If you own a local business (or any business for that matter), you may be familiar with the “Your Local Listing is Incomplete” phone call. Most of these calls start by mentioning some error (e.g. incomplete Google listing, not coming up in Google Maps, etc.), and end by saying that, conveniently enough, they are just the right person to help out. Often, the unsuspecting business owner thinks they’re talking to someone employed by Google who, due to their benevolent nature, is reaching out to them (of all people) to help their business out.
What Google Has to Say About Calls Concerning Your Local Listing
Rarely does Google come out and tell you exactly what your business needs to do. Here is an instance, though, where we have some guidelines straight from Google.
“Watch out for parties calling and selling services claiming to have a special relationship with or claiming to be Google. Often, these parties are telemarketers that are not affiliated with Google and are trying to leverage the Google brand to sell your business some type of online service. Keep in the mind the following:
- Google does not place robocalls.
- Google does not call to “update your front page listing” or ask you to “claim your free website.”
- Google does not charge for inclusion in Google Search or Google My Business.”
Also, there’s this…
“Google does not:
- offer to improve your search ranking or manage your business’s online profile.
- ask you for your password or verification code. You should never provide sensitive information about your account (like your password and verification code) to a caller.”
In fact, here’s what Garrett Kite, owner of Kite Media, had to say about Google contacting businesses: “In 6 years of business I’ve only received one phone call from Google regarding my Google My Business listing and all they did was verify my business information and then say “Thank You”. Luckily, I stopped them before hanging up to ask who they were and they said they were calling from Google to confirm my info, but obviously didn’t try to sell me anything.”
Long story short, if anything, Google will be one of the last companies to call you up offering local listing management help. The opposite can sometimes be true, where working with Google directly can be a time-consuming hassle. Now, it’s true that listings need work. These telemarketers are calling because there is a basic need to ensure your online listings are complete and accurate. What exactly does that mean, though?
In order to ensure you’re armed with the information you’ll need next time someone calls your business, we’ve compiled a quick list of need-to-knows. With this list you’ll be able to tell, right away, who’s calling you, if what they’re saying is legitimate, and if you really do need their help:
Defining What an “Incomplete” Local Listing Is
1. Not All Information Filled Out
One of the first things you’ll want to do is check the top Local Listing sites to see if (1) There is a listing for your business, and (2) All the relevant information on that listing has been filled out. SEO-wise, some of the most important sections to fill out are website URLs (often, these are follow links vs no-follow links which will give your website a little boost) and the business description (perfect for relevant keyword search terms).
2. Your Local Listings Are Not Verified
Sometimes, there will be information on your Google Map listing that needs to be verified (phone number, hours of operation, etc.). Simply go to business.google.com, log in to your dashboard, find the error, verify what is or isn’t correct, and you’re good to go. Other times (for example, in the case of a business name change), you’ll need to go through another step to verify the change. It’s as simple as having Google send you a postcard in the mail with a code inside. Entering that code online will verify the change you’ve made.
3. You Have Important Errors That Need Fixing
Google is constantly changing its algorithm. By not following Google’s guidelines, missing policy changes, or even having information that Google doesn’t understand, you may see an error. It’s important to keep up with Google’s changes, and follow the standards as closely as possible. Click here to learn about Google errors to be aware of.
Steps to Verify Your Local Listing Is Complete On Your Own
1. Google My Business Page is Created
To do this, go to business.google.com, sign in & see if there is a listing. If there is no listing, create one and send a verification through the mail. Easy. If a listing has been created but not by you, and it has incorrect information, you’ll need to work with Google directly to get it sorted out.
2. All Sections Are Filled Out
There are many sections to fill out. The general idea is to make sure your business listing is as complete as possible. Here’s a quick list of the most important pieces:
- Make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is correct and consistent on all local listing sites
- Update bio with something unique (again, including relevant keyword search terms)
- Website URL
- Hours of operation
- Business categories
- Add photos of your business (this is a great opportunity to show before-and-after photos)
3. All Information is Consistent on Listings and Website
While seemingly simple, doing this right has long term effects (positive or negative). Here are two quick examples: Say your business has four Google Plus pages, all with slightly different information. Now, let’s say your business has only one listing created for each of the major Local Listing sites, all with the same business information. In the first example, your business needs work. In the second example, your business is doing well! Just make sure to keep up with any policy changes that may bring up errors, as mentioned above.
When To Take Constructive Criticism
While it’s true that there are many instances where these cold calls could come from businesses with an ulterior motive, some of them are from people pointing out things that really could be changed. This is true in the following cases:
- You don’t rank at all in Google Maps
- You have duplicate listings
- You really have incomplete listings that someone else discovered
If either of these are true, there is definitely work to be done. This could go beyond making sure the information on your listings is accurate and extend to SEO work on other local listing sites like Yelp, City Search, YP.com, and your website itself. This doesn’t mean that you should panic, though. We suggest calling your SEO company (assuming you have one) and work with them to make some improvements here. If you’re working with a solid SEO company then most of these should already be taken care of, but it never hurts to touch base and provide feedback.
Sick of All the Calls?
We get that. Luckily, there’s a relatively easy solution, straight from Google! First, get your business listed in the National Do Not Call Registry. If, after a while, your business continues to receive these telemarketing calls, you can go back to the National Do Not Call Registry and file a complaint. On top of that, now that you know how to deal with some of these calls, you can easily avoid and report Google scams.