Tag: GMB

[2021] How to Interpret Google My Business (GMB) Insights


Updated March 4, 2021

There are many questions that often come up about how to properly interpret Google My Business Insights.  I’m going to break down the different sections and explain what they mean.

For an overview of the new Mobile vs Desktop breakdown and the upcoming display to track driving directions, website clicks, and bookings via GMB, check out this article about the 2021 GMB Insights Update.

How Customers Search for your Business

This chart is only reporting on impressions (not clicks).


  • Direct = People that are searching for your business by name or location.  I would say you can attribute these impressions to other forms of marketing since the person has already heard about you. A lot of these impressions are most likely existing customers as well.  These are searches that return a knowledge panel of your business. I got confirmation from Google that impressions will count in this section when the search results only list a single business listing (so this could be misleading in cases where you see a one-box for a non-branded query).
  • Discovery = People that are searching generic categories and see your listing (auto insurance, dentist near me, italian restaurant etc).  These are impressions you can most likely attribute to your SEO efforts.
  • Branded = These are searches for a brand your business sells that return a set of results (you are not the only one listed).

What is the difference between branded and direct searches?

We often see a lot of confusion around the difference between branded & direct searches so I’m going to give some examples.  This is a car dealer that sells for Nissan (a brand) in Woodbridge, VA.  When you are located near the dealership and you search “Nissan dealer near me”, you get a single result.  This would be counted under direct.


However, if you move a little further away from him and do the same search, you now get a 3-pack.  This would be counted as branded.  


For more examples of what is considered branded vs direct, see this forum thread.

What is the difference between branded and discovery searches?

One way to tell if Google knows a term is branded is to see if the 3-packs  have an ABC label on it.   For example, “botox” returns a normal 3-pack but “progressive insurance” returns a branded 3-pack that has the ABC label.  For more on these different types of 3-packs see this article.


However, since this only appears to happen when business names contain the brand being sold, it’s not always the case for businesses that carry products. I’m currently trying to get more clarification from Google on how they distinguish a branded term from a discovery term.

Where Customers View your Business on Google

Where customers view your listing
This graph is a bit confusing if you don’t understand that when both boxes are checked, the graph is cumulative (the top of the graph includes the total of both numbers).  So for those of you scratching your head wondering why the heck the graph is up near 60 for July 25th in this picture when you hover over it, it’s saying 17, you’re not alone. Here is how you actually see the numbers – the total searches on Maps was 41. The total searches on Search is 17. Therefore the total for the two is 58, which is what the graph is showing. Yes, very confusing. To avoid confusion just look at the graphs separately (only click one box – either Search or Maps).

Searches on the Local Finder are included in “Search” since they happen on Google.com and not Maps.Google.com.

As of March 4, 2021, Views in Google My Business Insights are the number of unique visitors to your profile.

Users who viewed your profile: Number of unique visitors to your profile. A user can be counted a limited number of times if they visit your Business Profile on multiple devices and platforms such as desktop or mobile and Google Maps or Google Search. Per breakdown device and platform, a user can only be counted once a day. Multiple daily visits aren’t counted.

  • Since this metric represents the number of unique users, it may be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

  • Since the metric focuses on views of the Business Profile, as opposed to overall views of the Business on Google, it may also be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

Customer Actions


Driving Directions

This section shows where your driving directions came from if you have enough of them.  Google will also show details about the areas where your direction requests come from including a nice heat map.  If driving directions seem high, it’s probably because you are in a building and Google is counting driving directions that were actually to other businesses at the same address.


Phone Calls

Don’t be surprised if the numbers on this graph don’t match the numbers under “customer actions”. This graph shows 4 weeks whereas the actions section shows 30 days.

As Tim Capper illustrated, you can still copy and paste the values into a spreadsheet if it’s easier to interpret the data that way.

Chat To You

The GMB Messaging feature is the newest feature that generates insights data. You first need to setup the GMB Messaging feature before Google can collect this data.  Additionally, if you are using a 3rd party for the messaging feature, the graph inside GMB Insights might show zero even if you actually have been receiving messages.  In this example, the business is using Podium for this feature and has been receiving messages but GMB Insights shows zero.


Photo Insights

Photo Views

My church (in a very small town) gets an average of 20-40 photo views a day.  Their monthly photo views exceed the number of people who actually attend the church.  When I asked Google for an explanation for this, they said that “view photos” is counting both impressions (the photo appears in the 3-pack or knowledge panel) and if a user clicks to go to the photos. So these really are not clicks but rather impressions (and could be very misleading).

This section will also compare the number of times your business photos have been viewed, compared to photos from other businesses.


