For a few years now, Google has been offering local business listings that allow users to find businesses through Google searches as well as through Google maps. And this is a terrific way for a business to “put themselves on the map,” so to speak – especially with the amount of local search traffic that comes from mobile devices. This fantastic tool allows small businesses and local establishments to increase their visibility to the public.
But sometimes things go awry. Just like Google penalizes websites for breaking the rules, they also punish local listings. But here’s the catch: they rarely give a reason for the suspension. They may do this, in part, to ensure that mischievous administrators don’t find new ways to “game” the algorithm or find shortcuts. For legitimate businesses who got banned or delisted, this can be incredibly infuriating, so let’s take a look at the different types of suspensions.
Different Types of Suspensions
There are two main types of suspensions, and one of them is a little more forgiving than the other. You’ll notice the more forgiving type of suspension after you have logged into Google My Business and then see the indicator “suspended”. In addition to noting the label, you’ll also notice that you now lack the options to manage your listing. Despite these two problems, your business will show up in Google and Google Maps regardless.
The root cause for this type of suspension is that you crossed the line and rebelled against Google’s guidelines (whether intentionally or unintentionally). This won’t affect your ranking, but it is extremely problematic. To solve this issue, you can simply sign up for a new Google account, verify the listing once more, and stop offending Google.
However, the second kind is much worse, and this type of suspension isn’t forgiving…at all. Basically, they’ll wipe your listing off the map, as well as all of your images and customer reviews. Poof – like a ghost’s flatulence in the wind, your business listing has disappeared. The only viable option here is to hope that you can get it reinstated, but that’s a long shot at best. So, to help ensure that you never have to deal with these ugly and stress inducing problems that can negatively affect your bottom line, let’s take a look at some of the most popular reasons Google shuts down businesses’ local listing.
1. Forwarding URLs
Sometimes people choose to forward users to another website or URL, such as a vanity domain or landing page instead of their actual site. This is a big no-no because it essentially misdirects the user. I think at one time or another we have all been forwarded to a site that we didn’t want to visit, and it’s infuriating, isn’t it? In their guidelines, they clearly state, “Do not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or ‘refer’ users to landing pages.” This often results in a soft suspension.”
2. Keyword Stuffing
To stay on the safe side, you’re going to want to keep the name of your business (within the listing) as clean and simple as possible. Be sure to omit unnecessary information, and make darn sure you don’t try to stuff in keywords. For example, if you’re business’s name is Robert’s Burgers, don’t write it as Robert’s Burgers, LLC., Robert’s Burgers Downtown Location, and so on. In their guidelines, they clearly state: “Adding unnecessary information to your name by including marketing taglines, store codes, special characters, hours or closed/open status, phone numbers, website URLs, service/product information, location/address or directions, or containment information is not permitted.”
3. Multiple Listings
Also, don’t try to game the system by thinking you can list yourself more than once for each location. If Google becomes privy to your misdeeds (and come on, they always find out), they’re likely going to ban both listings. After reviewing the guidelines, users will note that they state, “Do not create more than one page for each location of your business, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”
4. Your Business is in Some Manner Sensitive or Violates Google’s Policy
If your business is controversial or found to be inappropriate by large groups of people, you’re likely going to get suspended. Some less than savory night establishments aren’t going to make the cut, for example. But there have even been reports of businesses like gun merchants that were suspended. In their guidelines, Google states that, “Regulated goods
5. Online Businesses
Come on, the whole point of adding a listing on Google Maps is so that users can physically find your store. The key factor here is that a business listing must make regular contact with customers in person. This bars most, if not all, purely digital stores such as ecommerce sites.
6. Your Listing Points to a Mailbox or Virtual Office
Part of the deal with getting listed is that your business needs to point to a firm address that isn’t subject to rapid change. The guidelines state, “If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, do not create a page for that location unless it is staffed during your normal business hours.” So if you thought you could rank your virtual office in multiple locations, think again.
You can also rent a room or desk from a local business and then claim it as a location. While this isn't the most honest method, I have seen it done. I'd recommend against it, TBH.
7. You Don’t Own or Lease Your Space
There are a lot of community-type programs and other services that meet in spaces that they don’t own. Any type of business that uses another business’s property (such as recreational businesses and social/hobbyist classes that might meet in a church or community center) isn’t qualified for a listing. As per the guidelines, “Ineligible businesses include: an ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent.
The Key to Avoiding Suspension
I think it's pretty obvious with the reasons above that it's best to just be honest with Google when it comes to your business. The days of gaming the system to get ahead are all but gone now, and honesty is the best policy.