WARNING: Dual Claimed Ranking Penalty - Drop like a Rock or Get Suspended

Linda Buquet

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There is an often hidden and very hard to diagnose problem that comes up a lot and I'm seeing more and more cases where it causes suspension OR a ranking penalty.

I call it a hidden merged dupe, but another term for it could be dual claimed listing. Warning this issue can be EASY to miss and it's a listing killer! It's also a serious guideline violation.

Many of the complicated cases that consultants bring to me, after I dig in, I find this is often the hidden cause of the problem. I hammer consultants about hammering the client to be sure there are no other listings claimed in different accounts.

But if you guys realized it can cause suspension or knew there could be a ranking penalty, I think you'd be more aware and possibly avoid problems. I'm seeing it come up more and more.

PLACES GUIDELINES STATE: "Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts."

This dual claimed listing problem can happen when the client, one of their staff or spouse or previous SEO, (sometimes even unknown to the owner) created a listing for the same business in another account. OFTEN the client did it in a different Google account and they forgot or don't even realize that instead of managing the current listing they set up an additional one in another account.

Sometimes they don't even know their webmaster or office manager also set up a listing. Sometimes they DO KNOW a previous SEO created a listing, but it's in their primary account so you can't get a log in.

Google allows you to reclaim a listing. BUT realize that if you claim a listing that's already in another account, NOT ONLY IS IT A VIOLATION but the other problem is - that listing is ALSO IN PARTIAL CONTROL! So if there are violations in the other listing or NAP is different, it can keep changing your listing or cause a penalty.

POSSIBLE DUAL OWNERSHIP/MULTIPLE ACCOUNT PROBLEMS ? Problems that can happen when listings are claimed in more than one account include pending review, data inconsistencies (changes on the live listing you can?t control - data keeps changing back and forth between the 2 listings), missing images the inability to respond to reviews, suspension and ranking penalties.

I HIGHLY SUSPECT that at least some of these missing review issues or reviews posted but not showing up, could also be related to multiple account issues as well. (IE the reviews got attached to the other hidden merged listing, so don?t show up.)

The other REALLY WACKY problem that can come up, is that the OTHER listing has violations and THAT account gets suspended BUT it's merged with your beautiful perfect listing you are managing. YOUR listing stays live and is not suspended so you have no obvious signs of a problem. BUT the other listing you don't even know about in the XSEOs account is suspended and makes your listing drop like a rock!

Here's a case I helped with at the Google forum where images would not show up on the live listing.

Jade said: "Took a peek at the listing, and it seems like it's got multiple verified owners. Owner with the photo's got some suspension issues." So the images weren't showing because one of hidden merged listings was suspended and it was blocking new image uploads.

How do you tell if there is a "hidden merged dupe" or "dual claimed listing"? They aren't like regular dupes. You won't see them live on maps. They've MERGED into your main listing and are invisible. They are a dupe in another account, not a dupe that's showing live. (Hence my name "hidden merged dupe".)

There used to be one visible sign of a potential problem. Back when Google showed all the cats, if a listing had 7 - 10 cats that was almost a sure sign. But now even in edit details she usually only shows 5. The other obvious symptom to look for that is still visible and pretty reliable is if the "respond to reviews" link is missing in the old Places dashboard.

OFTEN when you get a new client you have NO IDEA there is another listing out there, but IF there is, it can cause ALL KINDS OF PROBLEMS. And again I'M SEEING SUSPENSIONS AND RANKING DROPS DUE TO THIS ISSUE.

I would go so far as to say 'best practice' for new account set up should include grilling clients in detail to find out if they or anyone else could have set up a listing in any other account.

If I suspect another listing, I really hammer the client to try to find it. But sometimes you can't find it OR in the case of a previous SEO, maybe can find it but won't give you access because it's in their master account.

"HOW TO FIX? If you suspect there are multiple owners and can't get access to the other listing to clean it up and remove it? (For instance if a previous SEO did it.) Then you have to get support involved.

