Google Places Basics: Listing a New Business – A Timeline for Launch

Opening a new business is an exciting proposition. But as you are laying the foundation for all of your future web equity it is important to not put the cart before the horse. This poster in the forums was, like any self aware business person these days, wanting to get his soon to open business showing in Google Places before it opened to help generate buzz. Not a good idea.

Listing a new business with Google has its own quirks that need to be considered so I am highlighting my response here and following that up with a sample timeline for the complete process.

The Forum Question

VERIFICATION ISSUES FOR The Boilerhouse Restaurant on University of Western Sydney Campus

Hi I have no problems with executing my verification via mail however as you can imagine being on a large university campus (and my restaurant is still under construction therefore doesnt exactly exist yet so no mail can get to it) the mail is getting lost.

I need to be able to verify via phone or email. our website is boilerhouse.com.au however is under construction and hasnt gone live yet as our restaurant is not open yet.

Could someone please let me know how I can VERIFY as I wont receive the mail on the campus and haven’t even though I have had it sent twice as I want my google places live for opening in August.

If anyone knows a way to help me. please let me know. my situation is unique being located on a Campus.

My Answer:

I understand your desire to have your Google listing live before August. However I would strongly caution you against doing so.

There are several reasons but verifying BEFORE you are open will actually result in more delays in the actual showing of your record on Google and could lead to a suspension from Google.
Google has a very clear guideline:
Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public are not eligible for a listing on Google Places.

What we have seen is that businesses that attempt to verify prior to opening end up in an infinite state of Pending, never going live. How does Google know? We are not exactly sure but it is important that the signals that we know they use are ALL active and in their system BEFORE you attempt to verify.

They create what is known as a cluster around every unique business/phone combo that they find. In that cluster is all the evidence about not just the existence but the popularity of your business. They get this data from lists that they buy in each country, from trusted information web sites (like Hotfrog) that they scrape, from your website and from around the web. They know when things were initiated like phone numbers, when domains were pruchased and when websites have gone live… they add all of this information up in their cauldron like cluster and make a determination that you must not be open yet as no one else in the universe seems to have heard of you… once that happens you could wait till Kingdom comes for a resolution.

As to getting the PIN, Google uses their trust assessment (see above) to decide which verification method to offer up. If they find little to go on, they (ie their algo) only offer the post card. So you have little choice but to go down to the campus mail room, bribe the clerks to be on the look out for your card and be sure that it makes its way to you.

Before doing so though I would suggest that 1)your finish your website 2)you get listed in all the major directories in AU 3) you be sure that you are listed properly with the legal authorities and utility companies. You should do all of that 8 WEEKS or more before claiming your record at Google, When you finally do get that PIN, as aggravating as it was, your record will likely go live within 24 hours and you WON’T end up in a Google purgatory.

Each starting business is different and establishing an absolute set of steps is nearly impossible. But here is timeline that you  can reference to establish your own internet marketing baseline for local:

6 Months Out - Start the legal paperwork to get your business established. These county and state documents find their way into Google via Axciom. It isn’t known how long it takes for this data to finally wind its way through the system and 6 months might not be enough.

5 Months Out – Depending on timing, you might want to think about taking out a Yellow Page print ad. As you know I am not a big fan of taking out these ads BUT if your business is opening in the first quarter of the year, it is one authority source that is used by Google’s most trusted list source, InfoUSA and could help.

4 Months Out – Buy a domain name and get a telephone number and list them in the business name and at the future address of the business. Google is a registrar and sees the domain and its age is likely a factor in trust. Localeze, one of the primary list suppliers in the US, tracks new phone number creations and uses it as a trust source. Their data, used directly by Facebook, Bing, Yahoo and others, probably makes its way to Google indirectly but makes it there none the less.

