Duplicate Listings and Data Inaccuracy
There are a few things that can derail your local SEO efforts: insufficient reviews, an excess of negative feedback, too few Google Business Profile (GBP) signals, inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone number), and a lack of backlinks. Another thing that you can add to this list that you may not have been aware of is duplicate business listings.
What is a duplicate business listing?
A duplicate business listing occurs when a business has more than one listing on an industry directory site, general directory site, or similar platforms, such as Google Business Profile.
Even if the details are different for each listing, if the listing itself relates to the same business, then this counts as a duplicate listing.
Let’s say, for example, that you run a restaurant and also have a takeout service. If you created a business listing on Tripadvisor or Yelp for your restaurant and then created a second listing for your takeout service, you’d essentially be creating duplicate business listings.
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 serious consequences for your overall local search 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?
Unfortunately, while it may seem inconsequential on the surface, duplicate business listings can seriously derail your local SEO efforts. Google Business Profile 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 harm your local search visibility. Having repeated information — whether that’s in the form of multiple social media profiles or multiple directory listings — creates NAP inconsistencies, which, as well as being problematic for Google, can cause issues for your customers.
Duplicate Listings Cause Consumer Confusion and Negatively Impact Trust
Google finds duplicate listings suspicious and so do consumers. Duplicate listings not only confuse consumers and erode trust, but 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, eight in ten consumers state 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 a potential customer is confused by a duplicate business listing, you may inadvertently encourage those visitors to spend their money with one of your competitors—one they can easily find online with 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 your competitors.
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 data from multiple sources. If you have inconsistent NAP, it may be that these sites 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 an 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’s possible that an agency you worked with in the past 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
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 find 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 or Excel Spreadsheet will do) to monitor your progress.
Manual Listings Site Check
Similarly 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 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, and search 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 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 easily find each duplicate business listing and take appropriate remedial action. Tools like Citation Tracker or Local Listings Health Scanner can help you spot your duplicate listings.
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 duplicate.
For example, GBP has a specific process to follow, but this process will differ from 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, but the results are worthwhile.
Some services allow you to suppress duplicate listings, while others will merge or remove the listing. Again, the exact process will depend on the site or service itself.
Protecting Your Online Reputation
Duplicate business listings can eat away at your Local Pack rankings and consumer trust. Incomplete and conflicting information is frustrating to both search engines and consumers and can seriously undermine SEO 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 appropriate action.