Google Business Profile — Frequently Asked Questions

Since 2004, Google has maintained a local business directory so that users can access information about the local businesses they are interested in. This directory has been renamed several times and has undergone many other changes. Its primary purpose, though, has remained consistent: To provide data about local businesses that’s useful to the public. Google is in the answers business; If you have a question, they want to have the answer easily accessible to you.

In my opinion, the system is in the best form now that it has ever been – although still far from perfect. In the interest of having vast amounts of data, Google is willing to compromise on quality and facts sometimes. It’s a situation where ‘perfect is the enemy of good’ applies. The current system–now called Google Business Profiles–still contains too many listings that aren’t genuine businesses. Business owners continually engage in land grabs with location areas and keyword stuffing, and much of it has gotten through over the past two decades. I have been waiting for Google to get more serious about this cleanup, but they seem to be content with a tradeoff that errs on the side of more data. Overall, it is an excellent system for Google users. It can be very maddening, sometimes, to business owners.

Here are some common questions and answers about Google Business Profiles.

Can I have a Google Business Profile without an address?

No, a Google Business Profile cannot be created without inputting an address into the system–and the business address’s authenticity will need to be verified to Google’s satisfaction. Google Business Profiles is a Google Maps feature, so an address is a crucial component. The address does not need to be publicly visible, though. For businesses that only travel to customer locations (such as painters, plumbers, and landscapers), it’s a standard practice to unselect the option for the address to be publicly visible.

Can I use a PO box, mailbox rental, or virtual office for the address?

Google’s policies prohibit the use of PO boxes, mailbox rentals, or virtual offices as business addresses. Google wants an authentic business address.

Can the address be my home?

Yes, the business address can be your home, especially if your business travels to customer locations (instead of the other way around). If you choose to publicly display your address, you’ll always need clear signage and staff to greet customers who enter during opening hours.

What if I don't want my address to be visible?

A business address is required to create a Google Business Profile, but the address does not need to be publicly visible. If the business travels to customer locations (instead of the other way around), it’s appropriate for the business to unselect the option for their address to be publicly visible.

What should I do if my address changes?

If your business address changes, and it’s publicly visible in your Google Business Profile, you’ll want to change it as soon as possible. Google might require a verification step for the new address. If your business travels to customer locations and your business address is not publicly visible, it’s not a pressing issue. If you’re staying in the same local area, there’s no problem. In fact, Google doesn’t even offer an option for changing the address if it’s not publicly visible (which I’ve always found a bit odd). If the address is not publicly visible and business is moving to a different city or much different area, there are two options that I see as reasonable possibilities. One, click to make the address publicly visible, change the address, and then click again to remove public visibility of the address. (This may or may not work. It could trigger a temporary suspension or the need to re-verify the business.) Two, just create a new Google Business Profile. A third option would be to contact Google Business Profile support to try to get their assistance. Click this link to find the main support page: www.Support.Google.com/Business

What if they don't have a category that fits my business?

Unfortunately, there are some types of businesses that don’t fit any of the category options. In this case, a business owner should choose the category that is most closely related. I don’t know Google’s process for category inclusion, but I know that it would be impossible to have a category for every conceivable business type. Keep in mind that customized products or services can be added to a Google Business Profile, so that helps with regard to keywords and local business searches.

Is there still a Google My Business?

No, Google shuttered Google My Business as the interface for business owners to manage their businesses. Google Business Profiles is the system that replaced Google My Business, and it doesn’t require downloads of a special app on mobile devices or a separate interface on desktop computers. Google Business Profiles can be administered directly in the Google Search app on mobile devices or at Google.com on desktop computers.

Do I need to download an app for Google Business Profiles?

There is no special app involved for Google Business Profiles. They can be administered directly in the Google Search app on mobile devices or at Google.com on desktop computers.

What if I don't have a website?

A website is not required to have a Google Business Profile.

