Managing multiple Google My Business listings at the same address is an issue that regularly crops up for estate and letting agents. Whilst Google is definitely getting better at understanding business operating scenarios, it is still far from perfect, and can be rather frustrating! Before looking at the problem and the solutions, it’s worth talking about why you might want to have multiple listings in the first place.

Why might you want to have multiple listings at the same address in Google?

Not all sales and lettings businesses operate in the same way across the property industry. Whilst there are plenty of agents who operate their sales and lettings businesses together, there are also plenty of business out there who operate them separately.

Operating as Two Brands:

An estate agent might buy a local letting agent with a great history and a strong local brand. As they themselves have a strong brand in the sales side of the market, it doesn’t make sense to rebrand either the sales or lettings parts of the business. They might decide to consolidate both businesses to the same branch location, reducing overheads and increasing profitability.

The net result is two businesses with different branding, at the same address.

Same Brand, but Different Divisions:

A brand might have multiple operating divisions, possibly even set up as separate limited companies, and for business reasons want to keep them apart. They may have a sales, a lettings, and a new or country home division all operating from the same premises.

Parts of the business may be a franchise too and want to be kept distinct.

Keep them Separate to Measure Success:

You might want to have separate listings to give a better idea of leads coming into each division. By keeping them separate you are able to show different phone numbers and link to different pages on your website.

Shared Reviews – Escaping being Tarred by the Same Brush:

 I’m not saying this is commonplace, but let’s say the lettings division has had a spate of angry tenants leaving reviews on Google, the sales side of the business might not like the negative reviews impacting their ability to attract vendors. I could see a scenario of the estate agency office wanting a separate Google My Business listing to the letting agent side of the business!

The problem

Google treats the search phrases “estate agent” and “letting agent” the same, which to those in the property industry can seem somewhat frustrating. To be fair to Google, the public often refer to letting agents as “estate agents” so Google is kind of correct here!

 

Doing a search for letting agents and finding estate agents is annoying if you are a landlord or tenant.

If you are purely an estate agent as well, you want vendors and applicants to ring, not tenants and landlords! In the example image above, Parry Bishop and Chambers are purely an estate agent, and because Google is treating a letting agent search the same as an estate agent thinks they are relevant to the search of “letting agents Leckhampton”. Parry Bishop and Chambers have a lettings referral scheme set up, where they refer landlords on to another agent – so from their perspective lettings, calls aren’t a complete nuisance.

However, it’s those who are purely letting agents that get the rawest deal here. Google thinks searchers want an estate agent and relegate all but the strongest optimised lettings branches to the forgotten zone, also know as ‘more places’.

I digress a bit…

Back to the problem at hand, with Google treating ‘letting agents’ and ‘estate agents’ as the same thing, what do you think happens if you have a Google My Business listing set up for each?

Merge!

Google thinks you have made a mistake and created 2 listings for the same business, and will try everything in its power to be ‘helpful’ and merge your listings for you!

Google’s helpfulness extends to looking around the web and cobbling information together to make the listing they think you really want for your property business…

You might end up with a picture of the sales team, the phone number for the lettings team, and you may lose your reviews, or just end up with none of the happy vendors, and all the angry tenant ones saying their lights don’t work and the maintenance guy didn’t come out at 2 am to replace the lightbulb (ok slight exaggeration, but I have seen some funny tenant reviews out there!)

If letting agents tend to get merged with estate agents, what do you think Google makes of ‘new homes’ or ‘country homes’?

Merge!

Ok, James, you are basically saying if I try and run my business in what is a very normal common way to run a business, Google won’t like it… Surely Google must understand, what do they have to say about it?

Google’s Official Guidelines

For a long time Google’s guidelines on this were:

“Do not create more than one page for each location of your business, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”

Thanks for that Google, not that helpful.

However, they have expanded on this to give more detail for departments within other business:

Public-facing departments that operate as distinct entities should have their own page. The exact name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. Typically such departments have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories. Their hours may sometimes differ from those of the main business.

Acceptable (as distinct listings):

“Spring Gardens Optical Centre”

“Cafe Nero”

“Manchester General Hospital Department of Dermatology”

Not acceptable (as distinct listings):

The Apple products section of PC World

The hot food bar inside Meadowhall

For each department, the category that is the most representative of that department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments.

The main business “Barclays” has the category “Bank” whereas the department “Barclays Advisors” has the category “Financial Consultant”

The main business “Southend Toyota” has the category “Toyota Dealer” whereas “Southend Toyota Service & Parts” has the category “Auto Repair Shop” (plus the category “Auto Parts Shop”)

The main business “GetGo” has the category “Convenience Store” (plus the category “Sandwich Shop”) whereas the department “GetGo Fuel” has the category “Petrol Station”, and the department “WetGo” has the category “Car Wash”

Source: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en-GB

Doesn’t that sound a lot like they should support sales, lettings, new homes and country homes as separate listings at the same address?

Unfortunately, no!

The distinction here is down to those pesky categories. You see the categories you would tend to describe a letting agent with are very similar to how you would describe an estate agent in Google’s eyes. Plus what categories would you tend to describe new homes or country homes division with… even more similar if not the same as you would for an estate agent!

Add to that another area that whilst Google doesn’t mention it above is an area of potential confusion to Google and triggers mergers. That area is citations!

Citations are references to your business across the web. A citation is any reference to your business name, address or phone number. Google finds these references and uses them to understand what data it should show in your Google My Business listing – the more inconsistent it is across the web the more confusion to Google. So if you have two divisions of your business operating, lets say sales and letting, and Google finds inconsistent references to them across the web, it’s even more likely to see the overlap and assume there is one business there, rather than the many that are portrayed across the web.

