Imagine logging in to make a quick edit to the store hours of one of your locations, only to learn that you are unable to access the listing. Scrambling from account to account in your brand’s Google My Business (GMB) listings, you realize that several locations are affected. Your enterprise brand is, unfortunately, experiencing Google My Business suspension issues, cutting off your ability to access and edit your location listings.
This is known as a “soft” suspension in GMB local listings terms, although Google doesn’t share that classification with brands. In fact, you won’t receive any notification at all if one of your business listings is suspended. Unless you are proactively managing your local listings or working with a local marketing partner, you may not realize there is an issue until it has potentially impacted your customers and business.
Why proactive local listings monitoring is essential.
Any of your locations could receive a soft suspension; they are becoming more common as Google continues to crack down on fake reviews and listings. Google will issue a soft suspension when they believe there is erroneous information on your listing, or that the listing violates GMB terms in some way.
The second type of suspension is a “hard” one and is characterized by the removal of the listing from Maps and Search altogether. Google only takes this drastic step when they believe that your intent was to mislead or defraud searchers. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you haven’t been up to anything nefarious. If you are hit with a hard suspension and believe it was in error, you can follow the same step-by-step process we’ve outlined below to correct it.
Either way, when Google takes steps to suspend your listings, it means their trust in your brand is at risk. And we know how important Google’s trust in your brand is—it’s a key factor in your local rankings and online visibility. Proactive monitoring and swiftly addressing any suspension issues is critical, as an issue with one location’s listing could lead Google to take a closer look for any errors or issues in all of your location listings. Working with an experienced local marketing partner, you can count on ongoing monitoring and timely notification of risks that could affect your account, whether those exist when you come on board or develop over time.
What causes erroneous GMB local listings suspensions?
Unfortunately, your brand can be affected by suspensions even when you haven’t done anything wrong. As of last summer, when the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report into fake GMB listings, approximately 7.3% of all business listings on Google Maps were fraudulent. In 2018 alone, Google removed over 3 million listings it deemed to be fake.
It’s not uncommon for inaccurate information to make its way into your local listings, as updates and suggested edits can come from a variety of sources. Some of these sources include:
- Your service area business address might be your home, but you haven’t hidden your address (you can’t put a home address on Google).
- Your business address isn’t actually where you said it was; they see an entirely different business on Google Street View (perhaps you had a friend receive your postcard and verify the location so your home-based business could have a listing).
- A competitive tactic, where unscrupulous competitors report that your listings violate guidelines to trigger an investigation.
- Users with good intentions make suggested edits and may believe the information they have proposed is accurate even when it is not.
- Any other reason Google believes a listing is against guidelines (whether or not that’s true).
As Google wages this massive war against spam, mistakes can be made. Business listings with simple errors or even those with completely accurate, guideline-conforming information may get caught in the crossfire and be mistakenly suspended by GMB.
The issue can be compounded by slow support and response times, especially when GMB has been on a bender and issued many suspensions at once. According to the aforementioned WSJ article, some businesses have had to wait months to get their unwarranted suspension lifted.
It’s critical that you are able to address suspension and verification issues as they arise, as account-wide suspensions (while rare) can happen. We’ve seen this happen first-hand; in one instance, 100 of a brand’s locations were suspended at once by Google. Early intervention meant we were able to get it resolved quickly and minimize the impact on the brand.
Solving suspension issues for brands.
As soon as you or your local marketing partner has detected a suspension, you can start the process of communicating a reinstatement request to Google.
Ensure that your listing conforms to Google My Business Guidelines
Google will ask you to confirm that you have read the Guidelines (here) and that your listing is not in violation of any terms before moving to the next step.
Submit a reinstatement form
Often, a simple request to get reinstated is enough to take care of the problem. Depending on their current support load or backlog, response times can vary. However, it’s important to stay on top of the request as you may be asked to submit supporting documentation in order for the investigation to proceed.
You can access the GMB reinstatement form here.
If that doesn’t work, get help
If for some reason the issue is not resolved and you don’t think you’re getting the right information from Google, consult your agency, local marketing partner, or the SEO community.
This is where the services of an experienced local marketing partner can really pay dividends. In addition to automating the process of monitoring listings to save you time and ensure all issues are caught, we can help speed up the process of dispute resolution. We have a firm understanding of how to escalate reinstatements and help brands navigate the challenges that can arise.
Still have questions? Read GMB Bulk Verification for Enterprise & Multilocation Brands for a deeper dive into the most common questions brands have about managing their GMB listings at scale. Then get in touch and see how Rio SEO can help you own your local markets.