Can I List My Business on Google Maps Using a Virtual Office?

Services: Law Firm Website Design . SEO . Internet Marketing . Law Firm Marketing Guide . Content Marketing . PPC

Virtual office spaces are popular options for law firms, especially when the majority of those in the office are working remotely. However, when it comes to listing a virtual office on Google maps, you may run into issues with getting it live and verified. Using a virtual office has been an issue for several years, but we have noticed that Google has continued to crack down on this more and more.

Google’s Guidelines on Virtual Offices

The guidelines on how to represent your business on Google covers a multitude of elements, but we’ve included below the specific items that directly apply to your physical location and therefore may affect your verification status as a virtual office.

Google Business Profile Guidelines

  • Represent your business as it’s consistently represented and recognized in the real world across signage, stationery, and other branding.
  • Online-only businesses aren’t eligible for Business Profiles.
  • To qualify for a Business Profile on Google, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.
  • Use a precise, accurate address and/or service area to describe your business location. P.O. boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations aren’t acceptable.
  • If your business rents a physical mailing address but doesn’t operate out of that location, also known as a virtual office, that location isn’t eligible for a Business Profile.
  • Businesses can’t list an office at a co-working space unless that office maintains clear signage, receives customers at the location during business hours, and is staffed during business hours by your business staff.
  • Businesses showing their address on Google should maintain permanent fixed signage of their business name at the address.
  • Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
  • If your business doesn’t have a storefront with clear signage but travels to customers at their physical locations, you’re allowed one service-area Business Profile. If you have different locations for your service business, with separate service areas and separate staff at each location, you’re allowed one profile for each location. The boundaries of your profile’s overall service area shouldn’t extend farther than about 2 hours of driving time from where your business is based. For some businesses, larger service areas may be appropriate.

In summary: If you are renting a virtual office space, for it to be eligible for a Google business profile, you must have clear signage, physically meet with clients at this location, and your staff must be present in the office during the hours you list. If all of this does not apply and you set up a listing anyway, you are technically in violation of Google’s guidelines.

Can I list as a service area business instead? if you travel to your clients, you can create your business as a service area listing. Normally in this case you’d use your home address to get it verified, which would not show publicly on the listing. Service area businesses also may be at a disadvantage SEO-ranking wise compared to those with a physical office.

What Happens if I Create a Google Listing for a Virtual Office?

The results will vary, and Google is inconsistent. Many law firms create Google Business profiles for virtual office spaces and have no issues while others struggle. The following scenarios could occur:

  • The listing is verified and online without issue
  • The listing is verified, but later Google suspends it and requests proof the business is following guidelines (such as videos, photos, business documentation, or a combination of these)
  • Google immediately requests proof upon submission such as a live video or other verification method to prove you are abiding by the guidelines. If you are unable to provide this, the profile will not get verified.

In summary: There is no way to know ahead of time if Google will verify your virtual office. Additionally, not every virtual office is treated the same; create a listing at your own risk.

How Will Google Find Out? How Come My Competitors Can Use Virtual Offices?

If you are using a well-known virtual office space, such as Regus or DaVinci, it’s not difficult for Google to make the connection. Simply search for the address and you can see that it is associated with these spaces. Google has access to endless amounts of data, and they utilize these connections from the web as well as the physical street view imagery taken at each location in order to determine the type of office you have.

Additionally, if Google even suspects you are violating guidelines, they can suspend your listing and require you to submit proof to get it back online. They make the rules and if they choose not to verify it, they certainly have the right to do so (even when it may not seem fair).

Yes, it’s true that there ARE virtual office spaces online and verified. Google can’t catch them all and there is no way of knowing when they will suspend a listing until the moment they do.

Should I Use a Virtual Office Space on Google Maps?

This is a question that many law firms struggle with, especially when they primarily work from home. The maintenance cost of a physical office can seem extensive making a virtual office space tempting. However, our recommendation is to follow Google’s guidelines as much as possible to avoid suspension. It can cost a company a lot of money to lease a virtual space, only to find out Google won’t verify it.

PaperStreet aims to educate clients on Google’s best practices and the possible repercussions if their guidelines are not followed. We can submit support tickets to Google and upload any documentation our clients provide to us, but we don’t make the final call if Google listings get verified. Ultimately, deciding to use a virtual office space comes down to a business decision and how much of a risk the firm is willing to take.

Want to Learn More?

Below are some helpful articles to help you manage your Google Business Profile. Contact us if you’d like assistance with yours!

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