On Wednesday, September 27th, we gathered some of the brightest minds in local SEO to answer your burning questions about Google My Business.
We had such a tremendous response that we’ve split the webinar into two! The recording of Part 1, on Troubleshooting GMB Issues, can be found a little further down the page, and the recording of Part 2: GMB Strategies and Ranking Factors, can be found here.
Video: Troubleshooting Google My Business Issues Q&A, with Google Top Contributors
Want to jump to a particular question?
No problem! Just use the time-stamps below to find the correct point in the webinar!
What is the quickest way to get a suspended listing reinstated? (2:40)
- This is a very common question. It depends on the suspension type. There are two types of suspensions: soft suspension and hard suspension. A soft suspension is when it looks like the listing is unverified on Maps – it looks like you have to claim the listing. In a soft suspension you may have also received a suspension notice in GMB. In the case of a soft suspension, you should claim the listing in a new Google account and claim the GMB listing again – going through the verification process again. (Just make sure you meet all the guidelines.)
- With a hard suspension, your listing is completely removed from Maps. This is because Google, a user or the algorithm decided that the business is not eligible to be on Maps. The most common reasons for a hard suspension is if you’re using a PO Box or virtual office, you have multiple listings for an address, you’re an online-only or ecommerce site, or if you create a business inside of another business. You don’t want to create a new listing in the case of a hard suspension. You can’t request a reinstatement. If you adhere to the guidelines, you can ask a Top Contributor for help.
- There is also a third reason that isn’t well known. A listing is claimed in two accounts and one of those accounts gains precedence. If the second account is listed and still verified, you have to find out who owns that listing.
What advanced options are open to businesses if the usual steps don’t work? (6:26)
- Go to the GMB forum and provide details and ask the top contributors why they got suspended. You could also hire someone to look at the situation and figure out what the issue is.
- Is there an escalation opportunity within Google? Your best bet is to use the forum. If you use Google’s social channels to ask questions, you can get stuck. If you use the GMB forum and talk to a Top Contributor, the support team at Google will often listen to the Top Contributors and act.
- If you’re posting information into the forum, make sure you include all the information/details about the problem so that people know the details/facts of the issues. That way people can help figure out the problem.
If GMB won’t restore a listing, should we create a new one, and how do we avoid getting suspended again? (10:20)
- If you can’t get your listing restored, do not create a new one. Your competitors can report you again. It’s best to follow the guidelines.
- Often if people are trying to get a listing restored, they will use the same location or use the same phone number. Google will look things up and if the information is similar or the same, the suspension will carry over to the new listing.
- Google never throws any data away!
- If you try to “trick” or “game” Google, you may get away with it for a while – but it will catch up with you eventually.
Google is really focusing on spam within certain industries (e.g. Rehab Centers). What other industries are they focused on and what can legitimate businesses do to keep/get their GMB listing? (14:11)
- Google is focusing on home service ads that may be considered spam. Google removes any listings from local results that doesn’t have a storefront or physical address. Some examples are locksmiths, towing companies, plumbers, etc. Usually they are home-based businesses or any business that doesn’t do business at the location. Every home-based business should look at converting to a storefront.
- Google reviews listing edits. One team looks at all the edits that come in. If there are a lot of edits coming in, then another team looks at them and looks for spam listings. Google focuses on certain industries because they can evaluate industry-specific listings and take down listings in a mass/bulk. Google will often cross-check listings with national industry associations to make sure the business is legitimate. As a result, if you don’t want to get caught up in this, you should try and be a part of industry associations and well-recognized industry organization or association.
Spam Reporting and Troubleshooting
What is the most effective way to report spam listings to get them removed? (19:00)
- First make sure you’re submitting regular edits on Google Maps listing to build your authority so you can get rid of spam listings. You can make edits and review edits that other people make. That builds up YOUR authority. You can also report spam on the GMB forum or report on Google’s social media channels. Be clear WHY the listing is spam. The more detail you provide the better.
- Everything is moderated by Google.
- When you report to the GMB forum, be sure to include all the links and detailed information – that gets Google’s attention.
- Google will prioritize requests based on the number of requests a listing gets.
