On the 27th of September, 2017, BrightLocal assembled professionals around the world of internet, content and SEO marketing to answer questions about Google My Business (GMB). The first half of the webinar was a huge success that it was split into two parts (with the second happening on October 5th), and there was so much information shared that anyone who wants to develop better SEO business practices can walk away after listening to the webinar or reading the transcripts with something they never knew before.
The webinar featured the following SEO and Google My Business experts:
- Myles Anderson — Founder and CEO of BrightLocal; he lead the deep dive webinar.
- Joy Hawkins — Founder of SterlingSky Inc., and a well-known member of the Google’s Top Contributor program on GMB
- Joel Headley — PatientPop Director of Local SEO and Marketing; has spent 11 years working at Google;
- Ben Fisher — a Google My Business Guru
- Mike Blumenthal — the main man behind blumenthals.com, a site devoted to understanding GMB and Local Search. Mike Blumenthal also has a tool that is discussed in the webinar to help you analyze fake reviews to let you know if it’s part of a spam network.
Now let’s check out the topics and questions discussed in the webinar.
Troubleshooting Google My Business Issues Webinar
The topics that were discussed included penalties, spam reporting and troubleshooting, verification issues, merging/claim listings, and multi-location/service. Each section had a number of questions that the panelists were able to answer completely.
Google My Business Penalties
The panelists were asked about getting a listing reinstated, and they responded that there are two main types of suspensions: soft and hard.
A “soft” suspension makes it look like you are currently listed on Google Maps but are unverified. You will have also received a suspension notice from GMB. In order fix the issue, make a new Google account and re-verify the listing while meeting the guidelines.
Then there’s a “hard” suspension. Your listing is completely removed from Maps because the algorithm or Google has decided you are now ineligible. Reasons for hard suspensions include the following:
- PO or virtual office
- Multiple listings for an address
- No physical location (i.e. you’re an ecommerce site)
- Created a business inside another business
In this case, do not create a new listing. You should consult with a Google Top Contributor first to make sure you are following the guidelines.
Then there’s a third reason for suspension that isn’t well known: a listing or location claimed by two separate accounts. Should one account gain precedence, the other listing will be suspended.
Again, when it comes to resolving these problems, you shouldn’t do exactly what you did before. Use the Google forums so you can get a much clearer explanation of what had gone wrong. The panelists truly emphasized that you shouldn’t create a new listing at the old location, because Google doesn’t throw data away. If an old location was suspended, your new one will be too.
Another question posed by the host was:
Google is really focusing on certain industries (e.g. locksmiths, plumbers, rehab centers)… What can legitimate businesses do to keep/get their GMB listing?”
Google unfortunately removes many listings that do not have a storefront or physical address. Home-based businesses should convert to a storefront so that they are following the guidelines. The other thing Google looks at is edits. There is a separate team that scours the edits to try and catch spammed listings, such as keyword stuffing, different addresses, false names, and much more. To not get wound up in this, joining accredited organizations or associations will help establish your storefront.
Spam Reporting & Troubleshooting
According to the Google Top Contributors, the most effective way to report spam listings and have them removed, is to submit “regular edits on Google Maps listing to building your authority so you can get rid of spam listings.” Make and review edits that other people make too. This helps build up your personal authority.
Remember that when you are reporting, you need to make sure that you are being specific. The more detail you provide, there will be an impact. This means including links and detailed information. Google will prioritize requests based on the number of requests a listing receives.
When it comes to spam listing, there are three categories: “never existed,” “spam,” and “duplicate.” It is important to know how to choose these. Never listed is used for virtual offices. Spam and Never Existed fulfill the same request–that the business is removed from Google Maps.
Google will always look at a manual listing and ask, “is this listing correct?” Then the listing goes through a human review to make sure it looks factually correct. If it’s okay, the reviewer leaves the listing as is. Duplicate is rarely ever used.
The third question dealt with a company putting service and location names in the business name. It seems doing so increases ranking. Yet, the experts say that putting your location or service type into your business name, it may make you rank higher, but it goes against the guidelines in the long run. Really, you are simply messing with your brand and causing customer confusion.
As for “permanently closed” listings, these are never truly deleted if the location was verified before. The sole exception is that if the permanently closed business was never claimed or verified or was home-based and shouldn’t be listed. However, permanently closing your old address for a business doesn’t erase the listing. You must contact Google to have them mark the the listing as Moved, which will basically 301 the listing and send people to new one.
There is a big problem with GMB listings being created by ex-employees or marketers who no longer work with or had never worked with the company. One way to curtail this problem is to always use your domain name email as the primary owner. When this happens, go into GMB as a new account, have Google request management of the listing to the current owner. Should the current owner not respond in 7 days, the location will be released to you. However, locations can have dual owners.
Should you wish to add more service areas, you need not worry about getting re-verification.
Another question asked, “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?”
The experts answered that you should always use the business owner’s phone number or the company phone number when setting up a business account. Also, forgo a Gmail account. Only use the business’ primary email account.
Businesses move and rebrand quite often. When this happens, change your business in GMB and then request it to be listed as moved or redirected. For example, when you move across town, you can update the address in GMB, unless moving to another state.
Rebranding is slightly different, because you’re creating a new customer experience. Because of this, you should create a new GMB listing. This means old reviews stay with the old listing while the new listing can gain new reviews and information. Again, if you merge with another business, you have technically changed the customer experience. At this time, your rank may be impacted, so be prepared to rebuild.
It also helps to plan the name, address, and phone number to minimize impact.
Now let’s say you have dozens of listings that use a central order telephone number. Google allows locations where the phone number for the location is actually a shared phone number. The panelists give the following example: if you search for Pizza Hut in Australia, you will always see the same number. Optionally, you can create a sophisticated call tree that uses a local number.
What happens if different businesses are running from the same location? Because Google wants a business to have its own address and phone number, same locations for different businesses often are a cause of concern. The one thing you are urged not to do is create fake suite numbers. The one way to get around this stipulation is that the different businesses should not be different brands only. An example of this exception would be car dealerships with multiple service departments.
In short, never set up multiple GMB listings for a single business in hopes of making categories.
The Google Top Contributors have discussed a tremendous amount about Google My Business and troubleshooting it. Those who are interested in becoming more knowledgeable about local SEO and GMB. Remember that you have to consider the user experience, even when developing a listing on Google Maps. Never duplicate your listing or try to fool Google, and if you ever need any help, there are Top Contributors available to answer your questions.