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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 listings management as well as best practices for overcoming these hurdles.
Duplicate listings are fairly self-explanatory: two similar or identical listings for your business in one singular business directory.
Some duplicate listings arise from automation. Data aggregators automatically pull business details from public places 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 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.
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 businesses are generally listed on 80+ different 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 hire a listing management service.
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 service.
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:
Separate listings that ARE acceptable
Separate listings that ARE NOT acceptable
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.
Meijer lists four separate departments within their primary GBP.
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.
What Meijer does well:
Where Meijer can improve:
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.
As previously noted, your business is likely listed on over 80 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:
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.
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 listing 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 listing management service for you. Need a refresher on the basics of listing management? We have you covered.
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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