Clients with home businesses often ask if they can use a PO Box as their address in the Google Places listing. The short answer – not a good idea.
Google has seemed to waffle back and forth in this area. When Google Maps was first created, businesses without a brick and mortar address could not create a business listing because the Google Map was unable to display a listing without a pinpoint address. Then Google Maps started incorporating business listings from data partners and began showing a floating dot, rather than a pinpoint, to represent those businesses with no “actual” address – but that information had to come from data partners rather than a listing.
When confronted with how businesses with no brick and mortar address could get on Google Maps back in 2008, the Google Earth VP suggested that those businesses get a PO Box. Hence, people started doing so. Acknowledging that not all businesses have brick and mortar addresses, in April 2010, Google rolled out the ability to add service areas to your listing AND hide your address.
A few months later Google seemed to do an about face. In a December 2010 blog post on tips for creating a business listing in Google Places, a Google rep wrote:
“Google Places is meant to facilitate customer interaction with brick-and-mortar businesses and service providers. Therefore, the business owner or employee who is officially authorized to represent their particular business location must have a physical address in order to comply with our guidelines.”
The guidelines the rep is referring to state: “P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.”
Some of those listings have been removed and some have not. But there are plenty of Google Places Help questions out there regarding people being penalized for using a P.O. Box as an address.
What are your options? Some places let you get a P.O. Box that is not listed as a P.O. Box address, but rather as a suite number. Use your home address but don’t display it. Try to partner with another business to use their address – but remember that there cannot be two businesses at the same address so you would need to have a suite number.