How to reinstate your suspended Google My Business listing
Last updated: June 22, 2020
If you're reading this, I know exactly how you feel right now.
Whether you're a business owner or an agency representing a business, it's painful to have your listing suspended.
The worst part?
You know you are missing out on business right now as customers pass by what would have been your listing.
Let me assure you, you can get your listing back.
Of course, if you've done something shady (you know who you are) then you will likely never see your listing again.
This post will tell you exactly how to use Google's official mechanisms (with three things you can do right now) to get your GMB (short for Google My Business) listing reinstated.
Before you're tempted to start fixing the problem now, make sure you don't miss Step Zero, which is absolutely key to a good resolution.
Note: Jump to How to Avoid This Problem in the Future
Why was my GMB listing suspended?
A suspended listing is frustrating, no doubt about it.
One of the most annoying things to face is that you will not be able to get a straight answer about precisely how your listing has transgressed Google's algorithm.
Whenever you make changes to your listing, Google's uses automatic tools to review your changes.
So when your listing is suspended, it means you've thrown up some kind of automated flag.
If Google revealed all of these transgressions in detail, it would simply empower bad actors with more information about potential loopholes.
Getting this kind of suspension is like a red-light camera ticket.
You may not notice what you did, or where, but when the ticket comes in the mail you just have to accept that a computer is out to get you.
The good news is we have a fairly good idea of some major transgressions you may have committed.
There are two types of suspension, hard suspension, and soft suspension.
What is a "Hard" Google My Business suspension?
A hard suspension is bad for business. With a hard suspension, you can access your GMB dashboard, but your listing is taken off of Google maps.
Google gives out hard suspensions when it suspects a business listing is illegitimate for any number of reasons (I detail some below).
When you get slapped with a hard suspension, it feels awful. It's like a false accusation, and it can literally keep you up at night with frustration and a sense of injustice.
What a hard suspension means for you practically is:
- No reviews
- No messaging
- No listing in Google Knowledge Graph (i.e. the side panel that shows up beside the search results)
- No photos visible to searchers (although you can still add photos to your dashboard)
Hard suspensions mean lost dollars, as customers look for your business or services on maps, but can't find them.
All hope is not lost, however, because Google leaves you with access to your GMB dashboard so that you can figure out what the problem is, and try to resolve it.
However, once again I can't emphasize enough that you have to follow Step Zero.
What is a "Soft" Google My Business suspension?
A soft suspension is not as bad for business as a hard suspension. A soft suspension leaves the listing up on Google Maps, and customers can still find it, but you can no longer make edits to the listing.
A soft suspension may still mean you can't update your business info when it needs to be changed, so you will want to deal with this right away.
Ultimately, there are a couple of possible reasons why your listing may have been suspended, and a number of ways you can go about trying to resolve the issue and lift the suspension.
1. Your listing was suspended due to quality issues
While "suspended due to quality issues" is the most generic reason you will hear, it may also be as detailed an answer as you will get.
You will most often see this flag show up right after you make changes to your business information.
If you change the NAPW (name, address, phone number, or website) of your listing, you risk triggering a suspension.
If you need to change that information, by all means change it. Wrong information can be just as harmful to your business image as a suspended listing, and you can fix wrong information right now.
When you do make these changes, you will likely see a notification that recent changes are "pending review."
In general you should not worry about changing your business listing information. Keeping up-to-date info is crucial for a positive customer experience.
Some businesses may have a hard time passing this review, however.
Locksmiths, plumbers, and a number of other home-service businesses are under very strict scrutiny from the algorithm.
If your business deals in regulated goods, such as weapons, age-restricted goods, or things of that nature, expect to have a harder time making updates to your listing without triggering suspensions.
If that's you, take it slow, make sure you're 100% accurate with any changes, and always remember Step Zero (have you heard that somewhere before...?).
2. You run a service area business (SAB) but display a physical address
According to Google,
In order to qualify for a Google My Business listing, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.
If you don't make contact with customers at your location, you should not display your address.
Instead, your listing's address should look like this:
If you've mistakenly left your address visible for your SAB, go ahead and change it, as long as you document the before and after (take a screenshot, write a note, or whatever).
When you appeal to reinstate the listing, you can let Google know what you have changed to try to atone for your transgression.
3. Google suspects your business does not exist at its address
One of the ways Google check for business legitimacy is by looking for signage at the location.
Think about it, they have 360-degree photos of basically every street in the world. They probably have a photo of your storefront.
Not only that, they can read your signage from those picture.
Don't believe me? Check out Google translate.
If signage is not super clear at your location, you may need to send in photos of your signage for them to manually review (more about this below).
For example, if your business is in a commercial high-rise, Google may be unable to detect your signage.
If this is an issue for your business, I would recommend adding photos to the interior and exterior photo categories in your dashboard, and write a note about doing so for when you submit your appeal.
4. Your business may have duplicate listings
One client I was working for had two businesses, with similar names, on the same floor of an office building. While they offered different services (insurance vs. employee benefits), Google flagged them as duplicates.
When we tried to resolve the issue, the various changes we made to the original listing ended up triggering a hard suspension.
