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I'm hoping we can get some advice here. (It's been a tough few weeks for our business.) Yesterday, I did a search and noticed that our business, which has been showing up consistently in the map "7 pack" in either the #1 or #2 position for most results in local search, had simply been dropped. I then did a follow-up test using GoogleMaps. Same--while the listing still exists, searches like "computer repair" and computer services" for which it was placing #1 now yield nothing.

We called Google support. At first they said that they couldn't respond to anything having to do with the algorithm, but then they agreed that this looked like a tech problem and they escalated it.

In the meantime though, the person my husband spoke to said that we had a violation (which he did not think was related to the map problem). He said that after this is resolved, we need to hide our address, as people at Google are now "looking for businesses like ours" that are not actual stores--and only stores, with open-door hours where people can come and go, are eligible to show their address.

This totally took me by surprise. I was under the impression that we were using our listing properly, as we serve some customers at our home office (they drop computers off here, we meet with them, they pay us here, etc.), and other times, we do service calls. Apparently this is no longer the case??

I'd love some feedback here--on both counts. On the first, I suppose we have to wait and see if/how Google resolves things, but I'm also wondering if red flags should go up for us and we should be looking into other possible violations.

On the second, do we really need to hide our address? If this is really how things now stand, we will--any info as to how this will effect our rankings though? And it's unfortunate, as we're pretty much in the center of town, and we get a lot of traffic from our location. The fact that people sometimes show up at our door unannounced with computers to be repaired has been a good thing for our business, even though we are not a store per se. So frustrating.
 
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Linda Buquet

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Hi Joanna, I'm on vacation this weekend with limited Internet so may not be able to answer right away, but to help we need link to your Google + Local page and also the main keyword you used to rank for, exactly as you search. City key word or keyword city or if you just search for keyword with no city. But then we need listing so we can see what city you are in or we'd be guessing in the dark. There are a bunch of things that could be going on.

I also need to check out some things on maps to answer your Q about hiding address because it's complicated. Technically the rules say if you DON'T service clients at your address you need to hide it. However if on maps it just looks like a house you are at risk because how would a moderator looking at your house on maps know you see clients there?

Also moved this from Maps to help forum so you can share your link.

Thanks, Linda
 
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Thanks for stepping in, Linda, especially as I know you're very busy right now.

- Here's the Google+ Local page (with the photo glitches I mentioned earlier this week): https://plus.google.com/116799347890130186919/about?gl=us&hl=en

- Main search terms: "computer repair," "computer service," "computer support" (you can use variations of these such as "PC repair" and "laptop service" as well). You can also add "Northampton" or "Northampton MA" to any of these--formerly this would move us from #1 to #2, beneath a competitor who was better optimized for city/state. Now we don't show up at all in the map 7-pack, though we do in basic organic search.

- FYI: At the prompting of an SEO consultant, we did recently hire someone to do a bit of link building. It occurred to me today that we could have incurred a penalty for inappropriate links--though we have not received a message via webmaster, and the google support team was not aware of a violation when we called. I'm keeping fingers crossed that this is not what has happened, as it never stuck me as all that necessary in the first place. I should mention, though, that webmaster seems to have stopped recording impressions as of 11/11/13. I do feel tempted to ask our SEO guy to stop the linkbuilding process and get rid of the ones that have been built to date.

- While we are located around the corner from the center of town, we do service clients at our house. On the other hand, there are many businesses in this area that operate out of home offices. Anyway. This is out of my realm, and I'll go with experts' best advice. I'm aware that zoning could come into play here.
 
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Update

- It's Sunday evening now. We seem to be back in the Map listings, and Webmaster's starting up again, so that's good news (though I do wonder what caused the problem).

- Focusing now on how to respond to being told that we should hide our address.
 

Linda Buquet

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Re hiding address. For several months Google was DELETING listings that were home businesses that did not hide address. Many were down for months! GONE!

So it's really not worth taking a chance. They say they aren't deleting now but who knows I would never risk it if I valued new customers from the web.

Do this: Pretend it's your job all day to bust spammers that break the rules. Look at your house on maps, which is what a moderator would do. http://goo.gl/maps/1PQmZ. If you were a stranger and looked at the image, would you think it was a house or a business office?

Be safe not sorry and hide it. Customers are not going to just drive over after seeing you in Google. If they DID they would drive away anyway because it does not look like a business. Customers are going to call 1st with questions or for pricing. Most will look at your site, you can put a map there.

It will not affect your ranking if you hide address and it's better than some unknown potential penalty.
 
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Thanks, Linda, sounds like that's what we need to do. I wasn't clear on the fact that it won't affect our rankings--that's good news.

Believe it or not, we *do* get a couple of jobs a week from people seeing our reviews on Google, walking their computers over, & knocking on our (unidentified!) door--Northampton is a very casual community--but we can stand to sacrifice that business if it means we're protecting the listing.
 

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"but we can stand to sacrifice that business if it means we're protecting the listing."

Good chance if your address was hidden, they would click to your site and see it there or pick up phone and call. But I don't think most people are going to make a decision based on just looking at the Place page. Most would want to click to site and check you out a little more, see what you offer, etc. OR pick up phone and call. I would personally never drive across town after looking at the limited info on a Place page. (And that's pretending I'm a consumer that knows nothing about Place pages or anything.) I'd always at the very least look at the site 1st to find out more about the business. Then once I'm on the site your address is right there.
 
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Thanks for being encouraging! We've been trying to track how people find us, & it's not always easy.

When we ask customers (most of whom DO call before showing up!) how they found us, most say "the Internet" or "google," and many mention our reviews (we have 12 on Google alone, & all are 5 stars, so this has obviously been a big positive). Interestingly, many people who call us say that they have *not* been on our site; they often know very little about us except that we fix computers. So we've concluded that the main way people come to us is:

1) do a google search for something like "computer repair"
2) click through to our reviews (it's not clear if they then read the rest of the Local page info)
3) call us

As you say, none of this depends on seeing an address, though I wonder how much it helps to have it right there in the search results. I guess we'll see!

BTW, I'm going on here a bit to emphasize another point: that in our community at least, and for our business, we've been concluding that reviews may be the single most important source of business, and carry more weight than the website.
 
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