In the never-ending battle for SEO supremacy, every business wants to exploit the tools at their disposal. You want to get “found” by as many potential customers as possible at the lowest cost. Part of getting found is taking the time and effort to create profiles on relevant social media channels, interacting with the community you intend to serve and ultimately driving more business. Google My Business is one of those tools, but it’s not without its own specific limitations.
At Sterling Spaces, we’ve had a number of inquiries from our community of coworking and virtual mailbox members about Google My Business listings. And members want to know how it fits with the various services we offer. The answer is a bit involved, so we thought it would be good to summarize here in the blog.
But first, a little background.
What is Google My Business?
You know that fancy looking listing that shows up when you go to Google for the address or phone number of your favourite coworking space? That’s a Google My Business (or GMB) listing. And guess what? It’s free! Your GMB account allows you to manage your business listing and “easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps,” according to Google. Features of the listings are constantly evolving but currently include things like business photos, hours of operation, FAQs, products & services pricing and more. Having a well-featured, up-to-date GMB listing can be a critical tool in your success. But there are a few important guidelines that businesses need to be aware when getting set up.
GMB and Virtual Address
Services like virtual mail/virtual address have become an increasingly popular resource for entrepreneurs and home-based business owners. It allows businesses to have an address (other than a home address) to receive business-related mail. It provides the business with a professional presence and brand identity at a fraction of the cost of office space. Depending on the service provider, virtual mailboxes include professional mail receiving, notification and handling services. Handling can include mail forwarding, scanning, shredding and more.
As a provider of virtual mail services, Sterling Spaces absolutely wants to help our members manage their businesses better. When it comes to GMB listings, however, a virtual mailbox simply does not meet the requirements for use of the location’s mailing address. Among other things, the business utilizing an address in their GMB listing must physically occupy the space. They also must have regular hours of operation and the ability to accept walk-in traffic to meet with customers. Here are the details direct from Google:
Make sure your Business Profile is created for your actual, real-world location.Google My Business Help – Guidelines for representing your business on Google
If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, don’t create a page for that location. Businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours by your business staff.
GMB vs. SAB
Now, all this doesn’t mean you can’t have a Google business listing, of course. Businesses that do not have a physical location can instead create a Service-Area Business (or SAB) profile on Google. The SAB listing is for businesses that meet with customers at their places of business.
There may be a sense that this is a limitation of GMB. But keep in mind that the essence of the GMB listing is to help the public easily find local area businesses. Furthermore, consider that the leaseholder or owner of a physical location has made a big investment in the space. Not to mention the operating costs, insurance, utilities, etc. So it is only fair that that business gets priority in Google search and Google Maps.
GMB and Coworking
While it is at the discretion of your operator (so be sure to check with yours first), coworking memberships may be eligible for GMB use. As we’ve touched on, a big requirement is physically occupying the space. Keeping regular business hours and being available to customers is also necessary. So, if you are a full-time coworker and able to receive mail in your space, you may meet the requirements for use in your GMB listing.
Always keep in mind that the decision and rules governing the use of a Google My Business listing ultimately belong to Google and are subject to change.