Hidden Sabotage for Local Businesses: Duplicate Listings
What are duplicate listings?
Online citations or listings of your business are critical for local search optimization.
Even Google says so. Almost all local businesses have at least some duplicate listings out there. Sometimes they occur because of a change in the name of your business. Sometimes they can be caused by a simple phone number change. Very often they occur because you moved.
And I’ll bet you have more listings or citations out there than you realize. You’re probably listed in places you’ve never submitted your business to. Many local search engines, directories, maps & apps gather business information from other sources, known as “aggregators”. There are many aggregators out there, including the White Pages, Dun & Bradstreet, and more.
Duplicate listings can happen for a number of different reasons.
- Some people have been known to purposely create duplicate listings in the hope that would improve their local search visibility. (It won’t.)
- Sometimes online citations can be picked up from multiple sources and contain slight variations.
- It’s not common to see one listing with an a street address on “Main St.” and another with the same address listed as “Main Street”.
- Occasionally a business owner will create a duplicate listing because they forgot that a listing had been created at some point in the past.
- Duplicates can also occur if a business goes through a merger/acquisition, rebrands itself, moves to a new location, or changes phone numbers.
- Sometimes business owners create duplicate listings because of a lack of understanding. For example, a plumber may create one listing for water heater repairs and another for drain cleaning. But that’s a violation of Google’s guidelines against creating multiple listings for a single location.
What’s wrong with duplicate listings?
Don’t assume that duplicate listings mean that your business is easier to find online or that they will help your search visibility. They don’t help – they hurt.
When there are duplicate listings out there, they usually contain inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone) information. The duplicate may have a previous address, a bad or missing phone number, or a confusing variation on your company name. You have no control over whether people finding your online citation are finding the correct one or an incorrect one.
Customer address confusion
You’ll find that most duplicate listings are duplicated because they have non-matching addresses. This may be because you have moved and some of those online citations are simply out of date. You don’t want customers going to your old address! It may also be because some citations may be missing your street address, which leads to an obvious problem of people finding you.
Lost phone calls
I find that quite a few duplicate online citations are either missing the phone number completely, or have an old, expired number. Some mistake of fax number for a phone number. The number of phone calls you miss from prospective customers or clients as a result is impossible to estimate.
Online reviews impacted
Duplicate listings can dilute the impact of your online customer reviews. People don’t only look at the number of stars you have, but also the number of reviews. People treat a five star rating to be a more likely representation of a business when it’s the average of a dozen reviews then when it comes from only one. Duplicate listings spread your reviews out, so that none of them represents all of your reviews.
The snowball effect
When a duplicate occurs on an aggregator like Dun & Bradstreet, the duplicate citations get sent out to all of the publishers that rely on the information from that aggregator. That single duplicate may snowball into anywhere from two or three to dozens of citations across the web.
Search rankings lost
When Google or other search engines find duplicate and inconsistent listings for you out there, they can’t tell which one to trust. If they’re not sure which address is right for you, they’re more likely to rank you lower than you deserve rather than risk providing bad information at the top of their search results.
How to recover from duplicate listings
Obviously you can’t recover from duplicate listings unless you know they exist. You might uncover them by manually searching for yourself at lots of local search engines, directories, maps and apps to see if you’re listed multiple times in any of them. Search Engine Land, in their Definitive Guide to Duplicate Research for Local SEO, offers instructions on how to identify duplicate listings. That’s an eleven-step manual procedure involving online research and working with an Excel spreadsheet.
Once you’ve identified duplicate listings out there, it’s important that you suppress them. When you do that, be sure to suppress the ones that are most inconsistent with other online citations for your business. You can search each individual publisher for how to notify them and request a suppression of the listing.
Making it simple and easy
If you have a Yext location platform subscription (fair disclosure: I am a Yext Certified Partner) you not only receive an alert when a potential duplicate is found, but you can easily suppress it right from within your dashboard. You can literally suppress multiple duplicate listings within just a minute or two.