When it comes to owning and operating a business, it’s never a good idea to fake any paperwork. However there are businesses that register with fake addresses on Google in order to cheat the system. There are a number of reasons why this is a very bad idea, and as Google representatives are known to go door-to-door to verify business locations, it’s likely that the scam will be exposed.
What kind of scams are out there?
There are many people out there who create fake listings for businesses, in order to forward calls and other inquiries to different (often shady) businesses for a fee. This pollutes Google Maps with an abundance of fake locations and businesses, which hinders real businesses trying to make an honest living.
The increase in fake location listings mostly started because of the belief that businesses will rank better in local searches for the service areas. The thought process behind this is that if a business operates in a warehouse or uninhabited office space somewhere else, technically it can be listed as another location for the business.
What happens if you use a fake address?
It may work in the short-term, but Google has been cracking down on fake listings, even going door-to-door to verify ownership. It is not likely that those listing fake addresses for their business will get away with it for very long, as Google has become more vigilant about fake addresses. If a business is identified as using a fake address, there is a significant penalty to pay that can hinder revenue and business significantly. In addition, whether the fake listing was intentional or not, the business will be classified as a scam, as Google cannot afford to distinguish between the two. Google has to assume that all fake listings are an attempt to scam or defraud, and therefore a business will be grouped with all the other scammers.
Google has managed to identify and remove 70% of all fake listings since June 2015.
What are the penalties?
If Google catches a business creating or managing a fake listing the business listing can be suspended, and Google may even work with law enforcement if the violation is deemed unlawful. This means that all mentions on Google can be suspended, with the business ceasing to appear on Google Maps, and all reviews and other information will completely disappear from the web. This can severely damage the revenue of a business, especially in the interconnected world of today, where reviews and visibility on the web are so important for customers. If Google determines that the fake address listing was a part of a scam or criminal dealings then the authorities may get involved.
What are the guidelines for listing an address for a business?
Google’s guidelines are concise about what does and doesn’t qualify as an accurate location. The guideline states that the business must make in-person contact with customers during the stated hours of trading. Therefore someone has to be available at the location, answering phone calls and dealing with customers during normal business hours. In addition there are also rules about street signage and physical mailing addresses that need to correspond with the eligible location. The only exceptions are ATMs, video-rental kiosks and express mail drop boxes.
How can a business improve its ranking?
Google offers a number of tips on how a business can improve its ranking, such as responding to reviews, regularly adding photos and making sure all information- trading hours and contact details – are constantly updated. A business can also encourage customers to leave more reviews- online and offline- word of mouth is still a very strong endorsement.