Sitting in front of a new strip mall in Leesburg, I took these two photos. I don’t know anything about these soon-to-open businesses, but the names illustrate an issue I see in local SEO every day.
Find My Business
Local businesses depend on foot traffic. Their business model requires that consumers be first and foremost aware of their proximity to them in order to fulfill the need they have. This is true for services as well as products but the service side is much more imperative because a service need that a consumer has can rarely be fulfilled online (zoom medicine has altered this a bit).
This becomes a core element of marketing for local businesses. They need the ability to broadcast “service+location” to consumers for them to even begin to be considered as a legitimate contender in the competition for consumers. The pre-internet solution was the yellow pages, and then the internet arrived, but its impact has not been static. The evolution of Google and its attempts to capture as much of the transactional search to monetize it has meant that businesses can’t rely on ranking their websites. Now they need to use platforms other than their website to appear in consumers’ view. Specifically and most prominently this means Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business). Businesses must rely on a third-party intermediary to rank their business for transactional searches to get in front of consumers.
Local Search & Google Business Profile
The Google Business Profile (GBP) is a double-edged sword for business. On the one hand, it is fairly straightforward to claim and set up. You fill out the fields, do a bit of research and off you go. There are a few possible pitfalls, but there is a wealth of information out there to help persistent business owners. On the other hand, simplicity means a lack of fine-tuning controls to try to maximize your ability to rank for the key terms and locations you want. If you follow Google’s best practices, you can get decent performance however you will also have to pay Google for better exposure, particularly as a new business.
But one persistent hack has been stuffing location keywords into the title of the GBP. This has historically helped some businesses, but it is against Google’s Policy. Businesses are required to use only their legal business name in the GBP. However, the policing of this policy has not been strictly enforced. If you search for any “service+location,” you will probably see some businesses trying to skirt the rules. See the example below.
Geo locaters in business names still perform slightly better in the Google Map Pack than businesses that don’t contain them when all the other factors are equal. However, Google has stated that they are minimizing this because there is a constant volume of spammers adding keywords to their Google Business Profiles. Also, your competitors can report you to Google and get you penalized or suggest an edit for Google to review. Then you are back where you started.
How Can I Affect Google Business Profile Ranking?
If you really want to go after the keywords in your GBP, one legitimate alternative that I see more and more is an approach like the photo at the top. If you actually incorporate the geo keyword in your business name, you are free to set up your GBP with it. You will see some performance but as I said Google is acting to minimize it as a rank modifier.
Should I Incorporate My Location into My Brand Name?
So it begs the question, is it worth it to include a geo keyword into your brand name? It turns out to be nuanced rather than a black-and-white answer. If incorporating a geo modifier is actually a good brand for your business, and your plans for the business will never outgrow that location, then go for it. However, if your motivation is simply trying to game the system, then it’s probably worth a little more consideration. The reality is that some competitive locations have seen so many businesses attempting this that it negates the fleeting benefits altogether. At the end of the day brand your business as a great expression of what your business does and what makes it a great choice for consumers. The cost and effort of rebranding later are not worth the tiny and disappearing benefits of including geo keywords just to try to rank.