Google Places – You Are Not Rejected, Not Suspended – You are in Places Purgatory

When does the word active simply not mean active in Google Places? When you are in Google Places Purgatory.

Wikipedia: “purgatory”, derived through Anglo and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium.[8] has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation,[1] and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.[9]

Google has always imposed neo-religious judgements on users of its products. Google Places is no exception and in fact seems to raise these judgements to a new level of a refined, modern theology.

Rejections are a major sin but from which one can reclaim oneself anonymously via algo with a corrected behavior.

Pending is like being at church on Sunday where the line to the confessional stretches interminably before you and you have to use the restroom but are afraid that you will loose your place. Sometimes it seems that your booth gets closed before all the cases have been reviewed and the process needs to resume next Sunday. Do not confuse this state with purgatory although it might seem like it.

Suspension is roughly akin to excommunication although with a thorough confession and plenty of time, a lister can come back into Google’s graces.

The “Term not Allowed” word filter reflects a minor sin of thought, where just by correcting your language you can be readmitted to the fold. It mirrors formal religion’s attempt to control behaviors through imposition of minor dogmas in the hopes that compliance with larger scale issues will flow naturally from the initial compliance.

Like in many religions, the logic of these minor dogmas is often not clear. In a Google Places listing, the words Fountain, domination and stripper are banned along with sex and erection regardless of context. These words require priestly interventions to have their flags cleared but fortunately require no mea culpas or other ritualistic penitence.

The ban on the word Google must be roughly akin to the biblical ban on speaking the word Yaweh. How the word locksmith fits into this scheme is not totally clear although the common first letter with the word Lucifer comes to mind.

Clearly in this regard Google is not much different than the grade school nun or for that matter Steve Jobs. Although at least with Jobs, you can have a high degree of confidence that in the end you will not be pummeled with porn. With Google, there are no such guarantees.

But at least the above fallen states are explicit and there is (usually) a clear path to regain acceptance amongst the flock.

Google Places though, in its quasi religious secrecy, has always imposed penalties which are not flagged and only known to the initiates. These are punitive measures that are slightly ambiguous and fall into a nether world of secret handshakes and cabalistic knowledge. Often unstated, never obvious to the novice, they offer no clear way out.

These fall into the category of punishment I call Google Places Purgatory (GPP).

The newest manifestation of this condition can been seen in a Google Places Dashboard listing that has been fully approved and says active but which does not show in Places. It simply can not be found, not by direct name search, not by phone number search….. it is truly invisible.

This is despite Google current definition of active:

Active This means that your listing is publicly available by searching Google. If you’re unable to find your business right away, try performing a search for [ business name in zip code ] on maps.google.com or click the See my listing on Google Maps link to view your Place Page.

The other indicators that you have entered the new purgatory is that the normal link to See your listing on Google Maps is not visible in the dashboard and there are no statitstics. Reports of this condition have been creeping into the Google forums for the past several months (here, here, here) and the path to relieve the hopefully temporary suffering is not yet fully clear.

Be forewarned, say your prayers at bedtime. They may not help relieve your punishment but they will let you sleep peacefully, for a bit.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places – You Are Not Rejected, Not Suspended – You are in Places Purgatory by

41 thoughts on “Google Places – You Are Not Rejected, Not Suspended – You are in Places Purgatory”

  1. I know this place well. Had an account fall into it never to return. Not sure what caused it but no matter what i tried who i contacted it just stayed there.

    Glad to see i’m not the only one who’s had an account condemned to purgatory!

  2. @Nick

    What was your solution? Was there a solution? Eternity in purgatory… sounds like the name of a cheap novel not the new catechism.

  3. There was no real solution that i could find.
    I ended up creating a new account and starting again. I deleted all the listings within the condemned account to make sure they didn’t come back to haunt me with duplicates, but as far as i can tell that 5months on that account is still in the lost.

    Fingers crossed im all running fine now. Though with the amount of changes google has rolled out recently I’m still on my toes.

