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  1. #1
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    Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    I'd like to see if people weigh in here on whether or not there is actually a penalty for having keywords in your description on G+.

    For example, I just pulled this off an insurance agent's page:

    We are available 24/7 to serve our surrounding communities of Tulsa, Bixby, Jenks, Catoosa, Verdigris, Owasso, Glenpool, Broken Arrow, Claremore. Call us for Auto Insurance, Home Insurance and Life Insurance.

    He lists a lot of city names & repeats the business categories. Is this a problem?

    In my findings, I have never had a case I worked on increase in ranking after changing the description to get rid of keywords that are locations or a repeat of the categories.

    I know there were lots of experts who talked about this and stated it was a real thing but haven't seen any recent cases. So is this still an actual thing?
    Joy Hawkins
    Owner of Sterling Sky
    Author of The Expert's Guide to Local SEO [, a 260+ page training manual that is updated monthly and contains advanced tips and tactics for Local SEO that actually work and drive results.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    At one point in the time of custom categories, frontier like business naming and description spam, things like this mattered. They had an impact on rank and relevance and one could increase exposure by playing with those things. When that was the case, those things were penalized.

    Also you could get a sense of what was important to Google based on what they showed to the searcher.

    These days Google shows from the business owner only that which they can confirm via other sources. And anything you do in GMB has very little impact on rank.

    Although I think they do show things in search that they think are important.

    In the case of description, since it is not seen any place or by anyone it falls into the category of "Google doesn't care".

    Thus I would doubt that someone would be penalized for creating a paragraph or two of content that no one ever sees. But I have no proof.

    Likewise I see no benefit.

    And it sure looks dumb.

  4. #3
    Member Since
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    I can't say that I have witnessed any ranking drops or increases after tinkering with the business description.

    But it's clear that it doesn't have any benefit to add a bunch of keywords. So I would still always urge a business owner to write it for their customers, not Google.

    I think Mike nailed it with this comment - "In the case of description, since it is not seen any place or by anyone it falls into the category of "Google doesn't care"
    Colan Nielsen l GMB Top Contributor
    Vice President, Local Search at Sterling Sky
    Connect on Google + and Twitter

  5. #4
    Member Since
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    Hi Joy,

    I believe there very definitely USED TO BE a penalty for description spam, mainly city repeated more than twice. And for awhile biz name and keywords repeated multiple times.

    I remember seeing Mike in comments in his blog quite awhile back saying repeating city caused a 10 point ranking penalty. (I can find it if you need it.)

    And I've helped a LOT of people who were dinged specifically for that problem. Once they cleaned up the description they popped right up. BUT if it was super excessive they sometimes got a 6 - 8 month penalty hangover.

    Here is one well documented case where I show the offending description and then the new one that was cleaned up and track how long it took to recover: http://www.localsearchforum.com/help...gle-local.html

    That one is a great example. I highlighted in red all the times he repeated City Italian Restaurant. And he was not even doing it in a super spammy way.

    The insurance one you quoted would not have been dinged. I don't think it's a problem to mention surrounding cities you service. It's when it repeats the city you are in, like: "If you are looking for a Dallas Dentist, look no further, we are the best Dental office in Dallas and are here to serve the Dallas community.

    But that was then, and this is now. So I agree with Mike and I don't think it's much of an issue currently. Seemed to me, right around the time Pigeon hit, Google relaxed that unwritten rule and now spammy ones seem to get away with it.

    Example: Since Pigeon and when they got relaxed about description stuffing, this guy has ranked #1 for Seattle Chiro and has tons of city and KW repetition: https://plus.google.com/117282003257...27/about?hl=en. NOTE: Back when that description rule was in place he never ranked. As soon as they relaxed it he popped right up and has been there with that description ever since!

    But again, I have not seen a case for awhile AND have seen lots of spammy descriptions that rank high.

    But as Mike and Colan said, the description does not really show up much now and has not been a ranking factor for a long time, so no reason to KW stuff it. Write for humans, in the off chance a human will ever find that page and read it.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  6. #5
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    Hey Joy,

    I concur with everyone else on this. The description field can't help you, or hurt you. I used to preach that it could hurt your rankings, but I've seen SOOO many well ranking businesses with ridiculously spammy descriptions, that I've switched to thinking that Google doesn't care either way. In addition, we've cleaned up many spammy descriptions at Whitespark, and that one task alone has never had any impact on rankings.

    Basically, Google ignores the field in the ranking/tanking algorithm, so write for users, not search engines.
    Darren Shaw | Whitespark Founder
    http://www.whitespark.ca | @DarrenShaw_ | Google+

  7. #6
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    All 3 users that will see the description over the next 12-18 months.

  8. #7
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    I think it seems logical that Google wouldn't pay attention to the description anymore. But then again, Google does a lot of illogical things. It wouldn't surprise me to see the description penalty still in effect because some Google local search quality engineer forgot it even existed.

    It is particularly damning that Darren has cleaned up so many descriptions and hasn't seen an increase though. Do you guys track rankings pretty thoroughly after the description clean up or is this a gut feeling thing Darren?
    Tutelary Marketing, Owner
    Local Listing Ninja - Business Listing Service
    Local Listing Ninja Reviews - Check Out Our 100+ 5 Star Reviews!

  9. #8
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    At a LocalU event 18-24 months ago or so Google said that it wasn't used.

  10. #9
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    Yes, I recall that Mike. It was in NYC

    Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk
    Colan Nielsen l GMB Top Contributor
    Vice President, Local Search at Sterling Sky
    Connect on Google + and Twitter

  11. #10
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    Re: Is there Such Thing as a Description Penalty?

    Joshua,

    We have daily rank tracking set up for all our clients, but this is more of a gut feeling thing. We do a number of cleanup and optimization tasks at the beginning of a campaign. This one particular piece hasn't been isolated and tested.
    Darren Shaw | Whitespark Founder
    http://www.whitespark.ca | @DarrenShaw_ | Google+

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