Google My Business Updates the Guidelines for Service Area Businesses & Virtual Offices - Sterling Sky Inc

Google My Business Updates the Guidelines for Service Area Businesses & Virtual Offices

September 24, 2020 Update

The following was just added as well under the address section of the main guidelines:

  • They added back in the fact that separate office locations must be staffed by your business staff.  This came up on the comments in this article as it used to be in there but it was removed earlier this year.  I asked them why it was removed and they added it back in.  Having this clarified definitely helps people realize that they can’t hire a virtual office service that comes with a shared secretary if they want to stay within guidelines.
  • They also added in the following for service areas: “If you have different locations for your service business, with separate service areas and separate staff at each location, you’re allowed one profile for each location. The boundaries of your profile’s overall service area shouldn’t extend farther than about 2 hours of driving time from where your business is based. For some businesses, larger service areas may be appropriate”. So this the first time I’ve heard Google say anything like this and it looks like it does change the rules for when service area businesses are allowed multiple listing.  Formerly, it was 1 per state (I got this directly from Google) but now, provided the staff are different, it looks like you can have a lot more than that based on this wording.

Sept 18, 2020 Changes

There were a number of changes to the Google My Business guidelines article yesterday.  I’ve highlighted the changes below.

On this page, the following was added:

  • “Businesses can’t list a virtual office unless that office is staffed during business hours”. 
    This section has been updated many times in the last few years.  The actual rule, however, has not changed.  Google is simply trying to make it more clear that virtual offices aren’t permitted in Google My Business.
  • “Storefront vs service-area businesses. If your business doesn’t have a storefront with clear signage but travels to customers at their physical locations, you’re allowed one service-area Business Profile.  If you’re a service-area business, you should hide your business address from customers. For example, if you’re a plumber and run your business from your residential address, clear the address from your Business Profile.”   
    This has always been a rule but it’s really great to see Google making it more clear by highlighting it much better in the help center article.

The article specific to service area businesses was also updated.  The following was added:

  • A section that clarifies what the difference is between a service area business and a hybrid business.  This section includes some important new additions.
    • “Service area businesses may only create one profile for the metropolitan area they serve”.
      This is also a policy clarification.  The guidelines for how many listings a service area business can have hasn’t changed.
    • “If your business doesn’t have permanent on-site signage, it’s not eligible as a storefront and should be listed as a service-area business”.
  •  ” The boundaries of your overall area shouldn’t extend farther than about 2 hours of driving time from where your business is based.”
  • A section on how to create a service area business listing.

These recent changes definitely help make Google’s policies clearer and will hopefully help avoid some of the confusion around how service area businesses are supposed to set up their Google My Business listings.  For more details on the interpretation of these guidelines, see this article about when service area businesses are allowed multiple listings.

20 replies on "Google My Business Updates the Guidelines for Service Area Businesses & Virtual Offices"

  1. For the virtual office, I wish they would have clearly stated “unless the office is staffed by the business”

    I’m guessing we’ll still see the questions about “who” is the one staffing

  2. Regarding ““Service area businesses may only create one profile for the metropolitan area they serve”.
    This is also a policy clarification. The guidelines for how many listings a service area business can have hasn’t changed.”

    I see your response on the other question regarding this but it’s very broad. This will affect some very big businesses that have showrooms and also service area. So my business has one location (corporate) that we do not have open to the public, service area only but then we have another location thats a hybrid with more coming. I guess that would be sufficient accroding to this as long as we don’t have more than one in the “metro area” which is up for interpretation.

    1. Hi a situation that we have run into time and time again is posting hours. We were told that having an office will help with Map ranking however we can’t be a 24/7 business. We have staffed offices in all of our locations but they aren’t staffed 24/7. We do pick up the phone 24/7 though and our service technicians are 24/7. I guess its frustrating watching companies that use home offices or virtual offices show up as 24/7 but we cant. Thoughts?

      1. Hours isn’t really something I have seen Google enforce at all. Plenty of businesses display their hours as 24/7 even with staffed offices (that are clearly not open 24 hours a day). Usually, you can get away with it unless your listing gets suspended and then you have to correct the hours to get reinstated.

  3. Sorry if this is obvious, but I’m confused. If you have a few staffed store-front locations (e.g. law offices), and also want to take cases in another metropolitan area (within 2-hour’s drive), you can create a service-area business location in GMB for that new metropolitan area too (without penalty), or do you add a service area to one of your store-front locations?

    1. Hey Michael,

      I actually ran this scenario past Google and they said you should add a service area to one of the existing storefront locations. You wouldn’t qualify for a separate profile as you (presumably) don’t have separate staff serving the other area.

  4. So how do you add a GMB location for a SAB in another metropolitan area? You can’t use a virtual office, and I’m assuming you shouldn’t use an employee’s home address.

    1. You have to have a legitimate storefront in that area. That means signage and staff provided by you during business hours. I know it’s not exactly fair for SABs but doing otherwise means you can get your listing suspended. I’d suggest using on-the-ground marketing instead.

  5. I was trying to point a client to a web page with the information about ““If you have different locations for your service business, with separate service areas and separate staff at each location, you’re allowed one profile for each location….” but I can’t find that on the service-area business guidance page. Is it somewhere else I’m not seeing, or is it information directly from Google? Thanks in advance for clarifying!

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