More commonly, there may just be two listings of your business.
Here's the thing:
When Google can detect your signage, or when people check in to your business's location using some sort of service, Google will often generate a listing for you.
When you come along later and try to create a new listing for yourself, you may not realize a listing already exists.
Worse, the old listing may already have reviews, photos, and business hours filled out.
If you have reviews already, you almost certainly don't want to lose those.
Factors such as the number of reviews (and how positive the reviews are), as well as the age of your listing actually signal legitimacy to Google.
After all, why would people review a non-existent business?
Here's what you need to know, though: duplicate listings can trigger a suspension for both locations.
While it's more common to see one of the locations marked as the duplicate (usually the newly created location), anything can happen, and so it's best to check to see if your business is listed before creating a new listing.
An existing listing that you don't know about is probably unclaimed (if somebody else claimed your listing fraudulently, check out this support page from Google: Someone else verified my business)
If you haven't claimed your listing, do it now. Maybe that's the step before Step Zero.
... Step Minus-Zero(?): claim your listing.
Claim any duplicate listings you can find too.
It's better to work on resolving a suspension on listings you own than to face the hassle of a fraudulent claim when somebody else snags it with bad intentions.
Assuming, however, we're talking about a suspension that's already happened, you have probably claimed the listing already, or else you've made a new duplicate listing without realizing it.
If that's the boat you're in, read on.
What steps can you take to reinstate your Google My Business listing?
These steps are roughly in order.
Make sure you first document, then do a bit of digging about your specific problem on forums to see if anyone else has dealt with it.
Make changes based on problem-specific recommendations you find, especially those found on Google forums.
Next either fill out the appeal form, get help through Google support's social profiles, or else call the phone number to speak to someone (who may or may not be located in your country).
If you go through these steps and it is determined by Google that your listing will never see the light of day again, then it may be time to think about grabbing all of your info from your suspended listing and trying again.
0. Step zero is document, document, document
As I mention multiple times in this article, you must keep track of what changes you made, and when.
Besides changes, you will want to note:
- What you changed right before you were suspended
- Major changes you've made in the past few weeks
- Whether this is your first suspension or not
- What you do after being suspended to try to fix the problem
- And, most importantly, your listing's map URL or dashboard URL
If you have a short name for your business listing, then your g.page URL will lead to your listing.
Example short name URL: https://g.page/truemarketingcanada
You will only be able to still see this listing if your account has a soft suspension.
(Or no suspension... in which case, you're all good!)
What if you have a hard suspension?
With a hard suspension, you will need to take a snapshot of your dashboard URL, since your listing has been taken down completely.
Example dashboard URL: https://business.google.com/u/2/dashboard/l/02517933434768772652
Listing reinstated but all the reviews are gone?
One of the key reasons you will want to keep track of this URL is in case you get your listing back, but all the reviews are gone.
That's right, lost reviews.
But not gone for good it appears!
Lost reviews are a huge issue. It's a "trending issue" right now on the support forum, and it appears it's the result of a technical issue on Google's end.
Once Google resolves this issue, the many lost reviews should all be restored.
Take a snapshot of some of your reviews, and the total number, so you can show a Google support specialist later.
Why would all the reviews be lost?
Documenting your business listing's CID number to restore reviews
When all of your reviews disappear upon reinstatement, it's usually because you have been assigned a "new" listing, which has a new CID (Customer ID) number.
For this reason, before you go about asking for a reinstatement (which, if you're amazingly lucky, could happen quickly), you will want to record your current CID so you can ask Google to restore your reviews if the need arises.
This is much easier done with a soft suspension.
There are two ways:
- View the page source of your maps listing, and search for the numeric string following "lodocid=" and preceding "#lrd" (thanks Margaret Ornsby! see this link for more detailed step-by-step instructions)
- Use a time-saving add-on to Chrome (if you don't mind using Chrome). I used Company Information in Google.
If you absolutely cannot find your CID, send me a message on facebook and I'll take a crack at it.
In the end, if it can't be found, Google will probably be able to take care of restoring your reviews anyways (it's in their interest, since they want to help searchers find the most relevant businesses), it may take a little longer without the CID though.
Once you've documented everything you're ready to start fixing the issues by moving on to step 1, and digging into forums a bit.
Don't forget to document changes as you make them (writing down a date will help you remember everything later—it sometimes takes days or even weeks for Google to get back to you).
1. Visit the support forums
Looking at support forums (both official and unofficial) has two major benefits for you.
First, you will be able to understand better what will need to be changed on your listing, if anything.
Second, you will be able to describe your problem better to Google's support team, and link to threads describing similar issues to your own so they can reference them.
What this means for your is clearer requirements, and ultimately faster support, so your customers can start finding your business on the map sooner and you can worry about all the new business you're getting.
There's two kinds of forums you should check out in order to figure out the specific details of your GMB suspension and what might have triggered it.
Two kinds of support forum for your suspended GMB
The first forum is Google's official support forum.
Here's a link: https://support.google.com/business/
The thing to know about this forum, however, is that you will not get responses from Google staff directly.
