I was contacted last week by a small business owner in distress about her Google Maps business listing. She was looking for a “real person” to talk to at Google and eventually stumbled upon my blog while searching for help.
This blog tends to get a lot of traffic for the phrase “google customer service,” and in the last six months the number of emails from small businesses and novice local marketers has skyrocketed, mostly regarding business listings and AdWords issues.
Competition is fierce today for prominent visibility in the Google 10 Pack for local product and service queries, even in towns with a population under 50,000. This indicates that we are getting closer to that point where the majority of brick and mortar small business owners will become vested in profitable and effective local online marketing strategies.
How important are Google Maps business listings to small service businesses?
Back to the small business owner who contacted me about her Google business listing. She and her husband run a Boerne, TX locksmith company and have been the trusted name in Boerne for the last twelve years. They had accidentally removed their business listing and had to re-verify, and now are waiting for the postcard.
In the course of our initial phone discussion she told me that their business listing, when prominently visible in the local business results for targeted keyword sets, accounts for a whopping 85% of new business. WOW! Not bad for a free service.
As the competition for prominent visibility has been heating up, so increases the number of business owners and SEO consultants/vendors stuffing “service/product” and “location” keywords into business listing titles.
In fact, domain registrar Network Solutions actively promotes keyword stuffing for it’s enhanced business listing service:
Joel H, a Google support team member, shares the Google Maps stance on stuffing keywords into the listings of business names:
“Google wants you to list your business name as it is used when doing business with the public. Anything else (keyword stuffing, etc) may be penalized and is, most certainly, frowned upon by both Google and SEO Consultants alike.”
“Ed’s Tire Shop” is a great name, especially if that’s how you operate your business as; no need to fret over “Ed’s Tire Shop, LLC” or “Ed’s Tire Shop, Inc.”
“However, “Ed’s Chicago Tire, Axel and Wheel Shop Located in Chicago” is considered spammy. While it will indeed work, the benefit will be temporary until it is discovered.”
For those with suspended listings, Google does provide a process for reinclusion.
I think the Google Maps business name/keyword stuffing policy is a horribly unresolved mess. Currently, Google does not police this issue in a uniform and comprehensive manner, and they rely on the community of users to report spammy listings.
Google either needs to review every listing (pushed to them by data providers or submitted by business owners) for violations, or alter the algorithmic filters that attribute relevance to the business name field.
At face value, the way to circumvent this shoddy policy is to change your entity’s legal business name and website address to include your services and location, such as “Billy’s San Francisco Bicycles & Fitness Equipment, llc.”
Best Practices for Business Listing Names in Google Maps
The best practice, at least currently, is to include core service keywords but not locations in the name of a business listing. For example:
Prestige Dry Cleaners
Prestige Dry Cleaners The Greener Cleaners in Scottsdale Arizona
Local Search Marketer David Mihm emphasized this tactic at SES 2009 San Jose last month.