3 Months Out - Start filing your business listing with the primary data suppliers. It takes between 8 and 12 weeks for the data to move from primary list supplier to Google so it needs 3 months. For your first year be sure to list with both UBL.org AND Localeze to maximize your presence in the critical upstream data sources. (I am checking with Localeze and InfoUSA to see if they have a specific policy in this regard). You might also want to consider joining the BBB. Again I am not usually a fan of these folks but establishing your virtual presence requires leveraging as many trusted off line and online sources as you can afford.

2 Months Out - try to get your website finished up and live. Be sure that the site follows best local practices for site building and includes the NAP (Name, Address & Phone) on every page, has a detailed Contact Us page and has a KML file and geo-sitemap at the domain. Pimp the site on Twitter and Facebook, list it in Webmaster tools and get a few inbound links so that Google and the other search engines promptly index it. It takes Google from 6-8 weeks to get data from your website into their main index and then into the Maps index. Sloooow.. why no one knows except Google but it is one of the major bottlenecks in the system.

6 weeks out – Start claiming your listing at the prominent local directories and information sites like the Yahoo, Bing, Superpages, Citygrid etc

2 weeks out – Familiarize yourself with the Google Places Dashboard, read and study their quality guidelines, pick appropriate Google Places categories and write a great 200 character description of your business. But DON’T VERIFY your listing just yet.

Opening Day – celebrate, get some great press and bask in your new found freedom before the reality of your serfdom becomes obvious.

Opening Day Plus One Day - CLAIM Your Listing in Google Places. If all is in Place your listing should go live in 48-72 hours.

Pray that their system has adequate knowledge about your business and that you don’t hit Pending. Although if you do, be patient. Pending means that a human review is taking place. Don’t freak out, don’t change your Places listing. Remember that while you and your business are the most important thing in the world to you, to Google you are just a virtual blip on their statistical radar. It isn’t personal. Wait the 3-4 weeks for them to see that you are real and take the to time start planning the next step.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Basics: Listing a New Business - A Timeline for Launch by

21 thoughts on “Google Places Basics: Listing a New Business – A Timeline for Launch”

  1. Mike, thanks – this is an extremely helpful and timely post. My wife is opening a private practice this fall and of course I’m her CMO/CTO. Despite being a close follower of your blog and all things Places for some time now, if not for your “Basics” advice here I surely wouldn’t have gotten the order of operations correct. Patience is DIFFICULT!

  2. @Matt
    Thanks. Unfortunately not many start ups will see the advice until it is too late and they start searching as to the reason for the PENDING in Places. It is amazing how something free and “basic” could be so complicated eh? But with a start up owner developing patience and slowing their approach to Google is like expecting horse heading home to the barn to slow down… probably not going to happen. I am hoping to write a Plan B next week.

  3. Nice informational response, Mike. Very detailed. The most critical element was the top most elements: Google won’t list a business in its local directory while it is under construction.

    Very simple guideline. Follow it. The consequences are endless befuddling delays. Your advice that follows is a wonderful description on how to get information into the maps.google.com data base from outside trusted sources. That means that once the business is open you have an advantage in ultimately claiming and controlling the listing.

    All around, great advice.

  4. Great article Mike! There’s so much information out there about how to do things, but having a timeline is the cherry on top. One thing I’m curious about, you mention a KML sitemap. Is there benefit to that over a XML sitemap? Thanks again!

  5. Great question Keith and I realized that I didn’t explain it very well in the article so I have updated the article. You need a KML file to identify the geo location of your business and a geo-sitemap XML file to tell the Google bots about the KML file. This is in addition to any regular XML sitemap that you might create. The best way to create this files is with this excellent tool to generate the KML file and geo-sitemap.

  6. Why is it the more I learned the more I feel overwhelmed?? HTML sitemap for users, XML sitemap for the bots, KML files, geo-sitemap XML… Yikes!!!! I think I’m going to buy a yellow page ad and some door-hangers and call it a day. ;) I’m assuming the KML file and geo-sitemap just need to sit in the root directory?

