Google My Business (GMB) is one of the best ways for a local business to rank higher on Google.
Whether it’s through the local 3-pack, the local finder, or Google Maps, having your business on GMB helps you get found by interested shoppers, consumers, and clients.
But it’s not always easy. Every day, we see dozens of questions from local business owners and digital marketing agencies on the Google My Business Help Community Forum.
Many of the issues there are unique and require a deep dive into their specific situation.
However, there are some more common questions users have about Google My Business. Here are five GMB problems users often encounter and how to help solve them:
- Why are changes we didn’t make appearing on our GMB profile?
- What if I can’t find a category that fits my business model?
- Why do I get an error when I enter the GMB postcard PIN?
- My edits still say “Pending Review.” What can I do?
- My PIN postcard didn’t arrive. What should I do?
1. Why Are Changes We Didn’t Make Appearing on Our GMB Profile?
To keep your GMB profile as accurate as possible, Google uses data from a variety of sources around the internet to check for accuracy and completeness.
Google will sometimes add or change information on your GMB profile based on what it finds online.
For example, Google may check your website and add services to your profile based on what you have listed on your site or on other resources it finds online.
Ironically, Google did this to my digital marketing agency’s GMB profile a little while ago. They added the service “Pest control” to my services list.
So along with digital marketing services, we also (evidently) do pest control in our spare time.
How did this happen?
Apparently, Google scraped our website and read a section on our site where we mentioned one of our clients – a pest control company. They mistakenly assumed that my digital marketing agency did pest control services.
(I never said Google was perfect.)
Google will also check other online directories/citation sites, social media platforms, review sites, licensed content, official business accrediting websites, and other online resources for more information about your company.
It may add data it finds from those resources to your GMB profile – or even make changes to your listing to reflect that information.
If sources report the information provided by a business owner is incorrect or outdated, your GMB profile may be updated by Google.
As the business owner, you can review these updates. (This is why it’s important to log in and check your GMB listings frequently.)
If edits have been made to your listing, you’ll see a notice at the top of your GMB dashboard.
To see the specific edits made to your listing, click on the Info section.
If you manage more than one profile, you can see the profiles with edits because they will have a red dot next to the pencil icon:
Different types of updates show in different text colors:
User Suggested Edits
Another way your information can get changed is by users. Users can report issues with your GMB listing, too.
First, anyone can use the Suggest an edit feature on your company’s GMB Knowledge Panel or profile:
In the GMB profile above, it’s pretty obvious that this business is keyword stuffing their business name.
Adding any extra words to your business name violates Google’s Guidelines.
(Additionally, this Service Area Business is displaying its physical address in its GMB profile. After checking on Melissa.com’s handy address checker, it was discovered that the owner is running the business out of his home. This also is a violation of GMB’s rules.)
After checking the company’s website and doing a search for the business’s name on the Better Business Bureau website, it was easy to find out the company’s real name was simply XXXX Company Plumbing — not XXXX Company Drain and Plumbing Repair – Drain Cleaning | Slab Leak Detection & Repairs.
(Yep! They’re keyword stuffing!)
If you see one of your competitors violating the guidelines or beating you in the rankings because they are breaking Google’s rules (or if you just want to do humanity some kindness) you can report GMB rule violators through the Suggest an edit link.
When you click on the link, you’ll be given some options:
You can suggest a change to the business name or other details – like the address, category, hours, website URL, etc.
Or you can even recommend that Google close or remove a business.
This would be used in cases where you know the business has permanently closed or if a Service Area Business (SAB) is showing their home address in their GMB profile (which goes against Google My Business guidelines.)
In those cases, you would select Not open to the public:
In some cases, these suggested edits can go live quickly (sometimes within an hour or less.) And these changes can be made to the GMB profile without the business owner even knowing about it ahead of time.
If you suggest changes to a business profile, you will receive an email letting you know whether Google made your suggested changes – or not.
For instance, in the example below, Google made the suggested edit live (published it):
Whereas they are still “reviewing” the edit that was suggested to this business profile:
Warning: Third-Party Apps Can Make Unintended Changes to Your Listing, Too!
Third-party tools can also make dramatic (and potentially harmful) changes to your listing, as well.
How does it happen?