IF there is any incorrect info on the listing, like live address does not match what's in dash - then you can use the incorrect data troubleshooter to report the incorrect info. THEN after you get the reply from support, email them back and ask them to UNverify any owners of the account other than the account you are using.
"

There is a little more info about this problem in a previous blog post I wrote back in July:
Missing Google+ Local AKA Google Places Images? Check for Dual Ownership or Hidden Merged Suspended Listing

Sorry I know this is long and complicated. Hope it makes sense.

Any questions?
 

BCLocal

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Jul 31, 2012
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Fascinating find Linda! It also put me on super paranoid mode so I ran through all of my current clients in the old Dashboard.

Most of you probably already knew this but the "Respond to Reviews" link will only show up on listings with reviews. I had forgotten about that and kind of freaked out on my newer listings, but they haven't garnered any reviews yet. I calmed down quite a bit when I remembered this basic fact.
 

Linda Buquet

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Fascinating find Linda! It also put me on super paranoid mode so I ran through all of my current clients in the old Dashboard.

Most of you probably already knew this but the "Respond to Reviews" link will only show up on listings with reviews. I had forgotten about that and kind of freaked out on my newer listings, but they haven't garnered any reviews yet. I calmed down quite a bit when I remembered this basic fact.
Oops good point. No reviews, no respond to review button.

Sorry for the heart attack! :mad:
 

Phil Rozek

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Thanks a ton for the great detail, Linda! My only question is: is this actually a new problem? Or is it just that you've noticed more "hidden merged dupes" recently?
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh no it's a chronic long standing problem - but one I find many consultants are unaware of.

It's just that I'm seeing more suspended listings lately where there is nothing obviously wrong and it boils down to this hidden problem many consultants and certainly business owners are not even aware of.

Plus, I see SO many other problems, in cases where consultants come to me saying they can't find anything wrong. When I dig in, I often find a hidden merged dupe is the culprit. If they can get to the dupe and get rid of it, the problem whether it's a ranking penalty or missing review button or whatever, clears right up!

So I just thought a long detailed post about this issue was in order.
 

Chase Billow

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Sep 19, 2012
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Re: WARNING: Dual Claimed Ranking Penalty - Drop like a Rock or Suspension

Problem is, sometimes clients don't know or don't remember what they've done in the past. Other clients don't want to give up their Google Account details (mostly when they use Gmail for business emails under the same account).

I've recently had 2 clients with issues like this. One didn't remember how many Google accounts they had or what they had created previously. It was a lot of digging and fixing but (cross fingers), I think we've got it squared away.

The other client is one that does not want to give up their Google Account details and, until doing a screenshare months into the relationship, did I see they had 3 additional, duplicate Places listings. There were all kinds of other problems, but this was demonstrative of the issues in general. That also (cross fingers) is now cleaned up and in order.

But yeah, this stuff can be quite the headache. Thanks for posting your observations, Linda!
 
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Re: WARNING: Dual Claimed Ranking Penalty - Drop like a Rock or Suspension

How difficult is it for Google support to check on the possible existence of multiple verified accounts or dupes?

Here's what I would like to do:

1. Google maps search present and past phone numbers, business name, address to see if I can identify a live dupe.

2. Ask client if they have a listing, or if another person / company has ever created one or worked on their SEO.

3. If all is clear, create a new listing and if it isn't live and ranking well within the first couple of weeks (my listings generally pop on page 2 or 3) then just ping Google support and ask them to check on possible dupe owners / listings. You may have to tell them that you suspect one b/c of a previous SEO company or something.

Of course, I don't want to abuse the system and create more problems, but it would be nice to say to a client that I exhausted all possibilities.

Thoughts?
 

Linda Buquet

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Re: WARNING: Dual Claimed Ranking Penalty - Drop like a Rock or Suspension

Problem is, sometimes clients don't know or don't remember what they've done in the past. Other clients don't want to give up their Google Account details (mostly when they use Gmail for business emails under the same account).

I've recently had 2 clients with issues like this. One didn't remember how many Google accounts they had or what they had created previously. It was a lot of digging and fixing but (cross fingers), I think we've got it squared away.

