Back in 2021 Google shared that they were going to be cracking down on spam for GBP listings. This is what Google said they had already done:
- Blocked or removed 55 million policy-violating reviews and nearly 3 million fake Business Profiles.
- Took down more than 960,000 reviews and more than 300,000 Business Profiles that were reported by Google Maps users.
- Reviewed and removed more than 160 million photos and 3.5 million videos that either violated Google policies or were of low quality.
- Disabled more than 610,000 user accounts after detecting and investigating suspicious or policy-violating behavior.
- Stopped more than 3 million attempts by bad actors to verify Business Profiles on Google that didn’t belong to them.
Having a Google Business Profile (GBP) is the best way for a local business to rank high on Google, in the Local Pack and on Google Maps. There is fierce competition to get into Google’s coveted three-pack because that will give their company the most visibility.
Fast Forward to 2022 and we are seeing many GBP suspensions. None of my client’s GBPs have been suspended, mainly because they have listened to my advice. The trick in not getting your listing suspended is just following the Google Business Profile guidelines.
One of the biggest abuses of the guidelines is the name of your business. Here is the guideline:
“Represent your business as it’s consistently represented and recognized in the real world across signage, stationery, and other branding.”
It seems very simple, you “Enter your business name as it appears to customers in the real world.” Examples: Joe’s Plumbing, Watson and Watson Law Firm, or Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
The problem is that business owners have noticed that having keywords in your business name is a huge ranking factor. So, instead of “Joe’s Plumbing” the owner will change the GBP name to “Joe’s Plumbing and Clogged Drains – Trenton NJ.” Unless that is the registered name of the business, it is ripe for a suspension. Google can suspend it on its own or someone, such as a competitor, can complain to Google.
This type of spam is so widespread, I now have a service called Google Business Profile Cleanup Service. My company, Blue Lacy SEO, investigates and notifies Google of any misleading, duplicate, or non-existing competing businesses currently online. Additionally, we flag unhealthy SEO practices such as keyword stuffing and fake addresses.
If you really want to change the name of your business on your GBP, I would advise getting a DBA (Doing Business As) name.
High Risk Industry Categories
Certain categories and industry types are considered spammy or high risk. These categories are known for spammy profiles and fraudulent or fake Business Profiles. Google looks at these industries with extra scrutiny and often suspends listings, even if they violate the smallest guideline.
Some of these business categories include:
- Garage doors
- Pest control
- Real estate
- Tree planting
- Tree pruning
If your business is in one of these categories, read the Google guidelines and don’t deviate from them.
Using A P.O. Box for a Business Address
A GBP is for a local business that either see customers at their places of business or for local companies that go out to the customer’s location. Google knows that you can’t run a business from a post office or local UPS Store. If you somehow verified a GBP with one of these addresses, your profile will likely get suspended sooner or later.
Using A Virtual Office or Co-Working Space Address
Google also has rules about businesses using a virtual office or co-working space addresses. Virtual offices are typically just used as a mailing address, while co-working spaces are widely used because they are cheap to rent and they give you an address.
But Google doesn’t consider a co-working space address a true business location unless:
- You rent a dedicated space, like a dedicated office.
- You have your company’s signage outside that dedicated office space so customers can find your location.
- You or your employees (not the co-working building’s staff) are there during business hours.
Google Business Profile listings are only for local businesses. If you have an online-only business, such as an e-Commerce store, online gaming, or similar-such businesses, you don’t qualify for a GBP because there is no real reason to have one. You are not doing business locally.
You may have a business that has been violating some of Google’s guidelines for many years without getting suspended. You may have been doing something that either Google didn’t forbid or didn’t crack down on several years ago. But Google is constantly updating their guidelines and is now more proactive in tracking down and responding to complaints about banned practices. My advice is to read the guidelines and get your Google Business Profile in compliance before it is suspended.