For most small businesses, Google My Business (GMB) is their marketing lifeline.
Because it’s free, many local businesses rely solely on their Google My Business profile to generate traffic and calls, as well as to bring customers to their storefronts.
Marketers know it’s risky to put all of your marketing eggs in one basket.
But for a local business that has a limited budget – or no marketing budget at all – a free GMB listing is often all they have to promote their business online.
That means if the business has any problems with their Google My Business profile, it can have a significant negative impact on their business and cause immediate panic:
According to BrightLocal’s Google My Business Insight Study, the average business is found in 157 direct searches each month and 852 discovery searches.
This totals an average of 1,009 searches per month.
For most small businesses, that’s a lot of potential customers.
Losing that much online exposure can be disastrous – especially if they aren’t doing any other online marketing efforts.
When a business’ Google My Business profile gets suspended, it can literally make a company’s sales come to a screeching halt.
And a suspended GMB listing will cause the business owner a lot of stress and worry – especially when most aren’t sure why they were suspended in the first place.
What Is A Google My Business Suspension?
A Google My Business suspension is when your GMB listing is no longer visible on Google and Google Maps or you have lost control of your listing (your business listing is essentially “unverified” and you can’t manage it.)
You will know that your listing has been suspended when you see this notification in your GMB dashboard:
When your listing gets suspended, Google doesn’t tell you the exact reason why it was suspended.
GMB listings can get suspended for a variety of reasons – many of the reasons have to do with spammy tactics or if the GMB listing owner breaks Google My Business Guidelines.
Google can also give you a Manual Suspension if they review your listing and find an issue with it.
This review often comes after someone reports your listing through GMB’s Redressal Form.
It’s also possible for a user to report a listing on Google Maps or search through the Suggest an Edit feature.
If that person is “trusted” enough by Google, it is possible that their suggestion to remove the business listing or make negative edits could take effect almost immediately.
Suspensions can also happen after you make changes to your listing.
For instance, one of my client’s listings was immediately suspended after I changed his landscaping business from a storefront with a physical address to a service area business by deleting the address.
Immediately after I deleted the address from the listing, his GMB profile was suspended.
There are two types of suspensions:
- A hard suspension.
- A soft suspension.
What Is a Hard Suspension?
A hard suspension is when you do a search for your company’s name and city and your Knowledge Panel doesn’t show up online – which is a very bad thing because potential customers won’t be able to find your GMB listing on Google Maps or search results.
Hard suspensions usually happen when Google determines that your business doesn’t qualify for a GMB listing or if you’re using spammy tactics.
What Is a Soft Suspension?
A soft suspension is when your business’ Knowledge Panel still shows up online and you can access it in your GMB dashboard, but it looks as if it hasn’t been verified and you can’t manage or update your listing.
If you have a soft suspension, your GMB profile can be subjected to user suggested edits more easily – making it more vulnerable to incorrect changes and wrong information being displayed.
Also, some industries are more likely to get suspensions than others.
These categories are known to have more spam and fake listings, which makes them more prone to suspensions.
Google and SEO professionals have been trying to crack down on spammy and fake GMB listings, so if you’re in one of these industries, it’s very possible that someone will report your profile if you are violating any Google My Business rules.
These spammy categories are typically Service Area Business (SABs) and include:
- Pest control services.
The Dreaded Google My Business Suspended Notification
If your listing hasn’t been suspended yet, you’re lucky.
Most listings at some point or another will face a suspension. (So it’s best to be prepared!)
Why would you get suspended?
If your GMB listing gets suspended, it’s likely that you have done something that looks suspicious, spammy or you broke Google My Business Terms of Service.
Google suspends listings for a variety of reasons – especially if you are violating Google My Business Guidelines.
How do you know if your GMB profile has been suspended?
Most business owners first notice a decrease in calls or visitors to their business.
They will then do a quick search online and may not find their listing at all or they will log in to their Google My Business dashboard and see a notification that alerts them that their listing has been Suspended:
That’s when you have to try and figure out exactly why your listing was suspended and begin the process of fixing the situation.
Determine Why Your Google My Business Listing Was Suspended
One of the main frustrations with suspensions is that Google doesn’t tell you why your listing got suspended – so it often becomes a guessing game.
For instance, if you are in a high-spam industry like lawyers, locksmiths, or plumbers, you might get your listing suspended just because of the industry you’re in.
If you sat down at your computer and made several updates to your Google My Business listing, that also can sometimes cause Google to be suspicious and trigger a suspension.
Here are some other main reasons why Google My Business listings get suspended:
- Keyword stuffing your business name.
- Using a P.O. Box or UPS store address.
- You set up your listing at a virtual office or co-working space address.
- You have a service-area business and are displaying a physical address.
- You have an online-only business.
- You are in a high-risk business category, like lawyers, plumbers, HVAC, locksmiths, rehab centers, etc.
- If another business shares your same address.
- You have made a bunch of changes/edits to your GMB profile at one sitting.
- The URL you add to your GMB profile forwards/redirects to another website or links to a social media page.
- If you change your listing from a Storefront to a Service Area Business (SAB).
- Your address or hours don’t match what is listed on your website or other online business directories/citations.
- You list your business hours as 24/7.
- A manager on your listing got their Account suspended – so your listing got suspended because they got suspended.
- You created multiple listings for the same business at the same address (duplicate listings).
