Google Maps: “System Error”, Googlespeak for Banned?

There have been a growing number of public and private reports of the dreaded message upon attempting to enter the Local Business Center: 

System Error 
We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes. 

Typically these reports in the Maps forums are followed by a comment like: “I get this error. And my listings have been removed… Why?”

The message is cryptic like many messages in the LBC and it probably covers a range of error conditions. Perhaps Google should add a definition of errors states to their LBC new glossary. It is also the message received by those whose records have been removed and access to the LBC blocked.

It appears that Google is increasingly banning users of the Local Business Center that it thinks have violated its listing guidelines.

I support Google cleaning up the pollution in the Maps Index. However I am also a proponent of transparency and fairness. The cleanup should not be a little bit here and little bit there to instill fear in the masses, it should be done across the board.

In those cases where the “System Error” refers to being banned it should clearly state that is the case and provide a link back to the listing guidelines and reinclusion request.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps: "System Error", Googlespeak for Banned? by

34 thoughts on “Google Maps: “System Error”, Googlespeak for Banned?”

  1. I am conflicted over this. On the one hand, it is totally unfair that pretty much all the listings that rank in maps are spam by definition. At least the personal attorney listings in Los Angeles.

    On the other hand, it is unfair to have the account deleted if you relied upon a third party to do your LBC listings. But I see some firms blatantly using multiple addresses in the same town, and multiple keyword stuffed names. They are ALL still there and nothing is happening.

    For example, there is a Ventura motorcycle accident lawyer who keyword stuffed his title with Los Angeles and he is beating me, even though he is not even downtown and I am.

  2. Google should think about its web applications instead. till an hour ago Gmail was unreachable. Two weeks got every Google search reported a “this site harmful for your computer” message for each website and last week Adsense was not updated! I think that Google is becoming bully and, aware that they are number one, they feel the right to do whatever they want!

  3. @Web Talk

    I am not sure if it is so much bully as overworked and stretched out…I don’t think it comes from malice but from doing too many products in too many languages and a few too many kiddy coders….but the result is the same.

    Mike

  4. Honestly it’s really frustrating that Google does not communicate these things better. We have requested re-inclusion about a month ago and have still heard nothing(Not even a canned response email). I could not even tell you for sure why they blocked all of our listings for any reason. I just know we received that error message and are now at their mercy and our web business is suffering because of it. Some direction or maybe a warning would have been nice (Especially for those of us that are new to this arena). It just seems like bad timing too as I imagine this is hurting many small businesses out there that are already struggling…

  5. I’ve been following that string and even sent a similar message to “Joel H” including my Re-inclusion message. To no response…

    240 days is a really long time, and I hope for our sake and others that Google Maps will be on top of this a little quicker. I’ll post back when we are re-included again so you can have another time line.

    When “Joel H” mentions “(hint: one listing should represent one physical location).”

    It’s a little concerning to me, mainly because we uploaded our 280 locations via the data loader, but Google had some listings up for us already that had incorrect information (We think taken from OLD IYP listing’s or OLD InfoUSA information therefore we did not take ownership of those listings, we just uploaded new ones with correct information thinking they would merge or the Uploaded one would take precendent and not be a problem).

    But now I wonder if this could of been our issue, as Google seeing multiple listings for the same business location? I hope not as I do not control the other listings, although now they are the only ones I have out there…

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to clean up local listings, take ownership of them (We had major problems of Competitors changing our website to theirs until we threatened legal action against them), add photo’s, video’s, keeping up with correct store hours, adding coupons etc… With all the time invested it has been really disappointing to watch everything we built on Google LBC go away with no notification or understanding.

    That said I do appreciate the effort to try to clean up listings, but they need to improve the process and not assume all accounts they lock out had malicious intent to go around guidelines etc…

    I imagine they created some sort of algo or formula to find who they felt were violators, so if that list is available to them they should be able to communicate to a company and tell them! Let them know and I sure bet they will correct the issue ASAP. If they don’t then lock them out…

  6. I don’t think that Google holds spurious records garnered from 3rd parties against you but I could be wrong.

    I think the bulk upload is more closely watched than indiviudally entered and verified listings. Did you attempt to verify your bulk upload? Are the names real or keyword stuffed?

    I would love to know the timeframe and details of the outcome, thanks for the offer.

    I am curious about your comment: “We had major problems of Competitors changing our website to theirs until we threatened legal action against them”. I would love to learn more about that so feel free to contact me offline if you would like

    mike@blumenthals.com

  7. Mike,

    I responded to your questions via direct email.

    But I wanted to bring up another topic as I’m seeing companies stealing our brand name and making “Placemarks” and directing people to their website.

