[2020] Ultimate Playbook for Google My Business Suspensions


http://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Getting a suspension in Google My Business can be frustrating because unlike many of the normal penalties Google gives out, with GMB they don’t tell you what you did wrong.  It’s also possible that Google wasn’t even the one to trigger the suspension since any Google user can report a listing on Google Maps and, depending on the trust level of the user, it is possible for them to have your listing removed.

Two Types of Suspensions

The first type of suspension is what I refer to as a soft suspension.  If you’re talking to Google, they refer to this as a listing being “disabled”.  This is when you login to Google My Business and see the “suspended” label and no longer have the ability to manage your listing. However, your listing still shows up on Google and Google Maps. You should be able to see it if you search by name and all your reviews will be attached to it.

In this case, the listing has really just become unverified. Since you broke Google’s guidelines in some way, they have removed your ability to manage the listing.  However, the listing’s ranking is rarely impacted. I once worked with a locksmith who ranked first in a major metro area; even after his account got suspended, his ranking didn’t decline.

Hard suspensions are much worse because it means the listing itself has been removed from Google Maps and the reviews generally disappear with it. Hard suspensions can be triggered due to:

  • Algorithmic – you could do nothing and have your listing suspended automatically. Sometimes small changes inside the GMB dashboard can trigger these as well if you’re dealing with a spammy industry like locksmiths.
  • Google Employees – obviously Google can remove your listing at any point if they feel you violate their guidelines. We used to see Google do this a lot at the Google My Business forum when people used to be able to report listings there as spam and Google removed them.
  • Google Users – anyone that reports a listing on Google Maps as Spam or Doesn’t Exist can have it suspended if their edit gets approved. Depending on the user, sometimes their edits will go live immediately (if the user has enough trust), sometimes they will need to be approved by other Google users (via Google Maps App or Check the Facts) or sometimes they will need to be approved by Google themselves. A user can also submit a report to Google via the Redressal Form.

If you receive a hard suspension it’s because Google, or a user, has decided the business is not eligible to be on Google Maps and therefore the listing shouldn’t exist. I have also seen Google issue hard suspensions due to repeated violations of Google My Business guidelines.

Some examples of what would cause a listing to receive a hard suspension include:

  • You are a service area business with multiple listings
  • You are using a PO Box, mailing service, or virtual office as your address.
  • You created multiple listings for the same business/location.
  • You created a listing for an online business that doesn’t do in-person contact with customers.
  • You created a listing for a business that runs a service or class that operates in a building you don’t own (like a cheerleading club or AA group).
  • You are a repeat keyword-stuffing offender

Certain industries, like locksmiths, receive way more suspensions than others.  I assume that the filters on what triggers a suspension algorithmically vary based on how spammy the industry is.

How Do I Know if I Have Been Suspended?

As of July 13, 2020, Google is now sending out notification emails to owners and managers of a GMB that gets suspended.

http://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Greg Sterling wrote about the reason behind these notifications in this Search Engine Land post.

It’s also a smart idea to do regular spot checks inside your GMB account. Select the “Suspended” filter to review any suspended listings in your account.

http://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Why Do Listings Get Suspended?

Quite often, suspensions happen because there is an issue with the Google account, not necessarily the business itself. For example, it could be an SEO company with bad practices that was working on a perfectly legit business.  Therefore, the account got suspended and nothing bad happened to the listing itself.

Account suspensions can be triggered by “spammy” edits via Google Maps. If you have enough of your edits denied and you get automatically flagged as a spammer, it will cause you to get an account suspension and the listings you manage will get suspended.  I concluded this after talking to several users and analyzing what actions they took right before the suspension happened.  Please see the section on avoiding suspensions (below) to see how I suggest going about editing on Google Maps to avoid suspensions like this.

If you get an account suspension, it’s likely you will lose photos & review responses since those can’t exist without the Google My Business account.

We have found when you receive account suspensions that suspended listings in that account get suspended for all users.  Based on a recent account suspension here are my observations:

  • If an account receives a suspension, they lose access to all the listings in their account.
  • Other users that manage those same listings also lose access to the listing and it shows up in their account as suspended as well.
  • The suspended listings can receive either a hard or soft suspension.  I think it varies based on how bad Google finds the violation.
  • If you see a random listing in your account receive a suspension but the rest of your listings are fine, it’s likely that one of the other managers/owners on the listing received an account suspension.  In these cases, removing the user responsible and contacting GMB support is the fastest way to get access to it again. GMB won’t tell you which user is responsible (for privacy reasons) so you have to try to figure it out yourself by checking with the individual users and asking them if every listing in their account is suspended (if the answer is yes, they are the culprit).  For example, let’s say Bob the Plumber notices that his listing is suspended. He has an agency added as a manager and that agency recently received an account suspension (on all their listings they manage). By removing the agency as a manager and contacting GMB support, Bob can get access back to his listing much quicker. The agency, on the other hand, has to figure out what caused the account suspension and fix it in order to get reinstated.

