We recently moved one of our company office addresses from an address in North London to an address in Central London. We had been at the North London address for about 2 years, and prior to this we had been using another address closer to Central London. We thought it would be fairly straightforward to simply move the office address on Google by changing the company address from one address to another, and showing us, when we logged in to Google My Business (formerly known as lots of other things including Google Places), this was fairly straightforward. However, we then noticed that Google My Business had listed the old address as permanently closed and there didn’t seem to be any way to change this to “this business has moved”. Furthermore, we had ten reviews attached to the old business which didn’t seem possible to move across to a new address. We noticed there was a place on Google to contact them to request a transfer of the old reviews to the new address, and we asked Google to move the reviews across.
Google telephoned us. This in itself is quite astonishing because normally they are one of the hardest companies to ever communicate with in any shape or form, and they seem to try and actively discourage you from contacting them. However on this occasion not only did we get a telephone call, but we also got an email from one of the Google operatives. They rang back later in the day and we asked them to move the reviews across to the new office address. The operative asked us to give him the postcode of the new address and then asked where our sign was outside the premises showing that we were a business inside the premises. We explained that our company was using this address as we have done for over 15 years for a London address, but it is a shared office and as a result there are no signs outside. The Google operative advised us that we could not have a listing on Google My Business if we did not own the office, as the only business that was capable of getting a listing at that address was the company who owned the office.
We suggested that this was a load of nonsense because there are literally hundreds of thousands of businesses across the UK who work out of houses, shared offices, registered office addresses and much more besides. The Google operative, who sounded like he was in India and reading from a script, repeated the same statement again.
I then asked him if it was possible to get the reviews transferred to one of our existing office addresses which have been on Google My Business for at least a decade.
The Google operative had a look at our other address and advised us that as this appeared to be in a residential area (it is a home office); we could not use it as a Google My Business address. I again repeated that Google has our business already on Google My Business and has done so for over a decade without any complaints at all. Furthermore, the photo the Google operative was using appeared to be from 2009, and so how on earth they would know that we had not built an office on the site since that time we were not so sure. However, the Google operative informed us that he had ways of checking to see what was on the site, but that there was a solution to all of this. The solution was for us to take a photograph of the premises with our sign outside and he would then be able to move the reviews across.
We have a sign, and I intend to fasten it to our house gate and take a photograph to satisfy the Google operative, who presumably is working from a tick box on a spreadsheet or similar, so that he can tick his box and move our ten reviews across from our old address to our new one.
This demonstrates just how farcical Google and the other large internet operatives are when it comes to having standards. Firstly they are actively discriminating against small businesses who don’t necessarily rent an office and put their own sign on the front of it. Secondly even if you don’t fit that criteria, you can get round it simply by fixing a sign to the premises temporarily, taking a photograph and sending it to Google for their operative to tick a box to say that he’s seen your sign.
Some years ago numerous commentators wrote on the dangers of allowing one company to take a virtual monopoly on any part of the control of information into society. This is a classic and very scary example of a large business deciding what gets seen on their search engine and what doesn’t, simply through self imposed criteria that have no real relevance or link to the real world.
As an aside, there must be over 500 companies based in the premises we are trying to move our office address to. One of these is already our own office address for a different company. It is displayed quite prominently on Google My Business and we have never had any queries about it from Google before. Presumably a Google operative is going to attempt at some point to throw all of those businesses off Google My Business, which means that they will no longer be searchable or showing on the right hand side with lots of detail. This is quite a scary thought because it does mean that in some search engines the company and their address will be invisible, and this is solely down to Google’s own policies which are controlling what information gets shown and what doesn’t.
Personally I don’t use Google that often to search, preferring Duck Duck Go and I also await other competitor search engines which hopefully at some point will rise to compete fully with Google and take away this level of power. Is the time coming?
Jonathan Fagan is MD of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited and TP Recruitment Limited, a set of websites involved in a range of recruitment work. Jonathan has been running small businesses for over 20 years and has a number of interests and investments in companies as diverse as transcription, legal recruitment and a bit of marketing. He is an author of a number of guides and books, together with a children’s novel. In his spare time he enjoys playing golf, cricket, coaching girls’ football, operating a parent taxi, lots of running and paddleboarding on Bala Lake and the River Dee. He is a strong believer in a good work-life balance and regular blogs on making money vs enjoying life. Jonathan’s website is https://www.jonathanfagan.co.uk