Last night our team added a business description to a law firm’s Google My Business location that we manage. The law firm’s business listing is 100% legit, with photos of the exterior and interior, legitimate reviews, staff pictures and has been published for 3+ years. It is not a virtual location, and is a free standing address with no suite number. Later in the evening we went back to the listing to pull some data only to find that the listing was suspended. Not knowing what happened, or how this could have possibly occurred, I personally called the Google Local assistance line at (844) 491-9665 to ask questions and find out why the listing was suspended. Update – upon further investigation our team also added a “Short name & URL”, which seems to be the official trigger as reported by Search Engine Journal for this glitch.
If you’ve ever talked to someone at Google Local you’ll understand my frustration and anger when you see a summary of the conversation:
Me: Hi I’m calling to see why a listing I manage was suspended.
Google Local Rep: Let me verify the listing (does Google stuff in background)
Google Local Rep: Yes I see that the listing was suspended, did you make any recent changes to the listing?
Me: Yes, we added a business description.
Google Local Rep: I see that there is a current glitch in our system that has suspended over 6,000 business listings, you have to submit a reinstatement request.
Google Local Rep: Sir, Hello?
Me: Did you just say a “glitch” suspended over 6,000 business listings on Google?
Google Local Rep: Yes, Would you like me to walk you through the process to request the listing to be reinstated?
Me: So over 6,000 businesses are essentially shut down on Google and have to go through a process to reinstate their listing?
Google Local Rep: Yes, but once you fill out the form it should be reinstated within 24-48 hours.
I Have Questions
It doesn’t surprise me that someone from Google doesn’t particularly care about the welfare of 6,000 businesses. However, it raises some questions: A) How could a “glitch” shut down thousands of Google business listings, B) Why doesn’t Google have an automated way to reinstate those listings without harm to the businesses, C) Should I avoid making edits to improve a listing for fear that it will be suspended, and D) Why is the escalation process to reinstate the listings so terrible?
UPDATE July 18,2019
It’s now been nearly 3 weeks since this client’s listing was wrongfully suspended and I called Google yet again. The rep said that she can confirm that the listing was mistakenly suspended by Google, and that she can see I’ve correctly submitted the reinstatement request and that all I can do is wait. When I asked why she can’t assist, the Google Rep said that the issue had been escalated and that there are still thousands of businesses “in line” waiting to be reinstated and that all we can do is wait. She said she takes at least 20-30 calls a day and at least 5 or 6 are in reference to this issue. Furthermore, she said that it could be several weeks before anything is done. She also said that they may, or may not contact me when the listing is reinstated. This should be an embarrassment to Google and illustrates an indifference to the businesses that make them successful.
UPDATE August 9, 2019
We received an Email that said the following: “Hello, Thank you for contacting Google My Business team. We’ve looked at your account and it looks like your business is not eligible to display on Google Maps per our quality guidelines. Check out our guidelines for representing your business on Google.” Knowing that our client has a free standing location, with permanent affixed signage on the building and a photo of this I decided to call Google My Business support once again to see what the problem was. Google support stumbled around for an explanation and then claimed that another department had done an “investigation” and concluded that the business was not legitimate. When I asked him to look at the photos loaded into the suspended Google My Business profile showing the office building. I then asked him that if some mysterious investigator concluded that it was not a legitimate business, how could their be a building with the law firm’s name on it? He was dead silent, and I eventually coaxed him into agreeing that no one did any type of investigation. He then started offering red herring reasons as to why the listing was denied a reinstatement, which was really just guessing on his behalf. He said the only thing I could do, once again, was fill out the reconsideration request and wait. So here we are, nearly 2 months into this clusterfXXX and no closer to a resolution than when we started. One look at comments on the Google My Business Facebook page and you can see some of the scope of the problem.
UPDATE August 23, 2019
At 3:52am I finally got the Email that the listing has been reinstated, 3 days shy of 2 months offline. While it’s still not showing on Google Search yet, the listing does show that it’s “Verified” in the GMB dashboard. Someone also brought up in the comments of this article that I should watch to make sure that the reviews on this listing don’t get magically deleted too, another pervasive problem I’ve heard a lot about with reinstated listings. While I wish I can say that I’m relieved, this whole experience makes me and my team apprehensive about dedicating so much time, energy and resources to a platform that can essentially wipe out our client and then shrug their shoulders.
For the Time Being Don’t Touch your Google My Business Listing
Based on feedback from other agencies and attorneys it seems that any update to your business listing, no matter how insignificant you think it may be and especially the Google Short Name & URL, because it can potentially trigger an unwarranted suspension. That means if you login to update your hours for a holiday, add a business description or even add a photo your listing on Google can potentially be suspended for several weeks (or months) while Google works this out. Just leave it alone, even if it’s inaccurate because it’s at least better to have it up than have to wait for a mistaken suspension to be lifted.
Is it Time for the Government to Regulate Google?
As digital marketers our livelihood depends on Google, and having worked with law firms and businesses their livelihood often depends on Google – because that’s how people usually look for information and businesses. Google has done so much to empower business owners to take control of their marketing, and entrepreneurs to help businesses manage things like “Google My Business” that it makes what I’m about to say very difficult… Maybe it IS time for regulation. If Google can essentially shut down 6,000 businesses by removing them from local search because of a “glitch” (their words not mine), and require the business owner to 1) discover the error and 2) jump through the Google hoops… how can we say that this shouldn’t be regulated? This could quite literally bankrupt a small business that is dependent on Google search. People who know me personally will know that this is very out of character for me to say, but I can’t sit back and accept that one corporation is the gatekeeper of the collection of nearly all information and that nearly everyone on the planet is subject to their glitches, mistakes, terms & conditions and carefree attitude. That’s not Capitalism, that’s a Monopoly. Even worse, it’s a Monopoly on information.