There’s no doubt that including keywords in your business name has a big impact on your Google My Business (GMB) ranking. So does this mean keyword stuffing your business name is a profitable approach to Google My Business?

Keywords improve your Google My Business Ranking

The Moz 2018 report includes keywords in business title as the #1 factor for Local Pack ranking and #4 for localised organic rankings. After all, a user looking for a window cleaner in their area will be using the keyword “window cleaner” + their area name, and so algorithms will rank results according to how close a match they are to this term. If your business name includes these keywords, it is more likely to be a close match to the search, than an obscure brand name that bears no relation to the service provided.

Therefore, keywords will be significant in determining how your business is ranked.
A logical next step is to want to include as many key search terms as possible into your business name, in order to rank in a greater number of searches. However, this is known as keyword stuffing and is something that Google wish to discourage.
So whilst keyword stuffing may well improve your rankings, Google does take action on GMB listings that break their guidelines.

Google My Business penalises keyword stuffing

Google My Business penalises users who do not follow their guidelines.

The GMB guidelines stipulate that “your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online… Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your Business Profile being suspended.”

Although Google does not take action on all instances of keyword stuffing in business names, it reserves the right to do so, by issuing warnings or by suspending listings or entire accounts.

Certain industries are known to be spammier than others. Locksmiths are an example of an industry where keyword stuffing is overused. Google appears to penalise spammy listings from these industries more harshly than others, suggesting that the algorithms for these areas are particularly stringent in an effort to crackdown on the issue.

What is a suspension on Google My Business?

If your business profile is suspended, you will receive an email from Google informing you of your suspension. You are given the option of reinstating your listing if you think it is compliant with Google Business Guidelines.

GMB suspensions fall into two categories:

  • Soft suspension
  • Hard suspension

Soft Suspension is when your listing becomes disabled. The listing will remain live on Google Maps, but you’ll no longer be able to manage your listing, and it’ll be classed as unverified. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll lose ranking, but it stops you being able to edit your profile. Soft suspension is generally a result of your listing breaking some of the GMB guidelines.

Hard suspension results in your listing being removed from Google Maps completely, including the loss of all your photos and reviews.

This could happen as a result of a change in GMB’s algorithms which automatically trigger a suspension of your account. It could also be a Google employee manually blocking your listing because it breaks the guidelines, or being triggered by a Google user reporting your listing as spam. In most cases, a user report will require further verification before suspending the listing, but suspensions from trusted users can go live immediately.

Examples of why you may receive a hard suspension:

  • Issuing multiple listings for your business
  • Using a virtual office or PO Box as your business address
  • Listing a building that you do not own (such as a dance class that meets in a community hall)
  • Creating a listing for an online business that doesn’t actually have in-person services
  • Repeatedly keyword stuffing your business name

Rebranding to game the system

One approach some businesses have taken to avoid being penalised for keyword stuffing is to rebrand their business to include keywords in their legal name. This method ironclads the keywords within your business name, giving Google no grounds to suspend your account for using them.

In certain industries this approach is particularly prevalent. For example, the search term “personal injury attorney” in the USA will bring up a host of law firms whose business name or website branding includes these keywords.

If the keywords represent a legitimate part of your business name, Google will not penalise the listing. In real terms, however, overuse of this approach floods the market, eroding the ranking power of those keywords. If there are now 10 local businesses that include the same keyword in their business name, you may still struggle to rank highly. Added to this, your business also runs the risk of having a far less memorable brand name if it is nearly identical to all those around you.

Is the jury still out on keyword stuffing?

After more than a decade of businesses keyword stuffing their business names on Google My Business, it seems strange that Google has not found a definitive solution to tackling this issue.

One possibility is that Google doesn’t see it as a priority since it is not harmful to users, despite the fact that it does potentially manipulate search results. That said, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, so there is no guarantee that the next change won’t see your business account suspended if you are using keyword stuffing. Ultimately it is a question of weighing up the risks and the benefits.