GMB Clarifies Guidelines on Virtual Offices - Sterling Sky Inc

GMB Clarifies Guidelines on Virtual Offices

We were recently alerted on Twitter by Kerry that Google has added four VERY important words to the eligibility requirements around virtual offices on Google My Business and Google Maps.

The four words are “BY YOUR BUSINESS STAFF” as in:

If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, do not create a page for that location unless it is staffed during your normal business hours by your business staff.

Why is this update important?

This particular rule seems to be one that most business owners have a tough time grasping. Most business owners think that having the virtual office staff on-site is enough since they can forward calls and book appointments. This update finally makes it explicitly clear that this is not enough and you must have your own staff on-site in order to qualify for a GMB page at a virtual office.



21 replies on "GMB Clarifies Guidelines on Virtual Offices"

  1. Interesting.. but how is Google going to determine whether or not the member of staff is paid by yourselves, or by the virtual office operative? Surely they can’t determine if it is your business staff or not.

    1. I agree that it’s really hard to prove which is why I would suggest just avoiding virtual office locations period. I’ve found that normally it’s very hard to convince GMB to reinstate a listing if it shares an address with a virtual office service.

    1. Hi Greg, They pretty much have done this without explicitly saying so. Even if you have your own staff on-site you are still more than likely to get suspended at some point.

  2. This article is helpful to me as a virtual business owner and I am sure many other businesses that have not heard of this before. I have in the past used a PO box as an address for GMB, I am glad I know that I cannot use this anymore. Thanks for the info!

  3. As someone who has an international staff and uses Wework offices it sounds like it is appropriate to use the address if we have staff there that are willing to receive customers. Is there a way to reduce suspension risks by self reporting staffing contact info for each branch to Google? Or are there other options? As a rapidly expanding company that has to hire the talent where it can get it co location is a really good option. It does not seem like we should be penalized on search.

    1. Hi Ron, using a known coworking space or virtual office will always be risky even if you are using it in accordance with the GMB guidelines. To lower the chance of your listing being suspended I would upload photos and videos to your GMB and website that make it clear that you have your own staff at these locations.

    2. The only real evidence Google looks at are things like photos & videos. If you have an area in the wework that is “yours” that you are at constantly every day that you’re listed as open – that would be allowed. The problem with most coworking spaces is that people work at them at random hours and not consistently and that type of set-up is not allowed on GMB.

  4. Can anyone cite one example of a business that has been banned by Google? I can’t and I report the same companies week after week after week. Google doesn’t care. In fact, I think they encourage it. They want so much competition, whether it be local or distant, competing with one another that they are allowing people to set up virtual offices. They don’t want anyone succeeding in Organic without a lot of effort. There are companies whose sole strategies are setting up virtual offices in every city with not employees to game the system. In the industry where we compete, 50% of our competition uses virtual locations. These companies get reported on frequently. Public reviews get left and Google even takes down the reviews indicating that they are virtual locations.

    1. Hey Chad, Google takes down listings at virtual offices all the time. Are you referring to Google taking action on a business as a whole including their legit locations?

  5. Thanks Colan for writing this. I know i’m a little late to the game but I almost tried to set up a GMB with a post office so i’m glad I came across this information. It definitely would have been a waste of time. I will definitely keep using your website as a resource. Thanks again!

  6. Does anyone have an opinion as to why virtual offices are considered bad by Google? I am an attorney that has provided satisfying, effective services to my clients using virtual offices. I just cannot understand why that is a problem in any regard whatsoever??

    1. Hey Kevin,

      The main reason is because Google doesn’t want a user showing up at the address on the GMB listing only to discover that nobody from that business is actually there. The guidelines do say it is ok as long as you have your own staff present during the business hours. The virtual office staff doesn’t count.

  7. Google took down four virtual offices. I regularly see clients at all offices, but I a lot of competing business are still there at the same office location. WTF?

    1. Hey Rod,

      If the other businesses aren’t using the locations in Google compliant way you can report them using Google’s Redressal Form.

    2. Rod,

      Yes, Google does a pretty terrible job at enforcing this uniformly. They generally only act on whatever listing was reported.

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