Are You a Scammer if You Use a Coworking Space for Your Google Maps Listing?
On June 20th, the Wall Street Journal published an article revealing that millions of Google Maps listings are completely fake. Given the current environment surrounding fake listings, are you safe to use coworking spaces for Google Maps listings? Or are you in jeopardy of having your Google Maps listing removed along with all of your hard-earned reviews?
In an older article by one of the most respected SEO sources in existence that basically stated: if a coworking space is not manned full-time, meaning that there’s nobody there to greet visitors who show up unannounced, then your coworking space does not meet the eligibility requirements for a Google Maps listing. In the article, there are two points I contend are misleading at best, and completely inaccurate at worst. They are (sic):
- You must physically occupy the space. Any other scenario revokes eligibility.
- Your Google My Business listing hours of operation must accurately reflect the hours that you are actually at the office.
Both of these statements are simply false, and based on fear of the consequences of old, grey hat and black hat search engine optimization techniques. Moreover, they are statements that are bewilderingly ignorant of the range of different professional lives. Worst of all, these proclamations are now enforced by Google.
The fear-based element of these two statements originated at a time in the past when businesses realized they could create a new Google Maps listing (now called Google My Business or GMB for short) with a P.O. Box address. This allowed business owners to quickly grow their business by adding new “locations” in adjacent areas. Google cracked down on these SEO techniques and many companies lost their Google Maps listings, along with all their reviews.
Coworking Spaces are an Inspiring New Norm
Was Google’s Crackdown was legitimate? Without question. This is because a business owner cannot meet a potential customer at a P.O. Box and present as a legitimate business. Even worse, if a potential customer just showed up at a P.O. Box without notice, they would find no trace of the business in question resulting in a frustrating experience that Google instigated. Google was absolutely right to crack down because they care about their reputation. It is in Google’s best interest to refer to the best possible businesses. This results in a better user experience and ensures that Google’s customers keep using their search engine rather than Bing or Yahoo.
Enter the world of coworking spaces. Coworking spaces are mixed use spaces. They have everything from full blown large offices complete with minimum lease requirements, to smaller and virtual offices. If all you need is a regular desk space to work at, coworking spaces have that too. Coworking spaces are also mixed business spaces. There are usually as many different types of businesses at a coworking space as there are available spaces. Attorney, graphic designers, artists and many other types of businesses use coworking spaces their home office.
If you need a moderately quiet place to meet with someone, a place less distracting than a coffee shop, there are spots for that as well. Coworking spaces are ideal for meeting clients. Not only are the facilities well-stocked, the ambiance is often awe-inspiring. You would be hard pressed to find a space better to impress a new potential customer.
Coworking spaces often feature a host of amenities such as:
- Event space – including projectors, sound systems, lighting and more
- Wellness rooms – for nursing, praying, meditating, or quiet time
- Recording suites – 4k video, audio and screening
- Outside offices – work under the sun on a shady desk
One would have to spend a small fortune to stock their office with the arsenal of equipment found at even a run-of-the-mill coworking space. Its no wonder that more and more business professionals are migrating to them part or full time.
If you are considering Coworking spaces Google Maps listings, know that they offer wide open and shared work spaces that feel distinctly less lonely and far more inspiring. Some even include loads of freebies and discounts from local businesses, daily events and specials, and in some cases, full bars and cafés – all included in the monthly subscription or lease. The point is that people who use a coworking space have total control of how and where they want to spend their day. They are not limited by a cubicle or home office. They can move around in expansive and widely varied settings at will. For many business owners this is a much more satisfying work lifestyle, especially creative types.
Managing Your Business Address
The crucial distinction between a coworking space and a P.O. Box is that you can confidently meet a client there. You can easily set up an appointment and book a conference room space, even if you only have a virtual office set up for your company. And a client is much more likely to be impressed with your coworking space amenities. Most people have never visited a coworking space and are they in for a shocking delight when they do. Anybody that shows up at the WeWork La Brea space, for example, is likely to have their mind blown by the facilities and staff. If a stranger shows up at a coworking space looking for a specific business they would undoubtedly find a very well-run and organized professional environment, and one certainly more welcoming than an office space in a generic business building or strip mall.
