Google’s ‘My Business Provider’ program replaces ‘Trusted Verifier’ for GMB outreach –

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Over the weekend Darren Shaw pointed out and Mike Blumenthal posted about the new Google My Business Provider program (MBP) being rolled out. It supplants the now shuttered Google Trusted Verifier Program.

Both programs have the same goal: simplify verification of local business listings at scale for Google My Business by allowing third parties to expedite the process. According to several studies over the past few years, a substantial number of GMB profiles remain unclaimed (e.g., 56% in 2016, 32% in 2018).

Seeking those with lots of SMB relationships. The program, like its predecessor, enlists “groups or organizations handling large amounts of business data” to help local businesses claim their GMB profiles. My Business Providers must apply, be approved and onboarded and then they can obtain and distribute verification codes for businesses they work with.

My Business Providers can verify individual businesses or locations in bulk. The FAQs lists several categories of potential MBPs but doesn’t foreclose others:

  • banks
  • auto-dealers
  • delivery and distribution companies
  • telephone companies
  • tourism and governmental organizations
  • malls
  • airports

SEOs need not apply. Significantly, “Agencies, SEOs, and resellers are not eligible for this program.” And the proposed MBP “must not have access to the business listings they are verifying.”

Google says MBPs cannot charge for the service or display any kind of partner badge, but sees the program as 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 a range of talking points for MBPs. These include, “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.

No SABs or online-only businesses. The program is only available to those working with local businesses that have a physical storefront, “Online-only businesses and pure Service Area Businesses are not eligible.” Google adds, “The proposed partner must interact with businesses in the real world, not only digitally. “

Mike Blumenthal notes in his post, “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.”

Why we care. Third party aggregators are often (though not always) motivated by profit in approaching local businesses owners and this has created numerous problems over the years. Google is trying to leverage third parties with lots of relationships to improve the data in search and Maps but without creating incentives to spam or exploit SMBs (i.e., charging for profile claiming).

But as Mike suggests with his spam comment, Google will need to be highly vigilant to prevent opportunistic entities from exploiting the program for their own benefit.