Google Now Requiring Null Edits to Keep GMB Lisitngs Active in US

Update: Google has posted at the forum with an explanation

Update: Google has added that it is not necessary to do a “null edit” just be logged into GMB. 

First reported by Integrated Marketing, Google is now requiring that US accounts periodically go to a given listing and do a null edit to prove that it is active. In the article, Integrated Marketing noted that support informed him that if the account was inactive for 6 months this process would commence. I assume that Google support may be overstating this timeframe. Regardless Google will provide a 2 weeks notice of the pending unverification via email.

Here is an updated comment from Google: “We may contact Google My Business users via email to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If a user is unresponsive to our attempts to contact him or her and has not logged into Google My Business for a significant length of time, then we may unverify pages in the account. We’re doing this in order to continue to provide users with the best experience when they’re looking for local businesses like yours. If you find that a page in your account has been incorrectly unverified, please contact support to get assistance restoring verification. ”

Here’s a copy of the warning email –

Important information about your Google My Business account

Dear business owner,

Thanks for being part of the small business community on Google. This email requires action from you so your Google My Business pages can maintain their current ‘verified’ status. It’s very quick—it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

We’re doing this because we haven’t heard from you in a while, and we want to make sure that people looking for your following businesses find the most up-to-date information on Google:

• Googleplex (business name)

Simply follow these three easy steps:

1. Sign in to your Google My Business account. Click here if you have any trouble signing in.
2. Review and update your information for each page.
3. Click the “Done editing” button.

That’s it! Please note that if you don’t take action before May 29th, 2015, you’ll have to verify your pages again for future updates to be shown on Google.

If you have any questions, you can contact us anytime. Thank you for helping us make Google Maps better.

Sincerely,
The Google My Business Team

This is consistent with previous Google actions in Australia and Canada in February of last year (As well as the UK and Germany earlier this year). I assume that it keeps their list more up to date and helps purge stale listings that have gone out of business which otherwise could not be pruned because they are verified. It might also have to do with Google’s current plan of “owning” the listings rather than renting them.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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37 thoughts on “Google Now Requiring Null Edits to Keep GMB Lisitngs Active in US”

  1. Hm. As a business operator it appears Google wants to make me pay attention to them and to make their lives easier…..and to do it in a manner where they put in no effort …or skin in the game.

    Meanwhile MapMaker is still down, and their effort to provide accurate information is still deficient.

    It was interesting that in the article that Phil Rozek provided with Brian Seely Brian referenced a verification method that has been used for some time by Dan Austin, who was volunteering as a MapMaker editor for years.

    Dan verified real businesses by reviewing the addresses against lists of businesses with business licenses supplied by local governments (local and/or state). Dan got the info from the web.

    Now, if Google is good at one thing its good at scraping stuff from websites. You’d think they could verify in this manner and scale the effort.

    But they don’t.

    Meanwhile we’ll have to do google’s “bidding” because its this humongous monopolistic directory that seems to get what it wants from small businesses and big government alike.

    I can do it. But I’d like to see them put some skin in the game. They have generally avoided that for a decade. Its about time.

  2. This should also make it a bit easier for someone to claim the listing away from a stale account that is no longer actively managing it. The listing ownership transfer process is a bit difficult to get through successfully at times.

  3. Hey Dave – the verification process that businesses go through is purely to give Google full rights to use that data. Currently, you may be aware that Google gets business data from a variety of other sources, but that costs money in the form of licensing fees.

    When a business verifies their info, they also give Google ownership of that data for free. The more data they own, the less they need to license from other sources.

    My guess is this entire thing is related to data ownership and has little to do with trying to keep business listings accurate, etc.

  4. Thanks for confirming this Mike. I didnt receive any emails from G on this matter though….the listings simply slipped into unverified status. Had I have received an email, this wouldnt have been an issue.

  5. @mark
    As I noted above in my article there is both issues.

    How, if a business is verified and goes out of business can Google ever close it? How as Max points out can a lost business login ever be overcome?

    Certainly they want to “own” listings and they want to pay their data providers less but they also want a reasonably accurate list of businesses.

  6. Brian google unverifies for a number of reasons. IE a more authoritative claimant. But they are curious about this case to see what happened. If you send me the account email privately I will forward.

  7. So please forgive me if this is a stupid question, do we actually have to hit update/done edit every six months or does posting to our Google+ page frequently count as updating?

