We are regularly involved with helping clients manage their Google My Business listings. Normally, this is updating information, adding pictures or sharing content in the form of posts. Occasionally, it involves helping clients to claim and verify their listing for the first time or helping them update an address of phone number. A recent move for one of our clients led us to completing a video verification, something that is still in testing, as it isn’t listed as an official verification method on the Google My Business help page.
How We Ended up Doing Video Verification
A long-term client of ours has grown significantly (with our help) over the past several years. It was time for them to move to a significantly larger building that could provide appropriate space for their equipment and employees. So we went to complete what we thought would be a fairly simple address change in the Google My Business dashboard. That is where simple stopped.
No Postcard – No Other Options
In the past we’d been able to work with clients and complete address changes with something as simple as a phone call verification after changing the address. More commonly over the past few years, a move required a postcard to be sent by Google to the new address. That is the only option we got this time and had no reason to be concerned. We initiated the postcard mailing, informed the client to be on the lookout for it and let us know when they received it. Two weeks later, no postcard.
Mail gets lost. Employees miss the importance of the card and throw it out. Stuff happens. So Google has a nice feature to resend the postcard, which you expect will arrive in 5 days. More than 2 weeks later, no second postcard and no other options when you click the button to choose an alternate verification method.
Google My Business Support to the Rescue
It was time to call in help, in the form of Google My Business Support. Google has made this pretty simple because all we had to do was click a couple buttons telling them the postcard had not arrived in more than two weeks and fill out a form. We asked for a call back, but actually ended up interacting a bit through email. Here are a few things to have ready if you want to request support.
- Photos of your business/vehicles
- Some basic account information
- a link to the street view of your business address on Google Maps
- a link to your My Business listing (there are instructions to find this in the form)
The Video Verification Process
We received a response from support within a couple hours asking for a few more details. After providing those, support proposed this new method for verifying the business location, which requires being at the location. While it would be a little much to be there in person to complete a verification for some clients, this one happens to be less than 10 minutes drive from us. So being a new experience, we wanted to be there to learn about it and support the client in getting through the process. It is a good thing we were too, because this is easily the most extensive verification system being used.
Get Ready to Show Them A Lot
Video verification requires a scheduled call and connection through Google Hangouts. We were told that the Google representative would want to see a few things:
- An employee
- A business card
- Exterior signage of the building
- Possibly public spaces in the building
- Possibly a vehicle used in service calls
We have it in writing that this video is only for verification purposes, if you are concerned about it getting posted on your My Business Page (we were). So we were reasonably prepared at the time of the verification call, but it was still a wild experience. The Google representative called the business line and after verifying address details connected to us through the Hangouts app. The rest of the verification was sort of like a scavenger hunt. They have a checklist that they go through.
A number of things went as expected with the video call. We were asked to show an employee (or in this case the business owner), the exterior signs. Since there was a sign on the building and on the door, they wanted to see both. They also wanted to see a vehicle and its license plate, which they had informed us about.
You won’t see the Google representative on Hangouts, even though they can see you. This is a little odd, but does make sense. It was just unexpected when dealing with a two-way video call application.
The whole process probably would have gone smoother if it had been conducted primarily though Hangouts. It makes sense to make contact through the listed business number, but then things got messy because we were talking to the rep on a wired desk phone, while trying to show her things outside with video. Eventually, she switched to talking over Hangouts, and that made it much simpler to walk around and show her what she needed to see. If you have to go through a similar experience, you may want to suggest switching to Hangouts audio before trying to show them your building (if they don’t do this automatically).
They wanted a street view of the building. Not sure why, but this was a brand new building and the last drive by from a Google car mapping the area was in 2013 when the land was an open field.
They wanted us to start the vehicle. This was a surprise. And the only reasons we can think of are pretty unlikely to happen, like using a stolen or towed vehicle to fake the verification.
They took stills of the business card. We had to hold the camera steady and get a close up on both sides of the business card while they took screen captures. They probably also took screen captures, rather than recording the video of the other key things they requested to see as well.
Why Video Verification?
It makes sense to use a more strict verification method if a business cannot receive a postcard. Without it, you could easily fake a new location with very little effort. In this case, we believe the reason the postcard wasn’t arriving was probably on Google’s end. This was a brand new building, so while the U.S. Post Office will start delivering mail quickly, verification systems used by other mailers may take a while to be updated. Our best guess is that the postcard never got sent because of an address verification issue.
For Google, the problem of location spam is very real. Call center companies somehow verify business locations in your town and use a fake location (vacant building, etc) to make it look like a local business. These happen everywhere, including Fort Mill. Photo verification isn’t always enough because it is too easy to fake with good Photoshop skills. There have also been multiple cases of fake suite numbers being used in real buildings. If you want to read a very detailed explanation of the problem, The New York Times has a great article from 2016, explaining the problem with fake locksmiths.
Photo verification isn’t nearly as simple as waiting for a postcard to arrive and typing in a code from it, but it is a lot more likely to result in accurate business listings. Expect to see more enhanced verification techniques like this in the future.