of the older post on “private citations”:

1.  Some business owners want to rank well in Google’s local search results and beyond, but don’t want their street addresses to be easily findable online (most likely because they work from home).  Maybe you have these privacy concerns, or know someone who does.

2.  Unless your business is listed on a variety of online directories (AKA citation sources), you probably won’t rank well in the local search results.  But you don’t want your address to be easily findable on those sites.  Now you’re feeling stuck.

3.  Turns out you’ll probably be able to rank well locally after all, because most of the important online directories actually do allow you to “hide” your street address – that is, to keep your address from showing up publicly on your business listing.

Where to "hide" your address on a business listing (as seen on Local.Yahoo.com)

On the last point, notice that I said “most” of the important directories let you hide your street address.  In that older post I did on “private citations,” I only looked at the sites that you see when you do a free GetListed.org scan of your business.  At the time, those totaled 12 sites.  A great start, sure.

But an effective citation-building effort – again, which is crucial to your rankings – takes more than listing your business on even those 12 sites.

That’s why I’ve looked at more sites and have learned even more about where privacy fits into local search.

I’ve looked at a total of 31 of the most-important sites for your business to be listed on, and I’ve seen which sites let you keep your address private.

 

The breakdown: which sites are (and are not) “private”

(You can also get the breakdown on Google Drive, or as a PDF or Excel doc.  Just in case you want to see all the sites at a glance.)

AngiesList.com: yes.  There is not a checkbox for this; the “address” field is optional, so you can simply choose not to specify your street address.

Bing Business Portal: yes.

BizWiki.com: no.

BrownBook.net: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

City-Data.com: no.  The rules specify that the site is “only for brick & mortar businesses.”

CitySearch.com: yes.  (See my instructions for adding or claiming your CitySearch listing.)

CitySquares.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

DexKnows.com: maybe.  If you’ve hidden your address on LocalEze and suppressed your ExpressUpdateUSA listing, your address most likely won’t show up on DexKnows.

DirectoryCentral.com: no.

DiscoverOurTown.com: no.

ExpressUpdateUSA.com: no.  AKA InfoGroup, this is one of three main “data-providers” – in other words, a really important site to be listed on.  As I noted in my post from 2012, “you can’t simply ‘turn off’ the display of your address on your ExpressUpdate listing.  But you can search for your listing on the site and request its deletion, OR you can call up Customer Service and ask them to suppress your listing.”

EZLocal.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

FourSquare.com: no.  (Hiding your address would defeat the main purpose of being listed on FourSquare in the first place: getting customers to “check in” to your business on their phones.)

HotFrog.com: yes.

iBegin.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

JudysBook.com: maybe.  If you pay the monthly fee to claim your listing, you may be able to leave off your street address.  The other way to get your business listed on JudysBook is for a customer to find the hidden “submit” area and then to post a review of your business, although in this option the street address is required.

Kudzu.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

Local.BOTW.org: yes.

Local.com: yes.

LocalEze.com: yes.  (This is a major “data-provider” and an extremely important site to be listed on.  See my recent post for more detail.)

Manta.com: yes.  On one screen you’re made to provide a street address, but on the next screen you can check a “hide address” box.

MapQuest.com: yes.

MerchantCircle.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

MyBusinessListingManager.com: yes.  AKA Acxiom, this is a major “data-provider.

Nokia (here.com/primeplaces): yes.  You have to specify your street, but you don’t have to specify your number.

SuperPages.com: yes.

Yahoo: yes.

YellowBot.com: yes.  But only once you’ve claimed your listing.  (See comment below from YellowBot co-founder Emad Fanous.)

YellowBook.com: maybe.  You can only edit the address by calling 1-800-929-3556; they may allow you to hide the address if you ask.

Yelp.com: yes.

YP.com: yes.

 

A few takeaways

Takeaway 1. The biggest directories (e.g. Yelp, YP) usually let you hide your address.  If you do nothing else, make sure you’re listed on these.

Takeaway 2.  The smaller directories (e.g. BizWiki, DirectoryCentral) aren’t as likely to let you hide your address.  Whether you want to add or keep a listing on these sites depends on which you’d rather have: a little extra “citations juice” or a little extra privacy.

Takeaway 3.  Your biggest challenge in juggling citation-building and privacy is to determine how you want to handle your listings on two of the three “primary data-providers”: ExpressUpdateUSA.com and MyBusinessListingManager.com.  The other main data-provider (LocalEze.com) lets you hide your address, so that one isn’t an issue.  But the former two sites make you list your address, and they feed your business info to lots of other sites.  You should be able to strike a good balance of local rankings and privacy if you’re listed on these non-private sites but make sure your address is private elsewhere.  But if you’re really concerned about privacy, you’ll need to contact the people at ExpressUpdateUSA (AKA InfoGroup) and MyBusinessListingManager (AKA Acxiom) and ask them to suppress your listing.  (I know the former allows you to do this, but I’m not sure about the latter.)

