There are a few things that can derail your local SEO efforts: insufficient reviews, an excess of negative feedback, too few Google My Business signals, inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone number), and a general lack of backlinks. Another thing that you can add to this list that you may not have been aware of is duplicate business listings.
A duplicate business listing occurs when more than one listing is present for any given business (or singular business location in the case of a multi-location business) on an industry directory site, general directory site, or similar platforms such as Google My Business.
Even if the details themselves are different under each listing, if the listing itself relates to the same business, a duplicate business listing is present.
Let’s say, for example, that you run a restaurant and also have a takeout menu. If you’d created a business listing on TripAdvisor or Yelp for your restaurant and then created a second listing for your takeout menu, you’d essentially be creating a duplicate business listing.
In cases like this, it may be a genuine mistake caused by simply wanting to get as much online visibility as possible, however, it’s an action that can have pretty serious consequences for your overall local SEO visibility.
Why are duplicate business listings a problem?
You may have created a duplicate listing innocently enough. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that duplicate business listings are no big deal; after all, you’re simply making it easier for a potential customer to find you, right? And if you offer takeout as well as dine-in, why not create two separate listings?
Unfortunately, while they may seem inconsequential on the surface, duplicate business listings can seriously derail your local SEO efforts. Google My Business itself doesn’t allow duplicate listings, which is a big indication that you’ll need to be especially vigilant about maintaining just one profile on industry directories.
Duplicate listings negatively affect your local SEO
One of the biggest issues associated with having a duplicate business listing is that it can result in poor local SEO results. Having repeated information, whether that’s in the form of multiple social media profiles or multiple directory listings, creates NAP inconsistencies.
NAP is a local pack ranking factor according to the Whitespark Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Duplicate listings create NAP inconsistencies which, as well as being problematic for Google, can cause problems for your end customer.
Duplicate listings can cause confusion to consumers and negatively impact trust
Just as Google finds duplicate listings confusing and suspicious, so too do consumers. This is just as serious an issue as loss of local SEO visibility because duplicate listings not only confuse customers and erode trust, they can also lead to a loss of revenue and store visits.
The findings from our Local Citations Trust Report confirm this impact, with 93% of consumers admitting to being frustrated by incorrect information in an online directory. What’s more, 8 in 10 consumers also say that if they encounter incorrect or inconsistent business names or contact information, they will lose trust in that business.
With nine in ten consumers known to search for the address of a business online before their first visit, no organization can afford to generate confusion via duplicate listings. If your end customer is confused by a duplicate business listing, you may inadvertently encourage those visitors to find a different business to spend their money with – one they can easily find online, with a single confirmed address and no conflicting information.
Commenting on the study, BrightLocal’s Content and Research Manager Rosie Murphy says,
It’s clear from this data that having incorrect information about your business visible in your local citations could be having a serious impact on your potential audience’s likelihood to visit or call you. Nearly everyone finds incorrect information in online directories frustrating. [And] the blame for incorrect local citations tends to lie with the business. These errors can be reason enough to deter potential customers, and sometimes even send them into the arms of competitors. Businesses need to take action now if they are to maximize their chances of getting customers through the door and ready to buy. It’s not enough to make sure contact details are correct on the business website, as anyone researching their choice of local business using an online directory could still fall foul of incorrect info.
Duplicate listings could lead to your account being suspended
Incorrect or inconsistent information is incredibly frustrating for consumers. If that frustration turns to action in the form of complaints, it could lead to the business directory suspending your account or even removing all listings related to your business.
If this happens and you’re prevented from having a business listing on a key business listing site such as Yelp for restaurants or TripAdvisor for hotels, you could be giving a serious amount of ground away to competitors simply by not being present.
Being suspended could cost time and money to rectify. The loss of a live link and profile on a major directory site could also result in a loss of rankings, which leads to fewer site visitors and potential damage to your revenue.
How can duplicate business listings occur?