Since anybody can randomly shows up at a coworking space, the business owner should be mindful of this situation and take precautions to ensure they don’t leave a potential customer hanging. If a business is located at a coworking space and it is not fully staffed at all times, the business owner should indicate “by appointment only” on their website, Google Maps, and any other online listings. Additionally, if the business located at a coworking space is rarely or never staffed, such as a mobile service business, they should adjust their Google Maps listing settings to “service area business” to hide their address. Yes, for the unfortunate few that show up at a coworking location unannounced, they may be disappointed. And that is okay and relatively normal in today’s modern business environment.
Why? Because many modern business professionals whose office is not located in a coworking space do not keep regular hours. There are countless professionals who are one-person operations, and who have an office building with signage and do not fully staff the location at all times. Does this mean they should not be able to have a Google My Business listing? Of course not.
Take for example a one-person financial consultancy located in a high-rise downtown. They may have an office complete with signage that somebody could potentially visit, unannounced. Here are some other scenarios for why this sole proprietor may not be able to be at their office during opening hours:
- What if the consultant is out to lunch when the customer stops by unannounced?
- What if they’re attending a business meeting off-site?
- What if this professional meets with clients at their location just as often as his own office?
- What if they were out of town for a week, at an important business seminar or conference?
- What if they had to pick up their sick child from school?
Should this type of professional no longer be eligible for a Maps listing because their office is not staffed at all times and their listed business hours did not accurately reflect the actual hours of operation? Absolutely not. This would steeply penalize a business owner who’s work depends on varied office hours and could not afford a full-time secretary or receptionist! As long as a business owner pays due diligence and makes it clear on their Google Maps listing, website, and other online profiles that meetings are by appointment only, their Google Maps listing should be completely valid.
A business that consists entirely of one person, such as an electrician, plumber, or consultant cannot staff their office full time. If Google Maps is working for them, they’ll often be in the field performing their work. Are they ineligible for a Google My Business listing? Absolutely not. They are in fact just as eligible as any other business professional with an address, no matter where the office is located or what their staffing schedule was. As long as the service business indicated to Google that they only performed work at the customer’s location, their Google My Business listing should be considered completely legitimate.
Google Is for Marketing Your Business, Not Telling You How to Run an Office
For Google to require unequivocally that every business owner be present during business hours at all times, or have a full-time receptionist whose hours exactly match their listed hours is ridiculous and unfair. This assumed requirement is also highly biased toward businesses that are already more successful than startups and one-man operations, and is just plain unfair. It should not, cannot, and never will be up to Google to require a business to have their location fully-staffed at all times. It is ludicrous to attempt to dictate in any way what a particular business professional’s office hours should be in order to have a free business listing like every other business. This job is solely the responsibility of the business owner.
If a business owner is never at their location during business hours, and people continue to show up at their location for nothing, then the business owner is acting unprofessionally. Eventually the visitors will start writing bad reviews and the business will suffer. If Google really cares about the user experience, then why don’t they wake up and make a Google Maps option for “by appointment only” in the GMB dashboard. They have really screwed over service professionals over the years. For way too long they have demonstrated that they simply do not care about how a service professional’s work schedule differs from that of a storefront.
Your Business Is Valid, and So Is Your Google Maps Listing
When you inform Google that you are a service-based business, your listing is just as valid as a listing with a physical address or office. We have successfully done this for many of our clients who are service professionals.
Take our long-time customer Aquatech Aquarium Service. Their Google My Business listing was verified at an office they rarely occupy, in this case the owner’s home, where his office is located. Google knows it’s in a residential condominium complex. And they don’t care, so long as the address is not listed and nobody goes to the wrong address. An example of our client’s listing is here.
