Google’s Storefront Requirement is Biased Against Professional Services
When setting up any Google My Business (GMB) profile, the requirements and steps to verification can be challenging to meet and, at times, daunting to complete. However, once things are up and running smoothly, your GMB profile can generate leads for your business and create a stronger online presence. One of the ways Google verifies profiles is street view. Therefore, having a storefront inherently creates an advantage for these types of businesses.
Small professional services operations or those located in highly populated areas may not be able to afford an entire storefront or office building. Instead, they work out of individual suites within large office buildings. This makes the verification process more difficult, as Google requires an obvious display of the business’ name on their place of operation to verify their address.
Matters are further complicated when businesses do not have their names on their suite doors, or they are sharing office space with another business. As a result, smaller-scale, less established businesses may be algorithmically filtered out by Google and excluded from the local three pack.
What are the Advantages of Having a Storefront?
Google values businesses with storefronts because it uses storefront images as one of the means to verify GMB profiles. What if a business lacks a storefront or is located in an office building? In these cases, the location verification process is several times harder to complete and usually fails the initial GMB verification process. The alternative process requires several forms of proof that your address is in fact what you are stating it to be, as well as a video tour in and around the building.
Smaller businesses without a storefront are also missing out on new developments from Google. Recently the search engine giant introduced a new AR feature on the Google maps app that allows users to follow directions and view businesses as they are walking down a street. However, businesses without storefronts will not necessarily show up on this new feature as easily.
Below are some pictures of what Google is looking for in terms of a storefront image and how it is used on GMB profiles. You can see how obtaining these kinds of images may be difficult for a business located in a large office building or otherwise lacking a direct storefront.
Why This is a Big Disadvantage?
Being verified on Google is fundamental for any business. However, because this verification process can take much longer for a business without a physical storefront, they are at an extreme disadvantage. Without a business being verified, potential customers or clients may be unable to find it in the Google Maps app.
Additionally, lacking a verified profile significantly diminishes a business’s chances of ranking in the local three pack, which results in less visibility, lower conversion rates, and ultimately less return on their investment. To add another element of complexity, if more than one business within the same industry shares the same building address, Google may filter out the smaller, less established business. As a result, the smaller business will not end up on the search engine results page.
If your business lacks a storefront, this does not mean that you will be unable to create a stronger presence on Google for your business. It is simply important to recognize this verification hurdle in order to design a more effective online marketing strategy.