Do Local Citations all have to be the same?


Yan Gilbert

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Just bringing this up for discussion....

Many of us [SEOs] spend time going through citations to make sure that the NAP data is all the same. I think this used to be much more important in the past than it is now to be honest, as Google's algorithm has improved enough to be able to deal with minor differences and still properly associate the citation to the business.

For example, one citation has the suite # while another doesn't, or if phone number tracking is used so the phone number might be different across listings..

Getting rid of duplicates was also something on the list to do, but I have come across a rather not too white hat technique of citation building where duplicate citations are used on purpose to feed the algorithm.

I'd rather not link to the page, but basically duplicate listings are created on purpose within the same directory, the address is the actual address (maybe with a different suite #), but instead of using the proper name of the business, a keyword stuffed name is used. A different forwarding number is used to bypass any duplicate checking that the directory might perform. The link is to the normal website of the business (homepage, service page, location page).

It's that actually works, I would say it's almost as if the algorithm has gotten too good at associating a citation with a business, but not smart enough to filter out spammy duplicates.

Any thoughts?
 
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I don't think it's that good. Don't use another phone number in listings, because that will still cause issues. Using keyword stuffed business names in listings can also hurt.

Citations don't move the needle as much these days, but you still need to keep the information consistent. It's like driving down the road and there are billboards spaced out every couple of miles. All the billboards are owned by the same company, but they keep using different names and phone numbers. How would you know they're the same business?

I haven't seen a business do what you're suggesting and perform well in Google map packs long term. Any time I've reviewed a business that has used tracking numbers / created duplicate citations like that, they've always had issues ranking. Small changes like having a suite number visible or not may not have a big effect, but having different names and phone numbers will.

Do you have examples of companies currently doing this, and are successful with Google rankings?
 

JoshuaMackens

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Just bringing this up for discussion....

Many of us [SEOs] spend time going through citations to make sure that the NAP data is all the same. I think this used to be much more important in the past than it is now to be honest, as Google's algorithm has improved enough to be able to deal with minor differences and still properly associate the citation to the business.

For example, one citation has the suite # while another doesn't, or if phone number tracking is used so the phone number might be different across listings..

Getting rid of duplicates was also something on the list to do, but I have come across a rather not too white hat technique of citation building where duplicate citations are used on purpose to feed the algorithm.

I'd rather not link to the page, but basically duplicate listings are created on purpose within the same directory, the address is the actual address (maybe with a different suite #), but instead of using the proper name of the business, a keyword stuffed name is used. A different forwarding number is used to bypass any duplicate checking that the directory might perform. The link is to the normal website of the business (homepage, service page, location page).

It's that actually works, I would say it's almost as if the algorithm has gotten too good at associating a citation with a business, but not smart enough to filter out spammy duplicates.

Any thoughts?
I doubt this will help. It would also be hard to prove that it did.

I think in order for this to work Google would have to put a lot of emphasis on the backlink of a citation and in my opinion, they do not. Not to mention ~80% of citation backlinks are nofollow anyway according to our tests.

I agree with Eric that it will more than likely just end up creating issues for them.

Let's say it did work though. At the end of the day, there's much better ways to spend that time and those resources ie building backlinks. You'll outrank any of those individuals using this tactic that way.

Interesting case though. Thanks for bringing it by! I've never heard of it before.
 

Cherie Dickey

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To me, the existence of citations are still important, but 100% exact matches aren't. A business needs to be listed in directories both to become established online as a legitimate place that exists (at last in the higher authority directories), and also as a potential alternate source for traffic. There are still people who use Yelp, etc to find a business instead of using Google.

I think it's important to use the same phone number for the most part, and business names should be consistent as well - you don't want incorrect data to trickle down to other places on the Web. But Ste numbers, abbreviations, etc don't matter as much anymore because they will be normalized for the most part - as long as they go to the correct location.

I do think it's also important to eliminate dups where possible as well. I don't think it's necessary to waste a lot of time on it, but especially in the case for review sites, one strong listing with reviews is better than several weaker ones with the reviews spread out over them.

This:
basically duplicate listings are created on purpose within the same directory, the address is the actual address (maybe with a different suite #), but instead of using the proper name of the business, a keyword stuffed name is used. A different forwarding number is used to bypass any duplicate checking that the directory might perform. The link is to the normal website of the business (homepage, service page, location page).


Makes my eyeball twitchy, haha. That's not even grey hat - it's spam. Even if it works now, it won't work forever.
If the site's algorithm isn't smart enough to pick it up now, it eventually will be - or the directory would be unreliable and lose authority eventually. That's a whole lot of clean up down the road that could be avoided.
 

JoyHawkins

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I agree the tactic is blackhat and not something I would do, however, I would expect it to work for a while. Google places way too much ranking authority on the name of the business and so adding a bunch of keywords to your business name on 3rd party directories would likely cause it's relevance to increase on Google for that keyword.

As far as when it will stop working is TBD. Ever since I started in this industry over a decade ago Google has weighted the business name too much. Hopefully one day they'll get smart enough to see things like this.
 

Yan Gilbert

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Yeah it's very spammy. I don't have examples. Perhaps I can try it out on a test GMB profile so as not to affect an actual client.

I think it becomes less of a citation since name and phone number are different and more of an association/co-occurrence between the exact match keywords being used as the business name and the link to the directory page that might help.
 

JoshuaMackens

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I agree the tactic is blackhat and not something I would do, however, I would expect it to work for a while. Google places way too much ranking authority on the name of the business and so adding a bunch of keywords to your business name on 3rd party directories would likely cause it's relevance to increase on Google for that keyword.

As far as when it will stop working is TBD. Ever since I started in this industry over a decade ago Google has weighted the business name too much. Hopefully one day they'll get smart enough to see things like this.
While I agree that GMB places way too much significance on name, I wouldn't expect that to carry over to citations. Just the GMB name. In fact, I've changed just the GMB name before on its own and seen a massive increase in rankings. Would I have seen more if I changed the citation names? Possibly. But I would argue that would be because they match. Not because of the keywords.

Normally, as I understand it, Google can connect a citation to a business by matching NAPW. I don't think they connect a citation through the backlink to the website. It sounds like they match it an entity independent of the website.

Example A (Entity): Find Citation > Citation NAPW Match to GMB Page In Database > Boost GMB Relevance

Example B (Backlink): Find Citation > Follow Backlink > Identify Website With GMB Page > Go Back To Citation > Boost GMB Relevance Based On Keywords In Business Name

I think Example B is too convoluted.

I also think that having the business name wrong, if they could match the citation, would probably outweigh the relevance boost of having keywords in the name of a citation.

Thoughts?

P.S. We should get Bill Slawski in here on this one.
 

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