When is it right to flag a spam listing as “Never Existed” vs “Spam” vs “Duplicate”? Does Google treat them differently? (24:13)
- You will typically use Never Existed – use Never Existed for virtual offices. Use Spam for business listings that have multiple listings set up or if they have keywords in their business name – it’s blatant spam and very obvious. Spam and Never Existed technically do the same thing — they get the business removed from Google Maps.
- Where people go wrong is they see keyword stuffing in a listing and they mark it as Spam – which is incorrect. That actually results in your edit getting denied. What you should actually do is edit the business name and correct it. The duplicate option is a useless, vacant hole. We’re not really sure if it works and we never use that option.
- Never existed is for mistakes and if a business uses a UPS Store address. Spam is for people doing terrible, spammy things.
- Google treats these options differently in how the listing is ultimately marked. When a manual listing review comes, Google looks at it and evaluates “is this listing actually correct?” The listing goes through a human review and the human is looking to see if the listing is factually If they find that the listing is factually correct, they’ll leave it as is.
Why do companies with service or location names in the business name still rank high? Should we do this to get quick wins, or is the day of reckoning coming? (28:24)
- Exact match domain names used to help you rank higher. That actually still works to this very day. When you do put your service type into your business type, it is going to help you rank higher. You shouldn’t do it if it’s not part of your business name because it goes against Google’s guidelines. If you do it, will you get your business listing taken down? Probably not. Will people go in and edit it? Probably. Will that edits stick? Probably not.
- If you add one or two words to your business name, Google will still resolve that with their algorithm. One of the core pieces of equity that a business owns is their brand. The brand is their name as well as what they stand for. Any time you start messing with your name, you’re messing with your brand and that creates confusion. View your name and brand as a statement of who you are and what you do.
If a business has multiple old listings, should we select “Permanently Closed”, or is there a better way to remove these listings? (32:16)
- There really isn’t a way to remove data from Google. You can’t get a listing deleted. The only time they remove a listing from Maps is if it’s incorrect and the business never really existed there. One exception would be a service or home-based business that was never claimed or verified, it shouldn’t be on Google Maps, so those listings can be removed.
- But if you have a listing at an old address that your business used to be at and you moved, marking it Permanently Closed doesn’t change anything — that listing will still show up. What you should do is reach out to Google support and mark it as Moved. Google will then show the correct page at the correct address. (Similar to a 301 redirect.)
What is the best way to combat obvious fake reviews on a client or competitor’s GMB page? (34:03)
- Report these types of reviews via the flag on the review, wait two weeks and then escalate through Google’s social media channels or through the GMB forum. The single reviews are going to be hard to get taken down if they don’t violate the terms of service. Typically flagging a review won’t result in it getting the review taken down.
- If you can show that the reviewer has a pattern of being part of a spam network, then you should do the research, document it and then ask the forum members to escalate it.
- When you do a single report to flag a review, you’re giving that review text to an individual and they literally review the text of the review.
- Google defines a review as someone who has had an “experience” with the business. There are lots of ways that you can have an “experience” with a business – reviews don’t have to be just customers. They can come from suppliers, former employees, current employees, delivery companies, etc.
- It’s very difficult to get reviews removed. The default is to leave a review up.
- Mike Blumenthal has a tool that can analyze reviews to see if it’s part of a spam network: email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a way to get access to or control of GMB listings created by ex-employees or marketers who no longer work for the company? (41:30)
- This is a big problem. Tip: When you are creating your GMB listing, always use your domain name email as the primary owner. Go into GMB as a new location, Google will ask if you want to request management of a listing and they will send an email to the current “owner.” The current “owner” has 7 days to respond. If they don’t respond, Google will go ahead and release it to you. Or it may get denied by the existing owner.
- During this process you can see a hint of the “owner’s” email address of the listing. You’ll see the first few letters and then **.com. Make sure you take a screen shot of that – because that will give you a hint as to who that owner may be.
- The ownership privileges that Google assigns is more sophisticated than in the past. Now you can have dual owners.
