Keyword Care in Google My Business

The new rules set forth by Google have risked sending brands and businesses into a frenzy. Many are turning to applying first-party data to their online marketing strategies, which establishes a more direct connection between brand and customer. Others may act impulsively or desperately so that their companies appear top-of-the list in a search. One infamous practice they may have forgotten about is keyword stuffing. If you are concerned about your local brand’s online ranking, do not resort to keyword stuffing, which also extends to Google My Business.

What’s keyword stuffing?

To begin, let’s take a mini-refresher course on what keyword stuffing is, and why it defeats a brand’s purpose when it comes to appearing among the top results when a user conducts a search. As defined on Google Search Central, keyword stuffing is the practice of repeatedly placing keywords and numbers in the development of a web page with the intent of manipulating search rankings. Google, it should be emphasized, is forever busy crawling sites throughout the web and penalizing those that have been stuffing keywords by relegating them to the bottom—beyond the first, second, and third pages. Yes, keyword stuffing is among the worst of all “black hat” practices in search engine optimization.

Keyword stuffing in Google My Business listings

One would think that keyword stuffing would only appear in web pages with a great deal of text. Not so. Even a “just-the-facts” online item, specifically a Google My Business Listing, can be stuffed. Colan Nielsen, writing for Search Engine Land, observed that keyword stuffing in a Google My Business listing occurs when words are added to the name of a business—but which are not part of its legal name. Mr. Nielsen defines this as “adding descriptors.” Essentially, there is the actual business name, which business owners might (wrongly) think will be enhanced by add-ons. For example: “Matthew’s Paint Store.” This—and only this—is how the name should read in a Google My Business listing. If, however, in a misguided hope to improve search rankings, the listing appears as “Matthew’s Paint Store—paint supplies, paint brushes, paint rollers…”—with the word “paint” showing up too many times, this store will have problems with Google My Business…

Google will take action

For local businesses, the efforts of staying top-of-mind among customers can be challenging, which is why they should not sabotage themselves by the temptation to keyword stuff their Google My Business listings. What Google considers as “unnecessary” or “unreasonable” text that does not match the true name of the business can lead to serious consequences. Mr. Nielsen notes that in one report, Google took action against nearly half the businesses—in a list of 50—that engaged in keyword stuffing by imposing either a soft suspension or hard suspension on them.

The consequence of loss of ranking

Should a local business that tries keyword stuffing fall beneath Google’s radar, others of its kind are adversely affected. The overall ranking power, Mr. Nielsen notes, is diminished when the same type of business—whether it’s a local merchant, healthcare facility, or law firm, or anything—attaches the same keywords to their descriptors. In short, there is nothing unique to set these otherwise similar businesses apart. They all risk getting lost in the online shuffle, which is what they thought they would guard against by keyword stuffing.

Local businesses are facing challenges they never dreamed of. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes Google is implementing in how ads can be targeted, the situation can feel overwhelming.

If you are concerned about how your Google My Business listing should appear, and how it can maintain visibility, consider Raydeus Local, which specializes in ensuring that all the vital stats about a business—from address and phone number information to online reviews—are accurate, up-to-date, and free from keyword stuffing.