Photo Quantity

This section compares the number of photos that appear on your business, compared to photos from other businesses. It breaks them out by “Customer Photos” and “Owner Photos”

Popular Times & Visit Duration

Popular Times data gets pulled into the Insights section of GMB for businesses that have a decent amount of foot traffic. If you have “Popular Times” displaying in your knowledge panel then you will likely see the data in Insights as well. Visit duration is calculated slightly differently.  It’s based on how much foot traffic you’ve received in the last few weeks whereas Popular Times is looking at the data from the last few months (reference).


Search Queries

This section focuses on the search terms people typed into Google to find your business.  The numbers under Search Queries might appear smaller than other metrics you see in Insights for the following reasons:

  1. Search queries are showing the number of unique users.
  2. It only includes queries that meet Google’s privacy threshold.

It’s important to realize that the data here shown for “1 quarter” is not representing the last 3 months.  It doesn’t get updated in real-time and often will show the same data for several weeks.  Unlike other parts of GMB Insights, it doesn’t display a graph that clarifies what date ranges it’s pulling from. This issue seems like it will be fixed with the update to the new search queries report that we discuss in this article, 2021 GMB Insights Update.

GMB Insights

Does Insights Data Include Data From Google Ads?

Yes. If a business has an Google Ads account that has Location Extensions added, the users will be taken to to the Google My Business listing when they click on the extension.

When a user clicks on the ad in the 3-pack the person would get taken to the GMB listing (not the website).  Clicking on the listing would count as a search in Google My Business Insights. If the listing shows up as an ad and then also as a listing organically in the 3-pack, it would count as 2 searches (impressions) in GMB Insights.

There is currently no way to track Google Ads data separately from regular organic data in the GMB Insights section so my recommendation would be to add a call tracking number in the Google Ads Location Extension field in the Google My Business dashboard so you can accurately track the calls from ads.


Does Google My Business Insights Data Include Voice Searches?

If someone searches for a plumber near them on their Google Home or using the Google Assistant, is this counted in Google My Business Insights?  The current answer is no.  The data only includes visual searches.

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Google Review Attributes, Local Link Building & UTM Tagging Guide for GMB

What metrics should we focus on for local link building?

  1. Relevance
  2. Linking Root Domain

Don’t focus on overall link numbers, but rather increasing the number of linking root domains. Yes, your industry can be competitive, but by targeting and going really deep on relevance (both topical and geographical) you can outrank some pages that have more linking root domains.

For local link prospecting you can pretty much ignore Domain Authority (DA) and focus on relevance instead by identifying relevant prospects, both topically and geographically

What about nofollow links? For local link prospecting, don’t exclude nofollowA lot of link builders won’t put a site on their prospecting list because they know they don’t provide follow links. HUGE MISTAKE.

If you acquire local links, even with no-follows, they do have an impact overall and they do something else: generate customers and leads. 

Anchor Text – For local link prospecting, don’t obsess over anchor text. Where you can get it, great, but don’t stress about it overall. Brand and “junk” anchors are fine. Don’t remove a prospect from your list just because you can’t optimize anchor text. 

Scale – For local link prospecting, you can’t scale and you don’t need to scale. Think hyper-local, geographic and topical relevance.You don’t need to be getting thousands of links in the local context in order to beat competitors.

Must Link – For local link prospecting, don’t ignore linkless citations. If you can get the link get it, but don’t dismiss sites simply because they have a no link policy. 

$$$ > Traffic > Rankings – Your links can generate revenue, customers, leads, sales, and traffic. Money and traffic beat rankings every time. 

Target Audience Local Link Building 

Build out your target audience persona, prospect link targets like you would buy media. This will help you build out a list of sites where your customers will actually go.  

Think about this in the context of local awareness, interest, and consideration. Local news and events are the money makers. Start building relationships with journalists, go in and comment where you can, get active in your community. Whether you’re speaking, participating, or sponsoring a local event, link these topically-relevant local events. They can really move the dial from a link building standpoint. 

Local Directories (both industry and geographic specific) – Make sure your information is accurate. 

Who: Demographics + Psychographics 
Where you can find patterns in terms of age, socioeconomics, etc. – what keeps those people up at night – think about this, as it will tell you where these audiences spend their time online and what sites they are looking at.

What Are They Searching Locally? 
Go super hyper-local: neighbourhood, specific areas, and streets. If you’re focused on super hyper-local areas, that’s where you’ll see bang for your buck within the radius of the search area for your business location. 

What Ranks Locally?
The best indicator of whether Google thinks something is relevant or popular is if Google ranks it themselves. Find the different sites that rank locally and put them on your prospect list. The most relevant type of link you could get would be from a competitor that does the exact same thing as your business. Obviously they aren’t going to want to link to you. But think about tangential businesses, what about other businesses that don’t compete with you? 

