How Does Google My Business Penalize Keyword Stuffing: 50 Examples [Case Study] - Sterling Sky Inc

How Does Google My Business Penalize Keyword Stuffing: 50 Examples [Case Study]

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Keyword Stuffing is the practice of adding keywords to your name in Google My Business to help it rank higher.  It’s still a very common practice in Local SEO because it gives you a ranking advantage on Google Maps and in the 3-Pack. The study that came out from Local SEO Guide as well as the Local Search Ranking Factors confirms that having keywords in the name of your Google My Business (GMB) listing does help it rank higher.

How Does Google Penalize Businesses that Add Keywords to their Business Name?

The Google My Business guidelines clearly state that your business name should not include additional keywords:

Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.

As far as we’ve seen, Google has no way of algorithmically catching this so violators of this guideline are only punished if someone catches them and reports them.

In this study, we looked at 50 different cases to see what Google actually does to a listing once someone has reported it.  We were curious about a few things:

  1. How many times will a business keep adding the keywords back after a Google removes them?
  2. Will Google punish a business for keyword stuffing?
  3. What is the punishment? (soft suspension?, hard suspension?, a warning?)

 

Full Disclosure: We regularly go through our clients’ competitors and report them for violating guidelines such as this one.  We also volunteer over at the Google My Business forum where people report such violations so it did not take us long to come up with 50 examples.

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Google has let a business add keywords back to its name on GMB as many as 8 times after being removed, without taking any kind of action such as a warning or soft suspension. – Click to Tweet
  2. Google sent a warning (no punishment) to GMB page owners letting them know that they need to stop keyword stuffing 60% of the time.  – Click to Tweet
  3. Google applied a soft suspension to GMB listings that repeatedly add keywords to their name 20% of the time.
  4. Google applied a hard suspension to GMB listings that repeatedly add keywords to their name 20% of the time.
  5. It’s fairly easy to convince Google that keywords are part of the GMB business name by simply adding them to the logo on the businesses website or adding photos to your GMB that have the logo.
  6. On a couple occasions, when Google removed the one listing (hard suspension), the user just created a new one. They also gave that one a hard suspension and then they created a third listing.
  7. Suggesting an edit on the listing never stopped keyword stuffing from coming back on verified listings.  The only way to fix keyword stuffing is to report it to Google My Business.  Business owners added the keywords back 100% of the time on these cases.

Some definitions to keep in mind:

  • Soft Suspension = This is when the business owner/agency loses the ability to manage the listing inside Google My Business but the listing is still live on Google Maps.  Normally in theses cases, the ranking of the listing is unaffected.
  • Hard Suspension = The listing (along with all the reviews) is completely removed from GMB and Google Maps

Our Analysis

We analyzed 50 listings, mostly in the legal vertical.  All 50 listings we analyzed were keyword stuffing. We added the 50 listings to a spreadsheet and began the process of using the “Suggest an Edit” feature on Google Maps to remove the keywords and correct the name to the actual business name. We checked back on each listing every week to 2 weeks. Some of the listings that were repeat offenders were escalated to Google for review via the GMB Forum.

The following graphs are the results of our analysis.  We found the type of punishment Google administered (warning, soft, hard) seemed to vary and didn’t follow a logical system. Some listings received a suspension after being reported once and some took as many as eight reports and an escalation via the GMB forum.

 

How Many Times Did Users Add Keywords Back After Google Removed Them?

What was the Punishment for Keyword Stuffing?

If you’re wondering what the “warning” looks like from Google My Business, it often comes in the format of an email that looks like this.

Some Case Studies from the GMB Forum

Interested in reviewing some real world examples of keyword stuffing and how frustrating it can be? Here are some interesting examples straight from the GMB Forum.

Forum Thread: Fake reviews and keyword spam in name

The user in this post reported a construction company that was keyword stuffing. Throughout the course of this thread the business added the keywords back to the name five times even though it was escalated to Google repeatedly. As of writing this the keywords are gone. The listing was eventually given a soft suspension as indicated by the fact that the listing is currently unclaimed.

Forum Thread: Company Is using City name in GMB Listing to gain top ranking in city, its not in there legal name

This was a case where the business repeatedly stuffed the GMB name with keywords after Google kept removing them. They were given a soft suspension and eventually given a hard suspension which means their GMB listing was removed from Google Maps altogether.

The listing was eventually reinstated and Google permitted them the keep “Tree Service” as part of their business name.

