Google Maps Spam

The Truth About Google Business Profile Keyword Spam

In SEO by Ryan Freeman

According to the 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors report, your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business/GMB) is the most heavily weighted factor that influences your Local Pack ranking. (It even has a not-insignificant influence on your organic ranking, too!)

It’s understandable, then, that making the tweaks and pulling the levers that optimize your GBP can be very valuable. And the temptation to transgress Google policy can be very strong indeed.

Tempting for business owners, yes. But tempting also for SEO agencies looking for cheap quick wins to justify their fees. Which is why I’m so grateful that the first thing Bruce Clay ever taught me was not about page rank or meta tags… he started with “Do no harm.” It is the responsibility of the agency to never do something that could cause harm to the client’s business.

Google has very clear policies about what is and isn’t acceptable within the components of a Google Business Profile. 

This especially applies to your business name.

What Should Your Business Name Be?

According to Google, your name should ‘reflect your business’s real-world name.’ It needs to match the name used on your:

  • Storefront
  • Website 
  • Stationery

Essentially, your name should match how your customers refer to your brand. 

This means that you shouldn’t include any extra info. Examples might include:

  • Marketing tags
  • Store codes
  • Business info
  • Special Characters
  • Services and products 
Google’s policy clearly prohibits adding service areas or features to the business name.

Do Businesses Include Keywords In Their Names?

You might have noticed that some businesses use keywords in their business name. These will often go far beyond the guidelines laid out by Google. 

GBP Business Name Spam is nothing new. And always a bad idea.

Why do they do this? They think that adding keywords to their name will boost ranking. Research supports this idea. According to Moz, adding keywords to your business name can lead to more traffic. 

Why Is Adding Keywords A Mistake?

While adding keywords can boost your ranking temporarily, the results may be short-lived. Since Google’s official policies don’t allow keywords, you may receive a penalty for this action. 

This could be a soft or hard suspension. 

A Soft suspension will mean you can no longer manage the listing. In this case, the rank may suffer as your customizations and updated info could be lost. 

A worse scenario is a hard suspension. Here the listing is completely removed. You can no longer get sales. 

Why Do People Add Keywords?

Some Businesses are willing to risk stuffing keywords in their Google Business profile name. They think that their increase in ranking is worth it. They might also be aware that Google has a patchy record when taking action against businesses that have added keywords. 

One report suggests that Google only warned businesses about keyword stuffing in 60% of cases. Note, these were warnings not suspensions. Suspensions were only applied 20% of the time and this was after a business repeatedly added keywords. 

So despite their warnings, Google does show some leniency. However, if you add keywords, you could still be singled out and receive a suspension. Google doesn’t always follow set guidelines here. So, you could receive a suspension far more quickly than another business that has stuffed its name with keywords. And repeat offenders are much more likely to receive the hard suspension.

As an SEO agency, we have to decide if broadly employing the use of spam is an ethical choice, knowing that 20-60% of our clients could be adversely affected by it. Even if only 20% of our clients are harmed, does that justify the choice to resort to spam to make our own results look better?

Is There A Way To Add Keywords That Matches Google Policies?

You can add keywords in a way that matches Google policies. To do this, you need to legally change your business name to include keywords. This is a popular tactic in the legal sector. Many law firms have been renamed to include the words ‘ injury lawyers.’ 

Even then, you can wind up with a dozen businesses in the same area with near-identical names. Is it worth creating a branding nightmare just to maybe rank a bit higher? (At least until the next algo change from Google!)

We hope this helps you understand why you shouldn’t stuff your Google Business profile name with keywords. This could cause lasting damage to your brand if Google does decide to act. (Or if a competitor reports your spammy behaviour just ahead of a holiday season!)