  8. @William you need to visit the GMB account and review the listing. It is not necessary to hit update. (I overstated the issue in the headline and later received a clarification from Google. )

  9. Hi Mike, so to tag onto what Bill was asking, simply posting to your Google+ account in status updates is not enough to keep it active? Thank you!

  10. This is getting even more confusing for me. Again, for SEO’s with only a few accounts, this should be an easy fix. For SEO’s with HUGE Bulk Accounts, this is a pain. I have to login and make an edit/update/etc to each listing in the account at least 1 every 6 months or the listing will go inactive.

    Im basing this on the fact that I work in the Bulk Account everyday and touch/update/edit certain listings daily, but there are others I dont mess with much. Those listings got unverified in the Bulk Account. Simply being logged into the Bulk Account doesnt count as updating the listings.

    @Mike, any specific information about the email I sent you?

  11. Great info, I now have a long Monday morning ahead of me!! I normally do login quite often but there are a few accounts that I have not jumped into in a while.

  12. Heather
    In conversation with Google they noted that Logging in would be logging in as the page in any respect — so that would be any of the following
    – seeing the GMB dashboard,
    – making an edit,
    – posting, etc.

    So, yes, posting to G+ would “count.”

  13. I usually manage my clients’ GMB as a Manager and use my own account. I’m a little annoyed that now I have to log into my client accounts to do this. I’m lucky that I have this access; I could be just a Manager. What happens then?

  14. Janelle
    My guess is that acting as a manager is enough for Google to know the listing has a heartbeat. I will confirm with Google but I think that is enough.

  15. In theory I suppose it makes sense that Google want to ensure their listings are as accurate as possible. I have noticed several businesses still ranking well (particularly in the maps) that are no longer trading. It is also however a cunning way for then to ensure that G+, GMB is not defunct.

    Google rule the world. We must obey.

  16. Hi Mike,

    I’m also interested in Janelle’s question! Look forward to hearing if managing the page through our own account will suffice or if we need to log into the account that verified the page.

    Thanks for always keeping us updated 😉
    Paula

  17. Thanks Mike! That’s great news. I appreciate your quick follow-up.

  18. I can see the value of making sure they don’t want listings to grow stale, in any directory the information is only as good as the business owner keeping it updated. However, it seems to me that this places a lot of responsibility on the owner. Some small business owners really want nothing to do with their website and this makes it just one more step they have to take in order to stay relevant… almost like they have to do homework.

    It seems that Google might even be shooting their own foot by deleting listings that haven’t been “re-verified”. Those legitimate listings that disappear will make for a negative user experience. Also, what about enterprise level accounts where there’s numerous locations/franchisees verified under one master account? Will Google essentially shut them down if their email goes unanswered?

    On the flip side, this may open the door for an involved SEO to further prove their value as an add-on service for their client.

  19. It seems that Google might even be shooting their own foot by deleting listings that haven’t been “re-verified”. Those legitimate listings that disappear will make for a negative user experience.

    These listings are not deleted. They just lose their G+ page and the owners lose access until they reverify. So the user experience doesn’t really change if the business is alive and beating and google can ascertain that from a 3rd party. The business might not get as many leads because the photos might be missing or some critical information might be wrong.

    Also, what about enterprise level accounts where there’s numerous locations/franchisees verified under one master account? Will Google essentially shut them down if their email goes unanswered?

    As long as a user logs into the master account no indvidual listings will be unverified. And like in the single location case, unverified doesn’t necessarily mean deleted.

  20. “Some small business owners really want nothing to do with their website and this makes it just one more step they have to take in order to stay relevant… almost like they have to do homework.”

    If you don’t do your homework you can’t pass the class.

    If you can’t manage this responsibility, then learn to delegate.

    If you still have an excuse, you might want to re-think and reconsider if you’re really into your business.

    If you love what you are doing, AND your business, little things like this should not be a big of a hassle, unless you do not have access to your own Google My Business page — that’s where all the problems start.

  21. Mike: On the one day I was on twitter (today) there was a tweet from @googleMyBusiness. The little promo said that only 37% of local businesses had claimed their listings and urged smb’s to do so.

    Well. If only 37% of smb’s have claimed businesses, and some of the 37% are going to miss this message…then there could be enormous disruption in PACs.

    That isn’t promising. What do you think??

