Google Business Provider Plan – Will it be effective ?

In the 2010s Google Maps had come up with a unique verification system called the Google Trusted Verifier Program. This, now defunct system, was an attempt to help verify unclaimed listings and help people have another path to verification. This is how it worked:

  1. Not everyone was eligible, Google would first send you an invitation to have your location verified.
  2. Then a volunteer (A Google Trusted Verifier Partner) would come to your location to physically verify it. When all was completed, they would mark you as verified on the Google Trusted Verifier app.

At the start of this decade, after wrapping up with a few very important algorithm updates in the end of 2019, Google is plans to launch the Business Provider Plan. As of now, all instances of Google’s previous Trusted Verifier Program have been removed and replaced by this plan.

So what will this new plan bring to the table?

To start off with, instead of using verified volunteers, Google plans to partner with third party companies (Known as My Business Partners) like banks, auto dealers, malls, airports and telephone companies. The plan is to use the data possessed by these companies on the local businesses to verify the location, phone number and other details about the company. However, if you are an agency or SEO company you need not apply.  As an online partner for this program you can only vouch for businesses with storefronts. Online-businesses and Service-Area based businesses will lose out on this one.

Since it is a new program started by Google, we will have to wait to see its effect on reducing instances of unclaimed listings. Only time will show the true effectiveness of this new Google My Business feature.

First question that comes to mind is that how the MBPs (My Business Partners) that will provide local business details, benefit from giving over data to GMB?

Google says that MBPs cannot charge any fee for the service or display any partner badge. Though Google thinks guarantees a competitive advantage for those involved: “If you are helping local merchants succeed through a strong online presence, this partnership with Google can help you distinguish yourself from other competitors.”Google also offers various talking points for MBPs. This refers to, “one-liner introductions” such as: “We partner with Google to help small businesses build a successful online campaign on Google Search and Maps that attracts customers’ attention,” as well as more detailed pitches.

Again, it is too early to verify the real advantage for businesses choosing to become MBPs.

What about Spam?

It was long thought that the Trusted Verifier Program was an on-going source of Local Listing Spam. It is not clear what if any additional protections Google put in place to prevent this program from becoming the same — Mike Blumenthal

The biggest issue here though, as pointed out in recent blog posts, is that how can Google’s Business Provider Plan avoid the same pitfalls that made the Google Trusted Verifier a hotbed of Spam. It is known that there are millions of fake listings which are hurting the credibility of businesses. This is even more so for companies that fall under the category of SAB (Service Area Businesses) like locksmiths, handymen etc.

From The News

Marketplace investigation uncovers fake locksmith listings and reviews on Google – CBC news

Fake online locksmiths may be out to pick your pocket too — nytimes

It should be noted that there is nothing in theory preventing the would be MBPs from engaging in spammy activities. Since the main motivation for these third-party providers will be profit, and because Google is not guaranteeing any tangible benefits besides their “one-line introductions”to distinguish yourself, nothing gives them an incentive to truly prevent spam. In other words, big companies can easily pay MBPs for verifying new fake listings for multiple locations and getting them all verified. Unless Google has a way of combating this already in place, their Business Provider Plan seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

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