A big problem arises if a Google Maps listing is suspended. Google will no longer reinstate a Maps listing unless the business has signage and is staffed during the posted business hours. Many business owners are currently struggling to get their maps listings reinstated after having them suspended for no apparent reason. Its too bad that fake listings are impacting legitimate businesses.
The Future of Business Strategy
Coworking spaces and service-area professionals are not only here to stay, they are the future. Retail is a dying industry, while home-based businesses and local service businesses are growing rapidly. More and more professionals are using coworking spaces not just to expand their reach, save money, and relocate their business closer to their client base; they are using them as networking spaces and places to break up the loneliness of being a nomadic sole practitioner road warrior, or a service professional with a lonely office.
Using coworking spaces for your Google Maps listing is totally legitimate. As long as you have considered all of the possibilities from your potential customer’s perspective and made the necessary changes in the proper places online, you and your customers should not have a problem.
Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.
About the author:
Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.
How To Choose a Great Online Marketing Company
No matter if you are new to the world of digital advertising and SEO or an experienced veteran, we are going to help you figure out how to choose a great online marketing company. If you are looking to grow your business by being found more often and converting more of the people who find you into customers, choosing a great online marketing company is the best way to do so.
We aren’t going to bore you with the obvious things you should do, such as:
- Google things like “choosing a great online marketing company” and read as much as you can
- Read reviews on marketing companies that look interesting
- Look at marketing company websites to get an idea of the services they offer and what the company is about
We understand that these things are obvious. What you might not know is there are more advanced and more important ways to find a digital marketing agency made of gold. The information we are going to discuss goes way deeper. We are going to dive into the nitty gritty of what really MUST be done if you are to weed out the fools good and find the company that is going to take your business to the next level.
Why the Treasure Hunt?
What should a top online marketing company do for you? An online marketing company’s primary job is to help their clients get more customers by increasing their presence and quality on the internet. That means, but is not limited to, making sure their customers will show up on the first page of search engine results and converting into potential customers as often as possible. If an online marketing agency truly helps your business, it will result in more visits to your website, more website visitors filling out your contact forms, and more phone calls from new customers. Whether this is done with SEO (search engine optimization), Local SEO (seo for specific narrow locations), PPC (pay per click advertising), or Website Optimization, or some combination, a great online marketing company will know what to do, and when to do it. They will do their homework and perform keyword and competitor research before doing anything else. Most importantly, they will prioritize their tasks based on strategy that is formed out of their research and experience.
Digging deep to find the gold
It can be easy to fall into the trap of just going with the first “likely” company you run across. But that’s not going to get you the best results in the long run. Don’t treat this process as an inconvenience. Finding a great online marketing company could be the best thing that ever happens to your business. But there’s a deeper secret about this treasure hunt you’re beginning as you look for the right marketing team. And that is that the treasure isn’t just getting the right marketing company, it is also reaching more customers. You want a marketing team that can demonstrate they are delivering you more new customers on a regular basis. This will justify the investment you make with them.
Doing your homework while looking for a great online marketing company might take a lot of effort, but the right choice will pay off. Not only can you expect better and more consistent results, you will avoid costly mistakes that will result in lost time and money. Don’t settle for the first company that looks “okay.” You want a company that has an excellent track record of helping their customers. Doing some digging is going to be necessary. While you are on the hunt for your golden online marketing agency, take notes. Jot down things you like and don’t like about each company. If you speak with people at the company, remember to include notes on how kind they were, how well they listened, and how professional they were. Its important to like, respect and feel understood by the people you regularly work with.
Identifying a digital marketing agency’s services
The first thing you need to figure out is what services a potential company offer. There are seven basic types of services that a digital marketing company can offer. They are:
- Branding – ensuring your company has a distinct brand presence.
- Content Marketing – presenting information written specifically for your target customers.
- SEO – getting your company found in the search engines
- PPC – paid advertising such as Google Ads and Facebook ads.