How to Determine a Business’ Real Business Name:

Joy has a huge section devoted to reporting spam in the Experts Guide to Local SEO.  Here is a section from her guide that will help you determine what to include as evidence in your report to Google.

Just because a business has a keyword in their name, doesn’t mean it’s not a part of their real-world name.  For example, I really know a business called “Custom Signs Near Me Denver”. Here are a few ways you can confirm what the real business name is:

  • Does the business name on the listing match what’s on their sign in Street View?
  • Does the business name on the listing match what is listed on their business license? You can look at how a business is registered by searching for them on their state’s Secretary of State (click here for a list) website.
  • Call the phone number. How do they answer the phone? When you’re making these calls, call from Gmail so that your number is anonymous and they can’t call you back. Many spammers who create tons of fake listings answer their phone with something generic like “Hello, locksmith” or “Hello, service”. Normal businesses generally answer with their business name.  If they answer as just “hello” you can always ask “Hi, I’m trying to make sure I got the right number, what business is this?”
  • Other government documents can be used to verify a business name
  • What name is listed on their website? Often these people will list their name as “keyword 1, 2, 3” on Google yet their About Us page on their website lists their real name.
  • Go take a picture of the actual location. Photos can be used as proof.

16 replies on "How Does Google My Business Penalize Keyword Stuffing: 50 Examples [Case Study]"

  1. This guy builds “Lead Generation sites” he’s in several nearby cities. Here’s just one key word stuffed, as they all are.

    AC Repair New Port Richey  
    5.0
    5 Google reviews
    Air conditioning repair service in New Port Richey, Florida

    Guess I need to learn more about getting these removed, as he ranks very well in the 3 Pac.

    1. Hey Dave,

      I’d suggest posting the listings that are violating the GMB guidelines over at the Google My Business forum. That’s the most effective way to deal with keyword stuffing.

  2. Hi Colan,

    I have a competitor that’s keyword stuffing, but I’m afraid to publicly post at GMB forum for fear of provoking his animosity towards me. Do you have any suggestions as to how to bring the keyword stuffing to Google’s attention privately?

    1. Hey Chuck,

      You can start by submitting an edit to the listing on Google Maps. That is always anonymous. And you can post anonymously at the forum as well. Just use an alias for your profile name. It’s also good to know that the spam section of the GMB forum is not indexed by Google. So the posts won’t show up for searches related to the business on Google search.

  3. What if a business keyword stuffs not his business name, but his department name?
    Example: ‘Suzie’s Fashion (Custom branded handbag department)’

    When pointed out that ‘custom branded handbag’ is a form of keyword stuffing, Suzie protests that that is her department’s name.

    1. Hey Susan, that would be considered keyword stuffing too. From the GMB Quality guidelines:

      Publicly-facing departments that operate as distinct entities should have their own page. The exact name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. Typically such departments have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories. Their hours may sometimes differ from those of the main business.

      Acceptable (as distinct listings):
      “Walmart Vision Center”
      “Sears Auto Center”
      “Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology”
      Not acceptable (as distinct listings):
      The Apple products section of Best Buy
      The hot food bar inside Whole Foods Market
      For each department, the category that is the most representative of that department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments.

  4. When I notice a keyword stuffed business name I have found that submiting edits that just include one maybe two word edits seem to be approved almost 100% of the time and usually within 24 hours. Keeping it small always works. I go back a few days later and then submit other edits if the keyword phrase was maybe 4 words. Takes a few edits but usually works.

  5. Good Analysis Colan, I really appreciate the efforts you made to create this outstandingly analyzed and calculated Data.
    I would Like to add that suggesting edit to the same listing (Competitor) again and again with the same IP and Id won’t change anything!
    Keep Sharing Such case studies Colan! Cheers!!

  6. Very nice case study Colan, Everyone tries to stuff their keywords in more places, no one can think use keywords but on right places. Your case study helps him allot.
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Colan, if a business were to do a dba as in going from “Jenny’s Flowers” to “Jenny’s Flowers dba Jenny’s Flowers West Portland”, would that be okay with Google, as long as their website also had that verbiage?

    1. Hi Chris,

      That would be ok, yes. Businesses do that all the time. You might run into issues with users reporting the listing for keyword stuffing incorrectly but in that case you can easily correct it. In addition to the website, the business signage needs to reflect the real-world name too.

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