Local SEO is one of the most effective marketing strategies for local businesses. It’s how potential customers in your community find their way to your door and form relationships with your business. For local search engine optimization to be effective, consistency of information – especially in online directories – is key.
Online directories are places like Google My Business, Yelp, Citysearch, and other sites that collect and display information in response to an internet user’s search. For example, if a person types your business name into the Google search bar, a Google My Business listing might appear. Online directories like this provide a huge boost in visibility for your business.
The only downside to listings in online directories is that they can be a little challenging to manage. Sometimes, listings can appear without your knowledge. This can be problematic enough on its own, especially if the information in the listing is inaccurate. However, it can create an even bigger issue when you discover that you actually have multiple duplicate listings in the same search directory.
Duplicate listings have left more than one business owner scratching their head, wondering where these extra listings came from, how damaging are they, and what can be done to solve the problem.
What’s the Deal with Duplicate Listings?
A duplicate listing is just as it sounds- a business having more than one listing in any online directory. This is different from having listings in multiple different directories, which is usually a good thing from an SEO perspective. Duplicate listings don’t sound too harmful, right? After all, a duplicate listing might boost your chances of showing up in search results.
Except, this isn’t what happens at all.
Duplicate directory listings can actually wreak havoc on your search engine performance. The problem is that duplicate listings can weaken your validity, which is disastrous for SEO.
For starters, Google recognizes that some business owners will attempt to gain search engine visibility through less than scrupulous means – duplicate directory listings being just one strategy. Over time, Google has adapted its algorithm to penalize businesses that make shady attempts at circumventing the rules. In fact, it’s a violation of Google’s guidelines to have more than one listing in each of their directory platforms.
Unfortunately, businesses that end up with duplicate directory listings by mistake can also be penalized.
There are other reasons that duplicate listings are a problem. For instance, trustworthiness and validation as a real business are huge for search engine marketing, and it’s difficult to establish either of those things when multiple directory listings are giving off completely different details about your business. Plus, with two listings, you’re essentially splitting your ranking strength among those listings rather than having it concentrated on one listing alone.
Duplicate listings also make it difficult for customers to find you. If two listings are providing different details, how do they know which one to trust, and are they going to put in the effort to find out? What might seem like a minor problem can have a significant impact on your search engine performance on many levels.
Where Do Duplicate Listings Come From
There are different ways to get your business listed in an online directory. The most desirable way is to go to these sites and claim a listing for yourself, that way you can ensure that all your information is accurate. But some directories just basically scour the internet, pull information and create automatic entries. There are also situations in which someone else may have created a listing for you.
Duplicate listing can stem from many scenarios, but here are the five most common:
- Pure Accident: A business might add a listing to a directory without realizing that one already exists or because they have forgotten about a previous entry. It might also be that their information has changed or they’ve rebranded themselves and want a fresh, new listing but fail to delete the old one.
- Changes In Business Data: Most directories will have you go through the process of searching their database to ensure a listing doesn’t already exist before you add a new one. In the event that key information about the business has changed – like key identifying NAP info or a new merger – you might miss a previous entry.
- Failure to Understand the Guidelines: Online directories have guidelines regarding duplicate listings – after all, they’re not going to be of much use to their users if they’re providing unreliable results. Because of the impact on SEO, Google’s guidelines are especially rigid. A business may create multiple listings while not being aware of these guidelines. This is especially common for businesses that offer multiple services, for example an insurance agency that creates separate entries for auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc.
- Directory Errors: Directories that scour data to build listings can pull up information about your business that varies just enough for them to create separate entries. For example, if you use an acronym for your business’s name you might find listings for both the long and short version names of your business.
- Malicious Intent: Malicious duplicate entries happen when someone ignores the guidelines and creates multiple entries anyway. They can also happen when competitors, trolls, or disgruntled customers attempt to interfere with your online reputation.
Solving the Problem with Duplicate Listings
The best way to solve the problem with duplicate listings is to take a proactive approach to reputation management. A presence in online directories is important and should be treated as a key part of search engine marketing. Start by taking the time to search for your business in the most popular online directories on a regular basis.
Secondly, familiarize yourself with listing guidelines for the directories you have put listings on, and keep a record of where those listings are so that you can quickly resolve any changes in your business information.
Finally, if a duplicate listing does exist, report it and work with the directory to have the situation remedied immediately.
Professional SEO Services for Directory Management
Directory management is an important component of SEO. At JLB, we take a comprehensive approach to search engine marketing that includes, directory management, along with a strategy for online reviews and reputation management. We’re here to lift your business in the digital space. Contact JLB today to learn more.