First off, why should you want to claim your business on Google? What does it mean that your business is on Google? We’re not talking about your website – we’re talking about the “Google Places” page for your business. Whenever Google finds a business listing with an address anywhere on the web – directories, booking sites, etc. – it creates a “Place” page profiling that business. This means that even if your business has no website, it could still have a Google Places page and people could still find out about it on the web.
And now having a Places page is more important than ever, because whenever someone does a “local search” on Google – meaning they add the name of a place in addition to the type of business they are looking for (e.g. “pizza new york” “graphic design jerusalem”), Google often merges these Places pages into the traditional Google results. So even if you would never make it onto the first page otherwise, if your Places business page is among the first in the Google Places results, it may end up on the first page here.
But when Google creates it for you, it is “unclaimed.” Even in the countries where Google lets you edit unclaimed listings, your additions won’t have the authority of “added by owner.” Additionally, if you don’t claim it, someone else with a little effort could claim it instead, even if they’re not the true owner, making it impossible for you to claim it.
In some countries, claiming an unclaimed Google Places page is very easy. The United States, England, Argentina and Malaysia are some examples. Here’s what a claimed listing looks like:
And here’s an unclaimed listing:
So claiming this is simple: You click on “Business owner?” You will need to sign in with a Google Account (an email that you already use with some Google product). If you don’t have one, you will need to create one. You will then be given the following options:
For any of these options, you will have to validate that you are really the business owner. To do that, Google will send you a PIN by either calling the phone number listed on the Places page, sending an SMS to the cell phone number listed on the Places page, or by postcard to the address listed on the page. You then enter the PIN into the validation webpage, and voila – the business is yours. Add as much information as could be helpful. Add photos. Make sure the category is correct. Ask your customers to write reviews.
The other way to claim your business is to use Google Places “telephone lookup”. Pick your country, type in your business phone number, and if your phone number matches a business listing, they’ll give you the option to claim it. If it doesn’t, they’ll give you the option to create a new listing.
Now this is all fine and dandy if you live in a place where Google provides this option. But what if you live in a place like Israel, or Turkey, where this is what a claimed listing looks like:
And this is what an unclaimed listing looks like:
Wait – it gets worse. I’ll just use the telephone lookup, you think. And Israel is an option in the drop down menu of countries, so obviously that should work. (We’re not even talking about countries like Bolivia, that aren’t an option in the menu. How they get on Google Places is another story altogether.)
But when I put in the above number, in the format it tells me to: 03-566-1134 – Google tells me:
But wait – Google! You have a page with that number! What do you mean, “no address found”? Maybe I’ll try inputting the phone number in different ways, like with the country code, even though that’s not the format you specified. Hmm – still doesn’t work. How do I claim my business on Google Places?
Well – that’s the bad news. As of now, it seems like you can’t. We recently went through this with a client, and no amount of asking on SEO forums or Google Places help forums turned up any answer. If you actually “add your information below”, and go through the verification process as mentioned above, you will end up with your own brand-new owner verified Google Places page for your business. But the original? The one that has all the reviews? The one that is outranking the new one on a Google search? Untouchable.
For our client, we decided to start a new Google Places page. There were address issues with his other existing pages, and we’re hoping that if we change the addresses in the sources from which the reviews came from to the address on the new page, eventually Google will redirect the reviews over to the new page. We’re going to see – this is apparently uncharted territory in Israel, from the silences in the SEO forums. We’ll keep you posted on our experiences – and if one day Google updates their Google Places Israel support so that you can actually claim your page, we’ll let you know. If you want to make sure to get these Google Places updates, you can subscribe to this blog by email or by feed reader. Looking forward to sharing more Google Places tips – including tips for getting your Places business page to rank higher!
Update: after a few months, the new Google Places page did start ranking, and pushed the other pages off the map (yes, pun intended). So all’s well that ends well, but we still hope Google will make it a little easier in the future.