During a recent trip to Southern California, I found myself on an unfamiliar errand. One Google search, 20 minutes, and a $15 Uber trip later, I arrived at the front door of a vacant building. Digging deeper in search, I located another listing for the same location, marked as permanently closed. At that moment, I became the frustrated victim of a business problem I resolve for clients regularly: the dreaded duplicate listing.
What is a duplicate listing?
Duplicate listings occur when a business has more than one listing, whether managed (claimed) or unmanaged, on any publisher platform, for the same business name, address, and phone number.
Listings for linked business entities that occupy the same physical space, but have separate names, phone numbers, or local web pages, are not considered duplicate listings by most platforms. Typically referred to as “nested” locations or “departments,” depending on the rules of the platform, these listings stand independently.
For example, a cafe located within a grocery store, a photo department within a department store, separate medical offices within a hospital, or individual professionals occupying a common space such physicians, financial advisors, attorneys, or realtors, are not considered duplicate listings when properly identified.
How are duplicate listings created?
While many publisher platforms have controls in place to prevent the arbitrary creation of duplicate listings, the listings landscape is complex, and duplicates can sometimes crop up when small variations in data are available. Common examples here demonstrate how easily a duplicate listing may be created:
1. Popular platforms like Google pull together data from many different sources, including mined data, data from smaller publishers, and suggestions from Google users. If multiple variations of your business name and contact information are published in various places online, Google and other publishers may create separate listings for your business, thinking each variation represents a different entity.
2. If a business owner does not know that a listing already exists for their business on a platform, he or she might create an additional listing by mistake.
3. If a listing was created and claimed by a former employee or agency and is not accessible to current employees, they may create a duplicate listing.
4. If a business moves, the name changes, or the business is sold, duplicates may occur. This can happen, for instance, when new listings are created for the new business and old listings are not modified or properly marked as closed.
5. A business may have intentionally created multiple listings to represent various products and services -- even though this practice goes against most publisher guidelines -- in an attempt to boost search ranking.
What is the impact of duplicate listings?
Duplicate listings reduce the strength of a managed business listing by fragmenting its content, reviews, and location data. Duplicates may even outrank managed listings in search.
Duplicate listings create confusion for both publishers and consumers, and can erode consumer trust in a business.
Duplicate listings can result in lost sales, in cases where consumers are misled by inaccurate information.
Duplicates can contribute to a false flow of information about a business that can prove very difficult to control and correct. For example, if duplicate listings are distributed to multiple publishers through a data aggregator feed, erroneous business information may make its way into publication on several different sites. That information can then be indexed by Google, and may surface in search results for months after the listings themselves are corrected.
If a publisher like Google discovers duplicate listings due to routine review or consumer complaints, the result may be a penalty in the form of suspension, which may cause all listings to be removed from publication.
What is the proper way to remove a duplicate listing?
Available techniques for addressing duplicate listings include suppression, merging, and removal.
Some local marketing companies handle duplicate content through relationships with publishers that allow them to suppress duplicates for as long as their business customers pay them to do so. Think of duplicate suppression as a technique that simply masks the duplicate data for a limited period of time. This process doesn’t remove the duplicate listing, but simply hides it for as long as the business pays for that service. If the paid relationship ends, the duplicates will reappear.
By contrast, merging duplicates into one master listing, or simply removing duplicates from publication, ensures that faulty data is permanently taken out of the local ecosystem and that URLs are redirected to the proper listing.
Our own practices follow the latter method. Brandify connects directly with our publisher and data aggregator partners to permanently merge a duplicate listing into the claimed listing, or to remove the duplicate listing if that option is available. A combination of technology and human effort is required to identify all duplicates, interact with publisher partners, resolve any ownership conflicts, and provide support in claiming rogue listings so they may be effectively merged with the managed listing or removed altogether.
How do I protect my business against duplicate listings?
Consistency is the key to traffic in local search. Ensuring that one managed listing exists as a single source of truth for your business is the best way to promote accuracy in organic search when it comes to major publishers like Google, as well as smaller directories that may generate consumer traffic locally or for specific verticals. Listing consistency helps to centralize consumer reviews, improves search strength, and builds confidence in consumers who search for your products and services.
Duplicate listings can be frustrating, but rest assured that Brandify is here to help! We’ve put in thousands of hours resolving listing issues like these on behalf of our brand clients. Our goal is to ensure that your listings, wherever they appear, represent the single source of truth about your business and help guide customers to your front door.
Ready to manage your listings? Reach out to Brandify to learn more about our Listings Management service for enterprise businesses.