    One last question about your blog. You mentioned Google looks at a particular domain name and its history (date of purchase, etc.). Will changing whois data (specifically business name and phone number) cause Google to view this as a new domain? Or is it the specific act of creating a domain name that determines history?

    Thanks again Mike!!

  7. @Keith

    They can be at any location on the server. When you create the files you “tell” the Geo Sitemap creator their path and it will take care of the rest but having them at the root is fine. This bit is a touch geeky but it is one more step in establishing trust with the algo… it finds these sorts of things to be warm and fuzzy even if you don’t. Note it doesn’t help rank per se just trust. With a new business sending every trust signal you can is what is important.

    Changes to the whois data would not be viewed as a new domain.

  8. Mike, excellent outline as always. I’ll be sure to bookmark it. Don’t see much pre marketing consults but when I do I’ll have an excellent source for data.

  9. “celebrate, get some great press and bask in your new found freedom before the reality of your serfdom becomes obvious.”

    Heh heh, but seriously, what a clear and informative post, Mike. I hope many aspiring business owners will see this one. You’ve done a great job.

  10. Ah….”serfdom” up here in Canuck-land means reaching for another beer, finding “dickey-do-dingo” and then realizing you’ve had MORE than what you can drive to the nearest beer store to get another 24….

    ….sigh…..and after the big client lunch today, all I can do with this one, Mike is to print it out and await less beers ‘n more quiet around here…

    great post tho – you need to maybe think on getting “out” of the SEO biz and into market research for the rest of us…hey, I’d buy a monthly sub!

    :-)

    Jim

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  12. That’s a great timeline and an extremely valuable piece of information for all US-based businesses. I think similar could be done for any country, although not that complicated.

    However, it’s funny that after a business owner has done all that and waited for so long, it all comes to “pray”-ing that Google will not screw up something.

  13. @Nyagoslav I don’t think it needs to be this complicated here. Google will sooner or later find all of the signals needed for trust. But if you are thorough, here or elsewhere, it definitely “greases” the skids and make it’s more likely to get in without the prayer.

  14. Mike: As I said above this was a great answer. The beginning of the answer responded to the most basic issue: Google’s TOS, which states that one can’t have a maps record until its an actual going concern; OPEN for business. Businesses under construction aren’t included in the data base (unless of course one uses any one of many many methods to outfox the google algo).

    After that you described an invaluable description, the depth of which I know is very rare: You set out a timeline to get signficant presence for Google Maps, via trusted citation sources. How valuable. Keen insights from research into the timeline.

    Nyagoslav added incredible value also with regard to local citation sources.

    All that being said I have one most basic question.

    Why didn’t Google respond?

    Google could have provided the questioner with the most basic response: You can’t have a “legal” Maps record until your business is open. They could have referenced the source of this information.

    Why is Google a black hole in the forum? They have always pulled immense moneies from small businesses through Adsense. Now they are ramping it up. They are hiring sales people to sell directly into the small business market. They have increased products. They are a huge entity in the web world and are entering the daily deal market. They are out after big big big bucks. They are spending significantly to build a sales force.

    They have to learn how to communicate. In a notable example of non action and non communication it took 2 years and a letter from a member of congress to correct a maps error.

    2 YEARS and a letter from a MEMBER of CONGRESS

    That is not the way normal businesses operate. With their huge revenue base, their highly publicized and expensive ramp up of a sales force and more services to SMB’s isn’t time for Google to directly communicate within the forums to SMB’s with questions in the Places forum?

    I bet it wouldn’t take but 5 or 10 people. That cost would be incredibly small relative to their enormous size and the expected jump in revenues they will see with direct sales into the SMB world.

  15. Nice info – but I’ve a problem to chuck at you!

    How would you go about claiming a google places entry, if you are moving into someone elses/existing building and they have already claimed it?

  16. Great topic here Mike. I registered Google places like a couple of weeks ago but not receiving the confirmation yet. How long should I wait for that? Best Thanks…

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