As you install software, connect your GMB listing to software or review tools and buy or download other products, those third-party tools may be connecting – knowingly or unknowingly – to your GMB business profile or other Google tools.
And those third-party apps can make changes to your GMB profile without your knowledge or consent.
I recently learned of a business that had a third-party tool make a change that got their GMB profile disabled/suspended. The business is a Service Area Business (SAB) and didn’t have their address listed in their business profile (which complies with GMB guidelines.)
One day they logged into their GMB dashboard and were surprised to see this “Disabled” notice:
They were shocked to see that their physical address – which is their home address – was added to their GMB listing.
None of their users added the address.
Not only was their listing suspended, but they couldn’t figure out how their address got added to their listing.
After research and going back and forth with GMB support, they determined that it was a third-party app that was inadvertently connected to their GMB listing. (NOTE: it’s a very popular tool that many of you reading this article probably use.)
The owner didn’t even know that this tool was connected to their listing (and they even knew about the whole “third-party tool connection can cause chaos” issue!)
So they checked to see what third-party apps had access to their GMB profile, determined which tools might have caused the issue, and removed access.
They then had to go through the reinstatement process to get their listing unsuspended.
To make matters worse, when the owner asked the GMB support team which third-party tool caused the issue, they wouldn’t confirm which one caused the suspension – even though from the emails the owner received from GMB Support, the support team clearly knew what software was the culprit:
You should check and see what third-party apps have access to your GMB profile, too.
I also advise that you do not knowingly connect tools or software that can make changes to your GMB profile.
Check frequently to see if any third-party tools have access to your GMB have listing and remove access to any software you don’t need to have access to your Google tools.
If you think that a third-party app or service is abusing your data, you can report that app to Google using the “Report a third-party connected site or app” form.
This abuse could include spamming, impersonating you or your business, or otherwise using your information in harmful ways.
It’s important that you learn how to manage third-party apps and other services that can get access to your account. These types of unexpected changes from third-party tools can ruin your day!
What Should You Do When Your GMB Business Profile Gets Updated?
When Google gets reports that GMB business information might be incorrect, it can update GMB business profiles. The new information displays on Google Maps, Google Search, and other Google services.
If your information gets updated, you will see a “Google updates” notice in your GMB dashboard.
You can review and edit Google updates in your Google My Business dashboard and can decide if you accept, discard, want to replace, or edit the Google updates.
If all the changes/updates are correct, then you can click on the Accept changes link. If you’d like to review the changes made, click View updates.
When you click on View updates, you’ll be able to see all of the updates and you can then delete the changes that don’t apply to your business:
Here are the steps to review the updates:
- Review the Google updates listed next to your original business information.
- Determine what to do with the updates:
- Edit updates: Click the section where you want to edit updates. When you’re done, click Apply.
- Accept all the updates: At the top, next to the notification, click Accept all for this location.
- Accept individual updates: Click the sections where you want to accept updates. Then, click Apply.
- Discard & replace updates:
- Click the sections where you want to discard updates.
- In the field that shows, restore what you had before.
- Click Apply.
To learn more, check out Google’s Help Article that explains how to Manage Google updates to your Business Profile.
2. What If I Can’t Find a Category That Fits My Business Model?
Selecting your categories – especially your primary category – is particularly important because your categories directly impact rankings.
You must choose from the categories Google provides you. (You can’t make up or add your own category.)
Google offers more than 3,000 categories. The problem is that it’s hard to see all categories available to you just from typing a few seed letters or a keyword into the Category section in your GMB profile.
Before you select your categories, take a look at the Pleper.com website for a list of all the Google My Business categories available.
From what I understand, this file is updated frequently. If you can’t find the exact category for your business, select the closest match.
Remember, Google is getting smarter and smarter all the time when it comes to making associations.
So if you select “Fitness Center” as a category and someone searches for “Gym,” Google is intelligent enough to know that your business should show up in search results, too.
Warning: Changing your GMB category too often can sometimes trigger a suspension or cause Google to re-verify your GMB listing. Select your categories carefully and don’t make changes unless you absolutely have to.
3. Why Do I Get an Error When I Enter the GMB Postcard PIN?
There are a few reasons why you might get an error when entering your PIN code. The PIN verification code is only valid for 30 days.
So if it’s been more than 30 days since you requested the postcard, that code is invalid.
