Over the past 2 months I would say somewhere in the neighborhood of 99.3% of the phone calls I have received involve companies who are seeing double-vision when it comes to their Google Places listings. Not to shut my phone line down or anything, but I can honestly say that I hate duplicates with the fire of 1000 suns. I mean, if local search is the new wild west, then I am challenging duplicates to a duel and I will shoot them dirty varmints dead.
Why? You might ask. Not to be specific but here are 5 reasons…
1. They take a lot of work to correct.
2. It is fairly inconsistent on how long a duplicate takes to be deleted by “The Engine”.
3. It is a shot in the dark as to whether each case can be corrected.
4. About the time you think you have solved a duplicate listing, the little bugger is sneaking back up in your homestead.
5. They will drop your local search rankings faster than a red neck playing Duelin’ Banjo’s on the 4th of July.
I decided that instead of talking about how to fix them, we would start at the beginning. If you start wrong, it’s a hard thing to get going right…but if you start right from the beginning your chance of ending wrong goes down 10 fold. So, here are the 3 major things that cause duplicate listings.
1. Having a different “Business Name” in Google Maps as listed on other directory sites.
There are various ways and reasons that this happens, I will touch on a few of them.
- If you are in the medical or law industry and see individual listings for each professional in your offices.
- If you have multiple dba’s for your business that operates out of a single location.
- If you have changed your business name recently.
- If you thought you could trick the search engines by stuffing keywords in your business title.
- If you created multiple listings for your business thinking that you could .dominate the rankings for a specific search query.
- If you don’t hold your breadth while creating a listing on Google Places (ok this one might be a stretch).
If sites like Dexknows, Superpages, ServiceMagic, CitySearch, Healthgrades, or various other sites have a different wording for the title of your business, then chances are highly likely that at some point you will end up with a duplicate listing. It could be as simple as a directory with the title “Your business Name – zip code” compared to “Your Business Name”.
2. Having a Different “Address” in Google Maps as listed on other directory sites.
The geo location of a business is extremely important to get right and any variance looks like a completely new location to a mapping system. The following are common reasons duplicates appear when it comes to the business addresses.
- If you have moved your business to a new location in the last few years.
- If you have a P.O. Box that is posted on other sites as your address.
- If you use variations of words like (road, rd: #, apt: etc).
- If your road has double names it is known by (street coordinate vs. road name).
- If you share an address for multiple businesses.
Yes, it is a shock. Contrary to popular belief, local search is actually based on location.
3. Having a different “Local Phone Number” in Google Maps as listed on other directory sites.
This is the one that is a shocker and is most irritating for businesses owners and marketing agencies alike. A lot of businesses have different local numbers for many reasons, and most of them end up right in Google Places…along with a duplicate listing. The reasons I run across local phone numbers causing duplicates are as followed…
- Using a call tracking number on a Google Places listing
- Using a call tracking number on a Directory listing
- Using a call tracking number period
You show me a local business that has a real local phone number, has a lot of citations for their company, and is using a call tracking number that hasn’t run into duplicate listing issues, and I will show you 15 that have.
While call tracking needs to be available for small businesses to use on their local listings, there is not a consistent way to get a separate number to work in Google Places consistently. You can read more on it here, here, and oh yes here.
I have had a few encounters with companies using call tracking lately that have been telling small businesses that “all is well“ for using multiple call tracking numbers. When rankings drop they tell the client, “someone else is creating fake listings of your business”. The first time I heard this I laughed, the second time I smirked, if I hear it a third time I am going to go “Robocop” on somebody. I am not exactly sure what that means, but it has got to be bad.
Why are Duplicates So Bad?
The biggest problem with duplicate listings is that they tend to spread ranking data in the form of reviews, citations, pictures, and user generated content across the different duplicate listings. So, instead of having one strong listing you end up with a couple mediocre listings that will struggle to rank.
Just recently, I had a client who had worked hard for some solid reviews and citations drop from the 7 pack because of a duplicate where a lot of data transferred to the new listing.
How to Avoid Duplicates?
I want to keep this as simple as stupidly possible. Make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are exactly the same everywhere online. This is the golden rule of local search. The big secret to success. So, go get to work and if you are interesting in more local search talk then follow me on twitter.