- Google has moved away from allowing small to mid-sized businesses to use Google My Business (GMB), instead pushing them to Google Business Profile (GBP)
- Google may make GBP a paid service, reflecting Google’s desire to no longer work with small to mid-sized businesses
- Googles moves and the suspensions of business accounts demonstrate the importance of a well-drafted website and the use of a robust organic SEO strategy
- Businesses are typically suspended when there are issues with their address, issues with their stated business name, or service area
- Fixing Google Business Profile Suspensions is possible, but challenging
Toward the end of 2021, Google announced that it was doing away with Google My Business and moving its functions (and APIs) to other services (specifically, Google Business Profile, accessible via Google Maps and Google Search). This is not the first time Google has eliminated a largely stable and useful tool. Many still bemoan the loss of Google Reader, the RSS feed service, and more recently Google deprecated the Google Chat and Hangouts services, moving their features into the Gmail app.
A Change Leading to a Shift in Strategy
Interestingly, Forbes reported that Google’s announcement regarding Google My Business (GMB) only affected small to mid-size businesses, as “the current GMB web portal would ‘transition to primarily support larger businesses with multiple locations.’” Forbes speculated that this indicated that Google wants to move away from supporting small to mid-sized businesses. Perhaps more frustrating, Forbes also speculated that Google Business Profile (GBP) may become a paid service.
Google’s Stranglehold a Continuing Issue
Both Google’s stated intent to make GMB for large chain stores and the speculation that Google may start charging businesses to be listed on its maps demonstrate (1) just how problematic Google’s stranglehold on search may be for small to mid-sized businesses, and (2) the importance for businesses to develop and maintain their organic search engine optimization (SEO) and not rely on services provided by Google or Meta (Facebook) as their primary means of communicating with customers. This is further emphasized by the fact that many small to mid-sized businesses are finding their GBP accounts disabled or suspended.
Problems Leading to GBP Account Suspension
Google My Business was sunsetted for most customers in April 2022; since then, many small business owners have reported issues with the service that have led to their business’ GBP being suspended. Often, this may have to do with the fact that multiple businesses share the same physical address, as is the case in many strip malls. Suspension can also be caused by the address of a business either including a PO Box or a rural free delivery/rural route address (this happened to my business, in fact), as this apparently confuses the service. Other businesses are finding that they are no longer eligible for GBP because they do not own or have the right to represent the property they use for their business. Thus, if a yoga instructor held classes at a healthcare facility or a community center, that yoga instructor would not be eligible for GBP. Google has also made vacation rentals, apartments (unless there is a physical leasing office), and lead generation companies ineligible for GBP (in the case of lead generation companies, one can joke that this is because Google does not like competition). For those businesses that rent space for classes, such as our hypothetical yoga instructor, there does not appear to be recourse unless they can somehow work with the property owner to allow the business to maintain a permanent address that satisfies GBP’s requirements.
Service Area Issues
Another aspect of one’s GBP that may lead to suspension would be if the business using the Google Business Profile had a service area that was not “accurate and precise.” Google does not define what it means by “accurate and precise.” Here in New Mexico, this has caused problems for those businesses that may travel to any of the six cities in the state to have a larger client base, such as a propane delivery service that offered deliveries in both Albuquerque and the communities on the other side of the Sandia Mountains, sixty miles away. For these businesses, it may mean that they need to constrain their service area for the purposes of GBP, regardless of their actual service areas. Again, as speculated by Forbes, this is the sort of thing that indicates Google’s desire to no longer service small to mid-sized businesses.
Legal Names and DBA Issues
Google has also stated that it will suspend the GBP accounts of businesses that have variations between the business name used on a business’ signage and the formal, registered business name. This would affect businesses that may own a franchise or otherwise do business as something other than their registered names.
Fixing Google Business Profile Suspension
For those who are affected by these issues, Google may disable or suspend their account without stating the reason for the suspension. Fixing Google Business Profile issues can be done through an appeals process, although this is challenging when one does not know why their account was suspended. (Google “helpfully” offers small businesses the opportunity to pay $39.99 for a video chat to fix these issues.)
Suspension Shows Importance of Organic SEO
Google’s suspension of small business GBP accounts and many limitations on eligibility for a GBP may be a precursor to a backlash like was seen with Yelp listings, although I believe that Google has made its search and map products too essential to be dismissed in the way that Yelp has allowed itself to be dismissed. In that case, it will become more important for small to mid-sized businesses to ensure that their business websites rank highly in Google Search. (How? By having a robust organic SEO strategy.)
As of this writing, Google just updated its search algorithm, and I suspect this will lead to loss of search ranking for businesses that rely on Facebook Pages, as Facebook represents a threat to Google’s overall profits. Those businesses should consider developing a website and an organic SEO strategy, as these will become more important in the post-GMB era. (If you are interested in working with me to develop an organic SEO and content marketing strategy, please contact me.)