Verifying your claim to any form of business listing online can be a royal pain in the ass. From postcards sent to physical addresses that don’t accept mail and aren’t redirected to PO Boxes, to receptionists that answer automated verification phone calls and hang-up, think that it’s some form of weird Web 2.0 practical joke that only geeks will get.
The phone call verifications are usually the best – so long as you can get to the phone in time, all you do is wait for the prompt, enter a PIN and you’re laughing. Yelp (who provide listings for Apple maps) is great for this and it results in instant verification so you can get back to updating your listing. Google and Foursquare, on the other hand, can be much more frustrating. Google has no phone call verification at all and Foursquare teases you by simply asking you to enter your phone number … only to tell you that your country isn’t supported and would you like to try a different number? Why would they think we could just enter another number here? Oh sure, I’ll just enter my other phone number in Sweden.
So on that note, and having carried out this process for around 50 supermarkets across the country at once, and more recently a number of car dealerships across the country, I’ve put together some tips to help you out with the process (including one ‘hack’ – don’t tell Google).
Help with Verifying a Foursquare Listing
Contact support. It’s that easy. From what I’ve heard, Foursquare have a very small team and rely on the honesty of their community. It’s a great model – if anyone tries to pull the wool over users eyes with their listing, they’re promptly mobbed by a group of dedicated ‘Superusers’. With that in mind, Foursquare aren’t too picky about who claims a listing, and I’m sure they’re well aware of how tricky it can be for anyone outside of the US (as well as the opportunities for gaining advertising revenue that could be missed if you don’t get involved with Foursquare).
So begin the process of adding your business or claiming an existing venue, and then when you get to the verification stage just contact their support team. Rather than go through a lengthy process, they’ll usually go right ahead and verify your claim – this is what I’ve found in my experience at least.
Trying to verifying a large number of venues? Foursquare support can provide you with a special spreadsheet that they’ve put together. Here you can enter each venue’s details and even add your own internal reference number, like a store code.
There’s a Foursquare for Business guide here.
Help with Verifying a Google Places Listing
As mentioned, Google can be a little more tricky. The postcard can take a good few weeks to arrive and, if your location is like pretty much all of the businesses that I’ve dealt with, your location probably can’t even accept the delivery of mail other than that which arrives by courier! Some businesses have a fall-back for this in that mail is redirected to a business PO Box, in which case the postcard will still arrive, although other businesses may not have this service.
I probably shouldn’t publish this as a) Google may come across it and put in some kind of ‘fix’, or b) people may start claiming other people’s businesses! But screw it, no one reads this stuff anyway ;)
So here’s the scenario – I had one car dealership that couldn’t accept incoming mail. I re-tried a few times, requesting a new post card (and crossing my fingers, hoping that the original postcard wouldn’t finally turn up but with an invalid PIN because I’d requested a new one!) and after almost a year had passed I decided to try and be a bit sneaky about it. I attempted to put the street address as:
123 Lincoln Street
PO Box 321
… but Google recognised that I was entering a PO Box and stopped me from submitting the address. So then I just removed ‘PO’ so it read as:
123 Lincoln Street
In the hope that Google wouldn’t be smart enough to recognise what I was doing but the NZ Post mail sorter would switch on to the fact that it was a PO Box.
And it worked! The postcard arrived in our PO Box a couple of weeks later and I finally verified the listing. Humans 1, Computers 0!
Maybe don’t try this until you’ve given up the process using your standard address but it’s great to be able to use this as a fall-back option.
There are a few other things you should be aware of to help smooth the process and maximise the chance of you being able to verify your business listing on the first attempt.
Use an email address that matches your website URL
While this isn’t essential for many listing verifications, it can help to start the verification process while logged in with an email address that matches your website’s URL. e.g. email@example.com for www.marklincoln.co.nz. If you run into problems and need to contact support, they can immediately see that you are at least an employee of the business that you’re trying to verify. In some cases you’ll be able to just add the email address as an alternative email address under your account, rather than create a new account.
Note that this is a requirement for LinkedIn company pages.
Add your name or department to addresses where possible
The Google postcard (it’s actually an envelope with a letter inside – see the photo above) can look like junk mail and could be rejected by your admin/reception staff if they haven’t opened it and fully read the information. When entering the address online, keep an eye out for some kind of ‘address preview’ so you can see what goes on the front of the envelope. If it’s missing, try and add your name and/or department to the address so that whoever receives it will know to pass it onto you.
Notify all who may answer the phone or receive mail
This is an obvious one for phone calls (which is usually a case of the service displaying a message on screen with a PIN and telling you that they’ll call you as soon as you hit the ‘go’ button) but is still important for posted mail as you don’t know whose hands the envelope will end up in. Email everyone with a heads-up as soon as you submit the information, and even consider emailing them again weekly until you get the postcard!
It’ll also help to send them a photo of what the mail will look like. Use my photo above it if helps.
Good luck! And if you’ve had experiences with messed-up listing verifications, feel free to comment below.