History is full of bright ideas that looked great at first but turned out horribly wrong. In the hyper-competitive world of local SEO, we see it daily. This blog covers three strategies we see business owners implementing every day that sound like a surefire hack but are actually hurting your business.

Reintroducing a species to its historical habitat only to see it destroy livestock; breaking into your own house after forgetting the key only to set off the alarm; educating inmates in IT to prepare them for the workforce only to see them hack the prison system and escape—the best laid plans often go awry.

Thankfully, we will just be covering some local SEO “hacks” that really aren’t hacks at all. If you’re doing these, stop (#3 puts your entire local campaign at risk!).

  • Keyword Stuffing the Google My Business Listing (GMB)

It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? “Why not throw in a location keyword here to improve my ranking?” Too bad it’s a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines. The verdict from Mountain View is as follows:

  • Your name should reflect your real-world name (the one on your storefront, website, or how you are known to customers)
  • Unnecessary information in your business name is NOT permitted


So, this means, unless your location information or other keywords related to your business are actually within your name, that you cannot stuff your listings with keywords.

Verdict: Your listing should reflect your real business name. It isn’t worth the long-term risk, even if the penalties aren’t stiffly enforced.

2) Creating a Website for Each Location or Service

The Scenario: A baker selling delicious cakes has 10 locations across Canada and wants to bring in new customers in each location. Instead of having one domain “Amazingcakes.ca”, he has a site for each location (AmazingCakesToronto.ca, AmazingCakesMontreal.ca, etc.). Even with Google’s penalty for certain exact-match domains, this is sure to send some ranking juice to each location. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.

First, it’s impractical. As a business owner, you don’t have the time to manage 10 websites at once. Second, for branding purposes, you should have a single, proud domain to display. Lastly, if you’re duplicating content or business information across locations, you run the risk of a big penalty.

The Verdict: Consolidate your domains and make location pages within that domain for each separate spot. Your brand is what’s truly important. Forget about any short-term boost you get from your EMD.

3) Using P.O Boxes or Remote Addresses to Create GMB Listings

Business owners who want to rank for areas where they don’t have an office often use a remote address like a PO box to set up a GMB. It sounds great. You think to yourself, “Hey, I don’t even need a real office to start getting customers here.”

Well, Google doesn’t like that. Your page must be at your real-world location and is not allowed to be a PO box. If you use a PO box or other address, Google will consider you spam and you jeopardize your listing and any work you’ve put into building it up.

What to Do: Instead of creating a new listing, create a service-area page within the website pointing to that location. If you’ve already created an address with a PO box, self-report to Google and they will forgive you.

Local SEO is not easy, and these shortcuts aren’t really shortcuts at all. These three common “hacks” are actually detrimental to your long-term success and should be stopped immediately.

If you want to expand your reach in the local area with sustainable best practices that bring local customers through your doors, talk to BlueHat Marketing’s team of local SEO gurus today.