Basic Places Practices: How do you claim an owner-verified listing?

The following question was recently asked at Quora and others might benefit from my answer there:
Current listing was verified by another SEO company. My client would like to get control back from them but has not been able to. Trying to figure out how to access his current Google places listing.

It is possible to claim an already owner-verified listings into a new account .

Go to the Places dashboard/locations page of the new account and select Add another business.

Enter the phone number for the existing claimed listing, select “find business information” and go through the process of editing the listing that Google displays.

Change as little as possible initially and be sure to keep name, address and phone number the same.

Google will require you to reverify but you will be the dominant controller of the listing. As the last to claim the listing most of your data will be given preference.

It is preferable to claim it with an email at your business domain so if there is a dispute in the future, you will be recognized as the authoritative listing holder.

There are some quirks in this process the most annoying being that categories and photos from the original claimed Places Dashboard will continue to show in the newly claimed listing when displayed in Places.

The other quirk is that if the other SEO firm wants to go in and update the record, the account’s data that has updated the listing last will show in Places. This can lead to some strange outcomes.

The optimal tactic would be for the business to get the login from their SEO but sometimes that just isn’t possible

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Basic Places Practices: How do you claim an owner-verified listing? by

43 thoughts on “Basic Places Practices: How do you claim an owner-verified listing?”

  1. Good answer, but it still leaves a huge part of the question unanswered. how does the business owner or new seo company get the listing removed from one of the many b.s. seo company’s that wan’t release the listing? Every time that company updates a coupon date or something like that, the info reverts back and causes endless issues… after you become the authorized rep, the list should be automatically removed from the other account. this would alleviate so many problems for small business owners and legitimate seo firms.

  2. This has happened to us recently so could not be more timely – How do you find out who has owner-verified your listing in the first place? I am going to do what you suggest straight away but how do I get in touch with the rogue company that owner verified our listing? Thanks

  3. @Dan

    If the SMB doesn’t know the account holder then there is no way of knowing who previously controlled the account. If it is registered with an email at the business domain, Google might tell you which email it is.

  4. Mike: very informative response.

    I have a side question: How did you discover this? Did you experience it directly? Did another non-googler discover this and pass it on to you? Did you learn this from Google?

    It strikes me as incredibly odd, and essentially inappropriate that you; a 3rd party independent is in fact an authority on issues that frankly Google should be making public to all of us.

    You are doing a terrific job; you are an incredible resource.

    If I were Google and had a conscience I might send you a letter that would be worded something like this:

    “Dear Mike:

    Thank you for doing our work. For free. We recognize you as an independent source. You have reviewed our processes become expert in the vagaries of Google Places, assisted many business owners, tweaked our awareness of grotesque problems as we ignore them and generally done the tasks we should have been doing.

    Similarly you have criticized us, critiqued us, given us kudos, acknowledged the status quo, but generally done a good job of staying independent. Your processes have been of value.

    We’ve decided to send you a check for your services. We calculated the value of your time using our powerful algos. We also made $8.5 billion in profits last year. We gave all our employees 10% raises. We dramatically increased revenues from smbs in direct advertising. You assisted us.

    We dramatically increased direct communications with smbs though some of our pablum like products in Google Places (ie the dashboard). You assisted us by writing about it a lot. Then when businesses had problems with the incomplete and buggy problems you communicated to them. We were saved a lot of time, and wisely invested it in figuring out more ways to increase adwords income and new sources of income from these businesses.

    So we are grateful.

    Here is a check for $250,000. Its a one time “consulting fee” representing your efforts over the last few years. We also recognize you are and will remain independent.

    Meanwhile as you are aware we feed our employees free lunches. Since you did their work, you should be likewise compensated. In addition to the check we have enclosed a $1,000 gift card to McDonalds.

    Keep up the good work.

    Sincerely yours,

    the big G”

    Mike: I doubt Google’s conscience goes that far!! ;)

  5. @Dave
    I can’t quite recall the origins of the knowledge.