 

Some notes

Arguably a good citation-building campaign involves your creating and managing even more than 31 listings.  So does my list only get you only partway down the road?

No, because there are two “buts” that mean now you’ve probably got all the info you need to build citations effectively but privately:

1.  Several of those 31 sites feed business info to other sites, which means that over time the number of citations your business has will grow naturally and without your needing to do anything.  Meanwhile, to the extent you’ve made sure your address isn’t listed on those sites, it won’t get spread all over the web.  Win-win.

2.  If those 31 sites are the only ones you’ve listed your business on, then you’ve got a very good citations profile.  But to take it from “very good” to excellent will probably involve digging deeper (probably with the Local Citation Finder) to find citations that Google places extra “trust” in: either directories that are specific to your industry, or specific to your city/region, or both.  Because there’s an infinity of these industry- and location-specific sites, I’ll never be able to research which ones are “private” – at least before I’m using dentures and a walker.  So I’ll leave it up to you: whether you’d rather be listed on “niche” sites that may or may not require you to list your address.

Still, I want to learn about the privacy levels of even more sites.  That’s why this is an evergreen post: I’m going to update it as I learn about more sites.

 

What about non-US sites?

One obvious limitation of my current list is that I haven’t researched all that many non-US sites.

True: some of the sites (like Manta.com) are available outside the USA, or have a network of “sister” sites (like YP.com) in other countries.

And yes, if you download the list, you’ll notice that I’ve indicated which sites are “international.”  That should help you if you’re located outside the US.

But…if you have some time to spare and want to go through Nyagoslav Zhekov’s two great posts on important non-US citation sources and want to let me know what you find, I’d more than appreciate it (and will cite you here :)).

Once again, here are the download options for the list of of “private” citations:

Google Drive
PDF
Excel

Got any questions or suggestions about juggling local rankings and privacy?  Go ahead – leave a comment.

Can You Rank Well in Local Google without Revealing Your Street Address Anywhere?

If you run your business from home and don’t want your address to be visible in Google, on your site, or on third-party sites…then yes, you should still be able to rank just fine in the Google+Local search results.

But balancing local visibility and privacy takes a little finesse.  I’ve written this post to show you how to pull it off.

A little background

One of my clients – whom I’ll call Frank – asked me a great question at the beginning of this year that went something like this:

I work from home.  I like and trust my clients and I always travel TO them for each job, but I want to keep my family’s home address private.  Can I still rank OK in local Google?

What I told Frank was that, yes, he can (and should) hide his address from showing up on his Google Places (now known as Google+Local) page, and that, no, he doesn’t need to have his street address on his website.

I told him that’s a good start, because most of the people who will ever become clients will have found him through either his Google+Local page or his site – and therefore wouldn’t have occasion to see his address if it’s not listed on either of those places.

But there’s a rub: I told Frank that a HUGE factor in ranking well in local Google is being listed accurately on third-party sites.  That is, on sites like Yelp, CitySearch, SuperPages, etc., plus the two major “data-providers,” ExpressUpdateUSA.com and LocalEze.com (which feed other sites across the web).

What I didn’t know was the extent to which you can choose to hide your address from these third-party sites.

And you do need to be listed on those sites.  In a semi-competitive market, if you’re not listed correctly on at least a few specific third-party sites, you’re unlikely to rank well.  (In just a second I’ll tell you exactly which sites I’m referring to.)

Sure, you still need to optimize your Google listing and website and probably drum up some reviews, and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll outrank anyone.

But if you can at least list your business on the major third-party sites, you’ll probably be in good shape in terms of rankings.

Therefore, if privacy is a concern of yours, your challenge is: can you list your business on all the important third-party sites you need to list it on without revealing your address on those sites?

I recently found that the answer is yes: with a little work you should be able to keep your address off of these sites, and so you should be able to rank well locally.

Which sites to focus on?

I’ve found that the sites you see when you do a GetListed scan are the biggest determinants of how well you’ll rank.  Being listed on them is no guarantee you’ll rank well, but if you’re not on them you’re far less likely to rank well locally in Google.

They’re also important because some of them get a lot of “eyeballs” in their own right – eyeballs you may not want your street address in front of if you’re concerned about privacy.

Anyway, go to GetListed.org and do a scan of your business.  You’ll see the big, important sites on the right:

Not all of these sites matter much to your rankings in local Google.

As you probably know, Yahoo and Bing are Google’s competitors (albeit very small in comparison).  Your local listings there simply don’t affect your Google rankings.  But because some people use Yahoo and Bing instead of Google, it’s very much worth having your business listed on those sites.  Which also means it’s worth making sure your address doesn’t show if privacy is a concern to you.