What if my business has a Google Business Profile, but I don't have access to it?

This can be a difficult, frustrating, and sometimes insurmountable problem. Google Business Profile access relates to Google account logins, such as Gmail logins. Normally, the person who first created the Google Business Profile has access through their Google account. They would be the owner. They could then assign access to others through their Google/Gmail logins with either owner or manager level access. It often happens from businesses changing ownership, changing management, or the improper work of marketing agencies that business owners are left without access. Access can be requested by going to Google Maps, clicking the menu button, and then clicking Add your business. You can also see part of the email address of the person who has full access, which might help you realize who it is. If you know who the person is, contact them directly and ask to be assigned access. If you don’t, there’s a button that can be clicked for Google to send them a message to request access for you. If requesting access doesn’t work, it could be tough sledding. But try contacting Google support at www.Support.Google.com/Business.

How can I add my business to Google Business Profiles?

To create a Google Business Profile for a business, go to Google Maps on your computer, click the main menu button, then click Add your business. Alternatively, you could go to the Google Maps app on your IOS or Android device, tap Add place, then Add your business. Either way, you will then start inputting information about the business location, such as name, category, address, hours of operation, phone number, and more. Before the location information can be publicly visible, Google will normally require verification – especially of the address (even if you choose for the address not to be publicly visible). Google employs different methods of verification and will decide which method is to be employed with your business.

How to remove my business from Google Business Profiles?

There is no option to remove a business from the Googe Business Profile system. This is because Google doesn’t like its data being taken away. If a business exists or existed at a location, Google wants that data readily available for anyone searching for it. They will accept updates, though, such as the business owner marking the business as temporarily closed or closed.

If the business owner is intent on trying to remove the business, there is a way that I have used in the past. By logging in to the Google Business Profile and making sweeping changes to details (such as business name, phone number, location address, and more), the system might suspend the Google Business Profile for policy violations or suspicious data input. That can remove the business location from public view.

How can I change business information in my Google Business Profile?

To change business information in your Google Business Profile, log into the Google account that is associated with the Google Business Profile access. You can then go to Google.com and search for the exact words “my business.” In the search results, you should see a button that says View profile (you might need to scroll down a little). On a mobile phone, you can open the Google Search app and search the words “my business,” and then click the View profile button. That will take you to the Google Business Profile admin panel. Click (or tap) on the Edit profile option to change business information, such as address, phone number, hours of operation, business name, categories, website link, service areas, and much more.

If you don’t have access to the Google Business Profile for your business, you can go two routes: One, try to get access (see the above info for how to get access). Two, click the Suggest an edit button on the Google Business Profile and then submit the business information change that you want to achieve. Perhaps ask people you know to do the same thing with the Suggest an edit button.

Whether you have access to the Google Business Profile or not, there is no guarantee that Google will change the information. Google has ownership of the directory and allows its system to be the ultimate decider of what information will be displayed.

How to share access to my Google Business Profile?

If you have access to a Google Business Profile as an owner, you can share access to it with others, such as employees, partners, or marketing agencies. To do that, go to the admin panel and click the three dots menu link on the upper right (aka, the kebab). Then click Business profile setting, then People and access. There you’ll be able to add someone for access through their email address. You’ll need to choose their level of access, too. The choices are owner and manager.

How to find the admin panel of my Google Business Profile?

To find the admin panel of a Google Business Profile, go to Google.com in a web browser or open the Google Search app on your phone. Make sure you are logged in to the Google account that is associated with your Google Business Profile. Then search the exact words My business. In the search results, you should then see links for businesses you manage. Click (or tap) on the business you want to administer to reach the admin panel.

Why am I unable to fix incorrect information in my Google Business Profile?

