When it comes to managing unwanted or problematic Google My Business listings, it’s a case of horses for courses. There isn’t a single set of instructions you can reliably follow, because your particular scenario defines which steps you should take. The following table should help you identify common situations and choose the one that most closely matches yours. From there, you’ll learn which actions are available to you, and which ones, unfortunately, can’t be accomplished.
Because management of problem GMB listings usually requires either being in control of them or unverifying them, our chart begins with three verification scenarios, and then moves on to cover other typical business events.
Unverify a Verified Listing You Control
You have a listing in your GMB dashboard that you no longer wish to control.
- Log into your GMB dashboard
- Click “edit”
- Click the “info” tab
- Click “remove listing”
- Check all the checkboxes
- Click “delete account”
No worries: The last step does NOT delete your Google account or the listing, itself. It simply un-verifies it so that you are no longer controlling it. The listing will still exist and someone else can take control of it.
Verify an Unverified Listing to Gain Control
You need to take control of an unwanted listing. You can tell it’s not verified, because it’s marked “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.
Once you’ve verified the listing, you can take next steps to manage it if it's problematic.
Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified
You need to take control of an unwanted listing, but someone else has verified it. You can tell it’s verified, because it lacks the attributes of “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.
- Contact Google via these steps
- Google will contact the owner
- If Google doesn’t hear back from the owner in one week, you can verify the listing
There are some anecdotal accounts of owners being able to prove to Google their rights to control a listing based on their control of an email address that matches the website domain, but no guarantees. You may need to seek legal counsel to mediate resolution with a third party who refuses to relinquish control of the listing.
Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Brick-and-Mortar Business
Your business serves customers at your location (think a retail shop, restaurant, law practice). You find more than one listing representing the business, either at its present location, at an incorrect location, or at a previous location.
- If the address exactly matches the correct, current address of the business, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.
- If the address contains an error and the business never existed there, use the “suggest an edit” link on Google Maps, toggle the yes/no switch to “yes,” and choose the “never existed” radio button.
- If the address is one the business previously occupied, see the section in this table on business moves.
If reviews have become associated with a business address that contains an error, you can try to request that the reviews be transferred PRIOR to designating that the business “never existed” in Google Maps.
Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Service Area Business (SAB)
Your business serves customers at their locations (think a plumber, landscaper, or cleaning service). You find more than one listing representing the business.
- Once you’ve verified the duplicate listing, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.
Remember that Google’s guidelines require that you keep addresses for SAB listings hidden.
Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business
The business has multiple partners (think a legal firm or medical office). You discover multiple listings for a specific partner, or for partners who no longer work there, or for partner who are deceased.
- Unfortunately, Google will not remove multi-practitioner listings for partners who are presently employed by the business.
- If the partner no longer works there, read this article about the dangers of ignoring these listings. Then, contact Google to request that they designate the listing as “moved” (like when a business moves) to the address of the practice — not to the partner’s new address. *See notes.
- If, regrettably, a partner has passed away, contact Google to show them an obituary.
In the second scenario, Google can only mark a past partner’s listing as moved if the listing is unverified. If the listing is verified, it would be ideal if the old partner would unverify it for you, but, if they are unwilling to do so, at least try to persuade them to update the listing with the details of their new location as a last resort. Unfortunately, this second option is far from ideal.
On a separate note, if the unwanted listing pertains to a solo-practitioner business (there’s a listing for both the company and for a single practitioner who operates the company), you can contact Google to ask that they merge the two listings in an effort to combine the ranking power of the two listings, if desired.
Manage a Listing When a Business Moves
Your company is moving to a new location. You want to avoid having the listing marked as “permanently closed,” sending a wrong signal to consumers that you’ve gone out of business.
- Update your website with your new contact information and driving directions
- Update your existing GMB listing in the Google My Business dashboard. Don’t create a new listing!
- Update your other local business listings to reflect your new info. A product like Moz Local can greatly simplify this big task.
Be sure to use your social platforms to advertise your move.
Be sure to be on the lookout for any new duplicate listings that may arise as a result of a move. Again, Moz Local will be helpful for this.
