How to outwit Google on local ranking with Phantom office? What I have learnt from an Indian SEO company. You may have noticed that when you search on Google it will tend to put the local companies ahead of the others on the SERP. Google's preference to list local companies above distant companies makes a great deal of sense. I don't know about you but I prefer to deal with local companies because it is more convenient. For one thing local companies can be readily reached if there are any issues I need to resolve with them. "Places for Business" is Google's window for local businesses to inform it about their presence. Once you have registered with Google it will send you a post card to verify your local address. Plain and simple! If you are a legit local business this is actually a very good way to be listed by Google for the niche products you are selling. Unfortunately this channel has been gradually abused by SEO black hatters and logic tells me Google will have a hard time wrestling without human intervention. I learnt this from my personal experience and the salesperson of an SEO company. While I was in Miami Florida I had an urgent need to get couple of hundred DVDs duplicate for a tradeshow at the County Fair Expo. I searched Google with keyword "dvd duplication", and voila! "Miami DVD Duplication 1Stop 888-591-7867" was listed at the top as a local company. Google map told me it was 7 miles away from where I was so I jumped into my car with one hand calling the company the other hand fumbling with the GPS. The phone call didn't last long because it was answered by a machine. After 40 minutes stop and go traffic I finally reached this place but to my surprise it was a house in a residential area. I called again and after punching a sequence of keys I was able to speak with a live person. I complained about the location on its website. The answer was that they had moved. I happened to notice there were few more locations on their website that were not too far away so I proposed to drop off the DVD master there. "No sir, all the employees are on vacation now. You will need to overnight the master to us in Texas." Two hours wasted on the road without accomplish my mission. I was pissed and furious and I swore to revenge. So I did some research on the website and found all the location listed on the website were bogus. Google street view even showed one of them at the center of a traffic light intersection, and the other two were shopping mall but without a specific unit number. By searching its toll free number I was able to trace this company's presence all over the place; coast to coast and even in Canada. The master mind is a company in Texas. I had to admit the creativity of this black hatter was simply brilliant. At least that created an impression that this is a giant corporation with offices all over the country. With my busy schedule I forgot about the revenge, and that was over 6 months ago. On the other side of the world I have been approached by an Indian SEO company. The salesman emailed and called me once in a while. One day for whatever reason I felt the urge to talk to this guy as his Indian accent always amused me and I also wanted to learn some Indian accent as a conversation ice breaker at parties. So we chat and I asked him how he could guarantee my site on the first page for the keyword I was targeting. His answer was "NO" so I know at least he was honest about that. But he told me one thing he could 100% guarantee was to get my page on the first page with a locale specified, "my gadget kansas city", "my gadget los angeles", for example. How and why? I asked immediately. With the friendship we had built up he was willing to tell me the approach, "Phantom office my friend!", he shouted with his Indian accent and then he explained to me the how's and the reason he could guarantee my page when a locale is specified. Was I enlightened or what!? I was able to relate his story to the instance half year ago in Miami. And to my surprise, I found a lot of businesses are doing that. The trick is to rent a virtual office with letter forwarding. In this day and age getting a phone number with local area code and forwarding feature is not expensive either. Voila! You now have a local physical location and a local phone number to register with Google. Since there is no human involvement on Google's side on the verification, Google thinks you are local and will list you as local. I suspect that Google knows about this practice and chooses not to police it. We have to remember that Google is famous for its machine intelligence and checking a business location is real or fake takes too much labor. Besides, Google is selling relevancy and not accuracy. I think there is still a subtle difference. For example, if you search for breast enlargement Google will give you tons of links related to that but whether the claims are true or not is none of Google's business. I guess that is the reason this practice is not classified as black hat on Google's radar. People use this scheme may think this is an innocent white lie. But to me I had to waste my two hours of productivity to learn a lesson. Use this to work for you or against you, the choice is yours.