Does Google care about unlicensed businesses that have Maps listings?


Tim Colling

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Here's a situation that I frequently encounter when working with my clients in California. The clients must have a state-issued license in order to provide services to California residents. The licenses are costly and hard to get. Moreover, every office of these companies must be separately licensed, at a cost of more than $5,000 for each office.

Consequently, many companies dishonestly (in my view) list additional "offices" on maps as SABs where those additional "offices" are employees' residences, clients' residences, etc. They cannot legally see clients in these "offices" without a license. It's very easy for them to list them as SABs on Google maps, though.

Are they violating the Google Maps terms of service? If so, under what "report an edit" category should I report them?

Thanks!
 

Margaret Ornsby

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Hi Tim,

In order to qualify for a Google My Business listing, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.

That's the guidelines, so your interpretation is correct and yes, they should be reported.

In those instances I use the Google Maps "suggest an edit", then select Place is permanently closed or has never existed, then Spam.

If you get no joy from the report (edit declined), then use the GMB forum. From there it can be escalated to the spam team for manual removal.

Unfortunately their spam detection systems aren't as robust as we would sometimes like, so the forum gives you space to add evidence to support your case. The suggest an edit form doesn't give you room for that.

It also pays to check back. Often businesses will call support, spin a story and get those listings reinstated. So you ping back on the thread, explain what's happened and it can be escalated again.
 

JoyHawkins

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Google doesn't state in their guidelines that a business license is required to be listed. What they do say is what Margaret mentioned that they have to have in-person contact with their customers. This doesn't mean the contact has to happen at their office. If they have a home office, they would be an SAB if they go to meet their customers.

The second rule that would come into play is that SABs are only allowed 1 listing per the guidelines. So setting up 5 listings for the same company using employees houses is not allowed. They would all be removed except the 1 that they're allowed.

Google does use business licenses to help prove the existence of a business if it gets suspended.
 

Tim Colling

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Google doesn't state in their guidelines that a business license is required to be listed.
In this case it's a state professional license, a "home care organization" license that they cannot legally operate without. However, I think the point in your comments below is the one that I would rely upon to shut down the spammy location listings.

...The second rule that would come into play is that SABs are only allowed 1 listing per the guidelines. So setting up 5 listings for the same company using employees houses is not allowed. They would all be removed except the 1 that they're allowed...
Awesome! That's the best tool against these ne'er-do-wells then! You don't happen to know the URL where that rule applies, do you?

Joy, thank you very, very much! :)
 

JoyHawkins

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https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en

Under the Address section: 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.
 

JoshuaMackens

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https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en

Under the Address section: 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.
Joy,

What if they have multiple offices in different cities across the state? Surely they would be allowed to have a listing per office?

If the above is true, is it just that you can't have more than 1 office in a city?
 

JoyHawkins

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If it's a staffed office they can almost always have a listing. The problem with SABs usually is they aren't staffed. So people want to use employees' houses or other random addresses to get listed tons of times and that's not allowed.

So as long as it's staffed (by your own staff, not some virtual office staff), you should be fine.
 

Tim Colling

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...So as long as it's staffed (by your own staff, not some virtual office staff), you should be fine.
Just a sanity check: that would mean, "staffed during your normal or stated business hours", correct? In other words, if you say that the location is open from, say, 9am - 4pm, it has to be STAFFED during those hours, right?
 

Scott Rawlins

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Just a sanity check: that would mean, "staffed during your normal or stated business hours", correct? In other words, if you say that the location is open from, say, 9am - 4pm, it has to be STAFFED during those hours, right?
Correct
 

JoyHawkins

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Yes. However, if it's a service area business they can set their hours to match when they would answer the phone. For example, a plumber doesn't have a "staffed office location" but if they answer their phone and do emergency calls at 2am, they can say they are open then.
 

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