  4. Mike:

    Glad you wrote about this cover all topic of Google purgatory. Its a nightmare for small businesses. Google search is the current de facto Yellow Pages, Internet Yellow Pages etc. Its simply the dominant manner in which people find businesses. Its not unlike the white pages/yellow pages of the past. Of note; the White Pages was considered so important and vital laws were established that mandated printing and distribution of white pages to every household.

    That makes it critical.

    Unfortunately, Google Places both doesn’t correspond and interact with businesses with regard to their records in any sort of simple normal way. Moreover it simply doesn’t interact. It doesn’t have a semblance of customer service.

    Remarkable. Its information is akin to a service that received government oversight because it was so critical that everyone had access to basic contact information.

    Google neither receives oversight and on top of that it doesn’t communicate.

    Then there are the categories of “purgatory” you describe. Businesses learn about these categories through emails….but they can’t speak with anyone.

    Frankly its hard to figure out what google means. Their responses aren’t easy to decipher. You have spent a lot of time studying this. The lay business person whose revenues depend on working with customers and responding to customers simply doesn’t have the time or expertise to decipher what Google often means with regards to this “purgatory”.

    I’ve a listing that falls into a different form of “purgatory”. Through various efforts and Google systemic channels I now have a troublesome duplicate listing for which it is currently impossible to let Google know it is a duplicate”

    Its impossible to contact Google about this because
    A). Trying as I have many times…..Google has not responded and acted on messages informing them the record is a duplicate
    B). Having seen no response using their proscribed methodology I then turned to creating a Google Maps record that stated the old/no longer occupied location” is closed.
    C). Alternative B worked by Algo. There is now a “this business is closed” message and link associated with a Google business record that represents an address from which we had relocated 6 years ago.
    D) Now carrying the “this business is closed” message (provided by Google Maps)….it is impossible to signal Google that the record is a problematic duplicate.

    Its a form of Google created Purgatory.

    I’ve a simple business. It has a simple address. I simply want to get it straight.

    All of that would be simple if Google’s non-customer service process and complex algo’s were buttressed by someone answering the phone, taking notes, bringing it to the attention of someone who could fix it, and getting back to me.

    That would be like any other business that is held responsible to the public.

    It appears that Google is above all that.

    I believe your reference to Lucifer and purgatory are very apt. Its an algo/non-customer service nightmare.

  5. Mike, this post had me rolling around on the ground – my Religion & Ethics degree in hand.

    Thank you for showing us the light and expounding Google’s ever mysterious doctrine with such clever packaging. I look forward to more lessons in your SEOlogy.

  6. @Graham

    I am glad that you enjoyed my new revised catechism. It was a lot of fun creating it. Although I am still left wondering how two nice Jewish boys could create such a Puritanicial creature. But I guess religion works in mysterious ways.

    I worried that I might offend someone (besides Google)… but I if I did they have yet to speak up.

  7. I have to confess:

    I’ve pushed the limits of keywords in the business name and recently one of my accounts showed no stats.

    I knew what I did (premeditated) and took out the keyword and the stats came back immediately…

    –Dennis

  8. Hi Mike,

    You need to ‘Report a Problem’ on your live listing and point to the bothersome closed duplicate.

    I recommend never marking a listing as closed as you end up, or a new business at the old location, with this confusing and ever present duplicate.

    Please remember when moving location or buying a business at a location to make sure the old Places entry is deleted whilst you or the old owners has access. Also go out and delete or amend ALL the other web content you can find.

    A business you buy has a reduced value, or a location you buy or rent, has a reduced value with outstanding Places or Web entries to clear up. Be warned.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  9. Where someone has genuine discreet income streams in the real world what is the best way to have a set of different phone nos for each listing?

