Trending Are Virtual Offices Allowed on Google My Business?

GmyB Guru

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Jan 30, 2020
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Yes, I have a stake so that is why it's important to debunk these myths that are spread on the internet. I don't understand the fear mongering talk of "suspensions" associated with use of virtual offices. Sure, we all hope Google cracks down on those who abuse the system. But, using a legitimate virtual office will not lead to any negative impact on a legitimate business.

It's very important to help people understand the truth of how GMB works with virtual offices so they are not afraid to make that next step to grow their business. Many people look here to get info from the "GMB Product Experts", so it's important that the "experts" have the correct information and don't spread false information. I'm just trying to help educate people on what is fact and what is false rumor based in incorrect interpretations or previous false information. Hopefully everyone will be better off going forward and all the experts will take time to learn more so they can more accurately give guidance to people. The more knowledge we share the better off we all are.

Just think of the massive negative impact of providing the incorrect interpretation of GMB Guidelines on this forum. Think of all those poor businesses that previously thought they could not use a virtual office and instead kept their home listed as their address and didn't use GMB (probably the best free advertising for a small business) to help grow their business.

I hope that everyone on this forum is trying to give the best advice they can. It's always tough to learn that what we believe to be true isn't. But, with knowledge comes improvement and hopefully going forward, those statements of absolutes that may have been valid many years ago, can be adjusted to the the current situation where virtual offices are perfectly fine to be used in association with GMB Service Area listings. Hopefully now that the localsearchforum GMB Product Experts have the most up to date and correct information, they can cross reference it with their own research, make calls to various virtual office businesses (that meet Googles requirement of having Conference Rooms or offices the clients can use during business hours to meet with clients) to verify the validity, and then hopefully help spread that information.

Best wishes
 

keyserholiday

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I am not “fear mongering” as I am seeing an major uptick in suspensions in the last weeks. Other forums and FB groups are referencing the same suspensions as they say in November. I didn’t see any signs of those suspensions in November. I did see suspensions last March and a massive wave in June. The June suspensions started the Sunday before the WSJ article came out detailing Google’s Map spam issue. I presented in this as well with Local Marketing Institute. I have linked to the GMB forum where users are complaining about listings getting suspended or a delay in getting verified. If a business is a true SAB, they can hide their home address and use their house, and it’s free to do so.
I too am trying to help business owners navigate GMB and stay safe. I am not looking to make money and I offer my services pro bono too. If a business creates multiple SAB listings and they get reported Google will remove the duplicate listings. That is fact and not conjecture. I have reported and remove countless SAB and listings using co working spaces. I have also helped legitimate businesses get unsuspended using a VO. There are ways that it can work, however telling people to create a second listing at VO is not only bad advice it is also self serving to only you.
 

keyserholiday

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A business owner came to the forum because he was suspended for being at a VO. This is the reality of what happens to business owners who don’t know the rules. The forum is filled with pleas for help just like this.
 

GmyB Guru

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Jan 30, 2020
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I'm really not trying to be self serving. That business could be anywhere and could use any virtual office. In that situation I was under the impression from the original post that he was using a different business name for a second legally formed business entity. I agree with you if it was the same business name to be used at both his home and at a virtual office, that could cause a red flag and the need for a detailed explanation to GMB.

Good point on the problems with co-working spaces. To my knowledge, many local co-working spaces expressly prohibit use of their address in their service contracts. Co-working is very different animal than a virtual office. It's good that you brought that up as that gets into a new grey area. I have no knowledge of how GMB handles those.

A business owner came to the forum because he was suspended for being at a VO. This is the reality of what happens to business owners who don’t know the rules. The forum is filled with pleas for help just like this.
My guess is they probably listed their business as a "Storefront" instead of a "Service Area". We have seen people do this and run into problems. I know it's not easy to untangle that mess once its created. 6 months ago one of our clients listed his business on GMB as as Storefront, got blocked by GMB, then tried for months to get it changed to a Service Area business. Amazingly, GMB eventually set up a scheduled video chat with him and our staff to establish what was really happening. We had to verify that he is in fact a virtual office client of ours and then they approved his GMB listing. I was impressed that GMB was willing to do that level of interaction to resolve an issue.
 

BenFisher

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Nov 19, 2015
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397
Many people look here to get info from the "GMB Product Experts", so it's important that the "experts" have the correct information and don't spread false information.
I have to chime in here. GmyB, Joy, Jason and myself are GMB Product experts. What this means is we talk to GMB on a daily basis, we meet with the teams live. So, I can safely state that we have the correct information. You may not like it, but it is facts.

A business that has a virtual office as their main or secondary address will have a target painted on their backs. They will be reported to GMB as fraudulent, GMB will act as they deem fit, usually suspending the listing and causing the listing owner to proceed with reinstatement. This is not fear-mongering, it is the reality that Joy, Jason, me and other PE's see on a daily basis.

I have clients that are in a VO, BUT have an executive office. These are fine. A SAB at co-working is ok at this time, but a SAB at a VO is not. This is simply because of the constant abuse.
 

GmyB Guru

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I have to chime in here. GmyB, Joy, Jason and myself are GMB Product experts. What this means is we talk to GMB on a daily basis, we meet with the teams live. So, I can safely state that we have the correct information. You may not like it, but it is facts.

