Google Business Profile: Home-Based Business – A Hybrid Or A Service-Area Business?Google Business Profile Manager Services Brielle Manasquan Monmouth County NJ

Google seems to be working through its’ ‘Google Business Profile‘ listing service and the different business types they will and will not recognize for a specific address. A retail, restaurant or professional office location (i.e., Law Firm, Insurance Agency, Medical Practice) listing type is easily confirmed for its address, but there are also Hybrid and Service-Area Business types that seem to be in review. It is likely that because Google has so many business listings that are faked or fraudulent, it intends to clean its index of them. Unfortunately, legitimate longstanding Home-Based business owners (i.e., Carpenters, Contractors, Home Inspectors, etc.) or what are now defined as Service-Area Businesses (no office, go to their client’s location) are being scrutinized and, in many cases, suspended?! Whether or not they do actually meet clients at their office location, there is no effort to communicate to these business owners that they must either prove their location has signage/is used for meetings or remove their address fron the listing. So, suspension and a need for re-verification is happening without any warning or explanation. There is only a message in the listing backend saying the listing is either “disabled” and/or that it needs “verification’.

Why does it matter? It matters because a legitimate business is required to be listed correctly, based upon (updating, sometimes vague) guidelines, or risk having its’ Google Business Profile listing removed from local map pack search results. And being that Google dominates consumer search, including at a local level, a listing with an incorrect choice for adding its home-based location address can be suspended without warning and, thereby, undermine its history of reviews, other activity and overall visibility with the local searching public.

So far as Google is concerned, a Service-Area Business is one that:

  • Has no physical location that a customer will ever visit;
  • Only offers service at client or (only goes to the) customer’s location;
  • May serve an area in, around, and beyond the business’s immediate location (specified by entering town names) and that
  • Must ‘hide’ (or NOT display) its address in its’ Google Business Profile listing.

And just to be clear, a retail store, restaurant or professional office that receives customers from the local ‘area’ is NOT a Service-Area Business. By their definition, neither is a Hybrid Business that both serves an area (or goes to its clients’ locations) and also receives clients at its’ location. A Hybrid Business example is an Auto Repair Shop, which typically works on-location (i.e., auto repair, tune-up, etc.) and also off-location (i.e., towing, battery charges, etc.) And so a Hybrid Business can include its’ address; whereas now, a Service-Area Business (contractors, home inspectors – see below) cannot. This can be where frustration and confusion lies because all businesses wish to be prioritized on/in the Local Map Pack of search results. While the Retail, Restaurant, Professional Office, or Hybrid Business can easily serve that common goal, a Service-Area Business who, per the above cannot show a specific address, may no longer be prioritized in those same hyperlocal Map Pack results. And not having an address on that Google listing, so that it can appear on maps, matters!

While the guidelines are infamously vague, there is an exception! Google seems averse to the average home-based business registering itself as a Hybrid business with an address UNLESS it can prove that it

a) meets clients at its home office location and
b) that it also has signage outside.

Somewhat recently updated guidelines would lead one to believe that a home-based business registered as a Hybrid (and not as a Service-Area) Business, by way of having included an address in its listing and that CANNOT prove the above, will be suspended. And while some may seem to be skating through, the belief is that sooner or later their suspension is coming.

How To Fix A Suspended or Disabled Google Business Profile?

In the last few years Google has been suspending a lot of listings and it is believed to be due (not to legitimate businesses who may operate from a home office) to a massive increase in fraudulent listings. These suspensions are likely to filter out fake or illegitimate business listing locations so that only genuine businesses show up in local map pack search results. Often a casualty of this effort or a suspended business, by their definition, is a Service-Area Business registered as Hybrid. In many of these cases, the business never intended to deceive Google or the public. The home-based business listing with an address has often been there for years, but unbeknownst to them or anyone, the guidelines for registering as a particular type of business evolved and/or changed without any notice or warning. Nowadays, when creating a Gooogle listing, the user is warned about the business circumstances necessary to be able to show an address versus a services area territory.

And while getting a Google Business Profile listing out of suspension is a challenging task, it can certainly be done. If it happens and the business applies for reinstatement, Google won’t explain why the suspension occurred, nor what you need to specifically do. It will refer the business to its Google Business Profile Guidelines to figure it out! And know that these guidelines are infamously vague. Having reviewed the guidelines and, in theory, having identified and corrected the listing issue or issues (i.e., a Home-Based or Service-Area Business showing an address), the business may then request reinstatement. Here are examples of what proof they may require to consider the request:

  • State Business License
  • Professional Business License
  • Proof Of Location Occupancy
  • A Utility Bill
  • Rental Agreement
  • Photo Of Business Location
  • Photo Of Signage Outside Location
  • Photo Of The Street Address/The Building/A Suite Number
  • Tax ID and
  • in some cases, more often now than ever, the dreaded live video verification.

Folks, getting a suspended Google Business Profile listing reinstated is NEVER easy! So, be proactive because having one certainly matters.

Strategies To Gain Better Service-Area Business Listing Placement In Local Map Pack Results

Again, the Google Business Profile guidelines could be a little more helpful. Given a bit of time to look around, there are many examples of both Service-Area Business Listings included (that should not be) and also not included (that should be) in Local Map Pack search results. Some businesses may still be getting away with violating the address guidelines, regardless of whether or not it was their fault, but it will likely eventually catch up to them. The legitimate local home-based business owner should not allow this to be discouraging; better yet, fight on! To raise the odds the Service-Area Business listing (with no address, but a territory of up to 20 locations served) will be included in the local Map Pack search results, there needs to be an activity effort for generating signals that Google’s system values. Here are some things a Service-Area Business should do with its Google Business Profile listing:

  1. Encourage clients and customers to review the business on the GBP listing. While the listing may or may not be a challenge for them to find, a listing owner has access to a link they can send to the client. Reviews are trusted by local consumers, especially on a Google listing, and so they demonstrate that there is a real business delivering genuine services.
  2. Reply to the reviews promptly. A reply demonstrates genuine accountability to its client business and is also another signal to Google that the business is legitimate. What’s more, consumers read reviews, and they read the business’s responses to those reviews. So, it is a way to build credibility with the public and send Google signals.
  3. Answer questions in Google’s Q&A section of the listing, if a question is ever asked. Q&A is available to the public, so answers to any questions demonstrate that there is a proactive business at hand. It is likely also a signal to Google in favor of the listing versus those who fail to participate.
  4. Post/Update! Use good messaging, imagery, and keywords to add Google Business Profile posts. Posts or what are referred to as ‘updates’ demonstrate an authentic business and are also likely to be a signal Google values.
  5. Upload new images or videos, setting a Service-Area Business Listing apart from its competitors. Note: there are size limits for image and video files, but compression can be pursued in order to get them up.

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