    Would you agree these are ‘different’ businesses:
    Carpenter
    Bedroom Furniture Supplier
    Kitchen Supplier
    Lodgings
    House Share
    Places Consultant
    SQL Database Consultant
    3D Building Models
    Plasterer

    in that you would advertise them in separate categories in Yellow Pages, newspapers, boards in DIY sheds, Freelance websites and so on?

    Lodgings and House Share are at two separate houses 50 miles apart.
    The Plasterer is my son, a different legal entity.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  10. @Andrew,

    I did not need to re-verify as it was a 1 word removal.

    In fact, I changed the name of another business awhile back and even then I did not have to go thru the pin verification, again, it was just the business name.

    –Dennis

  11. @Andrew

    One could argue that it might be 3 businesses (IT related, Lodging related & construction related) but not 8. Also the house share would be disqualified as its own location as it is a rental.

    It depends on a lot of factors including your forward facing marketing and legal structures.

    The real answer though isn’t 3 or 8 but what you can get to work with Google. 3 would be a lot easier than 8. :)

    Google voice is a choice in this situation for alternative phone numbers

  12. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the tip on google voice. Does each Places entry have to have a different phone no?

    I own both houses I mention and are in different English counties and regions. Can I list the same business at each?

    Would my son count as a separate legal or business entity?

    How does google rate the relative relevance of a category in:
    Business Name
    Category
    Description
    Additional Fields

    If you look at 1 pack results google is favouring listings with category in the business name. I disagree with it as it is unfair and anti-competitive when just one result for a search in your location, a post code is pretty small compared to a city, shows for a business often 10 miles away. That is not local. To show in the face of such a listing you need the category in the name to show fairly in your own postcode.

    I have argued that google should pick searched for categories just out of the Places entry categories. A bit radical I know. If they did that the current Rejected algorithm would not be needed as the Description cannot be used for keyword spamming nor of course the business name. In search results you see words in the search parsed out of description.

    The same applies for location out of address and logically but less important unique business identifier out of Business Name, less a category and a location; a family name is a clear example.

    We have a different view on what is a reasonable business name. For a new business in the internet world my ‘Einstein Cleaners in Boston’ seems reasonable to me. Years of designing computer screens teaches you to make a heading clear and informative. When you scan a 7 pack what do you look for? The category and location relevant to your search.

    I could live with 3 themed businesses if the 5 categories allowed would all rank equally for the relevant search.
    I do have a take on spellings, miss spellings, synonyms and plurals.

    A:
    Bedroom Furniture Store
    Handyman Handymen
    Carpenter Carpentry
    Stanley Sliding Mirror Wardrobes
    Kitchens Supplied and Fitted

    B:
    Business Analyst
    Database Design and Performance Testing
    IT Project Management
    SQL Programming
    Places and Maps Support

    C:
    Lodgings
    House Share, Houseshare, House Mate, Housemate
    Room to Let, Room for Rent

    My current Active listings which are not showing each have unique non repeated categories, relevant descriptions which are unique and any additional fields are relevant and unique. They had to be reviewed by a google employee and were released? Where is the discrimination? I am sure a lot of Help Forum posts are triggered by a lack of human common sense and a real world view.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  13. Hi Mike,

    Is you recommendation that I could make an entry for each of three discreet business areas in line with googles new Business Guidelines?

    I assume they will each have to show a different phone no.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  14. Hi Mike,

    Could I come out of Active purgatory in the current account by reducing my listings to three for each house I own with different phone nos for each business x location?

    As you report someone changing an 800 number and achieving that.

    I might give it a try as finding another meaningful email name is usually a pain.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  15. @Andrew

    Obviously, being in Google Places Purgatory, indicates that Google does not trust your listings. The likely cause is the multitude of different listings with the same phone number. Whether 3 is more likely to pass muster than 8 or however many you have is not clear to me. At this point, the account itself is not trusted as well as the listings….. I would start over from scratch, new account with one listing and be sure to reinforce the listing via the directories that Google looks at. If one flies then do the same for the second….

    @Steve M
    In purgatory as defined above, never.

