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

Curious if this is working for them?

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).

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10 Response Comments

  • Phillip  May 9, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Great article – and as you say lackadaisical and a bit of joke.. but it’s not a joke really is it?

    Here in Australia we have not seen this kind of GMB abuse at scale. But you are right – we tell our local seo clients that we need to abide by GMB guidelines, and then have to explain to them that we should stick to our guns whilst their competitors appears in the 3 pack above them via blatant guideline-breaking.

    Maybe we should seriously start thinking of forming an association to ‘assist’ Google in keeping the guidelines enforced?

  • Patrick Leonard  May 9, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Great article Dan. The abuse is rampant and there’s apparently zero consequences. It almost makes you consider crossing over to the dark side.

  • Jens  May 10, 2018 at 3:26 am

    You are allowed to ad the category and the area. Like for my wifes hairdresser. Frisør and Christianshavn. But it does not make sense with multiple locations as the area is added auutomatically by Google. And the value of the brand appearances are higher than the generic ones the added terms generate.

  • Tim Colling  May 10, 2018 at 6:52 am

    It often seems like those who are following Google’s rules are paying a “chump tax” for doing so. In other words, like chumps they’re losing revenue and profits to those who don’t follow the rules, and Google doesn’t take action against the rule breakers so long as there are enough chumps on the playing field.

  • Chris Attwood-Thomas  May 10, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Great article Dan, seen it lots of times by the big boys here in the UK but also lately a lot more by people who are obviously thinking if the big boys can get away with it then I will try…

  • Andy Simpson  May 10, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Apple Store

    Great post Dan 👍

  • Andy Kuiper  May 10, 2018 at 11:29 am

    yes… and there is so much worse too 🙁

  • Sergio Rodz  May 10, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    The most powerful search engine in the world, unable to catch these violations? I’m not buying that, it doesn’t make any sense.

  • Jason  May 11, 2018 at 12:17 am


    Okay, so where is the business ethics in all this or is this the “you speak with forked tongue” from GMB powers to be?

  • Ewan Kennedy  May 11, 2018 at 1:40 am

    One approach for Google might be to apply an algorithmic ranking downgrade for GMB NAP data inconsistency.

    Seems it’s out of control. M&S in the UK is another.