This article was orginally posted on November 24, 2020
If Google gives your business a hard Google My Business (GMB for short) suspension, they will remove your business from their listings. This includes any listings with an address that usually show on top of Google’s organic results and Google Maps. For lots of small businesses, their GMB listing is their main lead generator. Proximity (in addition to reputation and relevance) are among the top ranking factors with GMB. Often times, GMB listing allows small businesses to rank high up with the big boys on Google.
What can cause a hard GMB suspension?
Various things. Google has continued to tighten up on their GMB guidelines. In the past, private mailboxes used to be able to pass as a physical location, but Google put a stop to that. I’ve seen Google suspend a client’s business listing automatically for using an address at an office that wasn’t staffed.
Even my business has experienced a hard suspension. In this blog post, I’ll show what I did to remove a hard GMB suspension.
If your business get a hard GMB suspension, you must fill out a reinstatement request.
Need Help With Your GMB Listing?
In addition to reinstating a suspended listing, I’ve performed several other tasks on clients’ Google My Business listings.
How long does it take for Google to reinstate a GMB listing?
I’ve read on the GMB Community and in Search Engine Journal that a business is usually reinstated within 14 days of filling out the request. The total time that it took for my business to be reinstated was almost a month. During that time, this was what happened:
Oct. 27th – I filled out a reinstatement request form.
Oct. 29th – Google responded by email saying that my query was escalated to their specialist team for a thorough investigation
I immediately responded to Google letting them know that I would soon be receiving a permanent sign showing my business name on my suite door.
Oct. 30th – Once my permanent sign on my office door was up, I took a photo of myself and sent it to Google.
Google did not answer any of these emails, so I emailed Google a few more times over the next 2 weeks to check on the status of my business’ reinstatement request.
During this time, I also removed any photos of my old office space, so all that was left were photos of my new office space and screenshots of our clients’ websites that we designed.
Nov. 16th – When it had been more than 3 weeks since filling out the reinstatement request, rather than filling out another reinstatement request, I filled out a regular support request and referenced my case number that Google assigned to me (in their email reply) when I filled out my reinstatement request.
Nov. 17th – Google responded by asking me to provide a store front picture where my business name is visible on a permanent signage board.
I responded immediately with a photo of my office suite that you see below.
Google responded to me that same day to let me know that my case was escalated to their specialist team.
I responded minutes later by asking how long should I wait before contacting them again and Google told me 24-48 hours.
Nov. 18th – In the morning, I looked in my GMB dashboard and saw that my business listing was reinstated, but I had to verify it again. Usually verification involves receiving a code via phone, physical mail, or a video call, but this verification method was different than any that I’ve seen before. I just had to click the verify buttons or so I thought. When I clicked the verification buttons without changing any of business’ information, my business listing was automatically suspended again. I also received an email saying my business listing was suspended because it was flagged for suspicious activity. In addition to that, Google also said that they may close my account in the case of repeat violations. No bueno.
I contacted Google that same day to let them know about the automatic suspension, and they responded on the same day by saying that they were going to follow up with their specialist team about the automatic suspension and to give them 24-48 hours for them to respond.
During this time, I thought hard about what could have caused the second automatic GMB suspension. When discussing what I did with a new peer at a potluck luncheon, I realized that I might have changed too much at one time. I had changed my business address from an Atlanta, GA address to a St. Petersburg, FL address.
This wasn’t just a move to another city, it was a move to another state that was hundreds of miles away. Mr. Technique had had the same Atlanta address for 5 years.
In addition to an a drastic address change, I changed my business phone number from a number with an Atlanta area code (404) to a toll free area code (888). On the GMB Guidelines page, they said to “use a local phone number instead of central, call center helpline number whenever possible.” Because of this, I purchased a phone number with a St. Petersburg area code (727), but I wasn’t going to use the number until Google brought my business listing back up.
Nov. 19th – Google responded the next day to tell me that they manually reinstated my business listing, but I would still have to verify it. I did a Google search for Mr. Technique and my business listing was indeed back up. The address had been updated to its new St. Petersburg location, but the phone number had not been updated. My business listing was still showing the Atlanta area code number. In addition to that, Mr. Technique was still showing up as located in Atlanta inside Strongbox West.
At the beginning of Google’s email, they said that no edits were necessary to verify my business, but at the end of the email, they said to make sure that my business information followed Google’s policies and guidelines.
I didn’t want to raise any red flags again and cause another automatic suspension, so I removed the toll free phone number and made the Atlanta area code number (shown in the screenshot above) the main phone number again just in case I needed to do a phone verification.
I added the St. Petersburg area code phone number as a secondary phone number since it is local to my business’ new location. I figured with only one source of verification changed, this would not be considered suspicious activity to Google. I clicked the buttons to verify my business’ listing, and Google put my business in pending status.
All of my business’ edited information showed as under review in my account.
I asked Google about how long would my business be under review, and they said to give them 24-48 hours for my business’ updates to be approved or denied. If the updates were approved, they would be live.
Nov. 21st – I waited almost 48 hours, but my business’ listing was still in pending status, so I sent them another email informing them that my business listing was still under review.
Nov. 22nd – In the morning, I checked my business’ GMB listing and finally, it was verified!
Nov. 23rd – In the morning, Google emailed me to let me know that my business’ changes were approved and were showing up on Google. Here’s a screenshot of a Google search for “web designers near me” on my phone at my new office in St. Petersburg, FL. You’ll see that everything is updated.
I feel that this is a good ranking given the short time that my business has been in St. Petersburg. Do you see the 10+ years in business part? That comes from filling in the opening date field. If you want to see my business listing live on Google, click here.
That same day, I emailed Google to ask them if adding a toll free number would cause an automatic suspension, and they replied back on the same day to let me that they could not tell me if doing so would cause my business listing to be automatically suspended and to look at [drumroll] their guidelines again. I took a chance and added the 888 number as an alternate number, and luckily, the update was accepted within a few minutes. I’ve successfully added a toll free number as the main phone number to a client’s business listing before, but I don’t think I’m going to do that for my own business on Google right now after the struggle that I went through.
Although I do it already for multiple clients, I’ll be adding GMB Management to the list our SEO services that we provide.