    Can it be someplace other than Mickey D’s? :)

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. Perhaps if you put the word Hotpot in your response we could insure that someone from Google reads it. :)

  6. @Mike – We tried this exact approach for a business that currently lists an 800 # as its primary phone number. The secondary phone # is the local number we’re trying to claim it with but Google doesn’t see that the listing already exists and hence we’re running into trouble claiming it. Any suggestions? I can email you the listing in question if you like.

  7. Mike:

    I am a total Google Places newbie, as I have worked almost exclusively in gambling and haven’t had a need for Places. With that being said I’m now helping a friend with his golf vacation site, and I have recently set up his Google Places listing. I’m fairly clueless as to how to go about optimizing it. I’m beginning to read some of your posts now that are tagged places, and I’m trying to digest it. Perhaps you can point me to a few posts that have good information for newbies like myself?

  8. @Brandon

    Well with your gambling background you should feel right at home in Places. Perhaps others can make some suggestions for Brandon?

  9. @Dev
    Why not claim it with the #800. Get it verified and then reverify in the future when you switch the number?

  10. Hi Mike,

    First comment. Thanks for all your informative content. My question is what if the listing that you are trying to claim from a former SEO company has a phone number that they used for tracking. It is not the business’s actual phone number. Every time I have tried to claim these types of listings for clients and put their phone number back it doesn’t seem to work.

    I’ve tried claiming it as you said in the post and the stats appear and I’m able to edit things like the address, website, etc. The problem is once I correct the phone number on the listing it creates a duplicate listing with the correct phone number and I lose control of the original listing. The stats disappear and the duplicate does not have the web citations or reviews. The original listing keeps all the other changes that were made to it by me though. Anybody have any ideas on this or heard of this before? I know I saw some posts on the maps forum with similar questions but no definitive answer.

    P.S. When I correct the phone number I have tried both phone and post card verifications with the same result.

  11. @Tim

    If enough of the information (besides the phone number) is the same, ultimately the listings should merge. But there is no single, simple work around in your case.

    Although it is a good argument for avoiding call tracking numbers.

  12. Good information to have, as I have a client currently dealing with trying to untangle an unauthorized Places listing with an incorrect phone number. Thank you!

    This all, of course, makes one wonder what Google was smoking when they created such an easily-corrupted, and difficult-to-correct system? It’s almost as if they intended to encourage deceptive practices.

  13. On the opposite side, if they spent years anticipating all of the potential bad practices, they would have spent millions of dollars adding in features to counter them. Instead, they let everyone do that work for them and fix the issues that actually do happen as opposed to every other scenario.

    Mike I’m actually going through this right now, but will be using a bulk feed instead since the client has 50+ locations with only a handful already claimed by mystery people. I’ll loop back with any specifics I see that are different in the processes above that can be applied to the feed processes specifically. The existing listings that are unclaimed should merge in a short enough amount of time, but the claimed listings are obviously room for concern with certain “tools” not being available with the bulk feed approach.

  14. @Taylor

    Good point about their practices.

    I would love to hear your experiences particularly with those claimed listings… do they merge or purge?

  15. @Mike

    Do you mean that I should feel at home because of experience in a competitive industry, or because Places is a gamble? ;)

  16. @Mike

    If it isn’t appropriate for me to ask things on this post, please let me know and I will cease after this post.

    I had a question about Categories on Places listings. As I stated above I’m helping a friend with his golf vacation site. Is it ok to create mostly custom categories, and should I create custom categories that are exactly his most desired search phrases? If so should I create a category as “City Name golf vacations” to target “City Name golf vacations”, or would it be more beneficial to use the category “golf vacations” to target the query “City Name golf vacations”?

  17. @Brandon

    As to your first question… the most critical document to read is the Google Quality Guidelines and the comparison of the quality guidelines to previous ones so you can get a sense of how they have changed.

    Google has tightened up their over the past 6 months and changed their ranking system in the last 3 months so that attempting to game the local listing is of little value.

    Be sure that you make your listing 100% complete with relevant information.

    As to the categories (and any other field) DO NOT include geo phrases. Google know full well where a business is located and perceives geo-cramming as spam and will punish its use.

