Hide your Address on Google Local - New Warning for Service Area Businesses


Linda Buquet

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If you've been at the business of Local Search for awhile, you no doubt remember the fiasco when Google 1st made it a rule that you need to hide address if you were a service area business. Then they proceeded to delete thousands and thousands of listings, many of which were down for 5 months and could not be revived even by starting a new listing. Here are a couple of posts about it from 2012 when the problem hit critical mass.

Fast forward to today. Google told us, starting a few months ago that they no longer delete listings for not complying with this guideline.

I think they've been hiding addresses when they find listings that are in violation. BUT I've always warned that it's still a rule and you still need to follow it, because you just don't know what's happening for sure with so many departments involved which often don't agree on policies. AND I've also seen businesses get their account suspended.

So yesterday I discovered this thread at Map Maker forum:

Service area businesses, and the removal from the map - Google Map Maker

The policies are different at Map Maker and some mappers and RERs (Regional Expert Reviewers) say they delete SABs all that time and that's what they are supposed to do. Plus you'll see in that thread, sometimes they are not deleting, sometimes they are just marking the listing permanently closed, which is almost as bad.

I'm pretty upset about this because I thought the GMB and MM teams had gotten consistent and were in unison on this issue quite awhile back, and had stopped deleting businesses but it appears that may not be the case.


I wrote:

"I'll be talking to the GMB folks once again about trying to align GMB and MapMaker policies.

Businesses were never warned and the 1st page of the GMB guidelines about this are totally soft AND there is so much info now that it would be easy to miss.


The punishment should fit the crime. I don't think being deleted off the face of Google and having your business potentially suffer is an appropriate penalty for violation of a guideline that is not well spelled out and a guideline that most SMBs don't even know about.

If it's important enough that you could have your listing deleted, it needs to be a tool tip link right in that part of dash that goes to a page that spells it out better.

On front page of guidelines it just says "If you wish to display your complete business address while setting your service area(s), your business location should be staffed and able to receive customers during its stated hours."

How soft and subtle is that? (If you read as an SMB that has no idea how this all works.)

If it's important enough your listing could be deleted it should be worded: "It's a violation to have your address show unless you service customers at your business location and it is staffed during it's stated hours." Then they need to explain exactly how to do the settings to make it happen! SMBs are busy, often not techy and they don't know this stuff like we do. You need to spell it out.

I think the punishment for LEGIT SMBs that don't hide address should be a warning email before deletion OR just hide the address for them. But I know mappers and RERs can't do either of those things.

I'm going to contact the GMB team about:

1) Making the GMB guidelines clearer

2) Trying to amend the MM guidelines and the policy of just deleting or closing down valid businesses, simply because their address is showing.

3) Seeing if we can find a tool, a special flag or something for RERs to use that solves the problem without deleting listings - maybe escalates so a Googler can hide the address in dash."



So I did share that thread as well as my comments and suggestions above with the GMB team. Have not really gotten a satisfactory answer yet. Will let you know if this gets resolved.

If you are unsure if you really need to... If you have a home business you really should - even if you occasionally see clients there. The written rule like I said above, is VERY soft and subtle. However if you don't have a big business sign in your yard, if it looks like a house on Google maps street view and satellite view and/or if you don't have full time staff to accept walk in traffic you really need to do the service area settings right.

As I've stressed many times, it won't hurt your rankings, so be safe and hide your address!

Here are the Google My Business Guidelines.

See our <a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/service-area-business-issues/">Service Area Business Issues</a> forum for lots more on the topic, including how to deal with citations for hidden address businesses and more.

Did you realize Google and Mappers were still deleting SABs???

Image Credit: So sorry if it's yours. It's so old I can't remember where I got it like 4 years ago.
 

Linda Buquet

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Dan Austin is a very advanced mapper who has been prolific about the Google maps spam issue and very involved in trying to clean it up.

When that thread came up on the MM forum I got a long email from Dan with more details on the problem and a recommendation for how this issue could be resolved.

I'm hoping he'll come share his thoughts, to check back later.
 
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There is a further issue you haven't considered. When we find a SAB without a storefront on the map, well over 90% of the time is going to be an unclaimed listing pulled from some other data source than GMB. Those are the vast majority of the listings we are deleting; and they are basically bad data.
 

Linda Buquet

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Good point Gregg. No I didn't consider because claimed or unclaimed, good data or bad, didn't come up in that thread, so it didn't occur to me at the time. But that makes sense and is good to know.

Still would like a way for legit businesses to be flagged for manual address removal or warned instead of just being deleted.
 

Dan Austin

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A few points:

Trying to reconcile policy between MM and GMB is...problematic, from my perspective. It's far easier to just return SABs with hidden addresses back to MM, add a checkbox to show it's hidden address state (similar to how POIs that are closed have a checkbox), and add an option in Report this under Edit to report POIs that should have their address hidden, similar to how dupes are now handled. The MM staff has considerable expertise in handling these kind of issues, and are more than capable of communicating policy changes on this matter to the mapper community.

Businesses, at least in the US, can't "hide" their address from the legal authorities, and the businesses that do are illegal (spam locksmiths and escort service POIs come to mind), and should be removed immediately. Businesses should have the option to hide their address from Maps, but they shouldn't expect that they're going to be hidden all the time for all purposes.

