Google Testing Advanced Verification Process for Plumbers & Locksmiths

Google announced today a plan to increase verification scrutiny of plumbers and locksmiths. The beta is taking place in San Diego and every verified plumber and locksmith will be emailed a request to go through the new advanced verification process. The businesses will have their application accepted or denied within a two week period.

Google is  apparently focusing on the types of businesses that are often affected by local business fraud and and “make it easier for verified locksmiths and plumbers to be discovered online”.

The help documents are posted publicly but remember they currently only apply to those SAB plumbers and locksmiths in the San Diego market:

Some tidbits from the documentation and other dteails:

“Google wants to provide useful and comprehensive local listings to people when they search for businesses. Unfortunately, we’ve identified a number of fraudulent local service businesses, including locksmiths and plumbers, who use false identities on Google”.

The advanced verification process combines internal signals, publicly available data such as state and professional license registrations, and information from Pinkerton, a provider of corporate risk management services. For the business owner, the check includes inquiries into Social Security number validity and, where applicable, professional license validity. At the company level, the check includes inquiries into business registration validity, evidence of fraudulent or misleading behavior on Google, and where applicable, professional license validity.

After your company has been approved to appear on Google, you will be asked to recertify that approval every twelve (12) months.

To help reduce fraud and improve the overall experience for you and your customers, we’re now asking businesses to pass an advanced verification process. The process is simple—answer a few questions about your business and complete an application with Google’s third-party verification company.

Plumbers and Locksmiths in the San Diego area will be sent the invitation to participate in the Advanced Verification but if they have not done so by November 10th, their local listing will be removed from the Map. If that happens they will be able to still get their listing back but they will be required to go through the Advanced Verification process.

The process is a lightweight version of the vetting that is done during the Home Services process that looks to verify the actual existence of the service area business but does not, like with Home Services, require a Pinkerton background check although it appears to include Pinkerton in the vetting.

Interestingly the process will also be applied to plumbers and locksmiths using Adwords. How that will impact national advertisers is not clear but it should help clean up an other mosh pit if the processes go national.

While this is a step in the right direction to cut back the spam in the the sleazy service area plumbing and locksmith businesses in San Diego it is but a first step. Hopefully the process will be expanded to other spammy veritcals and markets.

If nothing else it is an arrow across the bow of the spammers. It is also a heads up to the many service area businesses, whether spammer or not, that have figured out ways around the Google verification process. Now we will have to wait and see if there is but one arrow or an armada behind the effort. Because an armada and a fair bit of coin is what it will take.

This information came to me (and all of the Top Contributors) directly from Google. More information to follow as it becomes available.



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Google Testing Advanced Verification Process for Plumbers & Locksmiths by

31 thoughts on “Google Testing Advanced Verification Process for Plumbers & Locksmiths”

  1. Sounds like Google has finally determined to devote some resources to this! The annual re-verification process seems cumbersome to me for legit businesses, but otherwise, I give this a thumbs up. I’ve always thought it was particularly awful that scammer locksmiths (who are in the security vertical) are involved in deceptive practices. Security and scams do not mix well. Thanks for reporting, Mike!

    1. @Gyi Google has almost always treated lawyers with kid gloves. There is the false assumption that someone who gets scammed by a plumber or locksmith is harmed or potentially harmed and in greater danger than from spam from other industries.

      1. I would have thought medical industry would have been first, thinking back to the drub rehab scam that was happening in the US with church groups….

        I also assume restaurants and hotels are next based on the local spam I see happening…

  2. Sounds great, provided that Google:

    (a) doesn’t kill off the program after 6 months

    (b) enforces it evenhandedly

    (c) rolls it out to the dozens of other industries and cities where mapspam is a serious problem, and

    (d) continually improves the program to stay ahead of the subset of scammers who will undoubtedly outsmart Google.

  3. This will clean things up a bit, but I wonder if it will be scalable. I think a Google virtual tour is a good way to vet a business, although these aren’t appropriate for all businesses.

    1. @Phil google has been working on the technique since the rollout of the Home Services Ad. They are using a 3rd party. They have every intention, despite Gly’s hope, of only focusing on high contact, high public danger verticals.