Dive deeper into the results, go beyond the first page and you will start to find options.

Best Local Link Building Tool: Google 
Use advanced search operators such as inurl and intitle to prospect for links. For example:

[something your target audience might also search for] + inttitle:[hyper-local geo-modifier]

For the hyper-local modifier, you want to go deep like the neighbourhood or street. 

Second Best Local Link Building Tool: Maps
Put your own business address in and start to look at all the different businesses around your physical location. The proximity of getting local links from businesses that are in your own area makes a big difference. Ideally they are also topically relevant. For example, a Personal Injury Lawyer can get links from rehabilitation businesses or ancillary services clients might be using locally. 

Leverage Google Maps by using your own address, zooming in and looking around. Think about:

  • Who are the businesses around me?
  • How could I work with them to get a link?
  • What are my options and what are the businesses that could link to me?

Hyper-Local Content Marketing For Links

  • Topically relevant content.
  • Scholarships in the traditional sense may be dead, but if it’s local across the target audience, topic, and local to your area that can be a solid win.
  • Guest Post can be powerful if it’s a real local blogger, locally and topically relevant.

When you focus only on Domain Authority for your local link building campaigns, you’re going to end up missing out on opportunities that are both topically and locally relevant, which are both way more important and stronger signals/factors when it comes to earning links as a local business. 

Pro Prospecting Tip: Doing your prospecting through Google – Gyi loves to use the MozBar (a Chrome/FireFox extension) that allows you to export all the Search Results into a CSV. If you tack on a little parameter &num=100 to the URL after you run the search, you can get all 100 search results exported in a spreadsheet and work through that, rather than drilling through the results.

Local link building is a grind – embrace the suck!

Re-framing is critical and will help you during all your link building campaigns. If you hold yourself accountable for topical and local relevance, the list isn’t as long as you think.  It’s not about going out and trying to get 100s of linking root domains, it’s about trying to get like 25 solid ones. Spend the time getting to know the business or site you’re trying to go after. From an email outreach standpoint, if you’re cold emailing you’re not going to get a lot of traction, take the time to develop rapport with the business to get more positive and engaged responses to your outreach.  

In local you don’t need the volume, you need to be relationship-focused and locally-focused. 

[Quiz Result] Are Appointment-Only Businesses Allowed a GMB Listing?


We had 817 people answer this question in our 2020 Local SEO Blackbelt Quiz. The correct answer is yes.

Here’s how the answers broke down.

appointment GMB's

Google My Business currently doesn’t have an option for hours to allow businesses to indicate they are available by appointment only.  If a business is appointment-only, Google states that it shouldn’t provide hours on their listing.

For example, the home-based massage therapist can set themselves up as a storefront as long as they don’t set business hours because they don’t want people walking up without making an appointment.  If the customers are coming to the massage therapist’s house they would want to keep the address visible (not hide it).

This does not mean that virtual offices that are used to meet clients occasionally (by appointment) are allowed since they would not be regularly staffed.

So What?

Google My Business has never had a perfect way to indicate that you are a by-appointment-only business. However, removing your hours, as well as adding a blurb to your GMB description, and perhaps even your Google Posts, is a great way to indicate to customers that you are only available by appointment. Lastly, make sure to select the “Appointment Required” GMB attribute that was launched in 2020.

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[Quiz Result] Can a Food Truck Have a GMB Listing If They Don’t Have a Permanent Location?

can a food truck have a GMB listing?

This is part 1 in a series of posts that will dive into the questions, and answers, from the 2020 Local SEO Blackbelt Quiz. If you haven’t taken the quiz, head over there now and give it a shot. 

Here are the scores from the following quiz question.

Can a food truck have a GMB listing if they don’t have a permanent location?

We had over 900 respondents answer this question. Here’s how the answers break down. The correct answer is Yes.


Food Trucks are businesses but are often unable to use Google My Business due to their inability to receive mail.  If they don’t accept mail at their location, or their location isn’t permanent, they have two options:

  1. If they want to utilize Google My Business, they are allowed to set up a listing as a service area business using their home address but it won’t show their location or have a pin on the map.
  2. If they do have a permanent location but just can’t get mail, they can technically be added as a place on Google Maps but wouldn’t be allowed to utilize Google My Business.  This would be a better option if having a map pin & driving directions outweighs the need to respond to reviews or do posts.   According to a post on the MapMaker Forum, which has since closed:

“If a truck is always in the same spot from X o’clock to Y o’clock on (a) particular day(s) of the week then I would interpret the guidelines as saying we can map it, whether it moves at night nor not.”

To add a location via Google Maps, follow these instructions. Note: With this option, it won’t be possible to manage or verify the listing via Google My Business but the listing will still rank.