I've noticed, for example, that it's fairly easy to "find" a business using Facebook, Yelp, Bing, or hundreds of other directories using a Google search, even if the business is "hidden" on Maps. Digging down deeper into government databases produces a wealth of information about the business, some of which the business may not have intended to expose, but is part of the public record.

Mostly, hiding addresses advantages the spammers, because it makes it that much more difficult to determine the veracity of the business, and allows accident attorneys, locksmiths, and escorts to litter maps with spam listings that all route to the same call center, even though their listing purports to belong to an unoccupied dwelling culled from real estate listings, a private mailbox service, virtual office, a fast food restaurant, a park, or even the White House, which remains a popular spot for spammers to "borrow" that address. How they manage to get verified is another story for another day, but the fact remains that the best way to mitigate spam, at the lowest cost, is to use crowd sourcing via MM.

Those who are interested in removing spam--like SMBs--can takedown the spam far more efficiently and effectively than Google's own internal teams, who are focused on the Big Data Picture.
 
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Margaret Ornsby

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Fascinating thread and chat stream here. Has identified a confusion point for me - and so a few questions.

It's far easier to just return SABs with hidden addresses back to MM, add a checkbox to show it's hidden address state.
What is meant by "return"?

As in, is this an automated process G already do/should do?

If a legit SAB has their listing deleted from MM, does that then cause their GMB listing to fall out of the pack? And if that's true, should they simply create a new listing?
 

Dan Austin

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As soon as you check the box in the GMB Dashboard, hiding your SAB POI address, it "disappears" from MM. Unchecking it will cause it to magically reappear in MM. Several years ago, probably at the behest of a then-Places PM, all SABs with hidden addresses were removed from MM. I don't know if it would be easy, but all POIs were once visible on MM, and could be again, simply by changing the code to make it so.

If a SAB is deleted from MM, it's deleted from Maps. Mostly. The process isn't perfect--a longstanding bug in MM prevented many claimed listings from being removed from then-Places, now-GMB, even though they showed as removed in MM, but they may have resolved it.

I would contact GMB Help and ask them to reinstate the since-deleted POI, and hide your address for you, if you haven't already done so, provided that you've previously claimed the listing, rather than creating a new listing.
 
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I switched between SAB and a Mapped Business a couple times, unsure of whether or not i wanted my Home to show under street view with the map marker function. Plus I'm not actively taking clients in my home.

After finally deciding to stick with a SAB (Service Area Business) I also decided to add a 25 mile radius to my service area.

Prior to this my FaceBook NAP was registering on Local Moz...but now it is not. Does anyone know if having the Radius added to my GMB may conflict with the output that FB is giving to Local MOZ. Or create inconsistency in the NAP....if local MOZ isn't registering it does that mean that Google isn't considering my FB either in regard to NAP?

I'm concerned because FB holds considerable weight with NAP. Perhaps I should just remove the radius.... Does the radius function make you any more likely to populate in the Local Packs results within the radius area?

Sorry for so many questions, I"m just confused on how the radius may affect other NAP listing sites that don't otherwise offer that option and whether or not i am hurting my local pack Rankings. Or if the radius increases visibility in the local pack.

Any input is appreciated. Thanks
 

JoyHawkins

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Jeremy,

This thread is really old - I would suggest starting a new one and posting your question. I can confirm that mappers are not supposed to be removing SABs that are verified anymore so this is a solved issue from that aspect. Unverified SABs get deleted in MapMaker all the time.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hello, the radius selected in your GMB dashboard doesn't impact NAP consistency. Can you clarify what you mean by:

Prior to this my FaceBook NAP was registering on Local Moz...but now it is not.
Do you have a screenshot?
 
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What i mean is when i perform a local search under MOZ local SEO tool that it's not producing any profile information for FB. When in reality my business page is 100% complete.

It was registering before I switched my GMB listings up from storefront to a service based business. I just hope that google is picking up my FB NAP info now even though MOZ is not.


 

Colan Nielsen

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MozLocal has trouble with SAB's because they use the GMB API which doesn't currently support listings with a hidden address. As a test, you could try unhiding your address to see if that fixes the MozLocal issue. But that's not much of a long term solution.

You could try MozLocal support too.
 
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So Google's API may not support it for MOZ Reporting but GMB Local Listing should still be picking up on my FB NAP if it is all updated and accurate, correct?

Do you think that services based business hold less weight than location based business in the local search pack?
 

Linda Buquet

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Phil Rozek

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@Jeremy

As Colan and Bryan alluded to, you'll need to un-hide your address in GMB for Moz Local to resume pushing data.

If you didn't have a GMB page set up at all, the Facebook page would be enough. But given that you have both FB and GMB set up, Moz Local wants both of those address lines.

In terms of rankings, a hidden-address SAB isn't inherently at a disadvantage. But it may get lower click-through in some cases if it appears less "local" to some searchers, which may be a drag on your rankings long-term.
 

Tim Colling

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...

If you didn't have a GMB page set up at all, the Facebook page would be enough. But given that you have both FB and GMB set up, Moz Local wants both of those address lines...
I wonder (we should ask Miriam Ellis) whether it would be a good idea to just replace that Moz listing with a new one that only includes the FB entry and deny that a GMB listing exists...
 

Tony Wang

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I don't think it's true that you need both FB and GMB to show the address, you need one or the other. At least that's what one Moz support person told me, and I found that to work.
 

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