    Google requires one category from their list and then you can add custom categories for the other four. Their objective with categories is that categories must answer the question: What is the business?. In other words if you ask the question about a golf course the answer “golf clubs” (which is a keyword) would fail… We are a “XXXX”.

    As to what you can and should do:
    1)Build a well optimized web site that gets some local link citations and has the business name and location on every page
    and
    2)Seed the name,address and phone of the new business to all of the appropriate up stream data providers to Google (InfoUSA, Localeze, UBL)

  18. Wow. This is really great information Mike. Thanks! This would have saved one of my clients about 3 months of trying to track down old login info from a former SEO who fled the scene. You’ll never flee will you? What would we do without you?

  19. Mike

    Thanks again for the super helpful reply. You really have a plethora of information here. It’s going to take me a few days to go through everything you have here, thanks for taking your time to build such an excellent resource. Michael Martinez was exactly right in saying that you are the preeminent authority on Google Places.

    I would like to pick your brain with one more (using “one more” very lightly as I’m sure it won’t be the last) question. My friend’s business name and his domain name is a four word exact match for one of his relevant queries. Before I created the Places listing he was ranking around 12-15 for this query in organic search. His site now appears as the second listing in Places for this query, but the organic 2nd page listing is no longer there. Is it commonplace that when a Places listing appears the relevant organic result doesn’t appear any longer? I see some first page organic results with a Places listing as well, but can’t seem to find anything that matches this situation- a first page Places and a second page organic.

  20. Hi Mike,

    What would be the fastest way to create unverified listings on Google? Did you ever test which citations get the listing up as unverified on Google? And how long it may take?

    My second question would be regarding the phone verification. From your experience is it really down for everyone trying to list a new listing? There are people claiming the phone verification is still working for them in some businesses. If so I do not understand what I am doing wrong.

  21. @Mike… Made me chuckle, after a long day of Local Googlin :) to your response on “Gamblers”

  22. @Wisman

    There was extensive conversation about the more rigorous verification processes in this post. The upshot is that Google will allow phone verification if their Trust Level is higher in a given listing and a post card only if it is lower. This shows up more on new listings and seems to have been tightened down in the past several weeks.

    It is possible to have a newly claimed listing get the phone call treatment but it is less common than it used to be.

  23. Hey Mike, I hope all is well.

    Great insights, thanks again.

    @Brandon issue: I’ve always been of the mindset that Google Places is for Local Businesses that are brick and mortar type, not Internet based websites. Is the business solely online? If so, the challenges are much more difficult for SEO, especially in the travel industry. As an all around Internet Marketer myself, I struggle with this as well. It wasn’t that long ago that Google failed to recognize us SEO’ers on the Local Listing’s, those of us who have brick & mortar businesses. I’m not sure if the addition of the feature does the business serve at the the location or off site was an attempt to allow Internet based only websites, I doubt it.

    Back to claiming – reclaiming listings: All of my experiences have been to claim and continue to research the landscape (via the phone #) and report the problem “listing has another listing, copy and past the newly managed / claimed listing link. Google does eventually send an email stating they have reviewed the issue and thanks me, (yea right like they are sincere). The listing’s do get merged eventually but it takes time.

    Google Places has provided me the mental stability in not getting upset and expecting immediate results in anything and everything Internet Marketing… There’s still no place I’d rather be…

    –Dennis

  24. ps

    Any change to the address & or phone # requires a post card verification. I’ve tested this over and over. Used to be if you did not get the phone option, you could click finish, go back and request a new pin and then get the phone option, not any more :(

  25. @Dennis

    It is a brick and mortar business to an extent. The business has an office, which is at one of the hotels that it books golf packages for. Customers come to the office upon arrival on their golf vacation. Of course the lions share of the leads come from the internet, either from organic searches or banner ads on other sites. I think it certainly fits the bill for a Google Places listing – the travel niche (at least for this city) is dominated by Places. At the present time, good listings on Places are infinitely more valuable than organic listings, for this type of business anyway.

  26. Lately I have noticed that when you click “Edit this listing” to claim a listing, and then edit the address in any way – you’ll only get the post card option. If you don’t edit the address, you’ll get both options to claim (unless of course you edit the phone number then you might only get the phone option).