    A “Placemark” I guess is noted as a Blue Tear drop locator instead of a Pink one. And seems to be less editable…

    Has anyone else experienced this?

    Let me know.

  8. These are user created maps made in the MyMaps area of Google Maps. Do you have a sample search showing how it is being used against you?

    Google by the way just announced greater integration of this sort of “user content” into the Maps results.

  9. Mike,

    I sent you an email with the detailed search, but for everyone else’s knowledge we have a competitor who set up Placemarks at our store addresses with their website instead of ours…. Now with Googles recent change it looks like a business listing.

    We have hit Google with many trademark infringement issues over the last year as well, due to numerous issues like these.

  10. Mike,

    I followed the link you left in the Maps Forum pointing here.

    I’m very dissapointed in Google’s handling of this. I service more than one city and found it only natural to figure out how to get listed in more than one city. I did this through one account (apparently folks are creating several accounts to do this). I figured out Google only allows one city. I filed the reinclusion request and waited, waited, waited. Apparently I am permanently banned?

    I acknowledged the mistake, promised to make changes, and I received a message from Google yesterday, “We received a request from a site owner to reconsider how we index the following site: http://www.website.com/. We’ve now reviewed your site. When we review a site, we check to see if it’s in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines. If we don’t find any problems, we’ll reconsider our indexing of your site. If your site still doesn’t appear in our search results, check our Help Center for steps you can take.”

    What now? How the heck can I “…check our Help Center for steps you can take…” I cannot login to the Local Business Center to make a change, and I’ve promised to make a change once I have access. What do I do?

  11. Thanks for responding Mike. I filed the reinclusion request through Webmaster central. Perhaps that’ my problem. I’ll try the link you provided.

    It’s too bad Google is so cryptic in their communciation. I had no idea I could not list my business in more than one city. We service several cities and I figured out a way to receive PIN numbers for at least three of the cities. I thought I was being creative until the listings were no longer there.

    We do not buy links, keyword stuff, cloak, or any other blackhat method of gaining rank. However, it would sure be nice for Google to have a program (and I would pay for it) whereby a webmaster could submit a site for possible Guidelines violations. The Google representative would recommend changes and everyone would be happy. Instead, there are many honest business owners like myself who fall victim to a competitor who has hired a SEO person (or married to one).

  12. Google’s Business Listing Guidelines can be viewed here with some items highlighted. There is a link to them within the Dashboard as well.

    I would strongly agree with you that Google’s communication of the banning (System Error etc) is wildly inappropriate and should be made more transparent and communicative. They obviously do not think they are obligated to provide guidance beyond what they have made available.

    I would suggest that any SEO (whether the relationship is bonded by contract or marriage) should read the guidelines prior to embarking on an internet marketing project. My vote that he/she is at least equally culpable in this situation (not that I want to start an argument :) ).

  13. Yup, read all the Business Listing Guidelines. At least now I have. I messed up. I read the directions on how to install the garage door opener AFTER I messed up the garage door opener. [grins]

    I submitted another reinclusion request through Maps Help. I guess I’ll put this one on the back burner for several weeks or months. :(

  14. @777Agape

    Good luck. I would appreciate if you communicate back your experience with the unbanning….if and when you make it back to the promise land.

  15. You bet. I’ll report back when something happens. Btw, thanks for changing my email address Mike. ;)

  16. Mike,

    We’ve run into a brick wall with Google. I’ve followed some of your posts and response on the Maps forums and your blog here. I agree with your conclusions on Google’s inane policy of banning.

    I believe we’ve been banned by this exact “System Error” since February (more than 6 months). I’ve posted in the Maps help forum and I’ve filed 6 reinclusion requests – pretty much one a month. I’ve never heard anything back from anyone at Google. Our other Google services still work (including our non-profit-status YouTube channel), but we are banned / blocked from the LBC.

    We are a regional health system, with 4000+ employees, two hospitals, a third medical campus, and many clinics, departments, facilities, physician practices, services, joint-ventures, medical offices, etc. Our facilities have a wide variety of names, but all are part of our health system.

    Most of our facilities are in one of two towns – Town A and Town B. But, we often also have multiple locations for a specific service. For example, our seniors services has a building in Town A near Hospital A, and a second location in Town B in Hospital B. Our Rehabilitation Services has four locations, two stand-alone in Town A, one stand-alone in Town B, and one in Hospital B in Town B. Because there are multiple services in one building (or campus), many have the same address. But, senior services, birthing services, and volunteers and the charity foundation are all very different entities that are in the same building (or 3-building campus) and the same mailing address.