The other client is one that does not want to give up their Google Account details and, until doing a screenshare months into the relationship, did I see they had 3 additional, duplicate Places listings. There were all kinds of other problems, but this was demonstrative of the issues in general. That also (cross fingers) is now cleaned up and in order.
Yep Chase those are some of the common scenarios that make this issue so hard.

If I have reason to suspect a hidden merged dupe and the client is just being kind of lazy... "Not sure if I have other listings... don't remember what account I used... maybe I did once, not sure..."

Then I THREATEN THEM IN THE POCKETBOOK! "John if you have REALLY tried looking and absolutely can't find another listing, I can work with it. Just realize it can cause chronic on-going problems and even get you suspended. So FYI if this causes extra problems that take extra time, I'll have to charge additional support fees to fix the problems. My hourly rate is $150 per hour and these problems can take hours!"

AMAZING how fast they find the account and turn over the log in then! :p

If the client is warned and caused the problem then they def should pay! Can't tell you how many times I hammered clients for the other log in that said. No I've checked everywhere and don't have another account. Then after I fight and fight with the listing, 2 months later, they say... "Guess what - just found out my wife set up a listing too." Or "I logged into Picassa in another account and found a Place page. Didn't even realize I mistakenly set one up in that other G acct.)

In fact, I even wrote some safeguards into the initial proposal and agreement that covered a number of scenarios. Basically said the quote fee covered all standard optimization but of Google bugs or problems cropped up there could be additional fees for my tech support time.

I think if you don’t add some type of disclaimer/added fee like that you can go down the rabbit hole due to all these Google problems and then end up working on half your clients in the red and wondering why you are not profitable! NO ONE SHOULD FIX GOOGLE'S PROBLEMS FOR FREE IMO.

KungFuBacklinks, that sounds like a good plan.
 

Charles

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Jan 23, 2013
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I used to guarantee my flat fee such that I would work on a listing until the ranking or penalty was repaired. Then, I worked on a listing that for 2 years had ongoing problems. I pressed the client for other Google account logins, etc, and even worked with Mike B on the campaign after I threw my hands in the air and told the client I would take care of Mike's fee against future work. Long story short, 2 years into the enigma, the client magically discovered an account with 15 spammy listings using his domain - an old attempt to get a ton of categories and search saturation with duplicate listings.

We cleaned them up and his listing returned to normal after I worked for about 3 cents an hour. Then, my services were politely terminated, LOL. You address a painful topic, but the perspective you bring to it is unique. The fact that you run into this problem as often as you do emphasizes the need to really "hammer" the client on this issue.
 

Linda Buquet

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Ya working for 3 cents an hour is no fun. ESPECIALLY when you aren't working on the joy of ranking but only dealing with all the problems.

You address a painful topic, but the perspective you bring to it is unique. The fact that you run into this problem as often as you do emphasizes the need to really "hammer" the client on this issue.
However, realize I no longer work on regular optimization clients at all. Now I'm more of a 'troubleshooter' by trade and consultants only come to me on tough cases they can't figure out. PLUS I help folks here and at the G forum with problems 50 hours a week.

My perspective is unique because I see more problems than your average bear. :p
In a week I probably deal with more problems than most consultants see in 6 months.

So it's not that you'll constantly run into problems like this, it's just you need to be aware they exist and CYA in case they do crop up, so you don't have to work for 3 cents an hour. :eek:

The other thing is, I've learned through the school of Google hard knocks that it's worth the extra time to 'hammer' a client (if warranted) and do other things to PROACTIVELY try to avoid common Google problems, because if you don't and the problem DOES hit you, it can be a months long time suck to try to fix it!
 

Chris Alphen

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Jul 23, 2012
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Just last week I heard from an old client who said it's time to be #1 again. I remembered that we got him into A and B for secondary KW's fairly easily but it was a struggle to get him close for his primary. Never saw any indication of a dupe but now his Google listing is the apparent dupe and it's buried.
I reported the problem and then used the handy phone support feature. Duane was very helpful and actually told me there were 3 listings - the good --the bad - and I guess an ugly one. He took care of one but the client needs to delete the dupe via his dash and he's not gotten around to it yet. I've reminded him several times but just as others here have said they don't see it as urgent.
So, thanks Linda, I'm sending him your headline.
Linda - can you confirm the lesson? If it seems like a mighty struggle to move a listing then there's probably an underlying hidden dupe.
Thanks
 

Linda Buquet

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Linda - can you confirm the lesson? If it seems like a mighty struggle to move a listing then there's probably an underlying hidden dupe.
Hi Chris I can confirm that it's POSSIBLY the reason. There are tons of other potential reasons for ranking drops OR listings that stay stuck and won't move up.