- CRO – optimizing websites and other sales methods to increase their effectiveness
- Local SEO – getting companies found in the local search results, or maps listings
- Website design – creating a great centerpiece and hub for your online world
You may not need all of the services a great online marketing company offers. Its best to let them decide what type of online marketing will work best for your company. That is one of the things you pay them for. In fact, perhaps the most important thing that a great digital marketing agency will do for your company is prioritize. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of things that can be done to help your company succeed online. But which thing is going to be deliver the best return on investment? A great online marketing firm will know what to do, and in what order to do it.
For example, lets say your website needs an overhaul and your search engine rankings need improvement. A great online marketing company may not worry about your website at first. Why? Because what does the condition of your website matter if nobody is finding it? Wouldnt it make more sense to work on rankings first? Of course it would. Especially since search engine optimization takes time to do, and to take effect. So a great digital agency would probably get a jump on the SEO or Local SEO for your company, and after a few months get started on improving your website.
Reviews Do Matter
We are not going to get into this topic too deeply. It is worth an entire new article dedicated to that topic. But here is a quick summary:
- Choose a company that has at least a dozen reviews. Too few reviews may mean they do not have much experience or good enough customer relations.
- Choose a company that has reviews in multiple places. Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Facebook are just some of the places that people normally write reviews.
- If possible, choose a company that has at least one bad review. This may sound illogical, but there are good reasons for this.
Be careful of companies that have dozens or hundreds of reviews, and not one of them is negative. While it is possible that a great online marketing company has a perfect track record, it is unlikely. Nobody is perfect and companies make mistakes. Not to mention that there is a huge problem with companies buying fake reviews online. Google is particularly bad at spotting fake reviews.
Go back to those reviews you found about the prospective companies you are considering. Take note of the qualities past customers praise, as well as any negatives that get mentioned. Don’t let the negatives totally over-rule the prospect: you don’t know (yet) what might lie behind them. But pay attention to what the complaint is about.
One of the best ways to find out how good the customer service is at a particular online marketing company is to look for bad reviews and study the responses from the business owner or manager. If they are defensive, argumentative or otherwise less than professional, it is probably a good idea to steer your ship clear of the scoundrels.
Counting the loot – talking to their current customers
You’ve done some preliminary research on your best prospects and now its time to contact them and start asking some important questions. Stay on top of the discussion, and don’t get swept up in their salesmanship. Begin by asking them for references for current customers and their contact information. Any good marketing company should be proud to have you call their references. If they are truly great at what they do, their customers will be happy to tell you. When you call their references, be respectful of their time and make it short. Simply ask them three questions:
- How long have you worked with them?
- Are you happy with the results they have delivered for your company?
- Would you recommend them?
These three questions will tell you most of what you need to know and take about a minute of the reference’s time.
Divining the real treasure – reviewing their reporting and research
A great online marketing company has clear, detailed, and accurate reporting. One of the best ways to evaluate the quality of their work is to ask them for samples of specific reports. These include:
- Monthly campaign progress reports – this should include information on website traffic, search engine rankings, and list all tasks performed on a line-item basis
- Keyword research report – most online marketing campaigns should start with professional keyword research. They should have samples of their keyword research readily available.
- Competitor analysis report – SEO and online marketing strategy should always be based on what is working for the top competitors.
- Call and form-tracking report – great online marketing and SEO companies track leads, not just traffic and rankings
Review the copies of the reports they send you. These reports can be tough to understand. If you are interested and considering hiring a great online marketing company that stands out, set up a phone call to discuss the reports they send you. They should be happy to answer any questions you have.
Unpacking the treasure chest – evaluating their case studies and portfolio
Most great online marketing companies have an entire online marketing portfolio page dedicated to their case studies. Spend some time reviewing these case studies. They may be hard to understand, but you will get an idea of the quality of their work. Just the fact that they put their work right out in the open says quite a bit about their transparency. You may or may not like the work they performed. But at least their case studies have helped you make an informed decision about whether to hire them.
