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.
A seriously legit looking business name. #StopCrapOnTheMap pic.twitter.com/GJLFacma4t
— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) August 13, 2018
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:
- How many times will a business keep adding the keywords back after a Google removes them?
- Will Google punish a business for keyword stuffing?
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Google applied a soft suspension to GMB listings that repeatedly add keywords to their name 20% of the time.
- Google applied a hard suspension to GMB listings that repeatedly add keywords to their name 20% of the time.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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: 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.
This Post Has 37 Comments
Pretty discouraging that Google doesn’t take this stuff seriously.
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 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.
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.
Thanks for the article.
Could you give me link to similar posts at the GMB forum so I could see where to publish it etc.?
The GMB forum doesn’t have a spam section these days. If you search the forum for “keyword stuffing” you might find some threads though.
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?
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.
Thank you, Colan.
You’re welcome Chuck
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.
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.
I understand now, thank you Colan!
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.
Thanks for sharing that David!
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!!
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!
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?
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.
Great Article. What do you think about that many SEO agencies are creating fake locations ?
It is unfortunate but will continue to happen as long as there is money to be made.
Thanks for sharing this amazing article. I have read and found very important information.
Thank you for sharing this! I always wondered about the keyword stuffing done by my competitors! Thanks for suggesting the action and it was disheartening to now that Google is not taking much action on the serail offenders! But I hope the things change and the punishment is severe in future!!
Thank you so much for this case study I really appreciate your effort.
Awesome post…I’m incredibly new to the world of SEO, so it’s awesome that somebody has taken something that I’ve wondered about and has turned it on its head.
Thanks for sharing!
I am using this keyword method science long….but my listing has not penalized by google yet
Thanks Colan , this article is insightful.
I am able to get certain knowledge around the SEO. Also what do you think about the tips and tricks to follow digital marketing in 2020? I am new to digital marketing & SEO and currently looking for digital marketing blogs and resources. What tips do you have for a beginner?
You’re welcome. Here’s a good starting point – https://www.brightlocal.com/resources/top-local-seo-blogs-2019/
The case studies are really well analyzed, this article is insightful. Appreciate the effort.
BEST DENTIST NEAR ME-BUSINESS NAME-CITY NAME STATE NAME. BE USED AS GOOGLE MY BUSINESS NAME?
I’m not sure what you’re asking. I mean if that’s actually their real-world name, they can use it.
Ohh amazing Blog !! I want to ask what if competitor create our backlink on a Spam site will it degrade our ranking? If yes how we can remove these links from those sites? Please Help
Hi Nishant, that is a different type of spam. You can read more about that here – https://www.mariehaynes.com/link-audits-and-disavow-advice-2019/
Great article. I am wondering how to tackle spam when a competitor creates a website with a domain containing “main service keyword” + location and then uses the same for the GMB name? On their website, there is no information about the real business name.
Hi Stefan, if the domain name is the only thing that matches the GMB name, Google would likely correct the name to what it actually is. Do you have an example you can share?
Great read more than two years later! I’m late to the party, but hopefully not too late. In Florida, it has become commonplace for attorneys to register fictitious business names for the sole purpose of stuffing key phrases in their GMB Names. They also include variations of those key phrases directly under their website logos. Their signage, however, often tells a very different story. I reported one such law firm, and in my complaint to Google, I included links to three different photos *they uploaded to their own GMB profile* that prove their signage doesn’t match their fictitious business name or website logo. That was more than a month ago, and they’re still getting away with keyword stuffing on all three of their GMB listings. Has this become a thing now? Is Google looking the other way if those key phrases are under the logo and used elsewhere in the website? Thanks very much in advance.
Hi Michael, Google seems less concerned about keyword stuffing these days. And yes, as long as a business’s website reflects the name used on Google it will likely be ok in Google’s eyes.