Stay tuned for part 2 in the Local SEO Blackbelt Quiz results series. 

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Why Doesn’t GMB Insights Data Match Search Console: A Case Study of 78 Listings & 1,560 Keywords


Keyword research in Local Search can be hard.  When you’re working with small businesses you are often working with small sites with very limited data.  Many of the popular keyword research tools show zero data or won’t allow you to get data specific to the city the business is targeting so people often default back to Google’s tools.  In Local Search, there are two different places where you could look for this – Search Console and Google My Business (GMB) Insights.  I wanted to see how these tools stack up against each other and if they essentially tell the same story.


  • In this case study, 66% of the top 10 keyword lists for Search Console vs Google My Business Insights were different (click to Tweet)
  • Search queries inside Google My Business Insights are reflecting unique users, unlike impressions in Search Console. (click to Tweet)
  • 1 Quarter in GMB Insights is not real-time and doesn’t display data from the last 3 months. (click to Tweet)
  • Search Console is not tracking impressions from the local pack that happen on mobile devices (click to Tweet)
  • Search Console impression data includes searches done by rank trackers.  Although one ranking report could trigger thousands of impressions in Search Console, it should only show up as 1 device/user inside Google My Business Insights. (click to Tweet)
  • Explicit keywords (ex: “plumber Chicago”) do not convert better than implicit queries (ex: “plumber”) (click to Tweet).


In this case study, we looked at 78 different GMB listings for 29 different businesses.  For each one, we took the top 10 queries inside Search Console for the last 3 months and compared it to what Google My Business Insights was showing for the last quarter.  


Inside Search Console, we made sure to only look at the impressions that were for the page containing the UTM code.

We then took the keyword lists and categorized every keywords into 4 groups:

  1. Near Me – These were queries that included “near me” or a close variant.  For example, “divorce lawyer near me”.
  2. Branded – These were keywords that included the specific name of a local company or one of their employees/practitioners.
  3. Implicit Queries – These are search queries that are local in nature but don’t specify a specific location.  For example, “divorce lawyer”.
  4. Explicit Queries – These were search queries that include a location.  For example, “Divorce Lawyer Denver” or “Divorce Lawyer Colorado”.

Search Console top search queries are very different than what you’ll see in Google My Business Insights.

After compiling all the data, we found that 66% of the top 10 queries were different.  For example, this was how the data differed for a plastic surgeon.  There was only 1 keyword that was in both top-10 lists.

Google My Business Search Console
1 Rhinoplasty Brad Patt
2 Rhinoplasty Houston Rhinoplasty
3 Lip Fillers Dr Bradford Patt
4 Nose Job Houston Lip Enhancements
5 Nose Surgery Dr Patt
6 Lip Injections Houston Bradford Patt
7 Botox Facial Plastic Surgery Houston
8 Plastic Surgery Houston Deviated Septum Doctor Houston
9 Lip Injections Lip Enhancements Near Me
10 Lip Fillers Houston Nose Reconstruction Houston

This led me to want to dig into finding out why the lists differed so much and figure out which one was more accurate.

