As we explained in our blog post on Google Maps, Google Places is being replaced by Google+ Local. Google’s goal is to continue to improve the relevance of search results for the user and they plan to continue refining the quality of that information
Because map listings are so important to business search rankings, SEO experts recommend that every business maintain a complete profile on Google. Google Maps and Places are great assets for brick-and-mortar establishments, but home-based businesses find themselves in murky territory if they don’t want to advertise their physical locations. Google Places and Google + Local don’t seem to provide much help for home-based businesses that are in this situation. When area customers can find the local location for the business they feel more connected, but the owners may not want people coming by their homes.
Until now, if you wanted to increase the reach of your business using location listings, but didn’t have a business office or storefront, the options were limited. Your choices were to:
- Use your home address anyway.
- Rent an office or store front in your service area.
- Contract with a virtual office service in your area to have mail service, a directory listing, meeting rooms, and a receptionist.
- Ask a friend to let you receive mail and list their business address as your location.
It’s often been reported that Google will not list post office boxes and that undermines an enterprise’s search rankings. The US Postal Service recently began offering a tantalizing possible solution.
The USPS has just changed the format for addresses for their post office boxes. Now box holders can use the post office street address with a simple box number that will look like a suite. For instance, mail could come to
3263 Cedar Springs # 2006
Anytown, USA Zip
This will look to the recipients as an office address rather than a PO Box which could allow businesses to be listed on Google+ Local and Google Maps.It also solves some of the continuity issues with commercial box locations, but many problems are still unresolved as this article explains.
Google’s mission is to continually improve results for people searching for online information. They are less concerned about the needs of the small business owner. Until they can find a way to protect consumers from fly-by-night businesses and scammers, I predict that they will not change their street address policy. This will continue to be a challenge for legitimate home-based businesses who want to be listed on Google+ Local in order to benefit from the search advantages provided by mapping.
As a home-based business, you now have another option. You can rent a US Postal Service box and try to get it listed as a street location. If you do that, avoid higher box numbers and be aware that it still may not work. There isn’t enough experience yet to determine what Google will do.