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February 6, 2023

Listing Management Challenges: Avoid Duplicates, Represent all of Your Departments, and Make Updates at Scale

How to ensure your business listings are accurate across the internet and optimized for search and conversion

Effectively listing your local business online is essential. But it can be tricky. Some of the biggest challenges associated with managing your business’ online listings: maintaining up-to-date information, ensuring you’re accurately represented and staying in line with the listing platform’s guidelines. 

Keep reading to learn about the common obstacles in business listings management as well as best practices for overcoming these hurdles. 

How to Avoid Duplicate Listings and Why They Occur 

Duplicate listings are fairly self-explanatory: two similar or identical listings for your business in one singular business directory. 

Why do duplicate listings occur? 

Some duplicate listings arise from automation. Data aggregators automatically pull details from business listings sites and may erroneously generate a claimable listing. Even if you have already made one listing yourself, the data aggregator could accidentally make a duplicate, especially if they find inaccurate information (address, phone number, etc.). 

When updating and making changes in business information, a business owner is in danger of creating a duplicate listing rather than editing the existing listing. This is problematic, for there would be two listings with potentially conflicting information. The consequences: search engines are left unable to tell which information is correct, they may lose trust and your rankings will drop.

Duplicate business listings are occasionally made on purpose; some business owners assume that making a second listing will boost business visibility. But, a second business listing won’t help your store rank higher in search results. In fact, the opposite happens. On Google, for example, a duplicate listing violates the platform’s guidelines and can lead to a GBP account suspension. Alternatively, Google will ignore the duplicate listing entirely in favor of the original. 

In short, duplicates are bad. 

How do you avoid duplicate listings? 

If you discover that your business has a duplicate Google business listing, follow these steps to delete the duplicate. 

Keep track of your listings to avoid duplicates. Local companies are generally listed on 80+ different business listings sites, so monitoring all listings can be a lot of work, but it’s important to do to avoid duplicates. 

To monitor listings, either use an in-house team or enroll in a business listing management service such as ours here at Widewail

For some businesses, monitoring your listings manually with an in-house team is the right choice. To do so, first, scan directories for all your claimed and unclaimed listings. (You’re probably listed on at least 80 sites). Claim any unclaimed citations. Then, add your listings to a spreadsheet to keep track. Make sure all information is correct and up-to-date. Delete any duplicate listings and edit incorrect information. Try to go through this process monthly. 

If this sounds out of your reach, or if you manage more than one location of your business, consider using a free listings monitoring tool or hiring a business listings management service.

Representing All Your Departments

Another challenge to navigate in the world of online listings: how do you accurately represent all your departments? The choice to make separate listings per department is a strategic one that we have discussed previously, but making separate listings per department isn’t the right choice for all businesses. 

Creating multiple listings for unique departments within your business is a strategic move. The goal is to rank higher in local search for distinct search categories unique to each department of your business. 

To be clear, creating separate listings per department is different from having duplicate listings. Multiple listings are allowed for different departments within one business, but duplicates for businesses without distinct departments are not allowed.

According to Google, separate GBPs are appropriate when: 

  • Publicly-facing departments operate as distinct entities.
  • The exact name of each department is different from that of the main business and that of other departments. 
  • Departments have distinct categories and often have a separate customer entrance.
  • Hours often differ from those of the main business.

Separate listings that ARE acceptable

Separate listings that ARE NOT acceptable

  • Sales and Service departments at an automotive dealership
  • Walmart and Walmart Vision Center 
  • Meijer Grocery Store, Meijer Deli, Meijer Pharmacy, Meijer Bakery
  • Airport Arrivals and Airport Departures 
  • Folino’s Pizza and Folino’s Pizza Take Out
  • Target’s kitchen section and Target’s clothing section 

    These aren’t acceptable because these departments don’t operate as distinct entities. Walmart and Walmart Vision Center do. 

Avoid a multi-GBP strategy if you don’t plan on generating reviews for each separate GBP. Reviews are a must to compete with the local competition. 

