One of the biggest ranking factors for the Google local section of the search results is the amount of citations (name, address, and phone number), as well as the consistency of those citations. Previously, it used to be all about the number of citations (regardless of quality or consistency), so the more citations you have, the better chance you have at ranking but that simple equation is no longer the case.
Once SEOs found that citations were a powerful ranking factor, citations became the new hot ticket to better rankings. SEOs started placing citations anywhere they could find. I saw many agencies even creating multiple listings on the same sites with different information (tracking phone numbers in particular), simply so that it would count towards a “citation.” This worked for some time, but Google eventually caught up. As we know, Google is now focusing on quality versus quantity in terms of link building, but the same thing is becoming true with local listings.
So now along with the number of citations, Google now considers the consistency and quality of those listings.
So what does consistency actually mean? Here is an example of two listings for a small business:
|Joe’s Painting Services
12156 SW Wonder Rd., Suite 23
Portland, OR 97223
|Joe’s Home Painting
12156 SW Wonder Rd.
Portland, OR 97223
To a human, we can tell these listings probably belong to the same business. However, computers are not quite able to tell that these are the same business, and most services will treat these listings as two separate businesses.
The first issue is the business name is listed differently. You would not believe the number of times I see this happen. Although it may not seem like a big deal, small iterations of the business name can absolutely screw everything up.
The next issue is the suite number is missing. This is not the biggest issue, but we always want the address to be 100% consistent.
Finally, in the last listing, Joe used his cellphone number instead of the office number. This leads the computers to believe that these are not the same business.
Duplicate and Incorrect Listings
So now you know how picky search engines are when it comes to local listing consistency, but what about duplicate and incorrect listings? Here is what happens when you have duplicate and incorrect listings:
First, Google will not know what information is correct. This causes confusion on Google’s end. When Google is confused about the actual address, business name, and phone number, it is less likely to serve up those results in the search.
Second, creating inconsistent listings can lead to more and more incorrect listings as well as duplicate listings (all of which can really hurt your local rankings). There are entities out there called data aggregators that scour the Internet and find these citations. Data aggregators like InfoGroup, Factual, and Acxiom crawl the Internet and record NAP information. When duplicate and incorrect listings are found, data aggregators tend to exacerbate these incorrect listings by duplicating these errors in new places as well. Additionally, in the example above, data aggregators will likely place both listings on the same site (since it assumes these are completely different listings). The real problem with this is that listings that come from data aggregators (like those on Yahoo) can be difficult, if not impossible to fix or remove.
Duplicate and incorrect listings also can confuse customers as well as spread reviews thin. For example, you have two listings on Yahoo, some users will leave reviews under the first and others will leave reviews under the second. This means that all your valuable reviews will not be consolidated into one location.
Finally, duplicate and incorrect listings do no count towards your citation count, which is a ranking factor that Google uses for its local search results.
Finding Duplicate Listings & Fixing Them
The easiest way, and most efficient way we’ve found is to use a tool called Moz Local. This tool has relationships with the top data aggregators, and submits the correct and complete information on your behalf. This in itself can help fix some of the errors caused by data aggregators. Additionally, this tool pulls your listings from the top sites and lists whether the information is 100 percent correct and states if it is optimized, incomplete or incorrect. Plus, it points out duplicate listings. This tool is just that, a tool, and additional work and know-how is required to clean up a businesses citation profile.
Another way is to use a tool called N.A.P Hunter from our friends at Local SEO Guide, which is a Chrome extension that helps find your NAPs in Google. It can help find incorrect and duplicate listings. With this tool though, it only helps you find the listings. All additional work to clean up the citation profile must be done manually. This tool is a great spot to view your local citation profiles and see if you see any blaring issues (it’s free after all!).
Finally, there is a website called Yext, which does a great job at ensuring your citations are listed on the top websites as well as correct inconsistencies throughout it’s network. Yext is a fantastic tool, but unfortunately its business model makes it a hard sell for many businesses. They operate on a subscription model, which means that once you unsubscribe from their monthly services, they no longer maintain your information in its database. Oftentimes your citations will disappear all together after terminating its subscription services. We prefer solutions that fix the issue permanently and the effects will continue on after services are terminated (oh hey, like SEO!).
Cleaning up a businesses citation profile can be a very difficult, tedious and time-intensive task. Even though having a consistent and clean citation profile is critical to a business’s online success, many business owners oversee this due to the difficult nature, lack of knowledge, and time commitment required.
That is why many businesses choose to hire an outside digital marketing firm, like us here at In2itive Search. We do this every day, and have a few tools, and tricks to make the process more streamlined and efficient. When in doubt, let the pros handle it!