Google Places can be a real beast. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a new challenge pops up that you’ve never seen, or they change everything around and mess up your listings.
I’ve seen it happen many times over the last couple of years and I don’t expect things to change in the future.
Here’s a tip that shouldn’t change any time in the foreseeable future … but it’s essential if you’re going to rank well in Google Places.
Make Sure Your Business Listings Are Consistent Around The Web
When I use the word “listings,” I’m talking about mentions of your business on directory sites like the Yellow Pages, BBB, Yelp, Citysearch, and more.
These listings are called “citations” and Google uses this information to figure out:
A) If your business is real
B) What your business does
In order for Google to “credit” your Google Places listing with a citation, they need to be certain that the citation is referring to your business. This means that your business name, address, and phone number must be identical to the information listed in Google Places.
Citations aren’t a new concept in Google Places optimization, but I’ve recently discovered how much a variance in your citations can hurt your rankings.
For example, if you have multiple phone numbers and half of your citations show one number while the other half show another, Google will only give you credit for half of those citations. The phone number is the most important element that needs to be shown consistently because Google knows that only one business can own each individual number. If you find that your business has multiple phone numbers listed among your citations, you can add additional numbers to your Google Places listing to help them make the association.
The same rule applies for your business name and address. If you discover that there are multiple variations of your business name listed among your citations, try to combine the names in your Google Places listing. For example, if you business was formerly called “Blue Sky Gardens” … but you’ve changed the name to “Blue Moon Gardens” … then you should list “Blue Moon Gardens – Formerly Blue Sky Gardens” as your business name. This will allow Google to associate all those citations listed under your old business name to your Google Places listing.
Once you’ve made this change in Google Places, you’ll experience a significant increase in rankings in the next month or two if there are lots of citations using your old business name.
But you can’t stop there …
This is just a short term strategy.
Long term … you’ll need to go out and correct all those individual listings that reference your old business name. I know that sounds like a hassle, but it’s worth it. The best way to attack this is to first make sure that the major data aggregation companies like Superpages, InfoUSA, Local.com, and others all have your correct information. Over time, this data will make it’s way into the smaller directories that are built on scraped data and you’ll be able to change your Google Places listing to only list your current business name.
Unfortunately, it could take well over a year for the correct information to get on all those smaller sites, so it’s a good idea to be proactive and run a google search on your old business name regularly and reach out to websites that offer the option to update your info.
I can tell you from personal experience that this tip is vital for ranking well. While new companies won’t encounter this challenge, mature companies may very well run into it. If you don’t correct all those old listings, you could be doing everything else right, but you won’t see your rank improve … and you’ll end up banging your head against the wall wondering what’s going on.