Getting A Virtual Office For Your Google Places Page Is Risky Business

March 8th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni


Virtual offices have many uses. They are great for having a professional space to meet a client when you don’t have an office in the area. They can also be really useful if you are searching for a permanent office space and need somewhere to get business done in the meantime. However, using a virtual office address in a Google Places business listing is not something that will benefit your business. In fact, this practice technically goes against Google’s guidelines and could end up hurting your rankings in the long run.

According to Google, there is only supposed to be one business under the same address in Google Places. This isn’t an issue if each business at that address has a different suite number as they would in a traditional office complex. The issue with the majority of virtual offices is that, in order to keep the cost low, they assign all businesses the same address and suite number. This is where the problem with virtual offices truly lies: their ubiquity.

Virtual offices have become a popular way to, in essence, spam Google Places. Want to rank for Phoenix but your office is actually in Mesa? Not a problem; simply do a search for “Mesa virtual office” and with $100 and 30 minutes you can have your very own prime downtown address to use. Sound like a great deal, right? It should. In fact, some virtual office companies are using this as a selling point. However, as with many great deals, this one is just too good to be true.

Just as Google caught on to businesses buying UPS store P.O. boxes and using the store’s address as their own, it is catching on to virtual offices. When the virtual office provider is the first result to come up when searching for the virtual office address, it isn’t hard for Google to create an algorithm that can connect the dots. Not to mention there are a host of Google reviewers out there that are quick to flag a Places page that they believe to be associated with a virtual office.

Another thing to keep in mind when considering using a virtual office address for your business’s Places page is the fact that Google Places often merges different business’s listings together. This can happen to businesses that are across town from each other but might happen to have a similar name, phone number or even their profession. This common issue poses a significant problem for businesses that choose to use a virtual office address for their Places page. For instance, I’ve seen one law firm’s Places page share the same exact address and suite number with the Places pages of 17 other businesses. Some of them were other lawyers that would (or at least should) be attempting to rank locally for the same key phrases. Even the virtual office company itself had a Places page using that same exact address. This is common, especially for virtual offices with prominent addresses in large cities. It wouldn’t take much for Google to mix up information with so many businesses, some quite similar, sharing the same address.

Then again, maybe you could get away with it. Your business could end up being the exception and slip past the eyes of the spam watchdogs. Maybe your listing will beat the odds and stay free of merged information. But eventually, just as Google has done many times before, they will come out with an update targeted at the crack that your business happened to slip through.