If you’ve done any of these things, you will need to fix the issues before you try and get your Google My Business profile reinstated.
Fix Your GMB Profile Problems Before You Fill Out The Reinstatement Form
Seeing that suspension notice will probably cause you to panic – and you may be tempted to fill out the reinstatement form right away.
Before you can apply for reinstatement, you have to fix what’s wrong with your listing.
Many people who get their listing suspended think they should just create a new listing to avoid fixing the suspended profile.
Do not create a new listing!
Doing that will just complicate things.
When it comes to fixing what caused the suspension, you should first carefully read the Google My Business Guidelines to make sure you didn’t violate any of those rules.
You also need to look at the “Info” section in your Google My Business Profile and carefully look at each and every field to see what may be in violation.
For instance, if you have keyword-stuffed your business name, you need to fix your company’s name to get your listing reinstated.
In the example above, the real estate agent added extra, spammy words to the name of her business.
Before she submits her reinstatement form, she needs to delete the words “- Florida: The Smart Choice For Real Estate!” from her business name.
If you think you were suspended because you have your hours listed as 24/7, then you should adjust your hours to be something like 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. before you submit the reinstatement request.
(Note: The hours you list on your GMB profile should be the hours that you have staff/employees at your business location to meet with customers. Google wants to know when you have employees at your business to physically help customers.)
Do you have a duplicate listing problem or have you set up more than one business at the same address?
You would need to fix the duplicate issue before you try to get your listing reinstated.
Once you think you’ve figured out the issues and have fixed your profile, it’s time to get a second opinion.
Before you fill out the reinstatement form, it is a good idea to go to the Google My Business Help Forum and post the details of your suspension there and ask for a second opinion of what may be the cause of your suspension and how you fixed it.
To help the volunteer moderators on the forum, please provide details on exactly what the situation is, why you think you may have been suspended and provide the following information:
- The Google Local Page URL.
- Full legal business name.
- Address (one used to verify – even if you are a service-based business).
- Your Website URL.
- Screenshot of your “Info” section from your GMB Dashboard.
- Provide images of permanent signage or other images of proof of your business’ name and address (like a business license or documentation from your Secretary of State).
- Explain what you changed right before your listing was suspended.
The moderators on the forum can then take a look at your information and offer suggestions and tips on your suspended listing and can give advice on what you should change to improve your chances of getting reinstated.
Fill Out the Google My Business Reinstatement Form
Once you’ve fixed the problems with your listing, it’s time to submit an appeal for reinstatement.
You will be asked a series of questions to answer.
How you answer each question determines the next question you are asked.
You must answer all the questions completely and honestly.
Here is an example of some of the various questions you will be asked on the reinstatement request form.
In order to prove that you are a legitimate business, you need to provide photos or screenshots showing proof that you are a valid business and proof of your address if you have a storefront.
These should include photos of:
- Your storefront as seen from the street or the front of your building.
- Permanent signage inside and outside of your building.
- The inside of your business as customers see it when they walk into your place of business.
- If available, a link showing the Google Street View image of the street or neighborhood where your business is.
You also want to provide Google with other supporting documents that show proof of your business’ name and address, such as:
- A business license or proof of the business’ registration with your Secretary of State.
- Insurance documents.
- Pictures of your logo on your company vehicle.
- An office walk-through video.
- Picture of the office building’s directory with your name on it.
You can upload proof in the form of images, video files, PDFs, and documents.
This is where you can make your case, so be sure to upload all the proof you can that proves you are a legitimate business at the location you have listed.
Once you submit your appeal for reinstatement, Google will review the information you submitted and determine if your business profile should be reinstated.
Google will email you about the status of your reinstatement request.
You will need to reply to that email if you have more questions or if Google needs more information from you.
Tip: Do not file multiple reinstatement requests or reach out to the Google My Business team about the same issue through different Google My Business support channels – this will only cause delays.
It typically takes about two weeks for Google to review your reinstatement request.
If it’s been more than three weeks and your listing still hasn’t been reinstated, you can contact GMB support via Twitter or Facebook and ask for an update.
NOTE: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the only way to reach Google My Business Support is via email.
Whenever you contact support, Google needs to confirm that you actually own the account you are writing in about.
To prove that, log in to the suspended business listing in your Google My Business dashboard and copy the URL.
It’s also a good idea to provide your GMB listing’s CID number.
If you have a physical location, you can use a tool like BrightLocal’s Google Review Link & Place ID Generator to generate the CID number.
If your business gets reinstated, you may find that your reviews have disappeared.
Keep in mind that it can take longer for your reviews to re-appear after reinstatement.
It can even take up to a month for them to appear back in your GMB listing.
If your reviews don’t show up after a month, contact the GMB support team to see if they can assist you.
Now that you know more about GMB suspensions, you will hopefully be better prepared should you see the Suspended notice in your dashboard.
Remember, GMB suspensions can sometimes happen for random reasons – like if you make too many changes at one time, if a competitor suggests an edit, or even if there’s a glitch on Google’s end.
Make sure you’re prepared and that you are not just counting on Google My Business for all your online marketing efforts.
And always try to follow Google’s rules – remember they are the ones with the upper hand.
- How to Use Google My Business to Boost Your Content & SEO
- How to Get More from Your Google My Business Listing
- How to Completely Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
All screenshots taken by author, June 2020