Claiming Your Listing
July 2nd, 2016
For this article at least, when I’m talking about ‘your listing’, I’m talking about Google’s Business profile for your business. It’s been called many things over the years, but its current official name is your “Google My Business Listing”.
No one ever actually sees your listing directly. A better way to think of it, it’s Google’s way of giving business owners a chance to give accurate information about their business. They’ll use that information to tell customers who you are, when you’re open, how to get in touch with you, and so on.
Why you should claim your listing
For photographers, there are 4 reasons to take the time to do this.
The biggest reason to verify, is in case you ever change your business information. New hours? Are you moving? New phone number? Need to change the picture Google shows for your business? It’s possible to change that information without verifying, but it’s challenging, and if you happen to move without claiming your listing first it can be a nightmare getting the listing under control again. Even if you aren’t moving, Google takes information from all over the place (everything from your website, to the Yellow Pages, to Government incorporation records) and they will sometimes ‘update’ your business with the wrong information.
The second reason, when you’ve verified your business you’ll get a notice every time a customer leaves you a review on Google. You also need to have a verified listing before you can respond to a customer’s review. It’s a good idea to respond to all feedback, but especially if it’s bad you’ll want to be able to give the other side of the story.
Verifying your business is really important to protect your business from being hacked. One strategy that spammers use is to find an unclaimed business, do some black magic to change all the information to match their business, and then claim the listing for themselves. Claiming your business makes it next to impossible for them to do this.
Setting up and claiming your listing means that people a few miles away looking for a photographer will start seeing you. If you have a business listing, you’ll also get the knowledge panel showing in the search results, which will make you look a lot more well established. To read more about those two places you’ll start showing up once you have a claimed listing, go here.
Even if you already have a listing, taking the time to claim and fill it out properly will make sure customers finding you that way will get a good first impression.
How to Claim your Listing
Claiming your listing is pretty simple on your end, but it takes two weeks for everything to go through. If you’re claiming before a move make sure you allow plenty of time.
First, do you know if Google already made you a listing? Unless you’re brand new, there’s probably one for you already. To find out, go to Google Maps and do a search for your business name. If your business appears, you’ll see something like this:
Click on ‘claim this business’. You’ll be given a choice about how you’d like to verify. Most businesses owners only get the option to verify by postcard, so you’ll probably have to select that one. Wait a week or two and the postcard will hopefully arrive. When it does, go to the Google My Business page and log in with the same account you were logged into when you claimed the business, enter the code, and you’re done!
If your business doesn’t already have a listing, you’ll see this instead:
Click on the ‘add business to Google maps’ link, and it’ll have you enter some basic information about the business. Once you’re done, same as above it’ll ask to verify the business with a postcard.
IMPORTANT: If possible, when you claim your business, do it with an account that isn’t just a gmail address. Use firstname.lastname@example.org instead. If you run into problems down the road, it can help avoid a lot of trouble with support. This isn’t mandatory, but can save you a lot of hassle if you take the time to do it.
After you request the postcard, don’t touch anything! Any changes at all to your business information will make the postcard number not work.
When you get the postcard, put in the number right away. After 30 days, the PIN number will expire.
That’s the basics, but in my time volunteering on Google’s small business support forum and working with clients, I’ve seen a lot of business owners run into trouble from a number of unusual problems. If the above doesn’t work for you or you get stuck and you want me to jump in and clear the way, you can do that here.