Google Quietly Going after Virtual Offices
Google is quietly targeting local businesses that are using virtual offices in order to manipulate Google's algorithm. To be clear, a virtual office is when a business rents out a space in an office building or shares an existing business' address but doesn't actually use it as a store front for their customers. They then use this address as their main address within Google's interface in order to put their location in a more opportune spot.
Google has made a clear stand against this behavior but it can be ALL too tempting to continue to leverage this loophole as it's still working for a lot of businesses. In the example below we can see the street view of the building one business was using for their virtual office before their listing was blocked by Google.
Yes, the above example is an extreme. This building shows no signage for the company in question and actually has signs advertising virtual office spaces available. However, this is just the beginning of a strong push by Google to ferret out virtual businesses. If it was easy for you to find your virtual business space then it will be just as easy for Google's team.
Unfortunately, according to the examples we've seen when the hammer does come down, it comes without warning or mercy. One day your listing is there and the next it's been blocked by Google – effectively killing that revenue stream overnight. Yes, your listing may stay in the search results for a while but before long Google will filter it out completely. Then you're left to wonder...now what?!
Google clearly states that if your business location isn't a store front for your customers then you need to hide your address within your Google Places dashboard.
If you're taking calls and meeting with clients at your location then do your best to ensure that the street view of the building shows your presence and that you're there to answer the phone. Google has already shown they will take aggressive action against anyone they feel is abusing this aspect of the system and you'll be stuck with sorting out the mess if you get caught in any gray area....