Beginning around the second week of September, the local search industry has seen a massive increase in suspensions of Google Business Profiles (GBP). Local search forums online are abuzz with this recent development and how it’s impacting their marketing strategies. Some of these suspensions were given out for legitimate violations of GBP Guidelines, but many business owners and agencies have been hit with crippling setbacks for seemingly no reason.
Special thanks to two members of Go Local’s Local Listings team: Paul Bauer, a Local Perceptions Specialist, and Cierra Carbajo, a Senior Local SEO Coordinator, who provided their insight on this recent uptick in GBP Suspensions and the possible reasons behind them.
What’s Going On With Google Business Profile Suspensions?
Google recently changed their guidelines to include that all business profiles need an exterior, storefront photo with permanent signage that says the current business name—we can absolutely attribute a portion of these suspensions to this new rule. On the other side of the coin, many local search marketers are receiving suspensions they consider to be a mistake.
For example, a GLI team member changed a partner’s Google profile to “temporarily closed” due to Hurricane Ian, and the listing was promptly suspended. Other team members have received suspensions for making small edits to profiles they manage. For example, a team member updated a UTM (text added to a URL used to track campaign performance), something that’s normally acceptable, and the listing was suspended.
Why Do These GBP Suspensions Matter?
A suspended GBP listing may not seem like a big deal; you can just appeal it, right? Well, it’s not quite that easy. According to Google, most Suspension Reinstatement Requests are investigated and cleared up within three business days. However, with this surge in suspensions, it’s been taking Google Support longer to deal with these reinstatement requests—much longer. According to members of our Local Listings team, they’ve been waiting up to five weeks to hear anything back after submitting reinstatement requests.
In the meantime, local businesses that rely on their GBP listings to generate leads in Google Search and Maps are left twiddling their thumbs. When a Google listing is suspended, even if you search for that specific facility, it won’t show up on Google. It doesn’t get picked up from organic or branded searches—it’s completely down for three to five weeks. A month and a half of leads just evaporate, and you can’t get them back.
Many businesses rely heavily on these local listings to drive traffic to local storage facilities. A hard suspension (not appearing at all in Google Search or Maps) can be devastating for a storage facility, especially when it’s recently constructed or newly acquired and still finding its footing.
Why Are These GBP Suspensions Happening?
Keep in mind that many of these sudden suspensions are a result of Google attempting to crack down on fake listings and spam by requiring actual storefront photos to prove a business actually exists. GBP Guidelines were updated on September 26 to explicitly outline this new requirement. Professionals in the local search marketing industry have known about this photo requirement for quite some time but have never seen a crackdown of this magnitude.
The other side of this issue is likely the result of a bug. There is nothing in GBP Guidelines that prohibits adding UTMs, changing business hours, or marking a business as Temporarily Closed, but these are all actions that have resulted in businesses receiving suspensions throughout the last month and a half.
What Do You Do After Your Profile Has Been Suspended?
Whether a GBP suspension is legitimate or not, there’s only one course of action: submit a reinstatement request and wait. Before submitting a reinstatement request, make sure every piece of information on your business profile is up to date and that you’ve provided Google Support with the necessary storefront photo to verify your location.
Aside from a clear storefront photo with their business name on permanent, fixed signage, there are other things business owners can provide Google Support to help ensure their suspension is removed. A third-party document that proves ownership will help prove the legitimacy of a business. A utility bill, lease, or license agreement are all options to add to a Suspension Reinstatement Request.
There is one safeguard that’s proven effective throughout this ordeal: bulk verification. According to our Local Listings team, approximately one-quarter of our GBP accounts are bulk verified, and not a single one of them received a suspension. Google says bulk verification is a tool that allows you to receive approval for 10 or more profiles belonging to the same business all at once. The process of receiving bulk verification is much more arduous than verifying a single profile. However, it seems to provide an extra layer of protection against suspensions.
How Do We Avoid GBP Suspensions in the Future?
Moving forward, the GLI Local Listings team will be even more vigilant in obtaining the proper documentation when setting up Google Business Profiles for partners. The hope is that this event will give our partners a living example of what can happen if a minor task falls through the cracks or if you don’t follow Google’s guidelines to a T.
While there’s no way to account for a random bug like what we saw in September, having the proper information and documentation ready to go will help make sure a listing gets back on its feet. According to Joy Hawkins on the Local Search Forum, Google reports that the bug causing small edits to trigger suspensions in GBP has been fixed as of Friday, October 21, 2022.
Protect and Increase Your Leads With Go Local Interactive
As a full-service digital marketing agency, Go Local Interactive has the expertise to handle a large-scale local search marketing campaign effectively, as well as content marketing, SEO, paid media, and web development. We do this all while upholding your brand’s unique vision and reaching your target audience. Schedule a free consultation with us to find out how we can improve your business’s online presence today!