A good portfolio or case studies page should demonstrate before and after screenshots of their website designs and overhauls. They should also demonstrate the before and after of their traffic, rankings, and phone calls and form fills where applicable.
Cashing in the jewels – setting your expectations and discussing your goals
Once you have found a great online marketing company, you can open the treasure chest of possibilities. You can discuss your expectations and specific goals, preferred communications methods, and talk about timelines and KPIs (key performance indicators). You can also discuss your dreams and fantasies. There may be things you have always wanted to do for your business and website, but haven’t been able to manage yet. For example, you may wish to expand your service range, or go from a local company to a national brand. A great online marketing company can help you achieve your goals and reach your dreams.
You and your team may also wish to be more of a part of the online marketing efforts. Discussing this desire right from the start is the best time to present it to your new online marketing company. Making your online marketing a cooperative effort may help keep the efforts of the marketers and your team fresh,energetic and always on-point.
It is important that you stay engaged with the company you chose. Make sure to have regular monthly meetings to discuss progress and strategies. There are many online marketing companies that put on a great “dog and pony show” to get you to sign up. But once they have your money, they often “disappear” or become lazy. So stay on top of them so that you know what steps they are regularly taking on your company’s behalf.
Its also important to understand that you and your team have an important role to play in your online success. You need to deliver outstanding products and services for your customers, and make a big-time effort to get as many great reviews as possible and post to your social media on a regular basis. These are two of the things that even the best online marketing company cannot do as well as you. Success online really is a team effort.
Keeping the ship afloat – staying up to date on the latest online marketing techniques
Building your online presence is not a “one and done” activity. As online searching changes and technology advances, you need to work with marketers who are experts at understanding the way people search, use websites and make purchase decisions. An engaging and lively internet presence combined with plenty of top search engine rankings and a healthy and active website is a treasure you want to protect and grow. To achieve that end, you need to discover the treasured business asset of the very best online marketing company.
A great online marketing company will stay on top of changes in online marketing. The way that people search for products and services are changing every day. With the growth of voice responsive devices and applications like Siri, Google Home, and Alexa, the way that people get information will change even more in the coming years. Its important for you and your team, as well as your digital marketing agency, to make sure that you continue to educate yourselves. This will ensure that you have a healthy online presence that will continue to land you new customers for years to come.
Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.
About the author:
Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.
We live in a world dominated by 24/7 connectivity to the Internet. That makes website SEO more important than ever to a business owner. Even if your company is the absolute best at what they do, the Google gods won’t automatically rank your site accordingly. Like children and pets, search engines must be educated in their own language. You have to tell search engines exactly what they need to know in a form they can understand. That’s where website SEO comes in.
Search engines abide by their own set of rules. These rules evolve constantly. That’s why a professional SEO consultant is an absolute must for a company that uses a website as a marketing tool. When a potential customer searches for something online, how many results pages do they actually click through? Search habits differ, but if a website isn’t listed on Page 1 (AKA: The First Page Club), your company is already at a disadvantage for being found online.
The Google machine can be a funny thing. It can be your best friend one day. After some routine tweaks in their proprietary algorithm, it can make you pull your hair out in frustration when your website sinks in the rankings. Website SEO experts help you avoid problems with algorithm updates. They can also help you recover if there’s a problem.
You have more important things to worry about, like running your business and making it the best it can be. It’s smart business to let a website SEO firm do the online worrying for you.
Expert Website SEO Pays for Itself
Great SEO experts never get comfortable. They constantly keep up on new developments in the industry. If they didn’t, they would quickly fall behind, and the results they achieve would slip. You need expert SEO help on your side if you plan to stand out from the rest of the pack. Website SEO is an integral part of growing your business.
Local SEO services is another factor to consider when you search for an SEO consultant. Different businesses have different needs. If you’re a local business, you need to make sure you’re capturing all the business in your neighborhood. Other businesses need to compete for customers on a national or international level.