Do Suspensions Impact Ranking?

We have found getting either type of suspension has not shown to have a negative impact on ranking if the listing gets reinstated later.  For example, a locksmith wouldn’t experience a decrease in ranking if his listing got wrongfully suspended and then reinstated.  It is different than organic penalties in this way since there is no “recovery” period. I have seen one case where the rankings did drop after reinstatement, but this was due to an error by the GMB support team. In that case, the reinstated listing was connected to a new CID number so the listing was treated like a brand new listing even though everything else was the same as before.

We had an account suspension last summer. One of my employees had his account suspended (wrongly) and it was fixed within a few days. It caused soft suspensions for about 2 dozen listings and a hard suspension for Sterling Sky’s listing. Our findings were that rankings literally bounced back to where they were before in both cases. Screenshots below.

http://www.sterlingsky.ca/

 

We also did a survey at a LocalU Advanced event to poll the audience to see what others thought about this. Here are the results of that:

http://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Why is GMB Support Telling Me to Create a Duplicate When I Got a Suspension?

I have had several users tell me that when they have a listing that gets suspended that they are getting this response from Google’s support teams:

“I would like to inform you that the existing business page under the account cannot be reinstated. Therefore in order to make the business page live on Google you need to create & setup a new business page for the location and get the page verified.”

This confuses a lot of people who think Google is telling them to create a new listing.  In reality, they’re just saying they want the user to add a new listing in the GMB dashboard and go through the verification process again.  Since doing this will prompt the user to claim the existing listing on Google Maps, it’s not actually creating a duplicate anywhere.

Should I Recreate the Listing?

No. The old listing that got suspended would have ranking power attached to it; the new listing would not. Therefore, it would most likely not rank as well if you created a new one. You would also lose reviews (only a Google employee can transfer them).  If the listing should not have been suspended because it doesn’t violate the guidelines, it’s imperative that you get it reinstated by contacting Google My Business.

Avoiding Suspensions

  1. If you are working in spammy industries like locksmiths, drug rehabs or personal injury attorneys, be very careful not to submit too many edits to the listing in Google My Business at once or it could trigger a suspension.  For example, I wouldn’t suggest adding attributes, a business description, and changing categories all at the same time. Instead, spread this work out over time and only do one or 2 edits at a time.
  2. I also would suggest you make sure the owner of the listing is an email address that matches the domain of the business website vs. using a Gmail address.  For example, if you’re an agency that manages listings you should have the business owner be the primary owner using his company email and then you should be listed as a manager.  The primary owner should not be a Gmail.
  3. If you do a lot of editing in Google Maps – do not use the same account that you manage Google My Business with.  This will help make sure you don’t accidentally trigger an account suspension by submitting an edit to a listing on Google Maps and having Google flag your entire account.  Google gets this wrong a lot.  I’ve seen a Level-10 Local Guide that was formerly a MapMaker Regional Lead (the highest level of trust for users on Maps) get an account suspension due to Google incorrectly flagging some of his edits.  At my agency, all my employees do editing on Google Maps using Gmails, not their work emails that are hooked up to our GMB agency dashboard.
  4. Don’t link to a URL that redirects to something else. This can trigger an automatic suspension.
  5. Don’t link to a YouTube channel in the website field.  This one surprised me but can also trigger a suspension.

Filing For Reinstatement

As of June 2019, the only way to get a listing reinstated is to fill in the reinstatement form. If you try to contact Google via any other method, they will just redirect you to the form.  Before you send the form, make sure you do the following

  1. Add any photos or videos of your business that proves it’s real to the listing itself inside the Google My Business dashboard (awesome tip from Ben Fisher).  Include photos of:
    1. The inside of the office showing clear signs.
    2. Photos of your trucks/vehicles that show your branding if you have them.
    3. Photos of any business licenses that are verifiable online.
    4. A video walkthrough of your office starting with the outside of the building so that Google can confirm you’re located where you say you are.
  2. Make sure you review all the users on the account (both managers and owners) to ensure you removed any that could possibly have an account suspension.

Turn around times on the reinstatement form are normally only about a week but this can vary significantly if there are a lot of suspensions happening at the same time.  In June-July 2019 wait times were closer to 3-5 weeks.

Need help with a reinstatement? Let us know!

This article was co-written by Joy Hawkins

 

http://www.sterlingsky.ca/
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