Part Three: How Inconsistent Data Can Damage Your Business’ Chances of Being Found Online

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes | 1400 words

This article part THREE of an 8-part course titled “How to get your hospitality business found locally online”

In this article we will cover the most common issues that can arise when optimising your Google My Business listing. You might find that you have duplicate listings or perhaps your business has listings in multiple places, this can lead to confusion for the search engines. These inconsistencies and any conflicting information out there in the online ecosystem representing your brand will cause the search engines to penalise your business listing and damage your ranking significantly. This is why it’s so important that we take care of exactly what information is floating around out there online and make it work for you rather than against you.

It’s common to start a local SEO strategy by searching for, and taking action against, such inconsistencies in order to streamline all of your business’ data that is being propagated online.

How does my business listing get propagated across the internet?

You might create Google My Business, Yelp and Trip Advisor listings for your business along with a Facebook Business page as well as utilise a variety of aggregators and directories to further spread your brand awareness, such as infogroup, acxiom or factual. Each of these listings now have your NAP (business Name, Address and Phone number). The Search Engines scour the web for such listings and begin indexing this data to serve up to people searching for businesses and services like yours.

How information gets propagated around the online ecosystem starting with your business listings

What if some of these listings don’t match?

If all of your listings are consistent with the data they provide then the search engines are going to be confident that your data is correct and are more likely to show up in the results page. As search engines’ sole focus is to serve up the best and most accurate data at all times to its users, if there are any inconsistencies within your listings’ data they will feel less confident about showing your business listing on a results page. So we have to make sure the search engines feel confident about serving up your business.

When all data is consistent the search engines will have high confidence that the information is accurate

Inconsistencies can arise from something as simple as a phone number or address changing. Because of this, slowly over time your listings begin to have inconsistent data which directly affects the search engine’s confidence in sharing your listing.

If there are some inconsistencies then the search engines won't feel confident to share your business information

One of the key tasks when managing a business’ local SEO is to find and manage duplicate business listings.

As anyone is able to create a business listing on behalf of an existing business it is possible for customers to create a new listing for your business without realising that one already exists. Not only is there now a duplicate of your original business listing, but this well-intentioned customer might have entered a slightly incorrect address or phone number.

Some of the ways that duplicate listings can occur thanks to user generated content:

  • People checking in to your business via mobile apps
  • Creating new listings without checking to see if a listing already exists
  • 3rd party tools allowing people to create listings

How inconsistencies can generate new listings:

  • If a company gets bought out by another
  • Change of brand name
  • Business moves to a new location
  • Your business is located where an old business that no longer exists used to and the old business still has their listing online registered to your location.

Occasionally an information aggregator, such as a directory, might conflate two separate pieces of information, for example if there are two separate listings that aren’t complete, and create an entirely new listing. So perhaps before there were two conflicting listings, there are now three and the third was entirely made up by an aggregator.

So, as you can imagine, there are plenty of opportunities for duplicate listings to be created in your business’ name that hold inconsistent data and are therefore affecting your SEO ranking without you even being aware of it.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of tracking down duplicate listings, update them or find out how to delete them, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour per duplicate to track down and delete this one singular listing. And there are potentially hundreds out there.

According to an average enterprise client has 3,500 duplicate listings, the number of which will scale with the size of the business. So clearly this is a large problem.

Moz also estimated the time required to manage duplicate listings for enterprise companies at 44 weeks per year.

An example of how inconsistent data can come about and cause an issue:

When you started your business perhaps you created a business listing containing your mobile number and as time went by and your business grew you upgraded to getting a proper landline number and website. So, in order to keep your listings consistent you update this information on your Facebook, Yelp and Yellowpages listings. But now, the aggregators and amplifiers (directories, etc) of the internet are propagating your new updated information out into the ecosystem where your old listing information still exists (that was propagated previously).

So now you have conflicting information with a mixture of your updated listing and old listing data being propagated because the search engines will be trying to understand if both of these listings are the same company or if they are different companies despite having very similar information.

That uncertainty on behalf of the search engines translates to a lack of confidence in sharing any of your listings with users and so your business struggles to get found online.

What about multi-service businesses?

If you run a multi-service business that operates all under the same brand, such as a medical centre with thirty doctors, a realty firm with ten agents or a law firm with five attorneys, you’ll need to be marketing the physical location itself while also dealing with two unique challenges:

  • Determining whether or not to build local business listings for each individual practitioner
  • If these have already been built, you may need to deal with duplicate listings and listings of former employees who are no longer with the company.

When considering what to do, take a look at the business location on the map and see if there are multiple pins for the one practice. Are any of these listings..

  • Duplicates?
  • Are the business names presented correctly or spammy?
  • Listings of former employees?
  • Are you gathering reviews for the firm/practice or for the individuals?
As we can see within the box there are two pins for the same practice. One is for an individual practitioner Liam A. who works at the LJ Hooker Byron Bay practice and one is for the LJ Hooker Byron Bay practice itself. This was is not optimised and should be improved upon using the guidelines below.

Good practice dictates that if you are a practitioner at a practice (say a lawyer at a law firm) and you are one of several lawyers at that law firm who work with the public then your listing should only include your name and not that of the practice you represent. And there should be a separate listing created for just the practice, without any of the practitioners.

However, if you are the only practitioner at this practice to work with the public, then you should have your name and the practice title in your listing using the following format: [brand/company name]: [practitioner name]. For example, LawyersRus: Joe Miller.

The main question to ask is, who are you supposed to be promoting? The sole practitioners or the brand?

If it’s for the brand but there are several individual practitioner listings, the first step would be to change all of the phone numbers to that of the brand’s main office (ie. the same) and start promoting your brand listing as opposed to the listings of the individual practitioners.

How can we track down these duplicate listings quickly and easily to get our business’ online information under control as quickly as possible?

To make tracking down these duplicate listings easier, faster and more efficient, you can utilise’s Local Overview tool.

To do list:

  • Use the tool to track down all listings of your business and make sure there are no inconsistencies that will damage the chances of your business being found online. This does require an investment on your part.
  • If you need to update any information on your listing in the future, whether it’s a phone number, business name or location, be sure to use the tool listed above and update the relevant information on all of your listings throughout the entire online information ecosystem.

It might take some time, but after removing or updating all inconsistent, incorrect and outdated business information out there you can rest assured that the search engines will slowly regain confidence in your data being correct and will start to share it once more.

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In part four...

… we will cover proximity ranking and how that can affect how and where your business shows up locally.

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