  16. Is there any way “at all” to contact anyone at Google and get a understanding of why an account ended up in Purgatory? I find their customer service very scary.

  17. @Steve M

    If you make a post in the Places Help Forum the volunteers there may be able to help you and occasionally a google employee will answer a specific question.

    Generally it takes a few months for google to act on issues such as the Rejection algorithm striking out an estimated 1/3 of ‘legitimate’ listings.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  18. Hi Mike,

    Google voice will let you link one voice number to several mobile nos not the other way round. Also I would need a newfangled 3G phone.

    The problem is I have no phone or internet connection at my second house as I have a mobile phone and 3G dongle for my tablet off my own homes cable account. I assume a cannot phone my dongle even tho it has a phone number.

    It looks like a line of cheap pay as you go mobiles on charge in my office.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  19. @Andrew

    Yes, sorry about that, I forgot that there was a recent change in Google voice that makes it less suitable for the task…. it is obviously an effort to fight using it for spam… originally you could have multiple Google Voice numbers going to one phone.

  20. @Mike

    Well google seem to be deficient in their analysis again.

    Surely they should make it easier for an entity with several different themed income streams, or several entities at one location to make as many appropriate entries as are reasonable so they can then sell each entry a tag, adwords or boost. Seem to be cutting down the income options rather severely. I would allow each Entity(Person, Associates/Partnership/Franchise, Limited Company) an entry for any unique Primary Category at a Place(location).

    My suggestion is that they make Phone Number and a Primary Category the unique key for a business at a Place(location).

    What is needed is a Business Name and Phone Number table where one can validate that at each Place(location) by a Post Card.

    One could then make a new entry such as ‘Einstein Cleaners’ where the ‘Einstein’ Business Name has been pre-validated at the Addresses Place(location) for the Phone Number. This could always be validated by phone as there is a pre-existing Post Card verification for the Business Name and Phone Number at that Place(location).

    One could then make another entry for ‘Einstein House Clearance’ as well. And so on.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  21. Hi Mike,

    I have a quick question regarding business names. Hypothetically, what if I create a DBA with a similar website domain name. Something like “Laptop Repair of New York”. This means the legal business name and lets say “www.LaptopRepairofNewYorkNY.com” as my domain. It seems like Google will still penalize you for having this name if its created now while if you had a name likes this previously they will not to a degree.

    There is a company in town that is named “thelaptoprepair”. They come up as the ONLY result if you search “laptop repair” with a local IP address or “laptop repair “”my city””. But not if its “laptop repair “my city” “my state””. How does google let this happen? Other keywords are ok because no one has the actual keywords as the business title.

    Should I change my business name to straight up, “Computer Repair “my city””? Seems unfair. Any thoughts on this?

  22. Hi Dan,

    I had a debate with EthanR about this issue and the ‘Lucky 1 Pack’. Since its inception a business may not legitimately show because a 1 Pack for a business some miles away only shows. I call it the Lucky 1 Pack because they by happen-stance have a category in their pre-existing Business Name.

    To overcome this for one of my now ‘Active In Purgatory’ listings I had to add ‘for your Kitchen Makeover’ to appear AT ALL for a search on this category in my own POST CODE, not a large area and VERY LOCAL.

    Morally google cannot stop you calling your business name whatever you like as others did unwittingly before the ‘Lucky 1 Pack’. That is my view.

    Places is a ‘Commons’ and morally all the commoners have the same rights.

    The technical bit:

    The problem is those at google do not understand about ‘normalisation’.
    If they only parsed a search string against ONE appropriate data type in a Places entry a lot of current issues would go away.

    When we search we are interested in finding Unique Businesses, trading in a Category and in/near a Location.

    When a Location is parsed out of a search string it should only be compared to the Address fields in a Entry.

    When a Category is parsed out of a search string it should only be compared to one of the 5 category fields.

    What is left should be the Business Name, family or some ‘Identifier’.

