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?
An older article by one of the most respected SEO news sources in existence stated: “if a coworking space is not manned full-time, meaning that there’s nobody there to greet visitors who show up unannounced, then the coworking space does not meet the eligibility requirements for a Google Maps listing”. In the article referenced above, there are two points that 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 that modern day business owners live. 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 and boost their local search marketing efforts. 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.
This had devastating consequences for many businesses. Our online marketing agency has direct experience with the catastrophic consequences of Google’s “Crackdown.” We know of some business owners who were using P.O. Boxes to “game the system” and relied on a dozen or more Google Maps listings to drive leads. Despite our advice that they stop, they continued and eventually went out of business when Google cracked down.
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.