If you have a service area business and your office is in your home and/or you only go out to customers, YES it is absolutely mandatory that you hide your address! THOUSANDS (and I personally believe hundreds of thousands) of small business listings have been removed for violating this fairly recent guideline and some have been down for a couple months without being able to revive their listing or even successfully getting a new listing to show.

But this post is targeted at a slightly different scenario. We get SMBs on the forum that say, “Yes my office is in my home BUT customers SOMETIMES come here. So I don’t want to hide my address and don’t feel I’m in violation.” Some of you may have clients in the same boat. What do I advise?

1st of all the official guidelines read “If you don’t conduct face-to-face business at your location… select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” This is what is bringing up the question. Even though home-based, some businesses DO have customers come to their location. For instance I know carpet cleaning companies that mainly go OUT to customers but also allow rug drop offs at their home office for cleaning. So they don’t want to hide address because they do have customers visit. (Be sure to see the copy of the Google Places Support email that is circulating at the bottom of this post. CONFLICTING MESSAGING FROM GOOGLE ON THIS.)

So here is a good thread at the Google forum where I go back and forth with a resume writer who REALLY does not want to hide his address and keeps trying to justify why he should be allowed list it. I say in a nutshell – YES if you see customers there, you may technically be allowed to show address but it’s EXTREMELY RISKY and if it were me I would cave to Google and hide it. Here is some of the advice I offered as he continued to insist he should be able to get away with showing his address.

Google and Your Business Forum Thread

03gtcoupe – I do about 50 percent of my business via people coming to my home office and about 50% through email. I certainly don’t want to risk of being removed but I want to still be able to show up in the search results when people are looking for my service.

Linda – You will still show up if you hide your address. It will just move your map marker to the center of your zip.

BUT if Google takes you down like it’s taken down THOUSANDS of other listings you will have nothing.
Many businesses have been down for almost 3 months and can’t even get new listings to work.

So not worth the risk IMO.

03gtcoupe But it’s really not fair to my customers because I always make appointment with them to come to my office, although some choose to go through email. Do you think “showing my address” and selecting a “service radius” is too risky?

Linda – As I explained before it’s a HUGE risk.

How would a Google moderator who’s job is to WHACK businesses that violate the guidelines know you have customers come to your house???
If they look at the map and it looks like a house not a commercial office there is a high likelyhood they will assume you are breaking the rules.

If you see customers there, you are free to show your address and take the risk. But do not come back here and boo hoo when your listing is
TOTALLY gone for months. We warned you MANY MANY TIMES and I don’t know how to make it any clearer.

Yes, you CAN show your address.
Yes, it IS a risk.

Keenan – Linda’s point is that we would be doing you a disservice to suggest that we THINK it MIGHT be okay.

In the end, this is YOUR decision. If you take any action based upon the opinions or recommendations expressed here, you MUST accept that ALL of the responsibility is yours and yours alone. All we can do is provide you with information we feel may be relevant to your situation.

Just by making a single edit to your listing could cause it to be flagged for review and ultimately lead to something bad.

Below is a portion of the latest series of emails going out to warn service area businesses. SEE IMPORTANT COMMENTS RE: CONFLICTING INFO BELOW THE QUOTE!

GOOGLE SUPPORT EMAILS GOING OUT

We’d like to tell you about a recent update to our quality guidelines. This new addition, which affects service area businesses based at a residential location, states:

If you don’t conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard. If you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.

Why the addition? We want to ensure that Google users do not attempt to visit your business at the location listed publicly on Maps — it’s a bad experience for you, it’s a bad experience for them.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll begin strictly enforcing this guideline, more so than we have been since the policy change. This means that if you don’t have a storefront, and you haven’t hidden your address, your listing is not in compliance with our updated quality guidelines and subject to takedown. We wanted to give you a heads up both to give you enough time to be in compliance and to ensure your listing remains live on Google Maps going forward.

When you carefully read between the lines on stuff from Google you often see conflicting info, because I think different departments are making policies that either don’t agree or don’t get properly communicated to the SMBs. THE CONCERN IS – the guideline only says “If you don’t conduct face-to-face business at your location” HOWEVER this email says “if you don’t have a storefront” which implies to me, whether you see customers there or not is immaterial, if it’s a home address – we want it hidden.

So I say if a Google moderator views the listing on maps and if it looks like a residential location – be safe, not sorry and hide the address. That’s my advice.

(NOTE: This was posted at the Local Search Forum last week and I forgot to post it here.)

What’s your take on all this???

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