Google: Loving Generic Business Names

When yellow pages ruled the Earth, businesses used crazy names, such as AAAAA Plumbers – because when you’re listed alphabetically, not much beats quintuple-A. You can get around this to some extent by purchasing ads, as most books put the biggest ads first, but the regular listings are usually alpha.

Now that we’ve entered the Internet age – welcome to Los Angeles Plumber, Plumber Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Plumbers.

Why Your Business Should be “CityName Industry”

David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors report was published last Friday. Once again, the presence of a product/service keyword and of a location keyword in the Place page title were important ranking factors. It’s also helpful having these keywords in links, reviews, website titles, URL’s, etc. The easiest way to achieve this is to just name your business with the keywords you would like.

Using keywords in Place page titles is helpful enough that many businesses do it even when it’s not their name, despite that being against Google’s rules. Companies doing this do get penalized from time to time, and the consensus view seems to be that it is a risky strategy, but businesses do it anyway (whether it’s out of ignorance or a careful weighing of the risks/benefits). If you want the benefits without the risks, all you need to do is legitimately rename your business, or use a DBA. Make sure this is the name listed everywhere, and the odds of being penalized should be very low.

But This Is Probably Bad Advice

The problem with this advice, and with Google’s love of generic names, is that they really aren’t all that good. They do nothing to create help build a brand or create an image in the customer’s mind. The simplicity might be somewhat memorable – but if the search advantages persist, they’ll likely proliferate. How will your prior customer remember if you were the Portland Dentist, or Portland Gentle Dentist, or Portland Dentistry?

In addition to the above, keywords in names will probably lose weight over time. They obviously can be gamed – and although Google can be pretty sure a company called Portland Dentist provides dentistry services in Portland, this says nothing as to whether they are any good, or treat customers well. A similar issue, that of exact-match domains in organic search, still holds substantial power – but that has declined substantially in recent years.


There are some gains to be had by using a generic, service/location name. But in the long run, it’s unlikely to be a great strategy. Most small businesses should be trying to build for the long term – so I would suggest that you ignore all this, focus on the other aspects of local search – along with building a great business, and hope that Google builds a better algorithm.


If that’s not good enough, and you’re willing to put some work into a short-term gain, you can always go the DBA route – or just get spammy with a bunch of fake offices and business names, as a look at the garbage in some results shows that can clearly work for a while.

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7 Responses to “Google: Loving Generic Business Names”

  1. Azunga June 20, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    Great article. The times are a changing…. You’re completely correct in saying that generic company names are now much better then the old AAAAA Taxi Service names of the old phone book days. With all my clients I now tell them to not get a URL such as “” and go with a generic one such as “” to get better search engine results.

    • Chris June 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. And yes, the generic names do well right now – but I would caution companies to really consider whether that is the web address they want to use forever. At a minimum they should also purchase the domain.

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