According to new Google My Business (GMB) guidelines, it is not acceptable for a service-area business to use a virtual location.
Joy Hawkins was first to notice this change, which may have been implemented as a result of a thread on the GMB forum. The thread posed the question of whether or not a virtual address can be used for a service area business. The original poster also clarified their virtual office address is currently being used as their primary address on all business cards.
Another poster replied stating it should be acceptable to use a virtual office address as long as the business makes in-person contact with customers at the address during stated business hours. Despite this apparently being acceptable, the location in question was repeatedly getting suspended in GMB and then reinstated.
Following a lengthy discussion in the GMB forum, Google has officially updated its guidelines to address these concerns:
“Service-area businesses — businesses that serve customers at their locations — should have one page for the central office or location and designate a service area from that point. Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
Some businesses, like pizzerias that have both have restaurant seating and deliver pizza to customers, are hybrid service-area businesses. These businesses can show their storefront address and designate a service area in Google My Business. If you serve customers at your address and want to set a service area, your business location should be staffed by your team and able to receive customers during its stated hours.
Google will determine how best to display your business address based on your business information as well as information from other sources.”
According to these new guidelines, in order to be considered a legitimate service-area business in GMB you need to have a dedicated business address which is fully staffed during business hours.