One of the most common reasons for Google My Business listings getting suspended is the fact that the address being used is not eligible for a listing according to the Google My Business Guidelines. For many industries like car dealers, retail, retaurants and hotels, it’s very clear that you’d only have a listing for your stores because customers have to show up to your location to get the product/service they need. Where this gets murky is when you have a business that offers professional services (like lawyers or insurance agents) or home services (like locksmiths or garage door companies) and don’t require the customer to come to them.
In cases like this, businesses often want to have “multiple locations” so that they can reap the benefit of ranking in multiple zip codes & cities. I have seen many attempts over the last decade where people try to argue different incorrect interpretations of the Google My Business Guidelines. I decided to write this article to help clarify some of the most common misinterpretations I run across. This article was updated on October 6, 2020 to reflect the new changes Google made to their guidelines around this topic.
If I’m a home-based company, can I have multiple listings?
If you work mainly from your house or you don’t have an office, you would be considered a home-based business and should use your home address in your Google My Business listing. Google has the option for you to clear the address (this is the default when you don’t check the box indicating customers also come to your location) so you won’t have to worry about your home address showing up publicly on your listing.
In their guidelines, Google says you can have multiple listings provided the following is true:
- You have different staff servicing the different areas
- The addresses on the listings are farther than 2 hours driving distance from each other
- The service areas don’t overlap
What industries do these rules apply to?
If you see customers at their houses/locations instead of them coming to you, you would be classified as a service area business and should not have an address displaying publicly on your listing. The industry you work in doesn’t matter.
Can I set up listings using employees’ home addresses?
When this question has come up at LocalU events in the past, Google has always said no. The guidelines say not to use a location that you don’t have the authority to represent. Employees are not owners and might not always work for your company. If that employee left your company, it would create a lot of additional headaches to remove the address from being associated with your business everywhere online. Also, updating the address on a service area business listing often causes a suspension.
Why are franchises allowed multiple listings?
There are many popular franchises in the home service space that have listings for several home-based locations that seem to violate the 2-hour driving distance rule. For example, this franchise has 3 listings within the Dallas-Fort-Worth market which are not 2 hours away from each other:
Why franchises are allowed multiple home-based listings is often because the different “locations” have different owners and are independently set up. For example, you cannot call one location to get help for a project the other location did for you. They are often also independently licensed and have unique entries when you look them up with the Secretary of State.
In these cases, we normally find that the service areas for each location do not overlap.
Can I use a co-working space or virtual office?
I asked Google if co-working spaces or virtual offices were allowed to be used on service area business listings and was told a very clear “no”. Google is pretty clear about their policy about virtual offices not being allowed but businesses still continually claim that they are staffed and should be allowed. The biggest misconception is that the staff needs to be your own, not some service you hired. For example, if you pay $150/month to get a virtual office service that gets you a receptionist at the front desk to respond to any inquiries, this does not qualify. That receptionist is not employed by you (you don’t pay her taxes) and offers this same virtual service to many other businesses. The only time a virtual office address would be permitted would be if you could prove you had an employee there all day (during your stated hours). This is almost impossible to prove which is why I rarely see virtual offices reinstated once they have been suspended.
How are you so certain you are interpreting the guidelines correctly?
The Google My Business guidelines do not spell out every possible case or scenario. When the guidelines were updated recently, I ran a ton of specific scenarios past multiple Google employees to make sure I was interpreting things correctly. That being said, if you have a scenario that you’re unclear about, the best thing to do would be to ask about it on the Google My Business forum. Also, feel free to post your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to get you an answer from Google on it.