Google has told its top contributors, including Mike Blumenthal, that they are testing a new spam prevention technique for local results called “advanced verification”. The verification process is currently being beta tested in San Diego and only for locksmiths and plumbers.
All locksmiths and plumbers currently verified on Google will have to go through the new verification process. Those who fail to comply and get verified before 10th November will have their listings removed from Google Maps.
But this process doesn’t just apply to existing businesses. New applicants who fit the beta test criteria and that are hoping to get verified will also need to go through the new process. This includes answering a series of questions from Google and filling out an application with a third party verification company called Pinkerton. The new applications process is said to take about two weeks to complete.
But why is Google going to so much trouble to verify these businesses? And will this advanced verification process expand to other industries and cities as well? Read on to find out.
Why is Google considering doing this?
One of the more spammy areas in Google is the Google Maps results for locksmiths in the San Diego area. In fact, some of the biggest online scams are being perpetrated by so-called locksmiths.
Here’s how that usually works:
- When a person is locked out of their home, they turn to Google search to look up local locksmiths
- Google returns AdWords ads and Google My Business listings for locksmiths promising cheap service rates
- When they call one of these ads or listings, they are actually redirected to an offshore call center that dispatches someone local to come to your door
- The locksmith shows up and immediately drills the lock open, leaving you with a large bill for the service.
- The cheap service you thought you were getting then turns into a large expense.
- While you can now get back into your home, you’ve also become a victim of locksmith fraud.
This locksmith scam is not unique to San Diego. It has been well documented over the past few years and it has even covered by The New York Times. If you want to get an idea of how popular this scam is becoming, just run a search for “locksmith scam” on Google.
Similar scams are popping up in other home improvement sectors like plumbing and roofing, which is probably why the verification process also targets plumbers in San Diego.
Google is hoping that this new advanced verification process will weed out the fraudulent locksmiths populating its ads and search results.
If this extends to all industries, how will it affect my business?
While this is a necessary step in the right direction to cut down the fraud in the locksmith and plumbing businesses in San Diego, Google might not stop here. So, what happens if the verification process is expanded to other markets and businesses, including yours?
Well, think of it this way: if your business is verified, people will have a solid reason to trust your business even more.
By taking the time to get verified – which currently involves answering a few questions about your business and completing an application with Pinkerton, Google’s third-party verification company, you’ll be showing your prospects that you are a legit business that the search engine giant trusts, and so should they.
Also, your business listing will continue to show up on Google Maps so you can get more traffic to your site, and attract local and relevant customers.
How does a business get verified?
Google states that the verification process is simple. You’ll need to create a Google My Business account, if you don’t have one already. Then, instead of following the link to verify your listing in Google My Business, you should follow different steps created specifically for advanced verification.
These steps include confirming your business info, such as name, phone number, location, business hours, and more, as well as completing an application with Pinkerton, which takes about 30 minutes to fill out.
Here is the complete process to do the advanced verification process. It normally will take less than two weeks to complete the verification process, according to Google’s official documents. Of course, this process may change after the beta test is complete.
How will Pinkerton use my data?
All the information you provide to Pinkerton in your application is confidential and will only be used for the purpose of verifying your business. You can learn more about Google’s advanced verification policy on data use and privacy from this FAQ.
What can get my business booted out of the verified “Home Services” unit?
There is a series of bad business practices that may result in the demotion of your listings, including your listings not showing at all in Google Maps.
Here are some of the prohibited practices mentioned by Google:
- Excessively contacting/ spamming customers. While it’s fine to contact customers via email or text messages to share updates on the status of their order, once they receive their order you should avoid excessively contacting your customers.
- Irresponsible data collection and use such as collecting credit card information, reselling customer’s contact information or using images of customers in marketing materials without their consent.
- Influencing customer reviews by sharing negative reviews about your competitors.
Violating Google’s policies can get your listing suspended or disapproved, which means it will no longer show up in Google Maps when people are searching for your business. Learn more about the prohibited practices.
If this is a test for the San Diego area alone, why should I care?
Google is definitely looking at ways it can improve its services. If this test proves to be successful at weeding out scammers and fake businesses, Google is likely to expand the verification process to other types of services, industries and countries.
If you’re doing business in a niche that’s suffering from all these spammy and fake listings, you can rest assured that action is being taken and that your business has a better chance of being found once all spam is removed from Google Maps