Google will generally automatically move your reviews from your old location to your new one, but read this to understand exceptions.
Manage a Listing Marked “Permanently Closed”
A listing of yours has ended up marked as “permanently closed,” signaling to consumers that you may have gone out of business. Permanently closed listings are also believed to negatively impact the rankings of your open business.
- If the “permanently closed” label exists on a verified listing for a previous location the business occupied, unverify the listing. Then contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved to the new location. This should rectify the “permanently closed” problem.
- If the permanently closed listing exists on a listing for your business that someone else as verified (i.e., you don’t control the listing), please see the above section labeled “Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified.” If you can get control of it in your dashboard and then unverify it, you’ll then be able to contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved.
The “permanently closed” label can also appear on listings for practitioners who have left the business. See the section of this chart labeled “Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business.”
Manage a Merger/Acquisition
Many nuances to this scenario may dictate specific steps. If the merger/acquisition includes all of the previous physical locations remaining open to the public under the new name, just edit the details of the existing GMB listings to display that new name. But, if the locations that have been acquired close down, move onto the next steps.
- Don’t edit the details of the old locations to reflect the new name
- Unverify the listings for the old locations
- Finally, contact Google to ask them to mark all the old locations listings as moved to the new location.
Mergers and acquisitions are complex and you may want to hire a consultant to help you manage this major business event digitally. You may also find the workload significantly lightened by using a product like Moz Local to manage the overhaul of core citations for all the businesses involved in the event.
Manage a Spam Listing
You realize a competitor or other business is violating Google’s guidelines, as in the case of creating listings at fake locations. You want to clean up the results to improve their relevance to the local community.
- Find the listing in Google Maps
- Click the “suggest an edit” link
- Toggle the yes/no toggle to “yes”
- Choose the radio button for “spam”
- Google will typically email you if/when your edit is accepted
Google doesn’t always act on spam. If you follow the outlined steps and don’t get anywhere with them, you may want to post the spam example in the GMB forum in hopes that a Top Contributor there might escalate the issue.
Unfortunately, spam is very common. Don’t be surprised if a spammer who gets caught comes right back on and continues to spam.
Manage a Listing with Bad Reviews
Your company is embarrassed by the negative reviews that are attached to its GMB listing. You wish you could just make the whole thing disappear.
- If the reviews violate Google’s policy, consider these steps for taking action. Be advised that Google may not remove them, regardless of clear violations.
- If the reviews are negative but genuine, Google will not remove them. Remedy the problems, in-house, that consumers are citing and master responding to reviews in a way that can save customers and your business.
- If the business is unable to remedy structural problems being cited in reviews, the company may lack the necessary components for success.
Short of completely rebranding and moving your business to a new location, your business must be prepared to manage negative reviews. Unless consumers are citing illegal behaviors (in which case, you need legal counsel rather than marketing), negative reviews should be viewed as a FREE blueprint for fixing the issues that customers are citing.
Bear in mind that many unhappy customers won’t take the time to complain. They’ll just go away in silence and never return to your business again. When a customer takes the time to voice a complaint, seize this as a golden opportunity to win him back and to improve your business for all future customers.
Whew! Eleven common Google My Business listing management scenarios, each requiring its own set of steps. It’s my hope that this chart will not only help explain why few cases really come down to deleting GMB listings, and also, that it will serve as a handy reference for you when particular situations arise in your workday.
Cumulatively speaking, inaccurate and duplicative listings can misinform and misdirect consumers while also sapping your ranking strength. Local business listings are a form of customer service, and when this element of your overall marketing plan is neglected, it can lead to significant loss of traffic and revenue. It can also negatively impact reputation in the form of negative reviews citing wrong online driving directions or scenarios in which customers end up at the old location of a business that has moved.
Taken altogether, these unwanted outcomes speak to the need for an active location data management strategy that monitors all business listings for problems and takes appropriate actions to remedy them. Verifying listings and managing duplicates isn’t glamorous work, but when you consider what’s at stake for the business, it’s not only necessary work, but even heroic. So, skill up and be prepared to tackle the thorniest situations. The successes can be truly rewarding!