To improve referencing of a listing, information provided must be as complete and up-to-date as possible. Certain information, such as the name of the establishment, has a particularly important impact on the referencing of the listing and has led to the development of so-called “fraudulent” optimisation practices. One of the most common is keyword stuffing.

This is an effective practice for moving up in the results but it is contrary to the rules of the search engines and is increasingly punished.

What is keyword stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the incorporation of keywords into a listing or web page to improve its ranking in search results.

In local referencing, this means, for example, adding keywords to the information in the Google listing (name of establishment, list of services, etc.). Generally, the integrated keywords are the city, the sector or the activity of the establishment.

In the case of the name of an business, we speak of keyword stuffing as soon as the name displayed on the listing is different from the real name. Google considers that the real name of an establishment is the one displayed on its building, its logo, its website, or even the one used on the phone to customers.

The risks of keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing has a negative impact on the user experience (illegible information) and is punishable by search engines as it is identified as poor quality content. This is contrary to Google’s guidelines and over the years Google has launched several updates to limit the impact of keyword stuffing:

  • 2011: Launch of Panda, the first algorithm update that aims to penalise this type of practice on websites. If Panda detects keyword stuffing on a web page, Google no longer displays the site concerned in its results.
  • 2013: Launch of Hummingbird, which allows “natural” language to be taken into account, i.e. a set of words as a whole and no longer independently of each other. This update values natural content rather than keyword-packed content in the results.
  • 2019: The Bert update now takes into account the transition of words and nuances in the results.
  • 2021: Most recently, Google’s Vicinity update in December 2021, lowered the weight of the establishment name in a listing’s ranking . Many listings that use keyword stuffing have dropped in the results.

If you do “keyword stuffing” on your business listing and Google detects it, the possible sanctions are:

  • A warning by e-mail
  • A “partial suspension” : the listing remains visible on Google but you can no longer edit it
  • A “hard suspension” : the listing disappears completely from Google and the reviews and photos are lost

Listings that use keyword stuffing are often detected as a result of a name suggestion by a user, or a report to Google (from a competitor for example). An experiment by SterlingSky shows that out of fifty reported listings, 60% received a warning, 20% were partially suspended and 20% severely suspended.

In the case of a hard suspension, there are two possible outcomes: contact Google support to ask them to make the listing accessible, which can take several months, or start from scratch by creating a new listing.

What should be done then?

Keyword stuffing is effective in the short term but risky in the medium to long term.

We therefore recommend that you avoid as much as possible the use of this and any other practice aimed at deceiving Google’s algorithm.

As always, we are available to advise you on this subject and on the visibility of your establishment in general! Do not hesitate to contact us 🙂

Author: Andile

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