Local Search Expert
- Jun 28, 2012
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'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.