Please advise your staff that Google may call asking if your company services customers at the address you have listed on your Google Places profile.  The answer that is given is very important and can impact whether your company continues to appear in Google local search results.

A story was recently published about how a company that answered “no, customers are not served” at their location recently disappeared from the Maps section. The person on the phone from Google did not advise them of any potential impact from their answer to the question or anything they needed to do. The company owner later found out that his business was removed because when he set up their profile and service area a year or two ago, he did not select to have their address hidden in their business listing and therefore was not in compliance with Google guidelines.

It has long been a Google requirement that service businesses have only one profile:  “Businesses that operate in a service area should create one listing for the central office or location and designate service areas.”   If you have not yet done so, you can set your Service Area in your profile by selecting the button for ‘Yes, this business serves customers at their locations in a specific area’ and then listing a radius or the specific zip codes you service.

Google has now added to their guidelines: “if you don’t conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard. If you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps”.

Expert tests over past years showed that companies with hidden addresses did not perform well in search results. Google is now stating that companies that have set a service area and selected to hide their address will be shown in searches as if they published their address.  New expert tests are showing that hiding your address does not negatively impact blended local search results, but still may do so for purely local search results.  If this new guideline could impact your business, we suggest doing some sample searches. Blended local results are becoming the majority, but see what is happening in your specific market.  Review what kind of results are being delivered along with where and how your company and the competition appear. (Note: if you are not familiar with the different types of search results, call your company’s marketing coach and we will be happy to help you.)

But another question is what the perception may be to a local searcher who is a potential customer.  If they are used to seeing an address in the results and that is part of the trust factor that this is a reliable company, or they want to see where each company is located and the other listings have addresses, — no address could definitely be a negative.  Yet in some cases, it could potentially be a positive. For example, a company address on the other side of the city or across the state line could be a deterrent to some customers, so if all listings showed just a service area that could generate more opportunity.

So what do you say if Google calls?  If any of your customers come to your office during business hours to speak with staff or see products, you can let Google know that “yes, customers can do business at your location”. This will allow you to continue showing your address in your listing. You can always select to hide your address later should you decide that would be more beneficial.  If your answer is “no, customers cannot come” to the listed address, you will need to go into your profile and select “do not show my address” to keep your listing in compliance.