Some SEO consultants use what’s known as the shotgun approach. They try to increase your website’s online presence and authority, but only in a very general way. A local business that specifically serves the nearby community can’t afford to compete nationally for keywords. That’s why local businesses must find SEO consultants who understand local search, and concentrate on it.
Ranking Highly on Search Engines Matters
Think about your own search habits if you’re not convinced that your website needs help from an SEO company. Do you click through to page 5 and 6 when using Google to search for local shops and services? Few people do. For the most part, it’s more efficient to rely on the algorithms employed by search engines to rank sites than to do the work yourself. Even very good Googlers know that you’re much more likely to find useful results on the first page. Your potential customers will likely do the same. SEO companies make sure that your business fights for search engine results effectively.
It’s important to remember that your competitors are probably using an SEO company already. You won’t be able to compete for rankings if you don’t fight fire with fire. Google, Yahoo, and Bing try to serve up the best search results to their visitors. If your website isn’t telling them what they need to know, then you’re bound to have problems with low rankings. SEO consultants are skilled in giving search engines exactly what they want. If your website isn’t optimized by SEO experts, then you’re leaving money on the table.
For many entrepreneurs launching a small business, the world of marketing on the internet can be a new and challenging experience. Most are unfamiliar with the functions of search engine optimization. They may go through the obvious steps of building a website, and yet have no idea how to reach their target market. This can be a challenge for a new business, since the most beautiful website on the internet does you no good if no one visits it.
Does Website Traffic Matter?
A business owner new to internet marketing may wonder how important their website traffic is to their over-all marketing reach. Many may think that just getting an attractive website up on the world wide web is enough for their purposes. There is a tendency to consider a business website as just another billboard to advertise the company’s goods and services.
However, there is more to having a website up and running than just putting attractive pages on the internet. An informative website that promotes your business and your products can increase your profile in search engines, making you more “visible” to internet users who are seeking the types of products and services you may be offering. And the more traffic you have, the more visible you become on search engines.
How Can You Attract Traffic?
When a business owner realizes how important their internet visibility is, the search begins for ways to increase website traffic. They may hope to increase visits by purchasing ads on other websites or being listed in general internet directories. But just having a “pretty site” is not always enough to keep and sustain traffic. Entrepreneurs should realize that maintaining a high internet profile, one that has your business showing up on the first page of internet search results, requires an on-going planned content and linkbuilding campaign for your site.
If you want to be the first place people turn to on the web when they are looking for your goods and services, what do you need to do? Is this a difficult goal to achieve? Because a new small business is new to the general marketplace, there are aspects of establishing your presence that you may not have considered when you decided to go into business. The challenge of becoming known can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin.
Reaching Your Target Market
The work of reaching a target audience may seem complex and impossible to the individual small business owner. Many make small attempts at using social media marketing by creating new pages and posts on sites like Facebook, as their sole foray into internet advertising. But that falls far short of utilizing all possible platforms to establish your new online presence. At this point, a small business should take advantage of local SEO services to boost their internet profile.
When you want to reach a specific target audience, SEO services can help you achieve that goal. Services like Nimbus Marketing can help you identify who it is you want to attract, for starters. Who are the people you want to appeal to? Once you know that, SEO experts can help you find the means to reach those potential customers.
SEO Services Can Help You
When you want to dial up your website traffic, turning to SEO services is the way to go. A good service is one that listens to your goals and helps you reach them. Instead of your business being yet another small fish in a big pond, an imaginative and effective SEO campaign can help you become better known in your field, and more attractive to your potential customers. An SEO expert can help you come across on the internet as the type of person who your customers will trust and rely on.
By showing on the internet that you know and understand your business well, that you are attentive to your customers, you become the person they want to deal with. An effective SEO team can create material for your webpages that signals to the search engines the nature of your business and also informs your visitors – your potential customers – that you are the place they want to come to for your type of product or service.
A savvy SEO team like Nimbus Marketing can raise your internet profile and make you an engaging web destination for those who want your goods and services. We’re happy to help you reach your local market, or even increase your reach as far as you would like. Reach out to us today!