Trending Are Virtual Offices Allowed on Google My Business?

Remedy12374

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Joined
Jul 16, 2019
Messages
8
Joy and Colan, I'm guessing a better way to handle this might be to proactively upload photos and videos to the GMB listing. I checked and surprisingly still have access to this part of my GMB listing despite the suspension. And then simply mention that I've done that in my reinstatement form request. From what I've seen, the people who get their suspension reinstatement requests denied simply receive a generic form letter that says your suspension has been denied because you are in violation of the guidelines. I don't believe you get a specific answer from someone you can reply to and send pictures and videos to? I'm not sure though.

My plan is to upload pics and a video or two of my employee working in her office, to my GMB listing. Then, I'll re-submit another reinstatement request, letting them know that I've uploaded that stuff, along with my official business license number that is registered with the Office of the Secretary of State - my official business license lists my office address that is on my GMB listing. I really hope this will be enough proof.

Thanks to both of you for your guidance on this subject!
 

Remedy12374

Member
Joined
Jul 16, 2019
Messages
8
Second what Joy said. Google will let you know if they need/want photo or video evidence. In the description section of the form you can indicate that you have photos ready to send over to them as a reminder as well.
Well, I got some advice from Joy and someone else who also indicated that using a company virtual office address will always be an issue - even if I got reinstated, I could be suspended again...is what some many people are saying.

Also, it appears that many people in my industry (resume writing service), are hiding their addresses and that seems to be working.

So, instead of providing photo and video evidence proof that I am staffed at this location, and providing by business license info which lists the virtual office address...I decided to delete the address on my suspended GMB page and fill out the reinstatement form. I was hoping that hiding my business address (even though it is counterintuitive because we are staffed at this location) would be the solution and look better in the eyes of google.

However, on the reinstatement form, it requires you to provide an address. So, I provided the same address of 3131 McKinney Avenue, Suite 600, Dallas, TX 75204. But, now I'm wondering if this will still be an issue because that address is affiliated with a virtual office? I mean, if hiding the address was all you had to do, then everyone would just rent a virtual office and hide the address, right?

I'm really thinking I should have gone with my first strategy of proving that we are local and staffed with photo and video evidence. I'm so confused as what to do next.

This has been such a difficult dilemma and I recently had to layoff 5 employees because of how much business has dropped as result of all of this.

Could really use some additional help and advice regarding path forward. Thank you!
 

LaurenHoward

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Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
6
I wanted to get your opinion on this situation that happens occasionally. I have clients (mostly attorneys) that previously used virtual offices to meet clients by appointment and so set up their GMB with that address. When they come to my company, we explain that virtual offices are against GMB guidelines and get permission to update the listing to their home address and hide it so that they're set to a service area since that's the most accurate representation of how they're operating their business- working from home except for appointments with clients at another location. However, my clients still display the virtual address on their website so that clients can find their meeting location, Google Agency support has already said that is not an issue if a by appointment address is on the site but not on GMB.

Do you advise continuing to use the virtual office on other directories we manage for a better user experience so that users know where they can meet the business (by appointment) or do you hide the address and set as SAB on all listings for the sake of NAP consistency? In a lot of these cases, the home address we hide is usually not in the same city/zip as the virtual office.
 

GmyB Guru

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Jan 30, 2020
Messages
11
GMB is perfectly fine with the use of virtual offices. The key thing is that the user must register the business with GMB as a Service Area business. This is the way Google differentiates between Storefront (physical presence) businesses and other businesses. So there should be no concerns about anyone using the virtual office with GMB. There was a period a several years back when Google cracked down on people trying to cheat the organic search system using virtual offices to boost SEO value. But the creation of the Storefront and Service Area designations eliminated that issue.

I'm dealing with this issue right now...


apparently ALL regus office locations are prohibited from being on GMB? Even if you're paying for an actual office space within the building.

Google has basically taken the approach to ban ALL addresses that have any hint of Regus attached to them without reviewing specific cases that prove it's not a virtual office.
This is factually incorrect. GMB is fine with use of a virtual office. The important thing is to list the business as a "Service Area" business. Google knows the address is a virtual office. By definition for Google "Storefront" means you can post your signage out front where people can see it. In a virtual office or executive suites environment you can't post your business sign out front. That's why Google will not allow you to list a virtual office as a Storefront. Just list it as a Service Area business and Google will be happy to allow it on GMB.
 