A business that has a virtual office as their main or secondary address will have a target painted on their backs. They will be reported to GMB as fraudulent, GMB will act as they deem fit, usually suspending the listing and causing the listing owner to proceed with reinstatement. This is not fear-mongering, it is the reality that Joy, Jason, me and other PE's see on a daily basis.

I have clients that are in a VO, BUT have an executive office. These are fine. A SAB at co-working is ok at this time, but a SAB at a VO is not. This is simply because of the constant abuse.
Ben, I am sad that you would say this with such authority. I suspect that the people you and yoru team meet with and speak with are not the (GMB) people related to this issue of Virtual Offices. As an expert you should want to gather the facts before speaking with authority. In this case you are factually incorrect and that statement furthers the spread of misinformation. I hope this misinformation is not for monetary gain for you and the forum expert team. Please improve your "expert" status and speak with people high enough in the GMB hierarchy to learn the truth, learn what GMB approves within "the guidelines". A little bit on knowledge tied with conjecture, disjointed experiences and a personal interpretation of "guidelines", not rules, is a dangerous things when portrayed to the public as fact.

The information you have is actually backwards. A business renting a space at an executive suite can not list as a Storefront, as they do not meet the GMB minimum requirements for signage. We have learned this from first hand experience. But a business can use a VO or an executive suite as a Service Area Business (SAB) provided they are have facilities (office or Conference Room) where they can meet with their clients during business hours. The VO staff acts as an extension of the businesses "team".

GMB has done a great job balancing the support of legitimate businesses and the prevention of abuse. I am sure it will always be a battle for GMB, but they are doing a great job weeding out the problems. I hope this forum can transition to one of helping businesses better utilize local services like GMB instead of scaring them away from this wonderful free advertising tool.

If you and your team do in fact meet with GMB representatives. Please help encourage them update their guidelines to spell out exactly how they allow the use of executive suites and real virtual offices (that include meeting space during business hours). Clearly the use of non office building "virtual offices" like PO Boxes or UPS Stores don't meet the requirements and do not do the internet viewer any benefit, hence not permitted to use the address on GMB. This is the active practice, so it would be great if GMB put it in the guidelines that way. I personally have made this request to GMB reps and they always say it will be submitted. I imagine GMB legal prefers to keep a broad and open guideline so they can operate as needed and focus on the problem businesses.

I hope you and your team fight to help make GMB more inclusive in their guidelines. Please don't take this battle with me over what is allowed or not and carry it forward as an attack on the legitimate users of GMB with virtual offices. The goal should be to seek the best outcome for every small business trying to legitimately get their business on the internet. Thanks
 

keyserholiday

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Jul 27, 2017
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252
I am not sure what else we can say to you. We have all spoken with multiple people from various departments with GMB, including the Trust and Safety team. We have routine hangouts with GMB where we discuss policies, spam, and new features. We just got back from the yearly PE Summit. We spoke extensively with the Trust and Safety team.

There are ways that using a VO or Executive offices are allowed. I have clients in legitimate VO/ EO's. They need to have an office where they can meet clients directly and in person. They are not SAB's. A SAB is a business that travels to its customer's location, a plumber, a carpet cleaner, locksmith and not a lawyer or a data recovery company.

The bottom line is any business owner can create a free GMB listing using their home address and mark it as a SAB. There is no need to rent a VO to create an SAB listing.
 

Yan Gilbert

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Oct 15, 2016
Messages
344
I have a client which provides at home tutoring services and has a dedicated office space in a Regus location for an employee who is there everyday. The listing is verified at the Regus address as an SAB. It was suspended last year, but pictures were provided and it was reinstated. Is this not officially ok? Should the listing be technically verified at the owner's address instead?
 

LaurenHoward

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Nov 8, 2019
Messages
6
I have a client which provides at home tutoring services and has a dedicated office space in a Regus location for an employee who is there everyday. The listing is verified at the Regus address as an SAB. It was suspended last year, but pictures were provided and it was reinstated. Is this not officially ok? Should the listing be technically verified at the owner's address instead?
Typically if you have an employee of your business (not an employee staffed by the building/virtual office) at the location during the business hours, and you're not just using a virtual office space "by appointment" then it is allowed. Because Regus is associated with virtual offices, it often triggers red flags/suspensions even if you did rent out a real office, it's just difficult to get Google to see that you have a legit office.

To get a head of this, I like to add photos of the office with signage of the business name to the photo album- then you have some documentation ready and available for support if the listing gets suspended. If the address is intended for customers to visit, then I would not hide the address- hiding the address is only if the address is private/not intended for customers to visit.

In general though, Regus and other offices associated with the virtual setup are not recommended because it's hard to get Google to believe it's not virtual, despite the possibility that it's the office space you truly work out of.
 

JoyHawkins

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I have a client which provides at home tutoring services and has a dedicated office space in a Regus location for an employee who is there everyday. The listing is verified at the Regus address as an SAB. It was suspended last year, but pictures were provided and it was reinstated. Is this not officially ok? Should the listing be technically verified at the owner's address instead?
By definition, what you're describing is not a virtual office. Providers that offer virtual offices often also rent physical space. Virtual offices would be if you + the staff you employ are not there during stated hours.
 

JoyHawkins

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Okay so just in case anyone thought the article referenced from 2017 was outdated or no longer applied 3 years later, I got confirmation (publicly) from Google that service area businesses are still not allowed to use virtual offices.


I'll be updating my article with this info too so the date is more current.
 

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