UPDATE 9-17-14: The postcard never came! I guess the zip code trick didn’t work. Turns out the only way to fix this was by setting up a callback through Talk To a Specialist. A support rep can help get you verified, as long as you meet some criteria, like being a real person and having a Google account and email.
Original post from June 26, 2014: Upon visiting the Google homepage in my Chrome browser I noticed a small link below the most-often used sites. A link that said something like “Add your Business to Google”. I smirked at it at first, knowing that I and clients of mine had tried this before on Google Places, only to be met with the dreaded “PO Box not allowed” message and no recourse but to FALSIFY an address. However, in the interest of educating myself and others about how Google My Business works, I decided to ‘eat the red pill’.
One difference I noticed right away in reading the Google information pages on the Google My Business Help site was that you could verify your business by phone! Previously only a postcard was mailed out. Here’s some background on why that’s important:
In the Lake Tahoe region we don’t all have USPS delivery to our homes; we use Post Office Boxes for all our regular mail. If Google attempts to send a verification postcard to my home address, it will be returned.
Add to that the fact that I run a service-oriented business, as many Tahoe locals do, and I meet with clients at their places of business or homes and deliver web/seo projects. On rare occasions clients come to my home, but I don’t want my home address listed publicly. Because I’m a web designer, my web address is my storefront; I still serve clients in a geographical region, and can also serve clients anywhere in the world via this thing called the Internet.
What’s surprising to me is that Google, the god of data mining, logistics, and dare I say, user interface, have not considered the above options in a world where less and less folks work for a large company.
Hopefully these hassles are non-existent now that there’s phone verification. So I click through a few screens, fill out my details, and hit a dead-end with the verify page. There’s NO OPTION to verify by phone. Hmmmm, I must get a postcard. So I tried to write my PO Box number on the Optional Contact Name field, but in red letters Google replies: “PO Boxes not allowed“.
This is where most people say “Fudge!” and leave the site. It’s a shame that Google’s help page mentions phone verification—there’s even a cute icon, but it’s no where to be seen in the signup process.
Additionally, the process creates a new Google+ Page for your business if you don’t already have one. This should be optional in my opinion. I already manage my own personal Google+ Profile, in which I list my business website. Since I am a sole proprietor, the only guy working here, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to manage two Google+ pages for myself and my business among all the other pages I manage for clients.
Here’s some tricks I’m going to employ to see if I can actually verify my service-oriented business on Google My Business with a PO Box.
Google, because of your system, Tahoe locals must resort to these tactics to list their businesses.
For Zip Code, I entered the city zip + the po box number, like this: 89449-5555. The post office will see that last 4 numbers and put the postcard in your box. I’ll follow-up in 1-2 weeks and let you know if that works.
If the above does not work, then what many businesses have done is use someone else’s address or use the post office’s address. Get your postcard however you can, verify your business, then set the business to “serve customers at thier location“, thus setting yours up as a service-oriented business, and hiding your address publicly (at least in theory).
If none of this works , it’s only a testament to how Google gives preferential treatment to businesses with physical addresses while promising much more and gives the rest of us a Google+ Page – whoo hooo!