- The business owner should be the “owner” and the business owner should then make the other people (like an agency) managers
A client has several locations. Some are correctly set up as ‘service areas’, while others have storefront addresses. If we change the storefronts to service areas, will Google require re-verification? (46:19)
- No. You can change to service area without re-verification. You want to always claim the right type of business when setting up your GMB
I have used my phone number to verify multiple GMB listings. Now Google says I have used my number too many times. What is the best option for getting around this blocker? (48:24)
- If you work in an agency and you use an employee’s cell phone number, what happens when that person quits? It’s recommended that you always use the business owner’s phone number or the company’s primary phone number when you’re setting up the Google business account. Also, you shouldn’t set up Gmail accounts. You should set up the account using the business’ primary email account.
- Don’t use your own phone number when setting up a client’s GMB account.
If a business re-brands and/or moves, is it better to duplicate the existing GMB listing or shutter it and create a new one? (50:00)
- Rebranding and moving requires planning. You want to change it in GMB and request the moved/redirect in support. If you’re moving across town, you’d want to update the address in GMB. The only exception would be if a business moves to a new state.
- If you’re rebranding, you may want to create a new listing. For instance, if you’re rebranding your restaurant from a Mexican Restaurant to an Italian Restaurant – you’re creating a whole new customer experience, new chef, new menu, etc. you would want to create a new GMB listing so that the old reviews stay with the old listing and the new reviews/info stay with the new branding.
My clinic merged with another. Google didn’t let us merge GMB listings and forced us to create a new listing. We have seen a big drop in rankings and leads. What can we do to rectify this, and what could we have done differently? (54:10)
- This requires you to rebuild your brand, both locally with press and digitally with citations, link building and reviews.
- If you plan the name, address and phone number strategically, you can minimize the impact on your listing. (If it’s a “new experience” then you just have to start all over.)
I have over 100 listings that all use a central order telephone number. Google guidelines state that a local telephone number must be used. How do companies in the same situation approach this? (58:45)
- Google allows locations where the phone number that’s best suited for the location is a shared phone number. Here’s an example: if you search Pizza Hut in Australia Google shows the same phone number – no matter where you’re located. You also see this in hotel chains as well. If you get push-back from Google it may be because you have local phone numbers on your website.
- You could also create a sophisticated call tree that does use local number so people can have access to that local number.
I have clients who run different businesses from the same location. Google insists that each business needs its own address and phone number. Should I advise my clients to create fake suite numbers or is there a better approach to satisfy Google’s rules? (58:45)
- Suite numbers don’t matter! Google does not care about suite numbers.
- If these businesses are actually different businesses (pays separate taxes, have different business licenses, etc.) you should be fine. If they’re just different brands, then you are not eligible to have listings. An exception would be Best Buy: Best Buy has Geek Squad inside their physical locations. Best Buy sells electronics and it has its own signage. Geek Squad is located in Best Buy but they fix electronics and they have their own signage. In this case, Google would be okay with Best Buy and Geek Squad having separate listings.
- Car dealers with service departments is also a good example where one business has different categories of business but are in the same location and should be able to get separate GMB listings.
If a business offers different services which target different customers, is there a way to set up different GMB listings with different categories but the same location? (61:33)
- No. You do NOT want to set up multiple GMB listings.
About Our Google Top Contributor Panel:
Mike is one of the foremost figures of local SEO, having offered web services since 1995. In 2009 he co-founded LocalU, a company that educates business owners on digital marketing. He writes on all things ‘Google Local/Maps’ on his blog ‘Understanding Google Maps and Local Search.’ He is also the Chief Review Officer and Co-founder of GetFiveStars, a reputation development platform for local businesses.
Local SEO expert Joy is a contributor to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors survey, a columnist for Search Engine Land, and a speaker at conferences including SMX and LocalU. Joy runs a local search agency, Sterling Sky.
Joel has worked with Google’s Local and Geo products since 2005. Joel is now the Director of Local Search at PatientPop.com, a solution for patient acquisition, retention marketing, and business insights.
Ben is a Google Plus/Google My Business marketing maven and an experienced SEO veteran. He is a co-founder of Steady Demand, a company that works with agencies and businesses to develop and create engaging social media content.
Myles is Founder and CEO of BrightLocal. He has worked in the local search industry since 2009 and has been a major contributor to the Local Search Ranking Factors Study. Myles also writes a regular column for Search Engine Land and talks at SEO conferences such as BrightonSEO and Inboundcon (Toronto).
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