    1. Google My Business Insights Reports on Unique Users.  Unlike any other metric available to us, search queries in GMB Insights represent unique visits.  Technically, it might report on the same person twice if they’re using different devices, but at least it’s not going to increase the numbers when I search 10 different things on my computer while researching for a client.  Impressions in Search Console, on the other hand, are not unique.search queries in GMB Insights
  1. 1 Quarter in GMB Insights is not the last 3 months.
    The second reason why the data sets didn’t match is because 1 quarter in GMB Insights is not representing the last 3 months. I didn’t know this until recently when I started digging and found this example.
    This screenshot for 1 quarter was pulled on May 13, 2020. It’s for a business that does lawn care in the summer and installs Christmas lights in the winter. Due to how much we monitor his website traffic, ads, and various other places, I’m extremely confident that massive searches for Christmas lights installation do not happen after Christmas is over. Also, common sense is helpful here. The last 3 months would be February – April if this was true. Additionally, I checked back on this several times over the course of a couple of weeks and the numbers didn’t update. Google doesn’t state how often they fetch these but they are not in real-time.  The fact that I was looking at the last 3 months in Search Console and an undefined time period in GMB Insights is another explanation why these data sets didn’t match.
  2. Search Console is not tracking impressions from the local pack that happen on mobile devices.
    This is a fact that many people don’t realize.  Search Console is tracking everywhere your website appears whereas GMB Insights is tracking everywhere your GMB listing appears.
    GMB Insights vs Search Console
    This becomes problematic when you realize that most local packs on mobile devices are missing the website icon, which essentially means all these searches/impressions will be missing in Search Console.
    This causes even more of a discrepancy when you start to realize how different the algorithms are for local packs and organic search results.  There are tons of keywords that rank businesses for one and not the other.  For example, if you look at the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for “Botox”, you’ll see that there is a local pack at the top but the rest of the search results are highly favoring national sites that no small business stands a shot competing with.
    We also see that sometimes the local pack will show businesses local to that area but yet the organic results show businesses in the next town over.  For example, when I search “car accident lawyer” from Aurora, ON, I get a local pack showing lawyers in Aurora but the organic results show me businesses in Toronto which is 40 minutes away.
    We see this pattern more often with implicit queries so it wasn’t surprising to see that 40% of the search queries that were in our GMB list and missing from the Search Console list were implicit.  According to our study, “Botox” was on the top 10 for the plastic surgeon in Google My Business and had 49 unique users, yet it wasn’t on the top 10 list from Search Console because it only had 18 impressions for 3 months.  At first, this makes no sense until you realize that most of the impressions they are getting from this query are coming from local packs on mobile devices.  According to Search Console, he’s getting 6x more clicks for “botox” queries on mobile devices.
    Botox Search ConsoleRemember that the website icon isn’t appearing in local packs and he ranks nowhere organically.  This means he’s only getting an impression logged if someone clicks on his listing (because at that point Google shows the website icon).  It makes the CTR in Search Console for the GMB listing look ridiculous but it all makes sense once you realize that most of the mobile searches are simply not counting as impressions because the website icon isn’t present until the person clicks on the listing.
  3. Search Console is tracking impressions from ranking trackers.  We realized this pretty quickly when diving into some data in Search Console.  We have a particular client with an extremely large report that tracks tons of keywords from various geo-coordinates.  Take a guess at which day the report runs:
    Although one ranking report could trigger thousands of impressions in Search Console, it should only show up as 1 device/user inside Google My Business Insights.  Darren Shaw, who operates a local search ranking tracker, confirmed that if you used a tracker that tracks both mobile and desktop, it might log as 2 in Google My Business Insights since there would be two different devices.  From the case study, 40% of the top Search Console keywords that didn’t show up in Google My Business were explicit.  I believe the reason for this is the local search community’s habit of focusing on these keywords.  I generally hear things like “I don’t rank for ‘plumber Chicago’” a lot more than I hear “I don’t rank for ‘plumber’”.  I think it’s possible that some people also assume that explicit keywords would convert better because they are more specific.  That also turned out to be false according to our case study.  When we dove into the Google Ads accounts for 15 of these businesses and looked at a sample of 894 conversions*, we found that implicit queries actually converted at a higher rate overall.
    https://www.sterlingsky.ca/It also varied quite a bit across different clients, so it’s important to make sure you’re tracking and looking at both.



We learned a lot in this study but if you work in the local search industry, these should be your main takeaways:

  1.  Search queries inside Google My Business insights is a valuable metric that should not be ignored.
  2. Search impressions inside Search Console should not be used as a method to pick keywords; use click data instead.
  3. Make sure you are tracking both implicit and explicit keywords.  Get rid of the thinking that one is better than the other.

*We specifically looked at keywords that had at least 100 impressions over the last year to get a better sense of how higher searched explicit vs implicit terms were stacking up.

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What is a Google Guaranteed GMB Listing? How Do I Upgrade my Profile to get the badge?

More importantly, from a consumer perspective the Google Guarantee acts as protection from poor quality of service, up to a lifetime maximum of $2,000. So if you hire a business and the work quality is extremely low and you can’t resolve it with the business, you can submit a claim to Google. 

How much does it cost to upgrade your GMB profile?

Google advertises Google Guaranteed upgraded business profiles for $50USD/month and is subscription based, so if you cancel – bye bye badge. 

What are the add-ons that are included?

Google mentions additional add-ons in their advertisement within the GMB dashboard, these include recorded phone calls and dedicated support. Enabling the upgrade creates a Local Services Ads account, so this will likely utilize the same interface as LSA offers to listen to recorded calls. I believe the dedicated support will be specific to the LSA features of the upgrade since LSA support appears to be the staff you’ll be routed to if you have issues.

This is likely how the badge will appear on the listing of a business that has enabled the upgrade:

Who is the upgraded GMB listing available to?

While this new offering is available for “eligible businesses”, it’s unclear at this point which businesses this includes. I spotted this inside the Google My Business dashboard for a US-based HVAC business. Based on testing I’ve seen I believe it will only be available for some home service business categories including HVAC, plumbers, electricians, roofing, carpet cleaning, house cleaning, pest control, water damage restoration, tree services, and landscaping.

When did the upgraded GMB listing become available? When will other businesses get access?