LaurenHoward

Member
Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
6
GMB is perfectly fine with the use of virtual offices. The key thing is that the user must register the business with GMB as a Service Area business. This is the way Google differentiates between Storefront (physical presence) businesses and other businesses. So there should be no concerns about anyone using the virtual office with GMB. There was a period a several years back when Google cracked down on people trying to cheat the organic search system using virtual offices to boost SEO value. But the creation of the Storefront and Service Area designations eliminated that issue.
GMB explicitly states that virtual offices are prohibited and from experience with our Google Agency reps, even if an address is hidden, if a listing is suspended Google support still takes into account the address that was verified on the back end. Clients who came to us with hidden addresses that were originally verified with (unbeknownst to us) PO Boxes got suspended, and Google had us change the address to the home address even though it remained a hidden address before they would reinstate the listing. So it's my understanding that Google still cares about which address is used to verify the listing, regardless of it being hidden or not.

From GMB guidelines:
1580404572295.png

1580404542344.png
 

GmyB Guru

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Jan 30, 2020
Messages
11
Hey Tony,

I'd still not recommend using a virtual office address even if the address is hidden. Google still knows what address was used to verify the listing so if it ever comes up they could still delete the listing.
That is incorrect. Google will NOT delete the listing because it is a virtual office. There are lots of misconceptions out on the internet that Google will not allow virtual offices for Google My Business. This bad information arises from a time years ago when Google clamped down on businesses using virtual offices to try to beat the local organic search protocols. Google created a simple solutions with two catagories of businesses "Storefront" and "Service Area" Google won't accept business listings at a virtual office address that try to say they are a "Storefront" business. By Google's definition "Storefront" means you have signage visible to the public along with other criterea. Google knows the location is a virtual office and is 100% fine with the use of the virtual office with GMB as long as the user lists their business as a Service Area business. Adding multiple virtual office locations in a city as Service Area locations will not help or hurt in organic SEO.

GMB explicitly states that virtual offices are prohibited and from experience with our Google Agency reps, even if an address is hidden, if a listing is suspended Google support still takes into account the address that was verified on the back end. Clients who came to us with hidden addresses that were originally verified with (unbeknownst to us) PO Boxes got suspended, and Google had us change the address to the home address even though it remained a hidden address before they would reinstate the listing. So it's my understanding that Google still cares about which address is used to verify the listing, regardless of it being hidden or not.

From GMB guidelines:
1580404572295.png

1580404542344.png
I see the confusion. The first part of what you are quoting is referring to a 2nd business location other than the primary business locations. The GMB guidelines are a bit confusing here. The intent of that statement about virtual offices is Google's policy designed to stop businesses from spamming markets with multiple "virtual" locations in an attempt to spoof the local organic search results, and does not portend to block use of virtual offices.

The second portion can also easily lead one to misunderstanding. I wish Google would better clarify here, as Google does allow use of a virtual office address provided the location has offices or Conference Rooms the businesses can use for meetings with clients during business hours. Google does recognize the virtual office personal as part of the businesses "team" and the ability to use offices or Conference Rooms during business hours meets the on site requirement.
The intent as described to me by a Google My Business representative is to block the use of PO Boxes, UPS Stores, Mailboxes Etc, and a myriad of other retail based mailbox locations that really can't be used for conducting in person business (meeting clients). The use of a true "virtual office" in an office building is perfectly acceptable.

Again, I wish Google would better write what they mean in the guidelines, but in actual practice they are doing the right thing. I work for a business that operates numerous virtual offices. A few years back, Google My Business representatives actually contacted us when they started cracking down on the abuse of local businesses using virtual offices to gain better local organic search results. They wanted detailed information about each of our virtual office locations to ensure it meets their guidelines for on site meeting capabilities. Throughout our locations, we have thousands of virtual office clients that use Google My Business without problem and lots have done so for many years.

So in your situation and your concerns about attorneys using a virtual office, I would recommend considering Google's actual practice of allowing businesses to use virtual offices, vs. an interpretation the intent of the guidelines. I know in the legal industry you probably prefer written rules, but in the internet guidelines world, it's easier for businesses like Google to paint a broader statement in the guidelines than to be super specific. I can assure you that Google is very thorough in allowing only the use of proper virtual offices. Hope that helps.
 

JoyHawkins

Administrator
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Jul 18, 2012
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3,486
The case outlined on that thread that prompted Google to chime in was a single-location service area business. You are not allowed to use a virtual office for a first location, or any location. This hasn't changed in years. We see them remove hundreds of these (maybe thousands?) every time they are reported.
 

GmyB Guru

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Joined
Jan 30, 2020
Messages
11
I can confirm that Google My Business (GMB) will definitely allow virtual office to be used for Service Area Businesses, and ONLY for Service Area Businesses. The guidelines posted on GMB are truly just "guidelines", not rules, and are geared toward preventing businesses from trying to beat the local organic search algorithms with 2nd or multiple addresses using "virtual" offices.