      Given all of that the concern I would have would not be the scalability but whether they can sustain the costs.

      1. Google has just changed this in the Phoenix metro area. Now it lists paid ads only as “verified”
        My friends at Mr Lockout Az were at first listed as Verified but not now. Their green check mark was dropped because they haven’t done a paid ad.
        So what Google has done is SNEAKY.
        They started out by saying they were protecting consumers but, now they only list paid ads as being verified

  4. @David
    When predicting which ones Google will attack next, think high public danger… threat to life and limb…. locksmith and plumbers coming to a home can cause physical harm…

    Spam frequency in and of itself is not the criteria for this extra scrutiny. Also Google thinks that their Bricks and mortar vetting is pretty good. Not that the test is SAB only.

    So I don’t think restaurants will be next unless you consider ptomaine poisoning an imminent public danger.

  5. Interesting! I’ve worked on a couple of locksmith websites so I know the industry a little bit. I think as more and more people get into rank and rent, Google will take more action to prevent that from happening.

  6. Pleased to see advanced verification. That being said, Google severely underestimates the number of people calling to “reverify listings.” Businesses are plagued with calls from “Google certified partners” almost daily. Google has not been proactive enough with discouraging marketing companies from “reverification calls.” Google & Pinkerton have their work cut out for them. Differentiating themselves from the daily bombardment will prove to be a difficult task. I will be interested to learn how they plan to approach businesses.

  7. As someone who has worked in the locksmith vertical, it is already really hard to spam up big G nowadays. I don’t see this happening on a large scale, but I agree with Antonio that this is far more about signing more people up for their lead gen services than it is about spam. In my experience Google could give a s*** about spammers. Interesting though about the adwords accounts.

  8. Just completed an advanced verification through Pinkerton for a plumbing company in San Diego. Shocked to see they asked for SSN, EIN, & DOB.

    The individual from Google stated “Google is creating home service Ads, to be included you need to be eligible. This will take the place of Adwords. We want to verify small business so we don’t have a bunch of illegitimate business owners in the my business accounts.”

    This seems as though Google is looking to create an additional revenue stream and it is much less about protecting the public. Although I must say the “maps advanced verification” is a brilliant cover.

  9. Google does make it difficult to get verified it seems. It took me several tries to get my business verified. I get that they want quality control but I wish it was easier.

  10. I just had a weird instance where Google allowed me to verify via phone and then, even after proper completion of phone verification they required postcard verification. It was for a service area business (painter). Long story short, it got me looking into the latest verification news to see what I could be missing and found this.

    I think the fact that they’re using the business owners social security number for *anything* is a little surprising and, to be honest, unnecessary. It’s the business, not the individual, that’s being verified, right? I’m all for cleaning up spam but I don’t like the idea of Google crossing the business/person barrier. It also fuels a lot of the supposed conspiracy theorists claim that Google’s spam team profiles, tracks, and targets individual webmasters or SEOs as way to curb the proliferation of spam sites in the organic results.

    On a side note: is there any reason you can think of Google would require postcard verification immediately AFTER a successful phone verification? Have you heard of instances where they require both forms of verification for some service area businesses?

    1. @NW
      No one knows. Google has tested this in three variations over the past 18 months. First San Francisco, then San Diego and then Los Angeles.

      We do not yet know what variation they will settle on nor where they will try it next.

      We have no idea when there might be a US wide rollout let alone a worldwide rollout.

      1. I have been contacted by Google during the last month who have asked me get on board with Google Home Services. I did not know what it was before looking into it. He was asking for a high price for the leads so I turned it down.

        If GHS are on the way, in the next month or two I think he said, then I imagine additional verification is planned somewhere down the line once GHS and additional verification is rolled out and tested in the U.S.

  11. I have noticed a lot of changes with the verification process in a few different industries. By far the most difficult verification process was for a tactical firearms training company. I agree that the verification process needs to be thorough, but this was completely absurd.

  12. Have you seen the verification using a Hangouts video? Not sure if it’s just disaster restoration or other industries but I had never heard of it before. It used to be just a post card.

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