I first noticed this on July 22, 2020 and I believe it is limited to a small percentage of listings. Just because you are in one of the impacted categories doesn’t mean you will have the option to upgrade. It is unknown if and when it will expand to additional businesses or categories.

How can you apply for an upgraded GMB listing?

The first eligible businesses were notified within their GMB dashboards and there’s currently no way to apply for the program if it’s not yet available for your business.

What’s involved in the screening process?

The screening process appears to be the same as it is for Local Services ads. This varies a little based on the category of the business but generally involves license, insurance and background checks. More information about the screening process can be found here: https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/6226575

Does it make sense in light of this new upgrade, for businesses in the eligible categories to apply for Local Services Ads now in hopes of having future access to the GMB profile upgrade?

I initially assumed they would start with businesses already in Local Services Ads for two reasons:

  1. The businesses I saw with the option to upgrade were already in LSA
  2. It would be easy for them to enable the feature since they had already successfully completed the screening process to be in LSA

From what I’ve gathered since, that appears to be incorrect. I believe the GMB updated program, at least initially, is intended for businesses that are NOT already in Local Services Ads

Is Google done with Local Services Ads now?

Absolutely not! If anything, Google Guaranteed business listings may be a supplement or doorway to Local Services Ads, not a replacement. 

When Can Google Maps / GMB Content Cause Google Ads Disapprovals?

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Any restricted terms that find their way into your website’s source code can cause Google to disapprove your Google Ads (AdWords) ad – even if you didn’t personally add that content to your site.  That’s the short answer.

“Banned” terms that show up on your Google My Business page (like in your description) or on Google Maps (in the form of Google reviews) won’t prompt Google to pull your ads, as long as that content stays on your GMB page(s) or in your reviews.  You run into trouble only if a person or piece of software puts even one of those restricted terms onto your site.


By the way, I find it tiresome to call them “restricted terms” or “disallowed content” or whatever constitutes Google’s huge no-fly list of search terms in AdWords.  So from now on I’ll just refer to them as BAdWords.

Beware review widgets – at least the kind that “streams” online reviews (like Google Maps reviews) and sticks them onto your site in any way.  That was the toe-popper one of my clients and I stepped on recently.  The widget automatically embedded the content of my client’s patients’ Google Maps and Facebook reviews onto his site.  The content of the reviews wasn’t visible ON his site, but the widget would update the star rating and review count as patients wrote new reviews.  I never cared much for the functionality of that widget, but it didn’t seem to do harm, so we kept it around on the site.

This particular review widget wasn’t a problem for several years, until a patient mentioned a certain medical procedure by name in his (5-star) Google review of my client.  The BAdWord in this case was the name of a therapy that everyone has heard of, but that some people have held objections to for many years, and that some shady characters have given a bad name in recent years.  Places like the Mayo Clinic (what do they know?) offer the procedure, but that didn’t matter to Google.  Soon after the patient wrote the Google review, the widget picked it up, the BAdWord showed up in the site’s source code, Google detected a BAdWord in the source code, and 11 of our ads went to nap time.

The solution was to remove the review widget.  If you run into the issue I described, that’s probably the solution for you, too.

Also beware the difference between what’s indexed in Google and what’s in your site’s source code.  A “site:” search operator won’t necessarily turn up the phrase(s) over which Google has pulled your ads.  The source code can contain a BAdWord that isn’t in Google’s cache, but that the Ads department knows about anyway.  I found that out when a site:exampleclientssite.com search didn’t turn up the BAdWord that caused our ads to be pulled.  It was only when I viewed the source code that I found the term in the review widget that pulled in the Google reviews.  So if you’re a “local” business that just got hit with an AdWords ad disapproval you can’t figure out, and you’re checking your site for BAdWords, don’t assume a site:yoursite.com search will turn them up.  You’ll need to scour your Google Maps reviews, too.

By the way, this isn’t too related to GMB or Google Maps, but also beware your outbound links.  One of the BAdWords that caused Google to disapprove my client’s ads was in the URL slug of a site my client linked TO.  In other words, Google didn’t like the name of a page on a site we linked out to.  For Google, everything in your site’s source code is fair game, and one BAdWord anywhere can trigger a disapproval.


If you’re corresponding with a Google Ads support rep (as I imagine you are), be sure to ask for the specific pages on your site where restricted terms supposedly lurk.  Then view the source code of those pages.  From there, finding the culprit should be pretty easy.

Once we got rid of the review widget that pulled the BAdWord into the site, and we removed that one pesky outbound link, Google reinstated our ads (after some back-and-forth, of course).  Didn’t change a thing on the Google My Business side.