  22. Mike I have always appreciated your posts and comments when i remember to stop by here.

    My suggestion to Google is to post on the GMB dashboard a note stating you need to login in every few months to stay verified.

    I find for most SMBs this entire process is very confusing to them, especially when you consider the past hoops they make SMBs jump through.. G Places, G Local, G+ Local, GMB.

  23. @Mike
    This is where I got the 6 months from….
    In Brian Barwig’s blog post he stated: I asked him why several of the listings were unverified and he stated they were inactive for at least 6 months. This means Google is UN-VERIFYING LISTINGS in GMB accounts if there is no update or post in at least 6 months!

    So we have conflicting answers from 2 different G guys.

    With all the spam mail I could see an SMB getting the email and trashing it, thinking it’s from a spammer. I have customers calling/emailing me all the time about emails from G that really were from spammers pretending to be G.

  24. @John
    I know that you got the statement from Brian’s article.

    The rep that Brian spoke with is WRONG. I spoke directly with Google and the statement he made is not correct.

    What the exact details Google wouldn’t say.

    From my experience it is as follows:

    If a listing has been inactive for more than 6 months and the owner or a representative attempts to claim it into a different account, Google will, with verification allow that.

    If the listing has been inactive for 18-36 months Google will send out the email.

    I am not saying that those numbers are the hard numbers, as Google won’t say… those just reflect my experience.

  25. @Mike

    I figured my blog post would set off a firestorm though I didnt think it would get this large and rage this long. I inadvertently gave, what appears to be, false information though it was information the G rep gave me. You got a direct answer straight from a different contact, seemingly more connected than my call center rep. The answer you received is more direct and actionable which is great.

    Not really surprising different G reps are sharing different information as it seems to happen often. It would help if all of the reps were on the same page or at least delivering similar messaging….would cut down on *some* of the confusion happening in SMB land.

  26. @Mike

    That being said, could Google do a better job of engaging the SMB?

    Absolutely
    +1

    Wish I could be in Minneapolis Saturday for the event. Too much going on right now.

  27. @Brian

    What you reported was accurate. Google is sending out the emails. What the rep said was technically wrong but correct in some senses.

    Information needs to be brought out in the open, which you did and then it can be vetted to find the truth of it.

    It was a useful and helpful discovery.

  28. @Mike

    What I am trying to figure out is how an “unverified” status or inactivity might affect how reviews are displayed on a local Google+ page, in cases where reviews do exist and have been posted.

    For example, this listing displays a link to a few Google reviews via a snippet, but when you visit the actual Google+ page, none of these reviews are displayed.

    So does Google “hide” the reviews from G+ pages until the business is verified / becomes active on GMB? And does recency of reviews also affect the appearance (i.e. hidden reviews) of both unverified and unclaimed local pages?

  29. I had a feeling they were doing something even though I don’t see myself getting a letter as I try to keep my accounts current. Overall I think the responsibility of keeping on top of your accounts falls into ones own hands. I see listings all the time from businesses that are closed but still have a listing.

  30. @Migs
    Reviews are independent of verification. They are attached to the business at that location NOT the G+ page. If the G+ page becomes unverified then the reviews will still show IF Google thinks that the business still exists.

    The situation with your example is somewhat rare. The + page and the location data have become separated. You need to call support.

  31. This was just shared in the GYBO partners community forums by a Google representative:

    “Staying on top of your online presence can mean the difference between business as usual and new customers at your door. In fact, a recent study showed that consumers are nearly twice as likely to find a business reputable if it has more information on Google, such as opening hours and photos. But when companies don’t keep their online information up to date, it can create an unpleasant experience for people searching the web for information — like if a customer arrives at a local business only to find that the address or operating hours have changed.

    We’re always trying to make it easier for customers to connect with businesses on Google. That’s why if you’re a business owner and you haven’t logged into your Google My Business account in over a year, you may receive an email from us soon asking you to sign in and confirm your business information. Just follow the steps in the email by simply logging into your Google My Business dashboard, then checking to make sure your information is up to date and submitting any changes if necessary. If your account remains inactive after receiving a notice from us, then it could run the risk of being de-verified, or in rare cases, removed from Google Maps.

    We recommend that all Google My Business users check on your business information by logging into your account at least once every six months — doing this only takes a few seconds. It ensures that we’ve got the right information, and that customers can continue connecting with your business on Google Search and Maps. To get going, visit http://www.google.com/business

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