    Before we started claiming listings, there were already over 100 listings for all of our services and facilities in Goggle Maps. However, several were incorrect – wrong phone number, wrong location, old location, no street address (just the town), missing locations, etc. – and there were several duplicates.

    We don’t use any SEO company or anyone else – it’s just me, a one-man show for our web services. I started claiming all of those listings, which was its own monumental feat. I couldn’t verify most of them by phone, because I couldn’t get to all of those locations and talk to the employee who might answer it first. We did postcards for most of them, but that took a concerted effort to try to get the mailrooms and all of the locations to forward those to me, as they had no idea what the post cards were.

    I was trying to clean up and simplify our listings, including removing any duplicates.

    That worked for a while, and then one day we were banned (I assume) with the “System Error.” Now, all of those listings are gone and many items have been removed from Maps and I still have a stack of post cards that I’m ready to enter to verify the listings.

    I’ve read the Business Listing Guidelines several times, and we were not blatantly violating any of those, and none of them intentionally. But, it’s possible Google thought we were based on their interpretation of our listings, even if their interpretation is wrong (such as multiple locations, as I mentioned above).

    Any ideas? We’re stuck, and meanwhile there are wrong numbers and addresses out there that patients and the public are calling or visiting, and I can’t do anything to fix it.

  17. @Jeff Wiley,

    Your story parallels mine. We service 3 cities, received the pin numbers for all three, posted the codes and thought we were fine. That’s until we received the dreaded “System Error” message. I’ve tried everything too, but to no avail.

    For me, I was oblivious to the LBC guidelines against multiple cities. Water under the bridge now. I’ve confessed my sins, let Google’s spam team know I was in error, but not by deception, and nothing!

    For me, it’s actually had a positive effect. I’ve become an extreme hyper local blogger and dominate the serps for hundreds of long tail local keyphrases nowadays.

    Next time I file the reinclusion request, I’ll note this blog entry, as well as the thread(s) going on in the forum at Webmasters Central.

    Oh well! :)

  18. Hi Mike,

    I wanted to check in and give you an update.

    After 3-4 reinclusion requests for my LBC penalty, I’m finally back in. Funny thing is that I was never notified. I simply checked yesterday and found I could add my business listing again.

    For what it is worth, I think Google had a problem with us having a second Google account. We set up a second account for the sole purpose of acquiring another gmail account. Once I realized this, I submitted my last reinclusion request with this paragraph:

    “Regarding multiple accounts, and perhaps this is where the problem is. I have a second Google account for the sole purpose of having a second email address and gmail account. This second account was not used (nor were we intending to) to set up a Local Business Listing. To make things perfectly clear, on the second profile I’ve removed the link (only 1) to our website, and more importantly, I’ve unchecked the boxes, "Display my full name so I can be found in search" and "Allow people to contact me (without showing my email address).

    I suspect having the second account is the remaining problem. By removing the link and unchecking the boxes, the profile will no longer show up in search, nor benefit from any linking. Essentially, the profile will be available for the sole purpose of the additional email address and gmail account.”

    Anyway, I’m back in. Quick question. We service several cities and we are self employed working from our home. As we do not want (nor need to) customers coming to our home, in your opinion, would Google be ok with using the address of another city we have our license to do business at? We currently receive mail at this other location.

    Your thoughts?

  19. I am a counsellor/psychotherapist with a one person private practice in Canada I listed my practice on the Local Business Center and got really good results. Then suddenly my LBC account was locked (System Error We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes.) And also my listings were suspended/deleted

  20. It’s a little concerning to me, mainly because we uploaded our 280 locations via the data loader, ..

    can someone advise me how I can upload multiple listings?

    I want to promote an affiliate site, I dont live in usa but want to register in local for the major capital cities.
    Does anyone know a good outsourcer who can do this??
    ______________________________________________________

    Also.. re the dreaded System error.. this from the Google Forum..

    PROBLEM WITH LOCAL BUSINESS CENTER Report abuse

    jackiemm
    Level 2
    2/26/09
    I cant log in i keep getting a system error message and it’s been a week now it says:
    System Error
    We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes.

    FEW MINUTES – it’s been days
    please help! this is really affecting my call volume because we fell off google maps!!!!!
    Update:
    I’ve tried everything google suggests – still not working
    3/4/09
    Best answers

    Joel H
    Google Employee
    7/24/09
    Best answer – Joel H (Google Employee) Go to this answer
    Those experiencing this error for longer than a day were likely violating our policies. [1]

    You’ll have to file a reinclusion request to get it resolved. This won’t happen through the forum, and I appreciate your help in directing your questions there. These requests take time to process, so you’ll need to be patient in the meantime.

    Thanks.

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