It can be very frustrating if Google is showing incorrect information about your business, such as the address, phone number, business name, or other important details. Unfortunately, Google does not give full control of the business details to the business owner. Google owns the system and is the ultimate decider about what data appears. That being said, Google does aim for accuracy. If a business owner has access to administer the Google Business Profile, he or she can change the business details, although those changes must be approved by Google in order to go live. If the business owner does not have access to administer the Google Business Profile, they can click the Suggest an edit button to suggest that Google change a detail for the business. It could possibly help if they ask their friends, associates, employees, and customers to do the same thing.

Where does Google get local business data from?

When it comes to local business data, most people don’t realize just how much data Google collects and from how many sources. The logic of most business owners is that Google would/ should simply go by whatever information they submit. In fact, the business owner is only one source of data for the business–if they are a source at all.

Google purchases data from large data collection companies–including about local businesses. Also, Google itself is perhaps the world’s biggest data collection company since its “Googlebot” software continuously visits websites around the world to gather information. That means that if your business gets a review on another website, such as YellowBook.com or Apple Maps, Google finds it. Also, Google accepts data submissions about local businesses from anyone. Anyone can visit a Google Business Profile, click the Suggest an edit button, and submit data about the business. (Google’s system will decide if the data submission is credible enough to go live.) Also, anyone can upload a picture to a Google Business Profile, upload a video, or leave a review.

Because the data collection and analysis equation is so big, be skeptical of anyone who oversimplifies the ranking formula by saying things like, “The key is to get a lot of reviews” or “Uploading a lot of pictures will shoot you to the top.”

Are reviews important?

Simply put, yes, reviews are important for a Google Business Profile. But it’s a more complex equation than most people realize. It’s not merely a contest of who gets the most Google reviews. Many other factors are important for ranking besides reviews. Also, not all reviews are created equal, and not only Google reviews are important. Google looks at the volume, timing, diversity, rating, and credibility of reviews. It looks for patterns of authenticity rather than patterns of manipulation. If a business gets a lot of reviews on Google but never gets them anywhere else on the web, that could indicate a red flag.

Can bad reviews be removed?

To Google, reviews are simply considered to be data or content, and it doesn’t like for people to be able to remove them. If a person submits a review, uploads a picture, or uploads a video, that item cannot be removed except by the person who added it. That is the case, although there is also the issue of Google’s content policies. If the review in question violates one of Google’s policies, it can be reported to Google, which can lead to removal. Reviews can be reported to Google based on one of the following violations: off-topic, spam, conflict of interest, profanity, bullying or harassment, discrimination or hate speech, personal information, not helpful, or a legal issue is involved.

Why do some reviews go missing?

Google states that if reviews aren’t showing up in a Google Business Profile, it’s normally because a policy violation was detected. One of the most common causes for a review to be discarded is what Google calls fake engagement. Examples of fake engagements are paying or incentivizing reviews, soliciting reviews selectively, reviews posted by a competitor, reviews posted by multiple accounts, or reviews that are not based on a real experience with the location or products in question.

Should I ask my customers to leave a review?

Google encourages businesses to ask their customers for reviews. Remember, Google is in the data collection business, so they welcome all data submissions. They even offer a user-friendly link to business owners for requesting reviews. However, they have a policy against review gating, which means asking for reviews selectively to acquire good ones and not bad ones.

To answer in more practical terms, it can be difficult to acquire many reviews without asking for them. Most consumers don’t take the time to write online reviews. Asking for them might be necessary if you care about accumulating them.

Should I post updates on my Google Business Profile?

A Google Business Profile is a very different entity than a Facebook business page, but (perhaps from Facebook’s influence) Google saw an opportunity. By allowing businesses to make updates or posts to their Google Business Profile, two positive things could be accomplished. One, more content could be collected, which Google always welcomes. And two, business owners would be more engaged with their business on Google and, therefore, more likely to do paid advertising. Those reasons are why the update feature is good for Google. But what about for the business? Only Google knows the true impact of posting updates for businesses, but I believe it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t hurt and could potentially help. As I described earlier, the data collection operation that affects Google Business Profiles is massive and should not be underestimated. It’s unlikely that posting updates would make a significant difference in ranking. It’s also unlikely that the updates would get much visibility from the public since consumers don’t tend to do a lot of reading on Google Business Profiles beyond reviews. So, while it’s not the most exciting marketing opportunity, I would still consider making updates to be recommended. One nice benefit of making updates has to do with a feature called justifications. (See below.)

