Can Service Area Businesses Use Virtual Offices in Google My Business?
Google since then has updated their policy, and said the following:
Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
The conclusion is, yes you can use a virtual business address for a service area business as long as your virtual office is staffed during business hours, and has a phone number that goes directly to your office. And you will need a dedicated space with your logo/signage on the door.
Your office space should have a clear, consistent appearance that reflects your branding. To get verified, Google requires that you have an actual person in a space to be able to verify it. So the photos should show your office and not just some empty conference room!
A virtual office gives businesses a physical address and office-related services without the overhead of a long lease and administrative staff. With a virtual office you can receive postal mail and packages as well as phone answering services, meeting rooms and videoconferencing.
As you can understand, this is very attractive for business owners that are just starting up.
It can get you very affordable office space.
However, for Google my business verification this can bring up some difficulties!One of the first things you need to know before registering your virtual business address for Google my business is whether or not it falls under a category that violates the guidelines.
For example, if your virtual business address is located in a private residence, then this would be considered as an “unlisted” location and should not be used. However, virtual business addresses are allowed and can be registered for Google My Business without violating any rules. In fact, a virtual business address often provides more legitimacy than just listing your home address online without going through the appropriate steps to register with google my business.It’s important to note here as well that any virtual offices registered with google my business should only exist at one physical location. So no combining virtual addresses from two different locations into one listing.
Doing so could lead Google algorithm issues when they try to pull up results for this virtual company on their maps search engine page.
When GMB guidelines are violated
There are a few ways a virtual business address can violate Google My Business guidelines. Don’t risk your Google Maps marketing by leaving it unprotected!
The first is by listing your virtual business address as the primary office for your company account, but you don’t actually have an actual physical location at that virtual address–you just created it to list on google my business and then never set up any services there.
Another way this would happen is if you’re running more than one virtual office with Google My Business accounts for different companies.
You can also be violating their guideline if you use a virtual address in a co-working space without having a clear signage, and having no staff in your business during business hours.
And lastly, if you have virtual offices with Google My Business accounts but don’t list those virtual addresses on your website, then there’s a chance that you’re violating their guidelines.
Why does Google not like the idea
Google doesn’t want to show their customer base inaccurate or unreliable data. They’re so committed to this that they go out of their way and monitor everything, including your business name, your Gmb posts, the information appearing on your Google My Business page etc., anything publically available about you! And a virtual business address can make that difficult, here is why:
A virtual business address is not always an accurate representation of a location, and they don’t want to mislead their users.
When you list your virtual office in Google My Business, it can confuse customers into thinking that there’s someone physically at the virtual office when this isn’t true.
Most of the virtual business addresses are not a permanent address. They could leave at any moment they wish, meaning that Google can’t guarantee the virtual office is still in existence when you visit. Google has been forced to combat the problem of “shared office listings” because tons of spammy GMB listing created by companies trying to gaming their system. To make sure these types of businesses can’t game their way onto Google Maps, now they need proof that a business operates out of an address allocated for shared use every day during operational hours.
Therefore, if Google allows virtual businesses to register with them, it may result in false information for their user base and create potential problems down the line.And even if you comply with all the above, there is most of the time still the issue of confusing logos and signages.
Most of the time in co-working spaces you will find the signages and logos of the co-working space itself, which makes it very hard for Google to know for sure who is at that location and who is not!
SAB virtual business address
Make sure you have a dedicated space for your business. According to Google’s policies, in order to qualify for the listing,
“A business must present customers with physical evidence of their location when they are seeking customers.”
It’s almost impossible for Google to confirm that your business exists at a location if there isn’t any evidence such as a physical building and its logo on the door.
Use a suite number that you actually own, rather than just adding random letters or making one up entirely. This will help increase the likelihood of Google accepting your listing.
Even if you do these two things, you will likely have more suspensions than a rental of your own dedicated space.
It’s frustrating but we currently recommend no types of address sharing to clients because we want to avoid suspensions and also don’t want listings from getting filtered out.
The Google my Business guidelines are often difficult to understand, which becomes a common topic on the forums as users try and figure out what they should do.
Let’s take an example of this confusion:
“If I own a Service Area Business, which is not required by Google to have a staffed location, can I use a Virtual Office as my primary location? The Virtual Office address is my primary address on all of my business documents with the state. Also, my address is hidden on MapMaker, per Google guidelines.”
Here the guidelines are getting unclear because it looks like you are abiding by all the guideline rules.Which confuses even the Google my business moderators, which causes google employees to suspend and reinstate the listing multiple times. And this is a thing that happens a lot. 🥱
Which can be very frustrating for the business owner or google my business manager.
The GMB Crush’s Advices
👉If your virtual office has an area that you are constantly in and open for work every day, then this would be considered ‘yours’ on GMB (Google My Business location). The problem with most co-working spaces is the people who use them only come when they can – not consistently – which makes their set-up unsuitable according to Google Maps guidelines.
👉 Show that you have an actual office with employees! Make sure your photos clearly show people occupying space at desks and walking around or talking on phones rather than empty conference rooms.
👉It’s important to know the best way to submit for reinstatement and what Google will ask you. Yes, they’ll request pictures and videos but it’s also crucial that you take photos outside of your building (outside signage is a bonus) as well as inside the space with offices, suite numbers, etc. Whenever a video is required be sure to show off footage from both outside the buildings on location where all signs are visible in addition to entering into spaces showing banners or identifying names so Google can see everything possible when reviewing your submission materials – The best way is using a mobile phone so Google can see all EXIF data details like location coordinates or time stamps if applicable.
SEO Lover, my motto is Action Over Words.