Sunday, January 24Digital Marketing Journals

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.

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.
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