5 Google My Business Myths Debunked

Many businesses want to rank in the coveted “map pack”—or the map section of the search engine results page (SERP) that shows local business results—but not every business qualifies. Those that do qualify must adhere to specific guidelines for representing their businesses on Google, or risk suspension.

As an online marketing professional, it’s important to be fully aware of the guidelines so you can help your clients maintain maximum visibility in local search results. However, there are a number of common myths about Google My Business (GMB) listings and map rankings that need to be debunked.

Myth: A business can’t rank in a city where they don’t have a physical location.

Fact: Google My Business isn’t just for brick-and-mortars; it’s for service-area businesses too. Google recognizes that not every company has a storefront. There are plenty of businesses that travel to their customers to provide service rather than having their customers come to them—such as plumbing, roofing, and HVAC businesses.

GMB gives businesses the ability to set their service area by radius or zip code. As a result, they are able to show up in maps in the search results for each of the areas included in their service zone—even if they don’t have physical stores or offices in each of those locations. Google’s guidelines state:

Service-area businesses—businesses that serve customers at their locations—should have one page for the central office or location and designate a service area from that point. Service-area businesses can’t list a ‘virtual’ office unless that office is staffed during business hours.

Fact: The Google Possum update, which was rolled out in September 2016, also made it more likely that any type of business (whether brick-and-mortar or service-area) can rank for locations even if their physical address is outside the city limits. Prior to this update, it was nearly impossible for businesses to rank for geo-modified terms if their physical location fell just outside that geographic area.

Those same businesses saw a spike in local rankings right after the release of Google Possum, indicating that Google was softening its stance on only giving map rankings to businesses that were physically located within the geographic area being searched.

Myth: A business can verify a virtual office as long as they receive mail at that location.

Fact: If a business is not staffed at their location during their stated business hours, they cannot claim that address on their GMB listing, according to Google’s guidelines. A primary way Google verifies businesses is by sending a postcard to the address provided for the listing. Many virtual offices have a mailbox or even a receptionist to accept mail and deliver messages.

However, it should be noted Google is also starting to use other forms of verification to crack down on Map spam. They will often require a photo of the storefront or a copy of the business license in order to ensure that the stated location is actually where the business operates during normal business hours.

Myth: A business can claim they’re open 24/7 if they have an answering service that takes calls 24/7.

Fact: The hours a business states in their GMB listing must be the hours during which they actually have staff working at their location. Even businesses that are technically staffed from 9-5, for example, should not list hours if they operate only by appointment.

Myth: Practitioner listings are duplicates and should be merged.

Fact: Google defines an individual practitioner as a public-facing professional who typically has his or her own customer base. A few examples include lawyers, doctors, dentists, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents. Practitioner listings are not considered duplicates, so Google will not remove or merge them. Google only considers pages to be duplicates when they have the same name, address, and phone number, regardless of their category.

If there are GMB listings for a business and their practitioners, it’s best those practitioner listings each be categorized differently. For example, a general practice law firm’s GMB account could be categorized as “Law Firm” while the practitioner listings could be categorized for different specialty areas, such as “Personal Injury Lawyer” or “Criminal Justice Attorney.”

Myth: Using keywords in a business name will help that business get found more easily.

Fact: The business name listed on Google My Business must accurately represent the business’ actual name. Google states:

Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online.

Businesses should avoid using the name field as an opportunity to stuff in keywords, website URLs, phone numbers, calls to action, or taglines. For example, if a legal practice is named “Smith Law Firm,” they should not list their business name as “Smith Personal Injury Law Firm” to increase their chances of showing up for personal injury-related searches. Instead, they should just use the business category that is more relevant to the area of law they practice.

Don’t let any of these myths hinder your clients from ranking in the local map pack! By fine-tuning these businesses’ GMB listings, you can help them boost their exposure to potential customers right in the areas they serve.

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