    A Business Name in Places should be allowed to contain a name and a category such as ‘Springlight Mirror Wardrobes’. There is no need to have a location in the name as its in your Address or Service Area. However if my search parse rules were followed it WOULD NOT MATTER if someone included a Location in their name. I do have a special plea for service workers who live on the wrong side of the tracks but work on the other side. They should show their home address but be allowed to define the geocentre of their service area. I might live in Bristol but trade as a IT Consultant in London as a more middle class example.

    Eventually I may get google to think outside of its ‘local coffee shop’.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  23. Its been 5 day in the purgatory and the listings are still showing? When do they get deleted? Nick Phillipps was the only guy to experience the effects of purgatory maybe he can answer this one.

  24. Hi Mike,

    Will this do as a construction entry?

    Email address: C***@gmail.com
    Description:
    Supply and fit. Made to measure. Choice of glass and wood grain panels. Frames in chrome, satin silver, white and wood grain. Call Andrew.

    Areas served: Birmingham, West Midlands B23 5SB, and locations within 80 miles;

    Categories:
    Bedroom Furniture Shop
    Carpenter
    Joiner
    Sliding Door Mirror Wardrobes
    Handyman

    Other:
    Stanley brand : With 10 year mechanism guarantee
    Part of A & M Handymen : A small family business
    All woodwork round the house : Kitchens supplied and fitted
    Plastering and Tiling : Bathrooms supplied and fitted
    Gates and Fences : Slabbing, Decking and Sheds

    Cheers. Andrew.

  25. Hi Mike,

    You said somewhere google go down to utility bills for trust.

    I need to set up a bank account linked to my childhood home, pay my bills there out of it and get a pay as you go mobile for each of my income threads paid by cheque or credit card on it.

    All the internet phone schemes seem prone to discovery looking about.

    Cheers. Andrew.

  26. I have added “of Tulsa” or “, Tulsa, OK”
    to the business names of 2 of the listing that I manage
    I know that is against the new guidelines, but one of these listings has been that way for over 2 years.

    I added a new client right about the time that the November change occurred.
    They had an existing listing with a different version of the address and 2 phone numbers that were run together without spaces or hyphens.
    I verified that one by mail and deleted it, then made a new one.

    I verified the new listing but it did not show as active for about a week.
    I got impatient and turned on the old listing for a few days because it was showing in the results, but then decided I should get some patience and turned it back off.
    The new one did finally show active.

    While working on the new listing, I had changed the address to “court” from “ct.”, and without thinking hit submit, and that generated the need for a new mail verification.
    So I have verified the old listing once, and the new listing 2 times.

    I added “of Tulsa” to their business name. (I know, bad huh!)
    It shows up in a nearby city where the business is actually located, but they need to show up in Tulsa results.

    The problem is the no impressions or stats thing.
    There are some actions however.
    Is this some level of purgatory because of the geo keyword or maybe
    because of too many verifications?

  27. I am also in semi-purgatory. I have no impressions, actions and a message that states “There is no data for your request”. I reported the problem to Google but got a generic response that tells me this listing is owner verified and to contact the owner. I AM the owner!! What next?? Thx

  28. so, created my google places in middle of august, sept 16th it shows up in the 7 pack, hen oct 13th moves down to #8(not showing in 7 pack anymore) only if you lick-click here for more listings…when i did show in 7 pack i was #7. Google was showing no impressions or actions-nothing..now it’s oct 31st and still shows no impressions, but 1 action only, i have lots of citations , page is optimzed etc….anyone else here with same problem? showing kinda-but impressions and actions are empty?

  29. @zeljka,

    it’s not going to be an overnight or even over a few months appearance I’m sorry to say. As there are so many way to optimize (over 200), continue to do all that you can and eventually the places account will improve.

    –Dennis

  30. I know that I’m pretty late to the party on this post, but I was wondering if there have been any updates or new developments. This appears to be the only page on the whole internet that has any actual information about this issue. Thanks!!

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