Google My Business (or GMB) is an online platform that allows law firms to manage their web presence across all Google products, including Google Maps, Google Search and Knowledge Graph. It’s considered an online business listing that contains information about your law firm, similar to other directory listings, such as Yelp or Yellow Pages. But, unlike other online business listings, GMB is vital to your law firm’s online success.
A recent report from BrightLocal, a marketing firm that specializes in Local SEO, found that 64% of consumers have used Google My Business to find contact details for local businesses. They also found that a significant number of visitors trusted the information found on GMB listings more than the info found on any other online directories.
Given its importance hopefully, your law firm has followed our past recommendations and has already created a GMB listing that’s accurate, actively used, and bringing in business.
But, what if one day, after you’ve meticulously built out your listing, you logged in to update it and found it missing? That’s exactly what’s happening to more and more law firms each day.
GMB listings that rank on the first page of Google get 300% more clicks than the first organic spot. As business owners began to understand the value of those listings, more and more spam listings began to flood the platform. In an effort to combat those fake listings and spammy websites, Google has begun to aggressively suspend GMB accounts. Unfortunately, even some legitimate law firm listings were mistakenly blacklisted.
Types of Suspensions
Google is doling out two different types of suspensions:
Soft Suspension – If your GMB listing is still visible online, but you’re unable to manage your listing when logged into your account, the listing is now considered unverified. Google’s filters flagged your account as having broken their guidelines in some way and have removed your access to the listing. This type of suspension usually has less immediate impact on your rankings, though you won’t have the ability to update info or add new content.
Hard Suspension – Much more serious, your entire listing has been removed from Google Search and Maps, including all images and reviews and photos. This likely means a loss of leads, phone calls, website clicks, and your search rankings dropping significantly.
Reasons for Suspension
Google’s only goal is for searchers to get the absolute best search results with the most up-to-date, accurate information. Google will suspend a listing if they suspect your listing doesn’t live up to that criteria, raises red flags, or has suspicious activity or suspected policy violations.
Google does not disclose the reason(s) a listing has been suspended, however, there are some common reasons:
- Information within your listing was changed. This could include your firm name, contact info, domain, or even the category you’re listed under.
- Your address violates Google policy
- P.O. Box, virtual address, FedEx/UPS Store boxes
- Forwarding phone number or URL
- Multiple listings for the same business/location
- The listing is for an online-only business
- You’ve created multiple listings for the same firm or location
- You’ve included spammy images
- Another business shares your address
- The address on your website is different than the one on your GMB listing
- Your firm’s name, address, or phone number on other directory listings does not match the information on your GMB page
- Keywords are stuffed into your business name or description
Even if your business is totally legitimate and your listing adheres perfectly to Google’s guidelines, it’s possible that you may get caught in their spam filters and get suspended. But fear not, if your firm was impacted by the recent wave of GMB suspensions, there are steps you can take to have your listing reinstated.
Google may require that you send proof of your firm’s existence and location, so you should be prepared to submit documentation that confirms your law firm name and location. That proof might include:
- An image of your storefront showing both your address and signage at the same time. If this is in an office building, it must include your suite number.
- A state business or professional license, showing the same address that’s on your GMB listing
- A rental agreement or utility bill, showing the same address that’s on your GMB listing
Once you’ve gathered all of your documentation, you’ll need to submit a reinstatement request. You’ll need to be patient, as Google has a pretty significant backlog of requests. However, they advise that you not submit multiple reinstatement requests for the same listing as it’s just adding to the pile they’re working through. If it’s been several weeks and you haven’t seen any progress, you can try sending a direct message to GMB on Twitter asking for an update.
Once your Google My Business listing is back, you will most likely need to do a little work to fully restore your ranking. Be sure to actively publish content and link your listing to blog posts on your website and to your social media accounts.
An Ounce of Prevention
Of course, what’s better than getting reinstated? Never getting suspended in the first place! Three simple tips to keep in mind:
- Read and follow Google’s guidelines for GMB
- Create only one listing for your firm, unless you have multiple locations. If that’s the case, you may create one listing per location.
- Be consistent across the web. Make sure your firm name, address, and phone number appear exactly the same on your website, GMB listing, and all other directories.
Remember, Google does not proactively notify you when your law firm’s GMB listing has been suspended, so someone on your team should be responsible for actively monitoring your listing. Google also changes their guidelines and criteria pretty frequently, so be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay informed!
Director, Web and Online Marketing Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128