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How Much Do Keywords in the Business Name Impact Ranking?

This article is part 5 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020.  If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.   

For as long as there have been local packs on Google, keywords in the business name have had a major impact on ranking.  According to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, it is #4 on the list for what has the biggest impact on local pack rankings.

To help illustrate how much adding keywords to your business name in Google My Business impacts ranking, I’ll share a test we did last year.  We experimented on a listing for a restaurant that did not have a salad bar.  They didn’t even have a website and there was literally no mention of their brand anywhere else online.  All we did was add the words “Salad Bar” to their business name inside the Google My Business dashboard.  Then, a few days later, we deleted the words.  We then waited a week and added them back. This was the ranking result for the search term “salad bar [city] [state]”.

Should I add keywords to my business name?

Adding descriptors to your business name in Google My Business is against the guidelines and can lead to the listing getting suspended.  In Google’s guidelines they state: “Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended“.

Should I report competitors who are breaking these guidelines?

If you have a business that is outranking you and they are adding keywords to their business name, it can be extremely difficult to compete with due to the amount of weight Google puts on this in their local algorithm that fuels the 3-pack.  Here are some examples of what happened when we got Google to remove keywords from a business that was breaking the guidelines by including them in the business name:

  1. For a drug rehab business, they ranked in position 1 for the term they were adding to their business name.  Once Google removed the keywords, they dropped to position 7 two days later.
  2. For a different drug rehab business, they were in position 4 for the term they had in their business name.  Once Google fixed the business name, they dropped to position 5 three days later.
  3. In another case, for a lawyer, removing the keywords had this impact:

Our article about spam on Google Maps goes into detail about how you can report competitors that are doing this to gain ranking in the 3-pack.  Often it does take multiple reports to get Google to act on it.

Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. So does that mean, if you are lucky enough to have a keyword in the actual name you will rank higher than a company whose trading name does not include the key word ?

    1. It also means that there will people who will report your listing without validating that the term is actually in your legal business name in order to gain a ranking advantage.

  2. I have a business that has been on the map pack forever. I have a keyword in the company name but was wondering if I should enhance it by adding more keywords to the name.

    For example: If the company name is “Bread Makers” should I update the name to “Bread Makers Bakery”?

    I noticed a large franchise company that is located in a city 20 miles away now dominating the map pack since they added a city after their brand name (They service that city but are NOT located in that city.)

    Would me adding another keyword to the business name help me or hurt me?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hey Brett,

      In most cases it would likely help but only for the one term you add. Depending on the volume of the term & the amount of business it drives, it could be a good idea to rebrand.

  3. I’ve definitely seen positive results from having keywords in my business name (Conference Photography Australia, in case you’re interested!). A happy accident!

  4. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing. Learning about SEO and how much is driven by Google practices has definitely been vague although very interesting.

    1. I’m not holding my breath. This has been a problem for the entire duration of my career (since 2006). They did attempt to address it last year. With the Vincity update in Nov 2021, keywords in the business name took a huge hit as a ranking factor. However, this was reversed in March 2022 so I assume there were too many false positives where it messed up branded searches on Google.

      1. Unsurprisingly, the issue is that Google has to pick between leaving this stand vs. hosing a number of legitimate business name. Vertical+geographical area is a perfectly sensible business name to have, after all, and long predates Local SEO.

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