How to Guard Your Google Business Profile from Becoming a Running Joke

A lack of vigilance over 5 key sections of your Google business profile can cumulatively undermine offline goals.

When customers walk into your place of business, phone you, or reach out to you via email or social media with a question that’s clearly a lead, you’d never, ever answer:

“Who knows?”

But it’s exactly this, and several related scenarios of absurdity, that have resulted from Google positioning itself as the dominant middle man between customers and local brands while failing to adequately communicate or enforce product policies.

Examples of Google Business Profiles gone bad are often comical, but it’s no laughing matter for your business to shed revenue for the sake of some jester’s joke. Then, spammers jump into the game, and that’s about as humorous as hitting your funny bone. And, sometimes, it’s even somebody on your own staff or a marketer you’ve hired who goofs.

Good local companies work so hard to develop exceptional customer service and a sterling reputation, and the Google Business Profile can brilliantly showcase both when carefully curated. But lack of vigilance over five key sections of this most visible online asset can cumulatively undermine offline goals.

Today, let’s look at some serious gaffes, get you set up to mitigate them, and put a watchdog mindset in your local place of business.

Naming nonsense

One of my favorite Local Tech Leads at Moz, Robert Reis, recently pointed out to me that Google’s sternest local guidelines actually reveal their greatest vulnerabilities. This is certainly true when it comes to Google not wanting brands to keyword stuff business names, because it so clearly appears to impact local pack rankings. Take a look at this all-too-common tomfoolery

Then, there are other cases in which a business listing can be maliciously edited or hijacked by a competitor, an angry customer, or another third party. In this example, not only has the business name been edited, but the website URL has been pointed to ripoffreport.com:

What to do:

Customers may laugh, but certainly, they will not trust business names like these. If someone in your own company has been keyword stuffing, show them Google’s explicit guidelines regarding formatting names to match real-world business titles and edit the name to conform to the rules. Any other course risks losing customers and being reported by the public to Google for a violation.

If you suspect that a competitor’s high rankings are stemming, at least in part, from keyword stuffing, do a little research. Look at the name on their street signage in Google Street View. Take a photo in person if necessary. Look at the name on their website. Phone them to see how they answer the phone. Then, if you’re convinced that the guidelines are being broken, submit your evidence via the Business Redressal Complaint Form. There is no guarantee that Google will act on your report, but this is the main vehicle for seeking action.

If your listing has been hijacked and maliciously edited, I recommend starting by reporting the full details at the Google My Business Help Community. Ask the volunteers there to give you current steps for resolving the hijack. You can’t ever be totally safe from the possibility of hijacking, but do be sure you’ve claimed any GMB listing for your company. Some local SEOs also recommend making occasional null edits (hitting the submit button in your GMB dashboard without changing any of the listing data) as this activity might make your listing less prone to third-party edits.