Local business listings and citations are still very important signals for any business wanting to rank locally on Google. They tell Google that you are a real and trustworthy business.

Having duplicate business listings and citations for your business however can seriously derail your SEO efforts if you are not careful.

In this guide, we are going to discuss what duplicate listings are, how to identify them and how to remove them to improve your local rankings.

What Duplicate Business Listings Are

Duplicate business listings are when there is more than one listing on any local directory platform for a single business location.

If you have more than one listing on a single platform, the end result could be instead of having one listing that ranks well, you could have several all with poor visibility. Not only that, but you can also mislead and frustrate your customers which could affect your bottom line.

Even if the details appear different on each but relates to the same business, it is still considered a duplicate listing.

So, for example, if you have a law firm in a particular city, it should have one Facebook listing, one Google My Business listing, one Yell listing, one Bing Places listing, and so on.

You should focus on maintaining a single listing for each local directory with accurate and up to date NAP (Name, Address and Phone) data.

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What Duplicate Business Listings Are Not

A listing is not considered duplicate if a given platform represents several departments or branches, each with a unique phone number and address. You could have practitioners at a multi-practitioner practice or lawyers at a multi-partner firm.

Similarly, a listing is not a duplicate if it doesn’t have similar entries in the description, title, photos, details, etc. This information makes the browsing experience relevant. Be sure to study the Google guidelines to establish whether your business can have more than one listing.

Where Duplicate Business Listings Come From

Duplicate listings can occur in many different scenarios. Here are the most common ones:

  • Business Changes: Duplicates can occur when you make changes to your business information, such as if you changed your website domain name, business name, phone number, or physical address. This could be during a rebrand, merger, acquisition, or relocation. Instead of editing an existing listing, a new one may have been created. You should always edit your existing business listings in this case.
  • Aggregated Listings: A number of local business directories aggregate data from many sources. This is another common source of duplicate citation creation. When they pull data from large databases, you may end up with multiple listings with slight variations.
  • Accidentally: This is easily done if you are unaware of the existing business listings that have been created for your business. This could be from an SEO company or freelancer you have used in the past and you lost track of where citations have already been created.
  • Deliberately: Duplicate listings are also created as a result of bad SEO practices where people have intentionally tried to spam directories with multiple listings thinking that it is going to benefit their search presence.
  • Inexperience: Employees unfamiliar with Google guidelines and SEO best practices may not realize that creating duplicate listings on a single platform is a no-go. A common mistake they make is creating separate listings for each of the services they offer.
  • Lost Login Details: Over time, businesses can misplace their login information and thus it becomes difficult to manage their existing listings. This can happen when a former employee has not passed on this information. Often in times like this, the newly assigned employee might just create a new listing, not realizing the damage they are doing.

Why Duplicate Business Listings Are Damaging

Duplicate business listings can be damaging in a number of different ways, including:

  • Penalties: Businesses can have their rankings penalized if Google discovers multiple listings for the same business, as it is against their guidelines. The only time when multiple listings are allowed is when the business has multiple locations or departments.
  • Listing Removal: Both Google and other business directories may suspend your listings if you violate their terms of service by having multiple listings.
  • Customer Confusion: Customers can be misguided by inaccurate NAP information from multiple listings, resulting in loss of business.
  • Search Engine Confusion: Search engines can also be misguided and not know which listing is correct and which isn’t.
  • Loss of Trust: Having duplicate business listings can cause customers to become frustrated and erode the trust that they have in your business. Your trust from the search engines will also be impacted by duplicate listings.
  • Ranking Dilution: Ranking strength can be split between multiple listings instead of being combined into a single listing.
  • Review Dilution: Review equity can also be split between multiple listings instead of being combined into a single listing.
  • Self-Competition: Your listings with inaccurate data could potentially outrank your listings with correct data.
  • Aggregated Data: Incorrect data is often syndicated to other platforms which pull data from elsewhere. This compounds the rate at which duplicate listings are created, which can make a bad situation even worse.
  • Impacted Growth: As a business, your growth may be impacted if any of your listings are removed or suspended.

How To Identify Duplicate Business Listings

Finding duplicate listings can be a constant headache for businesses in the local search arena. Here are some of the ways you can identify duplicate listings:

Search Engine Operators

You can use a Google search operator to find all of the mentions of your business name and website on the internet. You will need to visit each local directory platform and manually check each listing they have for your business.

Here is a search operator you can use:

site:yelp.com Your Business Name

Simply type this into Google and replace it with each listing sites domain name followed by your business name.

Manually Check Each Platform

If you’re doing a manual platform check, simply search through the databases of businesses on the various platforms one-by-one and look for the variants of business name, phone number, and address.

Many local business directories pull their data from other sources, so it is common to find a number of different listings for your business on a single platform.

You should record all of the platforms which you have checked and updated in a spreadsheet to avoid visiting the same sites twice.

Citation Tools

The easiest way to find duplicates is to use tools like Moz Check Listing. Just enter your business information and click the ‘check now’ button.

Moz uses an algorithm which shows when data is missing, incorrect and correct, and provides an overall score. Based on the information discovered, you can easily identify if there’s a possibility of duplicate listing or not.

How To Remove Duplicate Business Listings

After you have identified all of your duplicate listings, you should try to remove them to ensure only one listing remains which has all of the correct NAP data about your business.

The process will vary depending on the platform/directory hosting the duplicate listing. For instance, Google My Business has its own specific process for removing duplicates. This process will differ from that of other directories like Facebook and Yelp. You will need to follow the unique process for each platform.

Every time you find a duplicate listing, you should log in and edit it. If there are dozens of duplicates, it can be tedious to edit them but the results will be worthwhile. And because each platform has a method that supports the closure request, you can fill a form, send an email, or make a call.

To prevent future duplicates, you should check all existing listings regularly for all of the directories where your business is listed.

Wrapping It Up

Duplicate citations can ruin your digital presence and therefore they should be treated with high priority. The last thing you want is for any inaccurate information to find its way in front of your customers.

When you remove duplicate listings, you’ll positively impact your rankings, improve user experience, and increase revenue – this is what you need for your business growth.

If you would like us to take care of your local business listings and citations for you, check out our local business listing building service.