There are a bunch of different things. Many are unwritten rules on the Places side of the house that can trip a filter and cause a ranking penalty .

But more & more I'm seeing ORGANIC penalties that keep listings on page 3. Recently I found one for an Atty I was consulting for. He didn't believe that one little thing on his site dropped him from #1 to page 3.

I said HUMOR ME! Delete it from your site. The VERY NEXT DAY he shot back up to #1.

He had numerous problems on the Places side that needed to be cleaned up too, but after thorough research of his PURE organic ranking I could tell the penalty was on the organic side of the house. Wasn't positive that was it, as it's a relatively new penalty I had just found out about and it's something lots of local sites do. But my gut told me that was the problem and it appears my gut was right! :p

Re ranking troubleshooting, when I do it, it's like playing Doctor or detective. I eval everything on both sides, run a bunch of tests, then via process of elimination try to narrow it down. Sometimes it's obvious, but often it takes a pretty deep dive to find the culprit. And sometimes it's like a mysterious disease where there's really no rhyme or reason and the puzzle goes unsolved. Doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh I forgot Mike Borgelt recently posted an email from support that indicates having a dual claimed listing can be a reason for PENDING too.

http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/2521-google-local-pending-under-review.html

Part of a long reply via troubleshooter. Basically they warn about several other things that could be a problem, like not hiding address or setting up additional listings at employees homes. Then they say...

- If your listing meets all of our quality guidelines, please make sure you've removed any duplicate listings from your account by clicking "Delete", then "Remove this listing from my Google Places account".

It's a pretty in-depth support email and the most proactive I've seen. So click the link above to go read the whole thing.
 

Keenan Glass

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Jul 27, 2012
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"HOW TO FIX?...

IF there is any incorrect info on the listing, like live address does not match what's in dash - then you can use the incorrect data troubleshooter to report the incorrect info. THEN after you get the reply from support, email them back and ask them to UNverify any owners of the account other than the account you are using.
"
Okay, but what happens next? Does Support ALWAYS unverify any other owners without any question or need for any follow up? How do you know when this has been completed? Is there ever any push back from Support? If so, what kind? What has been your experience?

Side note, Google routinely tells business owners to re-claim the listing when the log in details cannot be located. Do you think that they are exasperating the problem?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Jul 19, 2012
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Okay, but what happens next? Does Support ALWAYS unverify any other owners without any question or need for any follow up? How do you know when this has been completed? Is there ever any push back from Support? If so, what kind? What has been your experience?

Side note, Google routinely tells business owners to re-claim the listing when the log in details cannot be located. Do you think that they are exasperating the problem?
Here's a method that might be a new way to get this accomplished. Over the last week I have had two clients that weren't able to post responses to their Google reviews.

In one case, the option to post a response wasn't even there (and there was an option to post a review while logged into the places account).

In the other case, the option to post reviews was there, but they just weren't displaying live.

These are classic signs that the listing is claimed in multiple accounts (and you don't have control).

Here's what I did. I used the troubleshooter and went the route of
"My page features false or inappropriate reviews." In the details section I explained the problem. Here is one of the replies that I received:

"
Thanks for contacting Google. Upon review of your listing, it appears that you were one of two verified users managing your listing. Having multiple owners of a listing prevent both owners from responding to reviews since it is optimal to have one owner only. We have unverified the other user and you are now the only owner of this listing. Please allow a week to be able to respond back to your reviews."




---------- Post Merged at 12:44 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 12:42 PM ----------

I will check back in a few days to see if the responses stick. As of this morning it was a no-go, but it hasn't been a week yet.
 

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