If executed properly, this multi-GBP strategy can boost rankings and win you more customers. The strategy falls short if each listing isn’t populated with reviews or isn’t optimized for search. 

To understand how and when to effectively and accurately represent all your departments, let’s look closely at the midwest grocery store chain Meijer and its internal departments.

 Meiher GBP (1)

Meijer lists four separate departments within their primary GBP.

Meijer Departments GBP (1)

Each Meijer department has unique hours, all of which are listed on the respective GBP. Each operates as a distinct entity and has different categories. While they do not necessarily all have separate entrances, this isn’t a steadfast requirement for Google. 

Meijer Deli GBP (1)   Meijer Pharmacy GBP (1)

Meijer Gas Station GBP (1)Meijer Bakery GBP (1)

What Meijer does well:

  • Includes the unique name of each department
  • Links to the main GBP in the “Located In” section
  • Adds specific hours for each department
  • Includes unique phone numbers per department
  • Lists unique primary categories – “Pharmacy,” “Deli,” and “Gas Station” 

Where Meijer can improve:

  • Add a primary category for Meijer Bakery
  • Populate each listing with accurate photos (See how Meijer Pharmacy 6 repeat photos of the pharmacy drive-up? This is a sign of a listing that’s not being maintained) 
  • Get more reviews (Meijer Bakery has no reviews. Bad!)
  • Regularly confirm hours so that users don’t suggest changes. On the Meijer Bakery listing, the note “Updated by phone call 3 weeks ago” implies that there was an error on Meijer’s listing and a user had to update it. When a user has to suggest updates, the listing loses traction.

When implementing a multi-listing strategy to represent all departments, it’s important to maintain and optimize each listing as you would a single primary listing. Things get messy when you have to maintain multiple department listings or when you manage a chain of businesses like Meijer. 

Since it’s complicated, let’s go over best practices for maintaining a large volume of listings and making edits at scale.

Making Updates to your Listings at Scale  

As previously noted, your company is likely listed on over 80 business listings sites across the web. Making updates at scale is time-consuming and challenging to get right. Especially if you’ve implemented a department-specific listing strategy. (That’s 2 - 4x the existing 80+ listings to update!)

In regard to listing accuracy, here are things to keep in mind:

  • Update any errors or inconsistencies before your customers do.

If there are errors on your listings, (ie wrong phone number, incorrect business hours) your customers can suggest updates to correct the mistakes. While certainly a way to keep your information correct, you want to avoid this whenever possible. Why?

Evidence suggests that listings that are updated by other users drop in ranking. Inaccurate information on a page is less trustworthy, and even though an error can be corrected, Google and other search engines won’t trust your listing as much and it may drop in search results. 

  • Certain industries are prone to specific errors. 

Be wary of certain errors that your industry may be susceptible to. 

For example, service businesses without a storefront that operate in a specific geographical area – plumbers, electricians and pest control groups – may fall into the trap of listing their personal address as the address rather than listing their business as a service area business. 

Local banks should be careful to list their local phone number over a toll-free line. 

Understand how to avoid common mistakes made by others in your industry or turn to the experts when you need help. 

Making updates manually is technically possible, but it’s a grueling process. On such a large scale, automating the process is usually your best bet. With automation, make the desired edit to your information in one location and a tool will ensure all other listings are updated to reflect your change. Since consistency across listings is key to a higher ranking, it’s important to ensure updates are made across the board and on all listings sites, not in just a few prime locations. 

If your team doesn’t have an automated tool, a business listings management service is another great choice to make it easy to make small changes across multiple listings. With a hired service, your business can make as many minor or large changes in one centralized dashboard which can push your updates to all of your listings across the web simultaneously. Quick and no listings missed. 

The next post in our series will cover how to choose the right business listings management service for you. Need a refresher on the basics of business listings management? We have you covered.

Keaton Smith

I’m a writer, philosopher, climber, mountain biker, and a fried-egg enthusiast. Before joining Widewail as a Review Response Specialist, I attended Middlebury College and studied Philosophy and Art History. I grew up in Michigan, but I fell in love with Vermont while in school.

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