Google's intention with its Local Business Center is to gather data about each business from as many trusted sources as possible and merge them to create a fairly complete profile for each enterprise in its database. Although it is continually improving, the system is currently far from perfect, and multiple listings on Google Maps are often an inadvertent problem that can be caused by one or more circumstances.
Google gathers local business data from such sources as phone companies, data providers, and trusted Web sites, such as the Better Business Bureau and various chamber of commerce Web sites. If the information about you is from an authoritative source, it's not usual for it to show up as a separate listing in Google Maps.
Some businesses, or those that market them, have purposely created multiple listings with the intention of spamming. Sometimes they create listings for locations that don't exist to try to rank in those geographic areas. Others use multiple incorrect business names stuffed with keywords in an effort to rank for many different terms. While this has been somewhat effective in the past, now it's not as easy to get away with. Many of these listings are now being dropped as Google Maps cleans up its results.
Sometimes business owners inadvertently create more than one listing. For example, they may write a listing without checking to see if one already exists, or they may not understand the way the system works, so they create multiple listings while waiting for their information to be verified and go live.
There are also admitted glitches within the local business listings, and sometimes simply trying to update or enhance your listing can cause a duplicate to appear. Perhaps the most common problem is when you find and claim multiple listings for your business and then begin deleting the duplicates. While this seems a logical and expected action, it can cause all kinds of problems, the worst probably being that all the listings about the business are removed from Google Maps. If this happens, you may at first think it's not so bad, as it will allow you to create one accurate listing, which is what you're after. However, all those listings came from somewhere, and you may find them randomly popping up again as the information from the original sources gets pushed or pulled back into Maps.
Lately Google's emphasis in resolving this seems to be geared toward merging multiple listings into one. Unfortunately, Google doesn't know exactly which listings should be combined together. This often occurs when basic information, such as business name, phone number, and address, differ from listing to listing.
So what's the best way to deal with multiple listings?
To make the corrections go as smoothly as possible -- although not necessarily quickly -- first, claim all of the listings associated with your business. Next, decide which one is likely to be most advantageous to keep. This is usually the listing that ranks the highest for the terms for which you most want to rank. Most of the time this will also be the listing that has the most information in it, including reviews, user-generated content, and maps; it also tends to be the listing with the greatest number of Web pages associated with it.
Then, edit all of the other listings to contain the exact same business name, address, and local phone number as the listing you want to keep. Remove any enhanced content, such as photos, descriptions, attributes, and the like, that may appear from the listings you want to go away.
Finally comes the hard part: waiting. Most of the time, Google Maps will then be able to tell that all of your listings are for the same business. The system will merge them together over the course of several weeks, and the ones you don't want will disappear. Officially, Google Maps recommends deleting the unwanted listings after a month or two with these instructions: "Delete the duplicates from your account, choosing Remove this listing from my Local Business Center account." If all else fails, you can try asking Google Maps support for help.
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Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.
Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.
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