Instead, Google uses this forum to crowd-source a filtering process.
Volunteers, known as "Google Product Experts" (complete with their own gamified ranking system: silver, gold, platinum, etc.) respond to new threads.
When the product experts deem an issue is worthy of attention by Google staff, they "escalate" the issue to Google.
The second kind of support forum is the unofficial forum.
There are a lot of these, but here's one I really like: Local Search Forum.
For you, these forums serve as repositories of "case studies" of people who have had issues with GMB suspensions and had them solved (or not!), and the steps they took to get there.
Beyond this, you can feel free to post questions and get answers from people with valuable experience handling the same issues you are dealing with.
Once you feel you have a good understanding of what you might have done wrong, you should move on to the next two steps.
Note: I've read plenty of cases where suspensions seemed random or arbitrary. If that's you, you're not alone. It may feel hopeless, but it's not. Your best bet is to move on to the next steps.
You don't need to do steps 2, 3 and 4. You can just use one of them.
If you want to use more than one of these steps, that's fine with me.
You should know that Google does prefer if you stick to one line of communication.
2. Make an appeal to be reinstated
At this point, you can decide how you want to make your appeal.
You can either fill out the online form, you can reach out to their support team using social channels, or else you can call the helpline to speak with someone.
Keep in mind that either way you are not going to get a direct line to someone at Google headquarters.
You will have to deal with an automated form, a "someone" on social media, or else a semi-scripted outsourced call centre.
If you want to use the online form, just visit this address:
Google's online suspended listing reinstatement appeal form: https://support.google.com/business/troubleshooter/2690129
If you'd rather take your chances on the phone, keep reading.
3. Reach out to Google on their social media channels
Google usually responds fairly quickly to social channels.
At least in my experience, though when things are busy you will always have a bit of a delay.
You can find their Facebook page at http://facebook.com/googlemybusiness.
Their facebook page gives you the option to send a direct message to them using Facebook Messenger. This is the best way to get a hold of them through Facebook.
The other way to reach out to GMB support is through Twitter.
Their Twitter handle is @GoogleMyBiz
These social channels may be the right way for you to reach out.
If you like calling, then check out the next option.
4. Call Google's support line to speak with a human
These two phone support links are a bit harder to find, but as of this publishing they still work.
Google doesn't make it perfectly clear from their support page.
There's actually two kinds of phone support page that are still around.
Unfortunately, you can't navigate to these pages anymore without a direct link. And in fact, some of their toll-free numbers have been deprecated (see this announcement).
What's the difference between a specialist and an expert?
Hard to say.
Why not give them both a try.
Have an expert contact me: https://support.google.com/business/contact/business_other_problem
To be honest, the first option got me the fastest response.
However, since this connects you with an outsourced call centre, you will encounter some scripted lines. If you can handle that, then this might be the option for you.
5. If all else fails, try again from the ground up with a completely new listing
This final, sad step should only be pursued if you have first gone through the entire appeal process and Google (note: not a volunteer on their behalf) has determined that your suspended listing will be completely removed for good, or remain suspended forever.
This option means starting again entirely.
Before you create your new listing, you will want to enter the dashboard for your old listing and do several things:
- Download all of your content assets on the old listing. Grab photos, copy, and anything else you can find.
- Delete the old listing entirely
At this point you can create a new listing.
If you saved content from your old listing, this should actually be a fairly quick process. Try to fill out the profile completely before verifying it.
If you verify it only after you fill out the profile, you will be more likely to avoid making the kinds of changes that got your other listing suspended in the first place.
If you want to leave your options open, use a new Gmail account and don't delete the old one
Another option is to use a different Gmail account to create your new listing.
The problem with this approach is that you risk creating another duplicate and thus making the original problem worse.
Depending on your situation, however, this may make sense.
Restarting your listing should make you count the cost of relying on another service
Feeling frustrated about a suspended listing?
Know you're missing out on business?
These are great reasons to not overly-rely on a marketing tool you yourself do not control. In other words, you want most of your leads coming in through your own website.
When you rely 100% on your Google My Business listing to generate leads and revenue for your business, you are at the mercy of a faceless corporation that does not know you, and does not care about your livelihood.
A business listing should always be part of your digital marketing strategy—it's insanely effective—but it should not be the sum total of your strategy.
I recently spoke with a business owner whose listing was shut down, which brought a grinding halt to the incoming calls he was receiving. Fortunately, he had his own website, solid branding for easy brand recognition, and business citations all over the web. He was able to get his listing reinstated and business resumed.
The lesson here is to build your brand primarily through your business website, not your GMB listing.
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We also offer GMB optimization and troubleshooting services, so please contact us if you need further help by hitting the button below.
At the end of the day, your listing was suspended because you transgressed a computer algorithm's best guess as to what is "legitimate."
How do you defeat a computer with mistaken sensibilities?
You be you, and get out there and make a human connection with Google Support. Be civil, be reasonable, and above all be patient, and you will almost certainly see your listing again.
If you found this helpful in any way, leave a comment, or take 15 seconds and leave a rating on our own business listing. We love your engagement and look forward to adding your questions to an FAQ section of the page.
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