Duplicate Listings – Why they confuse search engines and customers, and what you need to do about them.

As the name suggests, a duplicate listing is more than one listing for a business at a given location.

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As the name suggests, a duplicate listing is more than one listing for a business at a given location. In the following article, we talk about what this actually means, why it is bad for local search and what you can do about it.

So what is a “duplicate listing”? The word “duplicate” suggests an identical “copy”, however in local search we use the term “duplicate listing” when there are two (or more) listings for the same business at the same physical address, but which may be slightly different.

A duplicate listing is two or more similar listings for the same business at the same address.

Why are Duplicate Listings bad for local search?

Duplicate listings are bad for local search as they often contain conflicting or inconsistent information which confuses search engines and customers. 

If a search engine cannot clearly differentiate between two listings, it may not show either of them, or lower their search ranking, or only show one listing (which may be incorrect).

Duplicate listings can be merged as they are shared by aggregators and distributors across the various directories; so what may have started as two separate listings, may eventually morph into several variations of the combined listings, which further adds to the problem.

A symptom of duplicate listings in Google Maps is multiple listings (of the duplicate data) in other directories.

Search engines try to organise and make sense of information!  If there are two or more listings at the same address with similar information, the search engines are not able to easily ascertain which one is correct, or which one should take priority. This isn’t about whether the listing itself is wrong, it’s about the overall effect it has on your search ranking.

Types of NAP variations found in Duplicate Listings

The main variations that cause duplicate listings (at the same address) are Name, Phone Number and URLs.

The following simple examples, illustrate the attributes of listing that confuse search engines:

Name Variations: 

Duplicate listings with different names are very common, particularly for companies that have re-branded, do not have a strict brand name policy or have been at the same address for many years and have a legacy of subtle name changes.

Example of Name variations found in duplicate listings include:

  • Brand
  • Bran (Misspelt)
  • Brnd (Truncated/ Shortened) (may not be the full brand name)
  • Brand (Reversed) (for example “Brand A” may be listed as “A Brand”
  • Old Brand Name
  • Old Brand + New Brand Name (two names merged together).
  • Brand Ltd.
  • Brand Limited
  • Brand Plc.
  • Parent Company Name (instead of the brand name)
  • Brand + Street Name
  • Brand + Town Name
  • Town Name + Brand
  • Brand +Service Area
  • Brand + Category
  • Brand + Country
  • Any combination of the above (It is not uncommon to find variations of the above merged into a new listing which is then listed as a duplicate).

Fixing duplicate listings for re-brands takes time and a specialist approach which may depend on the nature and type of re-brand.

Serious consideration is also required when listing different brands at the same address, for example concessions stores. (See our previous article

Concession Stores – Multiple brands listed at the same Address – Threat or Opportunity in Local Search?)

Phone Number Variations:

Duplicate listings with different telephone numbers are very common particularly for established brands that have been at the same address for many years.

Companies that have changed their telephone numbers in the past 15 years can expect to find numerous listings with old telephone numbers still listed.  Some of these numbers may be dead, re-assigned to another company, or never answered.

Be aware of where your local brand details are listed and ensure they do not contain old phone numbers.

Category Variations:

It is rare, but not impossible to find duplicate listings where the only difference is the category. If the NAP is identical, the duplicates can eventually be consolidated into one listing under one category. However, this can potentially result in the business being miss-categorised.

URL Variations:

Duplicate listings with different URLs are common where brand have had different website domains in the past.  Whether they are subtle differences such as changing from brand.co.uk to brand.com or major differences such as oldbrand.com to newbrand.com.

Franchise brands with franchisee owned websites can have major issues, which significantly undermines the brand.

Although many companies re-route legacy urls to the new domain, we often find dead links or re-assigned links or even hijacked links being listed in the Brand’s duplicate listings.

This issue arises when brands change their domains, but do not update their listings to reflect this. This is another confusing signal to search engines, which is potentially diverting traffic away from your website.

It’s your responsibility to ensure your business information is correct!

Don’t assume that the directories, listing sites and search engines will clean the duplicates for you! They won’t, because they are part of the problem.

Don’t rely on 3rd party machines and people who do not know you to manage your brand information.  Doing so can result in duplicates and merged listings.

Only you can decide whether the information is correct!

You need to take control of your brand in local search.

What are the benefits for removing duplicate listings?

Removing duplicate listings not only makes sense for SEO, Brand and Customer Service purposes, it also could save you money.

We often find duplicate listings for telephone numbers that no one answers.  In other words, the telephone line is live, but it’s not going anywhere!  Not only is this poor customer service, the business is paying for a redundant telephone line!  If you multiply this across many branches, it adds up to a lot of money.  But before you can switch off a telephone line, you need to be confident that it is not listed anymore.

If you are a brand with multiple locations and suffer with duplicates, or would like help and advice in fixing them, please call MiShop.local or click here to book a free on-screen webinar.

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