In the early days of Google My Business, creating a business listing wasn’t just easy—it was virtually foolproof. All business owners had to do was provide basic information like their business name, address, phone number, and email to be viewed as a legitimate and eligible business listing. But as the saying goes, a few bad apples always spoil the bunch.
Over the years, some users took it upon themselves to up the ante by creating fake user profiles, so they could leave negative “customer” reviews on their competitors GMB listings. Forcing Google’s hand and testing the limits of GMB’s restrictions, other users have actively tarnished the reputations of their competitors by claiming business listings that didn’t belong to them.
Once a business listing is claimed—whether it’s done falsely or legitimately—that user has full control over the account until their ownership is disputed by another user. They have the capability to post anything they want and answer all questions in whatever way they see fit, often purposely offering inaccurate information.
Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for the actual business in question. Inexperienced users and business owners may be blissfully unaware of the common GMB problems like inaccurate information, suspended listing, competitors keyword stuffing, and other black hat SEO tactics that can do a lot of harm to local business listings and rankings. Here, we outline common Google My Business problems your business may be facing, so that you can identify and resolve them immediately.
Non-Verified Local Business Listing
One of the first things you should do upon creating a GMB account is verify your listing. Failing to verify your listing leaves it open to pretty much anyone to claim your listing and make whatever changes they want to it. It’s the equivalent of relinquishing control over your local listing. To use a real-world equivalent example, it’s like purchasing a house and leaving it vacant for months, allowing squatters to settle in.
The verification process is simple. Google has provided a full list of instructions on how to verify your account via mail, on your computer, and on your mobile device. When you verify your account, only you have access to it and only you can make edits.
Google will notify you if your business listing is suspended. Unfortunately, they usually don’t provide a specific reason as to why your account has been suspended, so you’ll most likely have to do a little investigative work to figure it out.
There are a number of reasons why your GMB account may be suspended. It could be that your listing is unverified. Or, maybe you unwittingly violated the Google My Business Guidelines. One of the most common violations that business owners unknowingly commit is listing a residential or an office rental address as their business address. This is a big no-no in Google’s books and you will be penalized for it.
So, what can you do if your GMB account is suspended?
First and foremost, you should familiarize yourself with the GMB Guidelines mentioned above to identify which rules are being broken by your account. Keep in mind that not all businesses automatically qualify for a GMB account and that you have to meet specific criteria to be eligible.
After you identify the violations you’re committing and fix the problem, you can fill out a reinstatement request to have your account reactivated. Google will review the reinstatement request and the changes you’ve made to your account, but there’s no guarantee that it will necessarily be reinstated.
You’ll need to provide the following proof that you own and operate a legitimate business:
- Permanent business signage (even if you’re renting office space)
- A photo of a branded vehicle if you own a Service Area Business
- A photo of a copy of your business license
- Proof that your business is registered with a local business governing body
From there, a GMB support staff member will correspond with you further regarding the status of your business listing suspension or reinstatement.
Spam and Fake Competitor Listings
Try as they might, it’s not always possible for Google to identify and remove all fake or spammy competitor profiles. There are always going to be some that manage to slip through the proverbial cracks. So, if you happen to encounter one, be sure to report it right away for the sake of your business and online transparency for your customers.
Competitors sometimes create fake accounts and stuff the business names with prominent industry-related keywords in an attempt to hike up their online visibility and SERP ratings. Usually, these are very obvious and easy to spot. In most cases, all you have to do is click on “Suggest an edit” on their business listing knowledge panel. If the fake business is unverified, it’s very easy to make changes. Sometimes, the changes take effect immediately. Other times, they take a while. Either way, suggesting an edit brings these potentially fake business listings to Google’s attention.
In the event that your suggested edits aren’t heeded and you know for a fact that a certain business is violating GMB Guidelines, then you can submit a formal complaint in the form of a Redressal form.
Getting Negative Reviews and Ratings
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent people from leaving negative reviews or ratings of your business. But, how you address negative feedback is very important. If legitimate customers are negatively reviewing your business, then your best course of action is to kill them with kindness. Apologize for the bad experience they had and try to rectify the situation in whatever way you can. Other users will see how you handled the situation and judge your customer service accordingly.
However, if a disgruntled former employee leaves a bad review, that’s a different story. You can report the negative review through your GMB dashboard, but you have to prove that the person worked for you at some point without divulging confidential information or files like a record of employment. Google requires that you use “social” proof (e.g. a LinkedIn profile or even a social media reference made by the user) proving that they worked for you.
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