Keeping your Local Ecosystem Clean
Based on Karl’s post the other day we have received quite a bit of requests to clarify why the heck a tracking phone number exposed to Google can create so much local SEO damage. The short answer is:
1. The so-called NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) continuity will be disrupted for a long, long time because it is hard to recover.
2. Google’s “fake-business-police” crawler, as we like to call it, might deindex your listing
Making sense? Let’s dive into the essence of local SEO for a bit. And if you really want to get deep into local SEO territory, I recommend to read this article by the guru on local SEO, Mike Blumenthal. Mike, whom Karl had the pleasure collaborating with just a few days ago at a local SEO university in Minneapolis, has been developing a significant authority in Local SEO.
What is NAP continuity and why is it important?
NAP continuity describes the need to have your business be represented in all online business directories (150-500 of its kind, depending on how important you take them) with the same unique Business Name, Physical Address and Phone Number. Make sense, right? No big deal. If I have my business registered with the city and state with one phone number, what can go wrong? Right. Nothing really can go wrong if you have only one phone number, which doesn’t change over the years. What are reasons why it can go wrong? Let’s list a few:
Renaming your business
Clever shop owners have asked Yellow Pages (YP) to create multiple business names with the same phone number and address to appeal to motorists, who look for specialists. Assuming your business name is “My Awesome Auto Repair Shop“, and your listings on YP include “My Awesome Honda Auto Repair Shop“, “My Awesome Lexus Auto Repair Shop” etc. all with the same phone number, and address. You get the drift. What works in the YP book is NOT limited to it. YP feeds its own online business directory and what is in the YP online directory is also in all other business directories shortly thereafter, including the Google Local+ Listings. ONE ‘clever move’ in ONE business directory can damage your whole online presence. Why? Because online business directories make money with advertising. The rate they can charge their advertisers is based on featured listings and eyeballs they can attract. In order to increase the number of listings they copy over listings from each other. In other words, the one mistake in one business directory will mushroom into the other ones. Isn’t that great? My specialty businesses are now in all different business directories, that is exactly what I wanted!!! Yep, that had been true until about 2010/2011. Due to malicious activities cleaver business owners and black hat SEO ‘experts’ this practice created dominance of cheating businesses online. Check the image below showing the search result for emergency locksmith in NYC. Guess what? All listed businesses were fake and represented one business only.
As response, Google instated the ‘fake business police’ crawler, which would find the duplicates with NAP inconsistencies (same address, different phone number, different name) and de-index them from the Google listings service. Gone. (Almost) forever. Being clever turned into being careless. Using different business names at the same address and phone number made a significant number of shop owners using the YP trick lose all their Google listings.
Moving the business to a new address
Even moving your business to a new address, which seems no big deal for the address change, can damage your local SEO Ecosystem dramatically, if not done right. In regular fashion we get notified by our clients AFTER they moved, and we try to minimize the damage. What damage? you probably guessed it already: NAP is compromised: same business name, same phone number, different address for a business, which exists already. If no additional measures are taken, the two listings will fight each other for ranking, ‘steal’ each other’s reviews, and worst case get de-indexed. If you move your business we recommend to select a different phone number for the new location, tell Google and other BDs as often as possible that the business at the old address has moved and forward the previous number to the new one.
Allowing tracking phone numbers to get indexed by Google
Tracking numbers are a blessing, when used correctly as many of AutoVitals’ clients can attest and a curse when indexed by Google or discontinued after you cancelled the vendor. If Google is able to index your tracking phone number, then what happens again? You know it by now. Business directories pick it up, new business listings get created, fighting for ranking and reviews, and worst case get de-indexed. Let me add one more important fact of Local SEO in business directories. In the last 3-5 years companies got established, which focus only on one thing: build master lists of business listings. What is the benefit? With master lists all existing business directories can go to a few sources instead of finding all other business directories out there. They trust those few sources more because these companies claim to especially take care of the quality of the business listing. This is great but can be even more damaging, if just one of the tracking numbers makes it to those aggregators of business information. Then the cross population to other business directories is faster, and the wrong phone number spreads avalanche like through the world wide web. Typical aggregators are:
- http://www.manta.com/ and a lot more.
If your tracking phone numbers made it to those you ought to hurry. And you can’t do anything in the short term to stop them. Long story short: DO NOT allow Google to index your tracking phone numbers. We received word that companies, who couldn’t protect their customers’ tracking phone numbers explain the fact that tracking phone numbers are indexed as “Google knows it is a tracking phone number and ignores it.” If that was true, the phone number wouldn’t appear on Facebook, Foursquare or on aggregators. Remember aggregators are the high-speed population of listings to other business directories. Make sure your tracking phone numbers are protected, and if the dam broke, ask your vendor to make sure the tracking number listings are deleted or switch the vendor.