Duplicate listings have long been an issue online. As business information is aggregated and republished, slight variations start to be introduced — a multiple formats for the address, or a new phone number, for instance — and then these variations are disseminated individually, spreading across the web.
While seemingly innocuous, in many cases these duplicates can become a serious problem, according to Moz Local’s GM Dudley Carr: “When a business is not where it’s supposed to be or the phone isn’t answered, it has significant brand impact for the business. And typically the customer will blame the brand, and not Google or Bing or Apple for the information.”
Carr said that of the 75,000 listings Moz manages, the company currently tracks over one million duplicates — and that enterprise clients average about 3,500 duplicates per account. One particular enterprise account Moz manages had 100,000 duplicate listings for just 3,000 locations.
So today the company is launching a new dashboard that allows a business to see a list of all of its potential listings, and, with a single click, “close” those identified as duplicate or incorrect. When a specific listing is “closed,” Moz programmatically contacts the publisher and goes through the steps to remove it. This process of “closing” bad listings can be very time consuming when done manually, since every publisher has a different procedure for how it’s done.
“If you are an enterprise with 100,000 duplicates, to try and do this manually… it’s simply impossible to do, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with it,” says Moz CEO Sarah Bird. “And trying to do it across all of these different aggregators and directories, you have to learn each of their processes. So the value that we have unlocked here is in just doing all of the legwork, making everything that can be programmatic programmatic.”
Bird also said it’s key that the new system automatically closes duplicate listings rather than just suppressing them: “There’s a difference between managing listings by suppressing them and going to the source programmatically and closing them, creating lasting value.” The company estimates that cleaning up duplicate listings can increase local pack search rankings by as much as 23%, and can increase a company’s chances of getting selected by a searcher by over 500%.
Even when a business is carefully managing its information directly via Google My Business, Carr said, it’s still important to deal with duplicates that may exist in the directories and aggregators: “Google looks across the ecosystem and collects trust signals based on the consistency of that information, to decide … whether to show a given business. And in particular for categories where it’s sort of top-of-funnel for businesses … if the duplicate shows up or if Google decides they have low confidence, it can have a negative impact.”
Carr says that, for the most part, with the new dashboard users can do a single bulk closure of to address the issue of duplicates, but that some ongoing maintenance is required, depending on the kinds of marketing campaigns the business might be doing. Call tracking (and the introduction of third-party phone numbers), in particular, can cause multiple listings to be created — as well as changes of the state of the business.
“In general the process is additive,” says Carr. “If you acquire additional businesses, like franchises for example, and you rename them, it’s very likely that you will end up with a bunch of duplicates. So it depends on how your business operates. … A lot of it is about rebranding, and a number of the big chains are pretty prolific in terms of opening and closing things.”
Carr says the new dashboard works equally well for all of Moz’s customers, from SMBs to agencies to franchisees — but that it is aimed specifically at solving the problem for mid-sized agencies which manage lost of different listings and need to do bulk closures for duplicates.
David Hirschman is a co-founder of Street Fight.