Also, if you made edits to your GMB business profile while you were waiting for the verification PIN code to arrive, Google might deem it necessary for a new verification – which invalidates the code that is in transit.
(That doesn’t always happen but making changes to your GMB profile before you receive your postcard can cause issues like this.)
If you’re receiving an error, you should log in to your GMB dashboard and request a new verification postcard. While you’re waiting, don’t make any changes to your listing.
4. My Edits Still Say “Pending Review.” What Can I Do?
When you make changes or edits to your GMB listing, they are reviewed by the Google team to make sure the changes follow Google’s Guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google. Edits pending review usually takes about 48 hours for the Google team to evaluate.
(In India – and some other areas – Google takes extra steps to verify that the phone number is correct.)
If you’ve made changes to your GMB profile and Google hasn’t evaluated or approved your edits yet, you’ll see one of the following messages:
- “Some edits are pending” at the top of your GMB dashboard.
- “Pending” status in the field on your computer or underlined on a mobile device.
New GMB listings and most edits made in the GMB dashboard will show as pending or under review. Typically, you will just need to wait until Google reviews these changes.
However, there are some reasons why your listing might be still pending review or show as under review.
What industry are you in?
If you are in an industry where spam is more common — such as with locksmiths, garage door companies, plumbers, etc. — GMB Support might be looking at your profile with extra scrutiny to make sure that you have a legitimate profile/business.
Another reason many GMB profiles get stuck in pending status is if they are Service Area Businesses (SABs).
If you are a Service Area Business and don’t have a physical location/storefront where customers come to you, you cannot show your address in your GMB profile. That is a violation of GMB’s terms.
If that fits your situation, delete your address in your GMB listing and select service areas (cities, states, counties, or zip codes that you serve).
Then contact the GMB support team and explain that you fixed your address/listing and ask them to approve the pending status.
If the SAB displaying your address example doesn’t fit your situation and it’s been more than 48 hours, you will need help from the Google My Business Support team.
5. My PIN Postcard Didn’t Arrive. What Should I Do?
First, Google needs to verify a business by physically mailing you a postcard to ensure you have a legitimate physical business address and are not fraudulently trying to set up a Google My Business listing.
It typically takes 5-14 days for the postcard to arrive at your location. If you’re able to get other mail at your location, there’s really no reason that you shouldn’t be getting the GMB postcard.
Sometimes when we see issues with people not receiving postcards, it’s because they are violating address rules or are using fake addresses.
If you’re trying to use a PO Box, UPS box, fake address, virtual office, or co-working space as your GMB address, you are not eligible to have a Google My Business listing.
If you are not using a legitimate address or your business is not an eligible business as outlined in Google Guidelines, Google will not verify your listing.
If you don’t receive your postcard after approximately 14 business days, log in to your GMB dashboard and request that another postcard is sent to you.
(Keep in mind that the new postcard PIN request will void out the first postcard that you requested.)
When requesting a new postcard, double-check to make sure that your address is following all of Google’s address guidelines and that it can be found on Google Maps, too.
When you fill out the request for a new postcard, be sure to include your contact name so that when your company receives the postcard, it is delivered to you personally by whoever gets the mail at your business.
Also, let the people who get the mail know that you are expecting a postcard from Google. (The postcard looks like junk mail, so the postcards often end up in the trashcan.)
If you do not receive the second postcard either, reach out to Google My Business support.
Please be ready to provide GMB support three to five unedited photos of:
- Your business’s storefront as seen from the street and/or in front of your store.
- Permanent signage showing the name of the business and the entrance to your business.
- The inside of the company as a customer sees it when entering.
If available, provide a link showing Google Street View imagery of the street and/or neighborhood where your business is located.
And if applicable, provide the name and website URL of the location where your business is located (e.g., shopping mall, office building name, etc.).
If you are a Service Area Business, you will need to send pictures of your service vehicles with your business’s name/signage on them or some other valid proof that you are a legitimate, official business operating at the address you provided Google.
This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
These questions and issues are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems local businesses and agencies face in Google My Business.
What questions or problems have you encountered? Comment and let me know. Perhaps your question or problem will make it into one of my next blog posts!
- Google My Business Listings Getting Suspended After Adding Short Names
- How to Fix Common Service Area Business Issues in Google My Business
- Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings
All screenshots taken by author, July 2021