Google puts great effort into providing the very best possible search results, as that’s primarily how they earn their money. In 2015, their annual revenue was $74.5 Billion. So you can imagine they have a great interest in also stamping out businesses that cut corners with spammy tactics to rank on page 1.
And for most businesses, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rank on page 1 in the Local Pack. The listings went from 10 to 7 to 3 and now we’ve got 2 and 1….with more ads. It’s TOUGH! I thought there was NO WAY something as simple and familar as business name spam could still be a thing in 2016, but I am wrong. Okay let’s see. We’ll take a look at an industry I’m familiar with (Mental Health) in cities I’m familiar with.
Let’s do a search for “Psychologist San Francisco” – this is as simple and easy as it gets. Remember, out of Thousands of Psychologists in San Francisco – this coveted #1 spot goes to someone not playing by the rules. Dr. Jennifer Gans has got it made.
Let’s try another related search in San Francisco – “Therapist”: This is Google Maps Business Name SPAM. Whether she knows it or not – Dr. Stacy Weibley is breaking the rules but still ranking in that powerful spot where her phone is ringing daily with new prospective clients.
The #3 spot is held by Uli Ramon, who appears to have a website using all sorts of tricky SEO tactics yet I’d bet just about anyone that her actual business name is not “Therapy San Francisco | Uli Ramon”. Now, come on!
Let’s get more specific with our searches in San Francisco and see what happens. Let’s try “Child Psychologist”:
What’s going on here? Adding Category descriptors in the Business name field in Google My Business is, like, “strictly forbidden”. Is anyone noticing? When everyone’s cheating, what are the honest therapists to do? Just how pervasive are these spam tactics?
Let’s try “Child Counseling San Francisco”
What a mess. Maybe this is limited to San Francisco. Let’s try a bigger city with even more therapists – New York City! I happen to know that many people search using NYC for searches in the city itself so here we go starting with “Psychologist NYC”
More name spam. Dr. Rennicke you really should not be describing what you are in the name field. That’s where your business name is supposed to go. But what the heck, you are ranking #3 in New York City so you get an A+ for SEO and about 25 phone calls per week from people who need your services.
As SEO professionals, we know that NAP consistency is king. NAP is an industry acronym for Name, Address, Phone. To rank well, your NAP must be consistent across all online citations, and then properly match what’s on your website. I doubt this is the case with Dr. Rennicke. But before I clicked to research that, I happened to click on the “New York Therapists” link occupying the #1 spot. OMG What a mess! No website, no phone, an unclaimed listing – this is just a garbage local search result from Google. Yikes.
Let’s try some more NYC searches and see how bad the name spam is:
Here we go: “Therapists NYC” is maybe even worse. This truly valuable search result with a garbage listing at #1 and a stylish gay bar at #2. Clearly something has gone askew. Well to be honest, the word “Therapist” is not a good search term to begin with. You’ve got massage therapists, physical therapists, etc… so how is Google supposed to know what kind of therapy you are looking for? Clearly they’ve given up. It’s time for a cocktail. They give the top 3 organic website results over to psychologytoday.com and you are encouraged to go over there to find a therapist.
Okay I’ll get more specific and search for “Marriage Counselor NYC”. Yep, at first glance it appears 2 out of 3 results are Google Maps name spam. Oh but wait – it turns out that “Marriage Couples Counseling & Life Coaching” may be their actual business name – their website is marriage-couples-counseling-new-york.com – so there you have it – Awesome spammy SEO tactics winning the game of ranking on page one in 2016.
I have two conclusions:
#1 Spammy SEO tactics are alive & working well in 2016, despite a lot of passionate warnings from SEO professionals that this will get you in trouble.
#2 Adding business categories and descriptions in your Google listing name field will help your business rank well in 2016. Also, just making up a business name and domain name based on keywords will work too.
Would I recommend these tactics for your business? NO WAY. Professional SEO’s always follow guidelines and best practices. This will serve you for the long run. One day – and maybe soon – Google will get their act together and we’ll all wake up on a Monday morning and these spammy listings will be gone, and flagged as spam, and potentially their websites will be demoted. And those people will have a very long and arduous journey back to online relevance. And there you will be – up where you belong at the top.