    It seems that the information they already have on the business is info they trust so editing that will reduce their trust and they will make you validate for that.

  27. I have a question regarding location – Cayman Islands does not show on the drop down list as an option for Country — nonetheless, my client’s competitors (in the same country) do indeed have a Places page. Apparently, due to the fact that some businesses are enjoying the benefits of Places, there must be a work around. Any advice, instruction or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  28. Hi Mike.
    David Mihm just pointed me to this post after I asked him a related question. A former employee had created some regional office Places pages (all pointing to the same url: wesst.org) under her Google account and I wanted to know how to reclaim the listings. So, thanks for the timely article!

    P.S. I met you and David at the Denver Local U last fall — it was a pleasure meeting and learning from you and the rest of the great speakers!

  29. Hi,

    Where there is a previous Places account for a Maps index entry then once you have claimed and verified your own Places entry do Delete and Remove from appearing in Maps. This will break the link to the old Places account I believe. Once the Maps listing has been removed from searches you can make your Places entry show in Maps again.

    If that does not work then after doing the Delete and Remove from Maps and its gone from searches then Delete your Places entry and re-enter. This will create a new ID for the Places entry.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  30. Hey Mike,

    I came to research this because I just read somewhere else that you should “always claim/create your Place Pages within a Google Account using your TLD…”. I didnt realise that you could set up a Google Account without using a gmail account? I thought that was all part of the Google web :(

    Having already claimed several places pages using a regular gmail account set up for each client, is it worth me going back and trying to reclaim my listings with a new account using a TLD email address or am I just going to scum up the works since all Pages are currently performing well within their niches?

    With Best Wishes
    jo

  31. @Jo
    Email at a domain is one of the many factors that Google uses when computing trust. It is always better to have more trust rather than less but sometimes it is nigh on impossible to set up an account with email at the domain. Given a choice it is the best. If your listings are doing well, I would not touch them at this point.

    However claiming with the TLD is not the same instruction as claiming with email at the TLD. I do not agree that you need to claim with TLD. Would appreciate a link to that article.

  32. @Jo

    I agree with what Mike wrote, i’m suggesting not to touch the listings. BUT When competition will increase you’ll must have more good ranking factors by your side, hence i’m suggesting- try to claim one of your poorest listing to a non generic email account.

    I must share that we are in such gradual process right now & we are going to reclaim all our listings (more then couple of dozens). As for now- no changes to positions.

    Try & see.

    Yam Regev

  33. There is a way to overcome the previous SEO company’s category & picture data, by reporting it as bad information via Google’s report a problem process. This takes patience and time, but eventually persistence and insistence pays off, and you gain full control over those areas. It also might be helpful for you to use a few key directory profiles to “confirm” the correct data you want the Places listing to display. Angie’s List, Yelp, Merchants Circle, and Superpages.com are a few directories where you may build your company profile with current info. It will not directly influence Places, but will provide confirmation from other authoritative sources to Google when you report the old data as out-of-date and/or not endorsed by the owner company.

  34. I have a client who has lost their login info for their google places page. Their listing shows up in google maps… but when I enter in the country and phone # google is telling me there is no listing. What to do then? Do I create a new listing – how do I solve the problem of duplicate listings? How do I delete the first one? Anybody out there know the answer and can tell me how to solve this? Thanks

  35. @Donna B
    Yes create a new listing that is identical to the old listing. Google will likely merge the two in their next purge/merge cycle but to speed it along you can report it via their “Report a Problem” link and/or the Google Help Troubleshooters.

    If after they have merged there is either duplicate or unwanted photos or categories you can file another report via the same channels to have that content removed.

  36. Is this legal? There is a company that was closed, but has a Google page and it has a #3 position. Is it legal, if I take this position and modify the business information into mine, including change of address, phone and email.

    Thanks.

  37. Valentina

    Legal or not in the end it will cause significantly more problems for you. Rank does not follow the listing it follows the data for the listing and doing what you are suggesting will hose that data.

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