What do you do if Google thinks your office is an outhouse.

Aaron Burnett / 19th May 2017 / Comment

Creating a new Google Business Listing is straightforward. Google provides clear step-by-step instructions:

As with all that Google does, these instructions are excellent for the majority of business owners.

This post is not for them: This post is for the minority – those poor souls whose listings were claimed and managed by an ex-employee who won’t respond, who changed business names (and email addresses – and maybe phone numbers too) but didn’t update the contact information for their listing and now can’t figure out how to get in and, having followed all the online tutorials they can find, are at a proverbial dead end.

What to do if your business listing has been claimed – but not by you!

If you find that your listing has already been claimed, first see if anyone in your organization controls the listing. You can do this by logging in to Google My Business.

  1. Click on the “+” icon in the lower right corner and click “add a location”.
  2. Search for your business name and/or address. Click “Continue”.
  3. You should see a partially redacted email address for the current owner of the listing.

If you don’t recognize contact information for the current listing manager and/or owner, complete the support request form on this page by clicking “Request ownership”. Google will intercede on your behalf, will share your contact details with the current listing manager/ owner and request that they comply with your request for ownership/ listing manager access. Google allows seven (7) days for the owner to respond.

If you don’t hear back after 7 days, log in to your Google My Business account and move onto the next step. At this point, Google will ask you to verify your affiliation with the business to gain access to the listing. For this step you may need to provide photos of the business office, signage or a bill with your business name and address.

If at this point you’re still not able to gain access to the listing, the easiest path may be to request a call from Google. You’ll need to have completed all the above steps first, otherwise they’ll just make you do them at that time. To request a call, sign into Google My Business and go to this link: Google My Business Help.  Fill out the information on the first page, click next and enter your call information. Google will call you back almost immediately, so be by the phone when you make this request.

You need to claim your listing, but you moved – and your Google My Business profile doesn’t show your new address

Let’s say you’re claiming your listing for the first time and you find that you have a listing in Google My Business, but it’s for a previous address and either your phone number has changed or no phone verification exists. Google will require you to send off for a verification postcard.

But you’re no longer at that address, you say. Well, you’ve got a couple options, neither are super convenient but let’s start at the easiest one.

You can log into Google My Business and request a call via this form:

Keep in mind that Google will call you back almost immediately, so be by the phone when you make this request. You’ll need to explain the issue to the Google representative. They may ask you to verify your association with the business and to provide proof of the new business location, which you can provide via photos of the outside of the business, signage at the business or a bill with the business name and address.

Sometimes though, even that isn’t enough and Google still won’t update the listing with the new address. It’s at this point that we need to get a little creative. Call the business that is at your old address and speak with the office manager, explain the situation and ask if they will help you by retrieving a verification postcard from Google. This has worked well in the past for us and is sometimes much easier than trying to coordinate business verification with Google.

What do you do if Google thinks your business office is an outhouse?

We recently helped a client with several business listing issues:

  • Their business name had changed, but their listing still showed their old company name
  • They moved offices, but their listing still showed their old address
  • They changed phone numbers – and the phone number associated with their listing was their old one (to which they no longer had access)
  • When they changed business names, their email domain also changed, but they didn’t forward email for ex-employees who hadn’t been with them for a while (which becomes critical on the line below!)
  • Their business listing had been claimed by an ex-employee – one of those who hadn’t been with them for a while – but no one was quite sure who had done it.
  • To add insult to injury, for reasons known only to them, Google was showing a picture of an outhouse in a state park as the primary photo in the business listing for this client – you know, the main photo that shows in the upper-right corner of organic search results for a company name? Ouch!

Not the actual outhouse… image changed to protect the innocent

Needless to say, getting control of this business listing was tricky. We worked through all of the steps described in the scenarios above, and Google still wouldn’t allow us to claim and update the listing.

We provided:

  • Legal proof of business name change
  • A bill with the old name and new address for the company
  • A bill with the new name and new address for the company
  • A bill with the old name and old address for the company
  • Pictures of the exterior of the new office (including street address on the side of the building)
  • Multiple attempts to verify via postcard – none of which ever reached our client (which is a curiously common circumstance when working through non-standard verification processes)
  • Many, many phone calls and follow-up emails with Google reps

There is a non-trivial part of this that comes down to the discretion of the Google rep with whom you interact – and it can be difficult and drawn out. It took more than two months to finally get access to and update the profile and, in the end, I think we succeeded largely because of our relentless persistence.

And perhaps this is the most important advice of all. Follow the instructions we provide, be careful and thorough in your work, and be prepared to stick with it.

Finally, if you get stuck, please feel free to reach out to us. We love helping with this kind of thing and would be happy to answer questions or take over some of the heavy lifting.

By Aaron Burnett