For example, let’s say you had a sales and lettings business operating from the same address with these address and phone number details:

Awesome Agents                    Awesome Agents – Lettings

23 Property Street                  23 Property Street

West Side                                West Side

Big Town                                 Big Town

BG5 TO1                                  BG5 TO1

01234 567890                         01234 567891

Let’s say Google encounters these difference citations across the web:

Awesome Agents                    Awesome Letting Agents     Awesome Agents (lettings)

Property Street                       23 Property St                         23 Property Street

Big Town                                    West Side                                 Big Town

BG5 TO1                                      01234 567891                         BG5 TO1         

01234 567890                                                                               01234 567891

In trying to work out the citations, Google might conclude that there is one business at the address and use the following details:

Awesome Agents

23 Property Street

West Side

Big Town

BG5 TO1

01234 567891

Effectively combining details of both sales and lettings into one listing with a complete address, but using the estate agency brand name, and the lettings phone number.

What’s the Solution then?

If you are an agent experiencing the delights of mergers between your listings, by now you are probably keen to know what the solution is!

There are actually 2 approaches here… 1. Make your listings as distinct as possible, 2. Embrace the problem.

1. Make your listings as distinct as possible

What’s more distinct than a different address? I don’t mean relocate your divisions – by all means do it if that is a possibility, as it’s a great solution to the problem! For most companies though, that’s not an option… What I mean here is you can add distinguishers to the address to make them different.

Let’s say your address was:

23 Property Street

West Side

Big Town

BG5 TO1

If you had a sales and lettings branch at the same address, you could do the following:

Estate Agent Brand                Letting Agent Brand

Ground Floor                           First Floor

23 Property Street                 23 Property Street

West Side                                  West Side

Big Town                                   Big Town

BG5 TO1                                     BG5 TO1

Or another alternative might be:

Estate Agent Brand                 Letting Agent Brand

Suite 1                                           Suite 2

23 Property Street                  23 Property Street

West Side                                   West Side

Big Town                                    Big Town

BG5 TO1                                     BG5 TO1

You would, of course, need to reflect these addresses across the web to keep a consistent citation NAP (Name Address Phone Number), and not confuse Google. To keep them apart you would need a lot of strong distinct citations to help Google understand.

Then fill the rest of the listings in as distinctly as possible as well. Different categories, different images etc.

Plus you want to link through to different landing pages, one for lettings and one for sales. You could take the approach of www.awesomeagents.co.uk/estateagent  &  www.awesomeagents.co.uk/lettingagent or estateagent.awesomeagents.co.uk and lettingagent.awesomeagents.co.uk for example.

If you want to live dangerously and ignore Google’s guidelines you could give the businesses slightly different names for the purpose of the web.

For example, if the brand was “Awesome Agents”, you could call the lettings brand “Awesome Letting Agents” and the sales side “Awesome Estate Agents”.

The drawback is you may find you have 2 or more distinct listings, but they don’t rank well.

 

2. Embrace the problem

We’ve looked at some of the reasons you might want your listings to be separated, but if it’s a choice of separate listings driving few (if any!) leads or combined listings that drive a good pipeline, don’t you think it might be worth looking at?

If you are operating under the same brand name, there are ways to flow leads into their own distinct measurable funnels…

‘Keeping them distinct to measure success’ problem

A problem often cited is wanting different phone numbers for different teams, one number for sales, one number for lettings etc. This might be done to make sure calls go through to the right place, and measure the number of phone leads coming in. Technology to the rescue…

You can use one phone number with a menu system to direct calls into sales, lettings, new homes – where-ever you need. Once something that only big companies could afford to do, with simple cloud-based systems, it’s now a doddle for agents to set up, and easy on the wallet too.

Plus you can measure the leads, and integrate with CRM systems.

On the website itself, you would need to have one consolidated branch page, where you could feature the same number with menu system for calls, and contact forms with a drop down to select your department. Most contacts tend to come via the phone, and the majority of users do not click through to the site, so a decent phone solution is very important.

‘Reviews’ problem

The fear of negative reviews from one part of the business dragging down the performance of another are often unfounded. If you have a proactive policy of getting positive reviews, and you respond to negative reviews, then you’ll be in a better position than most agents out there!

Reviews are a ranking factor, and a combined listing is going to have a lot more power than 2 or more individual listings.

The same goes with other ranking factors of a listing. Consolidated citations, consolidated stronger pages on the website – they are some serious advantages!

 

Summary

It’s easy to bury your head in the sand in frustration with Google when it doesn’t understand how your business operates. Fear not though, there are solutions to make multiple listings work, and ways to make one listing work for multiple business divisions. At the end of the day it comes down to which path your business is more comfortable with, and some hard work up front, either way, to send Google the message about how your business operates.

 

Author Bio

James Robinson has been a digital marketer since 2006. He’s had a career leading teams and developing successful strategies in agencies and client side. Now James is a freelance digital marketing consultant who provides consultancy, training and white label services for design, development and digital marketing agencies through his company called Stripe Blue Digital.

 

Image Credits

Featured Images: 

Ozzy Delaney

Eric Kilby

Some great words of wisdom from an accomplished estate agency digital practitioner.

If you or a member of your team has been affected by these issues and need help in fixing your Estate and Letting Agency listings, then please call MiShop.local on 01273 987498 or email info@mishoplocal.co.uk…. We’d be delighted to help.