The link between GMB / Google Maps content and Ads disapprovals is your site.  Any GMB / Maps content that doesn’t find it’s way onto your site (destination URL) won’t result in an Ads slap.  I can tell you first-hand that including restricted terms in your Google My business description and “services” section doesn’t trigger a disapproval.  I assume that is also true of GMB “products” and posts, though I haven’t tempted the gods by testing out either of those.  BAdWords in Google Maps reviews also don’t trigger ad disapprovals – again, as long as those reviews don’t make it onto the website you use for Ads.

What about location extensions?  Enabling those can get your GMB page into the “paid 3-pack,” courtesy of Google Ads.  In that way, you’re pretty clearly associating your GMB page, Google reviews, website, and ads with each other.  You’d think location extensions would instantly trigger an ad disapproval, but they don’t.  At least in my experience so far.  So even if your GMB page or Google reviews mention Ads-disapproved terms, you don’t have to turn off your location extensions in Ads.  Again, Google only cares what’s on your site and in your ad text.

Last but not least, a Google Ads disapproval won’t cause a Google My Business suspension or other penalty.  Of course, it’s always possible to do something that’s against both Ads and GMB policy (like promoting an illegal product or service), in which case maybe you can manage to get yourself in trouble in both places.  But a Google Ads slap by itself won’t provoke a GMB slap.


As Google continues to smoosh pay-per-click and GMB together and push more “local” businesses into advertising, I expect more business owners to run into infuriating problems like this one, where you’re in the odd position of being able to promote a service or product on GMB but not in Ads, or vice versa.  On the plus side, I’ve long found the Ads support staff generally helpful , whereas GMB “support” ranges from useless to nonexistent.

Have you run into any Google Ads problems that seem to tie in with GMB, or vice versa?  Leave a comment!

Local Mailbag: How can I get access to my GMB listing and remove the users that have claimed it?

My Request Was Denied, Now What?

In the event that you are denied access to your business listing, you should receive an email that states

“Your request to access [Business Name] on Google My Business was rejected.”

At the bottom of the email there should be an option to appeal this decision. When you click this link, you will be prompted to follow steps to verify the listing and take it over. Verification will either be via phone or postcard and in some instances you may be asked for additional information.

Important: If the original owner of the listing does not grant you the access, then anything added by that owner will not transfer with the listing, including photos and review responses, if access is gained in the appeal process. But customer reviews and photos will still be attached to the listing. 

Tip: Before starting the request ownership process for a business listing, make sure that the address and phone number published are correct. If this business information is wrong, use the Suggest An Edit feature first to update the Business Profile. 

If you are unable to Appeal the decision (some people have encountered instances of not having the appeal link in the email). We recommend that you:

  1. Get in touch through one of Google’s support channels
  2. Reach out to product experts for help via the Community Forum

Managing User Roles

How to Transfer Primary Ownership
Only the primary owner can transfer ownership of a Business Profile, and only to an existing owner or manager. If the person that should be the primary owner is not currently added as a user on the listing, add them as an additional owner or manager, and then transfer the role of Primary Owner to that user.  

  1. Log in to the GMB dashboard
  2. In the Menu on the left, select Users
  3. From the list of users, select the user whom you’d like to transfer primary ownership to. Their user role will be noted to the right of their name with a dropdown menu. Open the dropdown menu and select Primary Owner.
  4. Click Transfer and Done.


How to Remove or Limit a User’s Access
Only an Owner can add or edit another user’s access. 

  1. Log in to the GMB dashboard
  2. In the Menu on the left, select Users
  3. From the list of users, select the user whose role you’d like to change.  Their user role will be noted to the right of their name with a dropdown menu. Open the dropdown menu and select Manager, Site Manager, or Remove from the dropdown menu.
  4. Click Done

Listing Management Best Practices for Business Owners

Who should be the primary owner? 
The business owner should always be the primary owner of their business listing.

Who should have access and at what level?
Sometimes marketing agencies may need Owner access to sync tools or reporting, but should be trusted by the business owner before this high level of access is given. GMB listing Owners can remove any other Owner

Did You Know: You can add an agency as a user by entering their Agency ID. This confuses a lot of businesses owners, however you can add an agency by entering their 10-digit agency ID in the field where you can add a new user by email address.

Our Google My Business Management Service optimizes every feature of Google My Business listings, syncs with external reporting software and tools and does not require Owner access. In fact, if a business gives us Owner access, we demote our access to Manager. Why? It’s better for marketing agencies to have the manager role to “silo” the business from any flagged activity from other users or business listings they own. 

Can I use my personal email to manage my GMB? Or must I use an email with my business email domain? Why?
You can use any email address to create and manage your GMB listing. We recommend using your email address at your business domain for a stronger trust signal to Google Support that you are the legitimate owner of the business. This can be very helpful in gaining access to your listing if it’s currently owned by a Google User whose email address is not associated with your business domain. 

