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How Duplicate Listings Are Hurting Your Business's Local SEO

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Duplicates, duplicates, duplicates! If you own a business, chances are somewhere out there a duplicate listing of your business exists. That doesn’t mean that it is your fault; in fact, you could have done everything right.

Unfortunately, sometimes life gives you lemons (that’s when I get the tequila, I mean make lemonade…) and you have to clean up the mess.

If you're seeing double, don’t worry! We’re here to tell you all about what a duplicate listing is and how to get them removed, without the urge of reaching for the aspirin.

What is a Duplicate Listing and Why Do They Exist?

Before we get into the finer details of duplicates, let’s define exactly what we are talking about here. If a local business has more than one listing on any given directory, such as Google+, Yelp, Yellowpages, etc., that is considered a duplicate. Seems pretty simple, right? You wouldn’t put the same recipe in a cookbook twice, so why list your business in the same directory twice.

So how do these duplicates come to be? There are a number of different ways these duplicates appear, and it is difficult to say who the actual culprit is with 100% certainty. Typically, we can chalk it up to one of three scenarios:

  1. The business owner (knowingly, or unknowingly) created the listing. Thankfully, much of this has been eliminated as local search directories have improved that listing addition process. Many sites have created systems that recognize things like address, phone number and even your business name to prevent this from happening. The only catch, sometimes all it takes is for one letter to be out of place and voila, you have a duplicate!

  2. A customer suggested and or created the new listing. You might notice this on facebook a lot. Your favorite restaurant has a Facebook page, but every time you try to check-in, you’re presented with three different places at the same address. This happens when local directories allow the end user (your customers) to add “missing” businesses.

  3. There is a server error. This is perhaps the most frustrating scenario. I’ve seen most of this on Google, and most notably on a recent update to the “local” system. I haven’t received a straight answer on this one, but clearly something got lost in translation. Google’s “My Business” and “Local” segments have had the dating relationship of a 13-year-old girl. They break up, get back together, then break up again. Somewhere in one of these splits and merges, something got left behind.

How are Duplicates Hurting Local SEO?

We know that duplicates are a bad thing, but why? Again, not a black and white answer; however, Google’s Business Guidelines make it very clear that you should not create more than one listing for each of your businesses locations.

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There may be some exceptions to this rule, such as multi-practitioner medical practices, but typically you will still need a suite number to create separate listings.

There are a number of things that can happen when you have duplicate listings. Let’s take a look at those now.

  • Your reviews can be split up. Reviews help your business rank higher in local searches, so splitting them up amongst multiple listings on the same directory do nothing but hurt you in the long run. You build a better reputation with 15 reviews on one listing, versus 5 on one and 10 on another.

  • Information can become outdated or altogether incorrect. Managing one business listing across multiple directories is hard enough! Couple that with multiple listings on one platform and things fall through the cracks. If your business information is outdated, you could be losing business!

  • Major search engines won’t know which listing to show, or even worse, they won’t show your business at all. You always want to send one, clear message to your customers and search engines. If you try to break that rule, you could be penalized, and heavily!

  • Duplicates have a way of snowballing. The local listings ecosystem is a complex, well, mess. Many of these directories feed information to each other. If you have a duplicate somewhere with the wrong information, chances are that has been replicated across many directories.

How Do I Find Duplicate Listings of My Business?

There are a couple of different approaches we can take here, but keep in mind, we may need to use more than one strategy. There are plenty of third-party services that promise to update and add your business to hundreds of different directories. Be careful when evaluating third party services as some of these systems are outdated and even worse, they charge you an arm and a leg, each month!

So who can we trust? Moz Local offers a great local listings service at an affordable yearly rate. They help you find duplicates of your business and even allow you to add alternative names to your duplicate search.

This is especially helpful if you may have purchased a business and changed names. The only other way to effectively find all of your duplicates is to simply search google. Try searching for your companies address, phone number, name, etc. to get the full gambit of potential duplicates.

Need some help getting started? Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we will walk you through the process of getting these duplicates deleted on a few different directories!

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