Google My Business is a dashboard where you are able to enter and manage your Google business listings, like the ones you see pictured below.
In this example, two firms list their name as it appears on their website and official business license, these firms are within Google’s guidelines. However, there is one firm that has added the descriptor “Injury Lawyer & Car Accident Attorney” to their listing:
This is an example of local spamming and goes outside of Google guidelines, which specifically state:
“Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers… unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.”
Below is a list taken directly from Google’s Guidelines of what is and is not acceptable:
Not acceptable: “TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank”, “GNC Live Well*”.
Acceptable: “TD Bank”, “GNC”
Service or Product – Information about your business, unless this information is part of its real world representation or this information is needed to identify a department within a business (see “Departments“). Service information is best represented by categories (see “Categories“).
Not acceptable: “Verizon Wireless 4G LTE”, “Midas Auto Service Experts”
Acceptable: “Verizon Wireless”, “Midas”, “Best Buy Mobile”, “Advance Auto Parts”, “JCPenney Portrait Studios”
Location Information – such as neighborhood, city, or street name, unless it is part of your business’s consistently-used and recognized real-world representation. Your name must not include street address or direction information.
Not acceptable: “Holiday Inn (I-93 at Exit 2)”, “U.S. Bank ATM – 7th & Pike – Parking Garage Lobby near Elevator”, “Equinox near SOHO”
Acceptable: “Holiday Inn Salem”, “U.S. Bank ATM”, “Equinox SOHO”, “University of California Berkeley”
Risk vs. Reward
You will see these tactics used everywhere in searches, and we spend a good portion of our time reporting and editing competitor listings. The reason it is everywhere is because it works, and Google isn’t currently enforcing their guidelines for this.
Yes, the reward can be great when your firm is listed in the top three, and using these tactics may be able to get you there. In the short term it sounds fantastic, and you might be thinking you want to have your listing updated right away. But before you do that let’s consider the risks.
At the bare minimum your listing may be edited back to its original state and consequently drop back several spots in the local ranking, with no other repercussions. Let’s say after you changed your listing and someone changed it back, you went back in and edited it again. At this point, you can now be reported, and Google has the opportunity to take manual action. This means someone will review the changes and then decide what happens. You are at risk of account suspension and removal of business information from the search results.
Think about what would happen if your business listing totally disappeared from the local results. What happens to all of the clients reviews you worked so hard to get? There are no directions, no phone number… there’s no listing or any other details. It’s all gone. What kind of effect would that have your law firm’s bottom line? How long would it take to recover? Is the risk really worth it?
We have seen Google retroactively penalize sites for violating guidelines in the past, so there is nothing to stop them from doing it again. There are also a lot of skilled SEOs out there who will report and clean up the search results via submission of edits and reporting of violations to help their clients out. In the end it’s not worth the risk. Follow the guidelines, list your firm as it is on your official documentation, keep it consistent, and you’ll come out on top.