FourSquare is becoming more important, but it doesn’t seem to affect local rankings at this stage – partly because it doesn’t even accommodate most service-based businesses, but instead mostly caters to eateries and tourist-y destinations.

Also, people can’t “check in” to your business on their smartphones if they’re not coming to your location – which they won’t be, if you’re trying not to reveal your address.

So for local-rankings purposes you don’t need to worry about FourSquare – and to the extent you want to keep your address a “secret” it’s probably best to avoid it.

If you want to keep your address private, priority #1 is making sure the following sites do not list your address:

  • Google+Local (formerly Google Places)
  • Bing Business Portal
  • ExpressUpdateUSA.com (AKA InfoGroup or InfoUSA)
  • LocalEze.com
  • Yelp.com
  • Yahoo Local
  • SuperPages.com
  • YP.com
  • CitySearch.com
  • HotFrog.com
  • Local.BOTW.org

What do you need to do on these sites?

Now that you know which sites to pay attention to, the question becomes: how do you conceal your address on each site?

On which sites can you simply click a button and choose not to have your address displayed?  On most of them you can do this.  But a few of them are slightly more involved.  Here’s the site-by-site breakdown:

 

Yes, you can choose to have your address hidden.  To do this, log into the “Dashboard” area of your listing, go to “Edit,” choose the option for “this business serves customers at their location,” and then choose the “Do not show address on Google Maps” option.  (According to Google, you must do this if you travel to your customers, rather than the other way around.)

 

Yes, you can choose to have your address hidden.

 

No, you can’t simply “turn off” the display of your address on your ExpressUpdate listing.  But you can search for your listing on the site and request its deletion, OR you can call up Customer Service and ask them to suppress your listing.  For ranking purposes it’s ideal to have an ExpressUpdate listing, but many businesses that don’t have listings there still rank well in Google.  In any case, the bottom line is if you really want your address as close to 100%-private as possible, you need to “silence” your ExpressUpdate listing, because otherwise it will spread your address to countless other sites across the web.

 

Yes.

 

Yes.

 

  Yes.

 

Yes.

 

Yes.

 

  Probably.  As of this writing (August 13, 2012), the only way to add or modify your CitySearch listing is to send in a manual request to the support team at myaccount@citygridmedia.com.  If you don’t have a listing on CitySearch, email them with all your basic business info (name, phone, what type of business yours is) and just ask not to have your address included.  Because CitySearch is fed by InfoGroup (AKA ExpressUpdateUSA.com), they may very well have your address listed.  If that’s the case, just email them and ask to have it removed, and they should do so.  (For a bit more detail on this, check out my blog post on the topic.)

If you happen to be reading this and there’s (finally) an “Add listing” form on CitySearch that gives you the option of hiding your address, great; do so.

 

Yes.

 

 Yes.

 

On most of these sites you’ll need to claim your listing in order to get the address removed.

Obviously, you’ll also want to try to get any unnecessary or duplicate listings removed (which is a good practice to follow anyway, by the way).

Recap

If you want to keep your address as private as possible while allowing yourself the best-possible chances of getting good rankings in local Google, do the following:

1.  Don’t include your street address on your website.  However, make sure to include your business name and phone number as crawlable text on every page of your site.

2.  Hide your address from showing up on your Google+Local listing.

3.  Go to the other sites I listed and get your address hidden, as I described.

4.  To the extent you have the time and inclination, go to other third-party sites and see if/where your address pops up.  On sites where you can’t remove the address yourself, just send in a request to have it removed.  Which sites should you check?  The ones on this list, for starters.

A few notes

I’ve had clients who don’t want their addresses revealed in Google+Local or on their website, but I’ve never had one who wants to keep it so much of a secret that nowhere on the Internet can it be found.  In these few cases to date we just hid the address from showing on Google and left it off of the website.  The reason is that, until now, I didn’t know whether you even could take it a step further and hide your address from showing on all these other sites.  Now we know you can.  Still, I’ve never had a client ask me to try to hide his/her address to the degree I just described.

Nor have I run across a business “in the wild” where the address truly is “Top Secret” and can’t be discovered with some determined digging.  Then again, I don’t imagine most people want it to be absolutely undiscoverable, but simply just don’t want their home addresses to be broadcasted all over the web.  I imagine that’s the case with you, too.  But if you’re absolutely adamant, check out step #4 (above).

Is there a “ceiling” or a “handicap” on how well you can rank if you choose not to display your address anywhere on the web?  I dunno.  But I do know that as long as you’re able to be listed on the major third-party sites, it’s at least possible to get visible but stay private.

What’s been your experience with keeping a business/home address under wraps?  How well have you been able to rank?  Let me know in a comment!