Since local spam is a hot topic around the Local SEO Sphere these days, I figured it would be fun to look at brands that are violating the Google My Business guidelines for representing your business and getting away with it. Because I mean, what’s the point of guidelines if large advertisers and brands can get away with obvious and blatant violations, amirite?
So, speaking of obvious and blatant, let’s get this one out of the way up front. It’s good for a laugh.
Here is what Google has to say about typography:
No registered trademark signs and no full caps. Makes sense right? Well apparently no-one at SUBWAY® RESTAURANTS got the memo,
So clearly I had to get the one where the brand is in violation of the guidelines in a way that is called out using them as an example. Because that is a thing. At least they are in some good company,
So Sephora lacks a unified Local SEO strategy (call me, maybe?), but they are also violating another piece of the guidelines. Specifically the part about how you co-locate inside of a larger business. Per the guidelines
We have all been there, Sephora. Besides, Topanga is doing great now!
This next one is a favorite. Location descriptors have been a back and forth thing in the guidelines for a hot minute, and everyone is getting in on it from regional brands like Mattress Firm
To large national chains like Ace Hardware
To me, this one is just a cynical SEO play and look it works!
Ace Hardware isn’t the only one winning by guidelines abuse at scale. Here is US Bank adding extra descriptor information to their GMB listings
Apparently ‘bank branch’ is just a synonym for U.S. Bank, thanks Google! If anybody from any major commercial financial institution that advertises on Google (or their agency) is reading this, you might want to have a chat with the GMB folks…
And hey, look at this often enforced guideline (there are four examples in my post)
I know I have discussed this in a relatively lackadaisical way, but honestly, it’s not a joke. These companies are getting away with violating GMB guidelines in a way that most likely increases their profits at the expense of others. And look, I get it, there is no way to tell how much having the geo-locator in the name field is helping, but do you really think it has zero impact? At the same time, why should any of us tell our brand clients to bother to adhere to the guidelines if they can win by breaking them? If you are a brand of a particular caliber, you clearly have a different rule book to play by so let’s play by it. And if you are an SMB, well, Google cares about brands more then you and by the way, good luck getting Google to remove any of the pervasive fake reviews or deal with repeat offenders.
So here are my two cents on what Google should do, and sit down, it’s a radical suggestion:
The Google My Business team should suspend these listings and make whoever manages the accounts provide visual proof that these brands are correctly representing themselves via the guidelines. That means sending in storefront photos and dealing with offshore support like the rest of us (other brands included).