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Negative Local Search Ranking Factors 2012 Edition

Last week I went over some positive local ranking factors from David Mihm’s annual local ranking factors industry survey. Now let’s take a look at what you most certainly shouldn’t do.

Negative Local Ranking Factors

Use of alternate or tracking number in Google Places listing or 3rd party sites

I understand the temptation of using alternative phone numbers in listings; it seems to be a great way to track which online properties are driving customers and which ones aren’t. The problem is that the concept of using tracking numbers really only works when you use them to track advertising campaigns.

Not convinced? Here’s a very real scenario:

Sites get scraped (the content copied and put on another website) regularly. Your listing on Hotfrog with that tracking number will get scraped by Google or another local listing site and that unique tracking number doesn’t seem so unique anymore. Oh, and what happens if you stop using tracking numbers?

Using same phone number for multiple Google Places listings

There are perfectly legitimate reasons for using a central phone number, but it looks really spammy to Google and sometimes it creates unnecessary steps for the customer. I’d much prefer it if the place I called answered the phone instead of getting a call centre and going through extra steps to contact my desired location.

PRO TIP: If you must have a central number then set each of your locations numbers to forward to the main phone number.

Multiple Google Places listings with the same/similar name and address

This can occur innocently enough. The person that set up the business listing left the company and no one knew how to log in and edit the listing so a new listing was created. This ends up looking quite messy and can cause the unintended consequence of the almost always dreaded “merged listing“.

Duplicate listings are like duplicate content on a webpage. Let’s say you have 2 similar listings and your competitor has just a single listing. Your competitor would likely rank above you because although you have more listings, your listings are fighting against each other for the same rankings and just not ranking as well as a single listing would.

PRO TIP: To fix this you can flag listings as duplicates and Google will take the old listings out of the system.

Google Places listing address not matching the address on the website or 3rd party sites

This one is frustrating because the address can be correct, but if the format isn’t the same then it trips Google up, e.g. “100 Main Street” might not be considered the same as “100 Main St”.

Hopefully Google will fix this ridiculous error soon, but whether they fix it or not you should still make sure your listings across the web are as consistent as possible.

Adding location keyword to abusiness name

This is a big no-no, but people do it all the time in an effort to boost their rankings. You’ve probably seen it yourself when looking at your own rankings. If your business name is “Awesome Web Design” and you list it as “Awesome Web Design Gold Coast” then you run the risk of losing rankings or at the very worst, getting banned.

plumber melbourne

Obviously, this tactic still works to an extent, but not as well as it used to and it’s going to work less and less in the future. All it takes is a jealous competitor flagging your listing as spam and your visibility will be close to nil.

Absence of name, address, or phone on website

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen sites that neglect to put their address or contact info on their site. There’s just no excuse for this, unless it’s a spam site of course. While you’re at it, go ahead and put your hours of operation on there too.

spam locations

This is a good example of a business that wants to rank for certain cities, but doesn’t want anyone calling or visiting their business; most likely because they don’t have an office in any of those locations.

Using a non-local phone number

I talked about this last week, if you’re a local business why aren’t you using a local number? It looks really dodgy. 1800 free call numbers don’t belong on local listings, in fact using it could get your listing removed. 1300 numbers may fair better, but if you can use a proper local number then why aren’t you using it?

spam florist sydney

florist sydney spam

I may be wrong, but on the surface, this listing looks an awful lot like spam:

  1. They’re using a location keyword that isn’t part of their business name
  2. The number goes to a national call centre instead of the location
  3. It appears that St. George resides where they claim to be located
  4. Along with “florist” they’re also listed under “local lawyers”, “barristers” & “solicitors” (this could be due to a botched merge between two listings)

What do you think? Are these ranking factors reasonable or should Google change their policies?

If you missed it, be sure to check out my post on positive local ranking factors with optimisation tips.

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