Buried within an announcement by Google about scammers and robocalls was more important news that affects SEOs who manage Google My Business listings. Google is planning to launch a directory of whitelisted third parties that manage Google My Business (GMB) listings and has also created a complaint form.
Google Trusted Partners Directory
Google’s new directory is a part of a new program called, Google My Business Partners program.
The announcement stated that Google will promote the new directory to businesses enrolled in the Google My Business (GMB) program. Here’s the official statement:
“We’re launching the Google My Business Partners program. The program will give business owners a directory of trusted partners to choose from when they need help managing their listings.”
Non-approved third parties will still be able to manage GMB listings, but they will not be on the list of approved parties that will be promoted to small businesses by Google.
How to Become Listed in Google’s Directory?
The announcement made no mention of how to join the approved SEO whitelist.
However there was a related announcement published on May 1, 2018. The article was titled, Making Google My Business Work for Agency and Platform Partners. The article was about an improved API. But buried at the end of the article was the important information about the Google My Business Partners program:
“And for the first time, agencies will be able to sign up and register for a Google My Business account. Registered agencies will get access to a brand new agency dashboard designed with our partners needs in mind.
…this month we’re launching the Google My Business Partners program. Trusted partners will be eligible for early access to new Google My Business features, a partner manager, and the potential to be featured on the Google My Business website.”
Sign up to be the first to know when our new solutions for agencies and platform partners officially launch.”
Here is the Sign Up Form to sign up form for more information.
Google My Business Complaint Form
As part of the anti-scam initiative, Google has announced a new complaint form. Google My Business participants can report violations through the new Complaint Form Tool.
Here is what the complaint form tool promises:
“Use this form to report a third party you believe is violating Google My Business third-party policies.
A “Third party (3P)” is an agency that manages business information on Google My Business for a business they don’t own.The Google third party policy applies to any third party (person or organization) that manages a Google My Business location on behalf of their customers, such as a digital marketing agency. If you have an issue with a Google My Business third party, try to resolve it with them directly before contacting Google.
…Our team can investigate violation reports and address areas of improvement with the third party directly, if necessary. We do not share the outcome of any investigation into third party violations.”
What Violations Can Be Reported to Google?
Google’s complaint tool has eight violations a business owner can choose from, plus an “other” category for other violations.
Here are the eight violation categories:
Third party that is repeatedly calling or making robocalls
Third party claimed your Google My Business listing without your consent or by extorting consent from you
Third party is misrepresenting its relationship with Google (e.g. they claim to be Google employees or to have an official partnership with Google)
Third party claims it can guarantee top placement in Google Search or Maps
Third party is demanding money to either get your business listed or continue to stay listed on Google (Note: Third parties are permitted to charge for maintenance services, but Google My Business is a free product and does not require a fee to list your business )
Third Party engages in deceptive or harassing marketing and sales practices (e.g. threats of degrading business’s search ranking)
Third party is not being transparent with clients (e.g. not disclosing management fees, failing to provide aggregated Google My Business performance data)
Third party is representing your business’s information inaccurately on Google Maps”
Can Google’s Complaint Tool be Abused?
Google requires that a business owner identify themself by their name, address, email, phone number and a link to their business on Google Maps. It might be difficult for a rogue competitor to take over unclaimed business listings, change the official business phone numbers and build websites for the businesses in order to file false complaints. It is highly unlikely that this tool could be abused.
Businesses must identify themselves in order to submit a complaint about a third party GMB listing management agency.
Google’s GMB Partner Policies
Google has published a support page outlining the Google My Business 3rd Party Policies. The policies cover issues such as being transparent about management fees, the ability to easily end the GMB management service and other disclosures.
Here’s a sample:
“End customers have the right to expect third parties to act in a fair, honest and transparent manner and in accordance with Google My Business policies. To this end, you must adhere to the following policies. Failure to adhere to these policies may result in a suspension for the listing and/or account.
Ensure that the end customer understands what Google My Business is and where Google My Business data is used.
Inform the end customer about how you will manage the Google My Business listing. See Transparency requirements for more details.
Comply with Google My Business policies.
Once the account is set up, we encourage you to transfer ownership of the listings to your client.”
Google Cleans Up the GMB Ecosystem
This should be good news for the SEO industry. Scammers tend to give our industry a bad name. If you are a third party that manages Google My Business listings for customers, you may wish to keep updated on Google’s new directory.
Read the official announcement here: Taking Action Against Scammers
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