Successfully taking ownership of your GMB listing from another user can be a long and trying process, but it’s worth the effort to unlock your Business Profile.

Have a Local Question? Send it Our Way

That’s it for this edition of Whitespark’s Local Mailbag, but if you have a local search question that you need help answering, leave it in the comments or email our team.

Local Mailbag #1 – GMB Post Rejections, View My Plan, Located In, and More!

Welcome to the first edition of our new blog series, Local Mailbag! Here we will answer your questions on local search, Google My Business, and other related topics. If you have a question, send it our way. You can email our team, or ask your question in the comments!

Topics we are tackling in this article:

1) My Google Post is being rejected, can you please share the reason why it’s happening?

In the first few weeks of February, many users reported that their Posts were being rejected, and additional businesses and consultants echoed these sentiments on Twitter. This turned out to be a bug that Google has since fixed, so it is possible that your business was just experiencing Post rejections in error.

From our experience, however, a Google Post can get rejected for the following reasons:

  1. Prohibited content guidelines for photos and videos – The image or video you are using is not acceptable.
  2. Links to sites irrelevant to the business – You added a URL in the Post content that isn’t associated with your listing’s website URL.
  3. Inappropriate and offensive content – You are using certain words or inappropriate language that can result in a rejection.

It’s important to be aware of Google’s content policy and the rules around photo and video format and requirements.

Based on Google’s guidelines here are some things you can test for Posts going forward.


  • Don’t use slang, offensive words, hateful, obscene, profane or violent content. There are some words that we wouldn’t consider offensive but that can trigger Google’s filter and result in a rejected post.
  • Don’t use too many exclamation points or all caps.
  • Don’t include multiple offers in a post
  • Don’t forget to spell check.
  • Avoid gibberish, and use of gimmicky characters (ex.H@ppy Fr1Y@y).


  • Don’t publish blurry, excessively dark, or low resolution photos or videos.

“To be relevant, photos or videos must be taken by users at the location in question. Stock imagery, or photos or videos taken by other parties, are not relevant and may be removed. If the primary subject of the content is irrelevant to the location, it may be removed.”

  • Don’t use screenshots, drawings, posters, and other non-photos.
  • If you are adding text or graphics (such as your logo) to an image, your content cannot take up more than 10% of the image or video, must be limited to a single edge, and must be relevant.

With regards to using stock imagery, we license photos and use them when it is relevant to the business and have not yet experienced having them removed, however, they could be removed eventually. Depending on the industry your business is in, you may need to access a stock photo here or there, and we say go for it! Check out our Posts guide to learn more about this feature.

Mastering GMB with Help from the Local University Faculty

When it comes to local rankings, every business wants to be in the local pack. But, what really affects local pack rankings? Joy put common theories to the test to share what does have an impact, and what doesn’t.

The results are in and according to Joy’s research, the following efforts do not impact your GMB listing’s ability to rank.

Linking to your GMB listing.
Stick to focusing your link building efforts on your website. It won’t do you much good to direct links to your listing.

Adding GMB products.
Using the Products feature didn’t increase rankings or lead to a noticeable increase in clickthrough rate, but there’s still value in using this feature.

Keywords in image file names.
Save yourself time and energy by not over optimizing your photo and video files with keywords, it won’t help you rank.

Keywords in your business name for Google Ads.
In a test on a rebranded business, impressions actually decreased on the location extension in Google Ads. It’s important to note that GMB business data does not automatically sync to Google Ads – it needs to be resynced to reflect updates.

A combination of having an impact and not having an impact: Adding/Removing Additional Categories.
Does having more categories on your listing hurt ranking? We know that the Primary Category you choose for your GMB listing is an important local ranking factor. But what about Additional Categories? Category dilution is a theory that multiple related but generic Additional Categories negatively impact the listing’s ability to rank for the Primary Category and related keywords. The results of this test showed that adding or removing related, generic Additional Categories on a listing had no impact on ranking for the Primary Category and related keywords.

But on the flip side, adding Additional Categories for your other services can help your listing rank for those categories (we did a case study on this).

Then, what does have an impact local pack rankings?

The local filter.
The local filter is a function in Google Maps that hides listings it considers to be too similar or duplicates.

Merging duplicate listings.
You would be wise to merge any duplicate listings with your main Business Profile. Duplicate listings can ruin your rankings. In one example, a client who was in 10th-15th place moved up to the 2nd position after removing a duplicate. According to Joy, the local filter is directly influenced by a website URL, location on the map, and (possibly) the phone number.

Removing keywords from competitor business names.
Spam fighting and reporting incorrect business names that are being keyword stuffed by your competitors will help decrease their rankings.