Keep in mind that there are rules about updates, though. Including that you can’t put your phone number or website URL in the update text. But you can create a button that allows for those functions.

What are justifications in Google Business Profiles?

Justifications are text snippets that sometimes display in Google Business Profiles after a search. For example, if someone searches “best Italian restaurant in Fargo,” part of a review might appear that has the words “best” or “best Italian restaurant” in it. Google automatically generates justifications based on keyword relevance. The text snippets can be pulled from various sources, including reviews, updates (aka posts), services listed, products listed, or the business website.

What's the key to high ranking in local business search results?

There are three major factors that Google Business Profile ranking is based on: relevance, proximity, and prominence. Relevance relates mostly to the category(ies) chosen and products or services specified. Proximity relates to the location the searcher is searching from or the location area they are searching about (E.g., “mechanics in Omaha”). Prominence is a determination by Google of how prominent and credible a business is by weighing an enormous amount of data. This includes data collected from the business owner, the general public, crawling the entire web, and other data collection companies from which Google buys data.

The ranking system — especially in terms of prominence — is much more extensive and sophisticated than people realize. Be wary of anyone over-simplifying it or claiming they can control it. Google Business Profile rank manipulation tends to be the dominion of hucksters and scammers.

What's the best strategy for high ranking in local business search results?

Google offers simple advice for getting exposure in its search results: Keep a lively web presence and create content. This is great advice, and why wouldn’t it be? They own the system. Also, they want you to succeed. Google is always looking for win-win-win situations. They want the person searching to win by finding the information they seek; they want to business or content creator to win by getting exposure; and they want to win as well by continuing to get traffic and user activity.

Keeping a lively web presence means having a website, having listings in directories (including Google Business Profiles, Apple Maps, and perhaps others–of which there are thousands), using social media, and accumulating reviews. Creating content might mean writing blog articles, creating videos, or having a podcast. The best strategy for search engine success is a combination of maintaining a lively, credible presence and steadily creating content over years. Also, it’s best to focus on people–as opposed to Google. Google doesn’t want you to do things to please them. They want to see you doing things that please the public, such as having content that people engage with and consume.

What's the worst strategy for high ranking in local business search results?

The worst strategy for high ranking in Google is to join the throngs of people who think in terms of manipulations and shortcuts. They are the ones who are often disappointed, disillusioned, and frustrated in the end. They are often poorer financially, too because they pay SEO companies who overpromise and underdeliver.

Is it mandatory to have a Google Business Profile to do Google paid advertising?

It is not necessary to have a Google Business Profile to do Google paid advertising. Google Business Profiles are for local businesses, and generally not intended for businesses that are regional, national, or international. For many types of local businesses, it could be beneficial for a Google Ads account and a Google Business Profile to be linked. This can allow business information to be accessible from the ad, such as reviews, address, directions, hours of operation, and more. The advertiser decides whether to associate a Google Ads account with a Google Business Profile.

How can I link my Google Business Profile to my Google Ads account?

To link a Google Ads account with a Google Business Profile, go to the assets page in the Google Ads account. Click the “+” button, then Location. You’ll then see options for adding a Google Business Profile that is associated with the same Google login as your Google Ads account or requesting access to another Google Business Profile manager account.

Does Google offer support for Google Business Profiles?

The types of support offered for Google Business Profiles have varied over the years. The main location for getting support is this link: www.Support.Google.com/Business

There, you’ll find learning articles and resources. There is a link to a forum where you can post questions. There’s also a link for contacting Google. At this time, the contact method is through email only.

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