Most small business owners understand the importance of having a Google My Business listing in order to appear in Google Maps. Getting these listings is very straightforward: You enter your business information and verify it with a postcard. Easy enough, right? Unfortunately, this ease of verification lulls business owners into a trap of optimism: If one listing is good, isn’t two better?
At our SEO firm, we’ve been seeing different variants of this problem. For example, imagine that two lawyers who own a practice together verify their address for their joint practice. Then, they also submit and verify the location under their individual names. Technically this is OK, but we have seen it cause problems in the Google Maps visibility. The problem is exacerbated even more when these individuals try to open multiple lead generation websites (e.g., DUI Charlotte, Personal Injury Charlotte, Defense Charlotte, Divorce Charlotte, etc.) and get a Google verified listing for each.
Another scenario is when a similar business moves out of a location and a new business of the same category moves in. This is common with buildings for dry cleaners or restaurants. The result of multiple verifications of the same business manifests in a few different symptoms. In all cases, it seems to inhibit the ease in which a business will appear in the coveted Google Maps three-pack display on the first page of Google search results.
Most often, when you have two or more businesses at one address, one business will appear in the maps while the others do not. Typically, Google chooses to display the listing with the most SEO power or with the most links coming to that listing. The other listing will not be immediately visible in a map search. However, you can uncover this “hidden” listing when you click the “zoom in” button one time. You can then see that the listing is actually there. But it’s not being shown for the first search because Google only wants to show one business in one niche per address.
Let me give you a real-life example of two local web design companies.
As we were seeking to understand this scenario, we uncovered a classic example at one of the nearby coworking spaces in Greenville, South Carolina. This building has multiple web design companies working from the same location. They all physically work in the building (inside the same large room) and they all have permanent signage up.
In other words, these businesses each, individually, comply with Google’s guidelines for representing their business online. However, they run afoul of this one statement: “Do not create more than one page for each location of your business, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”
Each of these businesses has the category of “web designer” with the same address. When searching for “Greenville web design,” Web Design Agency No. 1 was the first to appear. However, after clicking the “zoom in” button once, a second listing appears at the same address.
The best we can hypothesize is that this behavior is a feature of Google Possum. In an attempt to filter spam, the algorithm “hides” these listings that are less relevant. Then, if the user appears to be looking for an extremely localized answer, the algorithm serves up these hidden answers.
So, what could be done in this scenario?
The best answer would be for the co-working space to assign suite numbers to each business and provide them with mailboxes for receiving their mail. There still exists a challenge in coordinating these suite numbers and making sure that these businesses aren’t using each other’s numbers. However, it seems that businesses with unique names, addresses and phone numbers (NAP) are not impacted by this.
The biggest takeaway? You should now review each client’s address for potential conflicts.
A fascinating case occurred last week when we discovered that a local sign shop was leasing one bay of their shop and some office space to an auto body shop. This body shop was using the same address as the lease holder’s business. By assigning a suite number to the body shop, the sign shop moved to page one of Google in the organic listings within seven days.
So, it might bear further experimentation to see whether this address conflict can affect the local organic search results, as well.