Google shutting down service area business listings


Margaret Ornsby

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Wow. Just had a shattering 40 minutes on the phone with support.

Short and long of it is this -
Apparently last week an update was rolled out which disallows service area businesses to have any more than one listing. Not per location, not per city/state/whatever. Just one listing. ( I missed that somehow - must have blinked or slept or something...)

Here are the sentences in the guidelines I believe are being enforced -
"Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a page for every city they service.

Businesses that operate in a service area should create one page for the central office or location and designate service areas"


I swear I haven't seen those sentences before. Does anyone have a screenshot from say a month ago so I can check to see if I'm crazy?

What's so incredibly awful for this one customer in particular, is Google has disabled the primary service area page for this business with the explanation of "malicious activity" and the page is ineligible to be reactivated. That's it. End of story.

Fortunately for me the support rep has understood the "wha????!" in my response and is asking for further clarification. Whether we get it or not remains to be seen.

I'll be damned if I have the slightest idea what could have triggered this "malicious activity" accusation. AFAIK the listing hasn't been touched for a long time. And without any ability to appeal, this is guilty until proven innocent on a page that has been fine for years. Okay my feelings are hurt, I admit it. Deep breaths.

I totally support Google's desire to get rid of spam. And I am endlessly frustrated, as are you all, that so many businesses get away with spammy listings even though listings are constantly being reported with all the supporting evidence needed. Yet the review team still deny the listing has a problem.

Too many of the big providers are coming together at the moment with the same sorts of attitude to service area businesses for this to be a coincidence. Apple maps, Phil mentioned Yelp just recently updating their policy, and now this edict from Google.
This does not bode well at all for genuine service area businesses in local search.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Here are the sentences in the guidelines I believe are being enforced -
"Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a page for every city they service.

Businesses that operate in a service area should create one page for the central office or location and designate service areas"


I swear I haven't seen those sentences before. Does anyone have a screenshot from say a month ago so I can check to see if I'm crazy?
Hi Margaret, these have been the guidelines for quite some time. I'd say for at least a year or so.
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes I agree - that part has been in the guidelines for a long time and I cover in training how some SABs try to get away with setting up multiple locations, but it's not allowed.

However I've never heard of them being this strict about it before. So either you hit a very strict rep or maybe there is some type of new concerted effort to curb some of the abuse.

Unfortunately any time that happens babies can be thrown out with the bath water.

But I'm sorry it had to happen to you. Wish I had more details.


Please keep us posted if you learn anything else!
 

Margaret Ornsby

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Okay. Guess it's just me then. Never had it enforced before.
Thanks for letting me know I need new glasses :)

---------- Post Merged at 12:19 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 12:18 PM ----------

Maybe the update the rep referred to then is done algorithmic.
 

Linda Buquet

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Apparently last week an update was rolled out which disallows service area businesses to have any more than one listing. Not per location, not per city/state/whatever. Just one listing.
Maybe the update the rep referred to then is done algorithmic.
Oops sorry. Guilty of skimming. Totally missed the part where he said there was an update last week.

Google is usually pretty good about sharing stuff like this with TCs. And the more I think about it this sounds more like it was coming from the Google Maps or Map Maker side of the house.

How did this call happen. Did you call support the normal way, via dash? Or could you somehow have been talking to someone in maps?

Did you only have a call? Or was there a support ticket involved?

Can you PM me the support ticket # if there was one. Or if a call then I need the email address that owns the listing. Also link to listing or if totally gone link to web site and address for that listing. Then I'll escalate to Google and see what I can find out.
 

Phil Rozek

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@Margaret

Yeah, as Colan and Linda said, the SAB rules haven't changed. Google's still just saying that if you're a plumber and you work out of your house but accept jobs in 10 nearby cities, you can't have a Places page for each of the 10 cities - just for your house.

@Everybody else

Here's the Yelp policy-change that Margaret referred to:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+PhilipRozek/posts/AEXZJ6ezQBx
 

johncrenshaw

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@Margaret, we had a huge issue with this about a year ago so I know that wording has been there at least that long.

Like Phil said, I think the purpose of that phrasing is to say you can't create listings for every area you service if you don't actually have a physical office there.

We had a problem because our client actually had physical offices in many different cities (most of them not even in the same state) and a Google support rep took that phrasing to mean that a service area biz should only use like the corporate or primary office (whatever that means) and could not have listings for any other office.

I believe that rep was wrong, but he wouldn't let up and it led to 6 months of back and forth with Google about it.
 

Linda Buquet

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Ya that's exactly what I'm wondering about John. The big chains and franchises that have legit offices. In the case of franchises, it's separately owned businesses.

Still waiting to hear back from Margaret with more details.
 

Margaret Ornsby

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Thanks for the poke Linda, so I can answer the questions.

Yes, the call was via the support https://support.google.com/business/?hl=en#topic=4539639&contact=1

No support ticket I'm aware of. It's one of several conversations about this specific problem, in a string of conversations about these pages. I've never rec'd a ticket ID per se.

The situation isn't one of a single plumber with employees working multiple areas. It's a franchise with several locations. Some of the owners areas overlap and they help each other out. But each service area has its own "owner" and they manage the workload between them if and when there's an overlap.
 

Linda Buquet

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If it's indiv franchisees, IE different business owners should be allowed.

Are they all residential offices?

Running out door, but can you PM me the email address for the one that was deleted and the website so I can check out. Then I'll try to ask Google tomorrow.
 

travelincat

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How do you think this will affect a service company that has three locations, one on the West Coast, one the East Coast and one in the Midwest. These are all under one company, they each have their own address and phone number, but they share the common name of the business.

This biz is in the financial sector and none of the offices have clients come to them, it's mainly phone/internet based.

Can each have its own Google Business page?
 

Linda Buquet

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How do you think this will affect a service company that has three locations, one on the West Coast, one the East Coast and one in the Midwest. These are all under one company, they each have their own address and phone number, but they share the common name of the business.

This biz is in the financial sector and none of the offices have clients come to them, it's mainly phone/internet based.

Can each have its own Google Business page?

"and none of the offices have clients come to them, it's mainly phone/internet based"

Technically they can't have any G+ Local pages. Online businesses can't. It's only for businesses that work with clients face to face in their local market. They could have brand pages but those won't rank in local or have reviews.
 

travelincat

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Linda, does that mean that stock brokers and other financial institutions that rarely have visitors to their location fall under this reasoning? This is a financial services company, where, on occasion, people could come in to their offices, like a stock broker.
 

Linda Buquet

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Sorry, then that should be OK. If they have walk in office that's staffed. But you said NONE of them have clients come to them.

But in that sector should be OK.
 

travelincat

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Thanks Linda, sorry about the confusion. It's a new client and I was originally told they have no visitors. :)
 

Margaret Ornsby

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For anyone watching this thread, the pages that had been taken down have been restored.

Interestingly, just got written instruction from the G rep advising me
"Please continue to freshen the data on the listing for your business from your account by clicking "Edit" from your dashboard, then clicking "Submit" to send your information to Google Maps on a regular basis."

This is the old "poke" coming back, is it not Linda?
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes, they continue to say that so it must still be important.

I'd do a monthly poke or so but no more often than that.

I say that because when I 1st started talking about poking your listing way back when, I had an SMB post with a problem and he said "I don't know what's wrong. I've been poking the heck out of my listing every day but..."

No dude. Don't poke it to death! LOL Too many edits can get you suspended.
Too many pokes too likely.
 

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