Before I go further, I need to state that virtual mailboxes such as a PO Box, UPS Store, Mailboxes stores, etc. are not allowed any longer by GMB. And, businesses claiming to be a "Storefront Business" are not allowed to use a virtual office. The deciding factor about if a virtual office is allowed to be used for Service Area Businesses, is 'Can the business meet and conduct business at the location?' Virtual offices in office buildings with Conference Rooms or offices that are available for a business to use during business hours are acceptable by Google and are not blocked by GMB.

I am a person involved in the management of multiple virtual offices and have personally had several conversations with Google My Business representatives on this subject. In fact a few years ago, when Google cracked down on the use of virtual offices by businesses trying to "beat the local organic search system", GMB contacted us and we went through a substantial screening process to ensure we provided on site meeting spaces available to our virtual office clients. We have thousands of clients in our various locations that are on Google My Business. I have asked our Google reps why this information isn't clearer on the Guidelines, and they always say they will submit it for review, but it never changes. My guess is that it is easier to put forth broad guidelines, but allow those who are doing it right to not be impeded by the guidelines designed to help prevent abuse of the system.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information on the internet on this subject and lots of people simply read the guidelines and take it as rules and restate it as fact, when in reality it isn't. I am just trying to help people understand how GMB applies those guidelines to support businesses doing things right, and blocking those trying to "beat the system". It's a good balance that GMB has created.

I hope that helps.

Yes, there were thousands removed back in the day they abused the system trying to use virtual offices for local organic search spamming, but that it not the case anymore. GMB's new policies make the system work for everyone. It was a great job done by Google to balance the needs of businesses needing an address against those abusing the system. Virtual offices can definitely be used on GMB as Service Area Businesses.

I am new to this forum and a bit surprised to see an Administrator fight so hard on a topic when the facts of the matter have been put forth. I am not trying to argue or promote the business I work for. Just want to ensure people are not being misled or lose out on opportunities due to only having partial information.

Best wishes
 

keyserholiday

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Local Search Expert
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Jul 27, 2017
Messages
379
Joy Hawkins is a GMB Product Expert. Not only has she done extensive research in this topic, she has repeatedly asked Google for clarification. She is not arguing, but stating her findings for her extensive research. I assure you Google is cracking back down on illegitimate business listings currently. The GMB Forum has seen a massive uptick in threads where businesses are reported that have been suspended overnight by Google. I am seeing a lot of cases where businesses using virtual offices are getting suspended. I am seeing similar talk on several seo groups too.
 

GmyB Guru

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Jan 30, 2020
Messages
11
I wish I had some statement by GMB on this subject. All I can say is that GMB put our virtual offices through a vetting process about two and a half years ago. We provided them with all kinds of documentation and pictures of offices and Conference Rooms, as well as website links to prove that we were not just a mailbox store like UPS Stores. We were instructed to ensure our clients registered with GMB as Service Area Businesses as they would not be approved as a "Storefront" business. Once that vetting process was completed the GMB submissions by our clients were accepted and verification pins were issued and they are still live today. GMB does hold us to a higher standard than other businesses. GMB reps asked that we help police the businesses that cancel their virtual offices to ensure those businesses update their addresses on GMB, or remove their GMB listings. If not done by the business, we put in a report to GMB that the business is no longer at this address.

I am very glad that GMB is cracking down on those abusing the system. We as a virtual office regularly receive verification pins in the mail from businesses trying to use (hijack) our address when they are not a client. We do our part to police our end. The GMB rep that vetted our virtual office business a few years back asked for our support in ensuring businesses that are no longer clients remove or update their GMB listing. Sometimes that falls on us to report to GMB. I think over the past few years the virtual office industry has found a way to work together with GMB that supports the needs of legitimate small businesses while inhibiting those trying to abuse the system.

If you wish to dig more into this, I am sure you could call any number of local virtual offices that are in office buildings, and have Conference Rooms or offices clients, to get their input and experience on this subject. Best wishes.
 

keyserholiday

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Local Search Expert
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Jul 27, 2017
Messages
379
Now it all makes sense, you have a personal stake in this, financial. We can’t change Google, their TOS and how and when they choose to enforce their guidelines. Google is cracking down and suspending listing using virtual offices. Unfortunately the rampant abuse appears to be the reason why Google is cracking down. If a business creates a second listing at virtual office, they run the risks of becoming suspended and needing to go through vigorous checks to ensure that they qualify for a GMB listing.
 

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