Even if you haven’t intentionally set out to create a duplicate business listing, you may well find that several have sprung up over time anyway. There are lots of reasons why this may be the case:
You, a co-worker, or an agency working on your behalf may inadvertently create a citation on a site where you already have a listing. This can happen very easily if you have been building citations for a while and have lost track of sites where a business listing already exists or if you bring someone new on board who doesn’t have a complete list of current business listings.
To avoid the curse of accidental addition, make sure you keep track of all existing listings in a location that every team member has access to.
Some listing sites aggregate their data from multiple sources. If you have inconsistent NAP, it may be that they find several different listings, each with slightly different data, all of which are then imported separately, compounding your duplicate business listing problem.
Loss of login details
Business information naturally changes over time. Your business phone number may change, for example, or you could move to a new address. If you no longer have access to the original listing, perhaps because it was set up by an old agency or owned by a former employee, you may just go ahead and create a new one instead. Securely storing your login information for all directories your business is present on is advisable to avoid this common faux pas.
Attempting to boost SEO
SEO is in a constant state of evolution so it is entirely possible that an agency you worked with in the past would have created multiple business listings on the same directories because they believed it was a way to gain better search engine rankings.
This definitely isn’t the case today, so if you think an agency you worked with may have created duplicate listings on your behalf, be sure to monitor where your business is present online and remove any copies.
How to Find Duplicate Business Listings
So, now you know the consequences of duplicate business listings, let’s explore how to find them.
Whether you’ve been building a business listing profile for a few months or several years, regularly checking for duplicate listings is essential to keep your local SEO and consumer trust in good standing.
Manual search engine check
A manual check is just as it sounds – you’ll methodically and manually work your way through the web to find and flag up duplicate listings. Of course, this is a pretty daunting task and an unenviable job to have on your to-do list. It’s very difficult to manually track all of your business listings and harder still to keep track of each one. If you’re set on doing things the old fashioned way, make sure you set up a tracker (a Google Sheet or Excel file will do) to monitor your progress.
Manual listings site check
Similar to a manual search, you can use a Google search operator such as “site:listingssite.com yourbusinessname” to track down all mentions of your business on each individual listing site. Again, you’ll need to comb through the results and check each listing’s site in turn to perform an effective check.
Business listings site check
Another option is to manually search every business listing site you know you have a listing on, searching for multiple variations of your business name on each.
The main problem with these manual methods is that many listings sites get their information from third parties, so there could well be plenty of duplicate listings on sites you’re not aware of.
Invest in a tool
Using a specialist local SEO tool such as BrightLocal’s Citation Tracker is a less time-consuming and more thorough solution. It can be used to perform a full web scan of hundreds of listings sites so you can more easily find each duplicate business listing and then take appropriate remedial action.
How to Remove Duplicate Business Listings
Once you have identified a duplicate business listing, you need to remove that duplicate so that a single, correct, and complete listing remains. The exact process you’ll need to undertake will depend on the directory or platform hosting the duplication. Google My Business, for example, has a specific process to follow but this process will differ to the steps required by a directory such as Yell.
Wherever you do encounter a duplicate listing, you’ll need to log in, claim it, and then edit it. If you have pinpointed dozens of duplicates, it’s a long and arduous process that requires a lot of manual effort to rectify, but the results are evidently worthwhile.
Some services allow you to suppress duplicate listings while others will merge or remove the listing. BrightLocal’s Citation Builder, for example, will either create an account and claim the listing or submit an update or removal request via a web form or editor contact (more info can be found here). Again, the exact process will depend on the site or service itself.
Having a duplicate business listing can eat away at your local pack rankings and consumer trust from the inside. Contradictory, incomplete, and conflicting information is especially frustrating to both search engines and consumers and can seriously undermine efforts being made elsewhere.
While there are several reasons for duplicate listings cropping up, it’s important that you develop a process for monitoring duplicate listings and take action against each duplicate business listing as and when it is discovered.