With several businesses competing in the race to gain customers through local search on Google and Google Maps, it is vital that your information is absolutely correct.
Google’s ultimate goal is to ensure users are getting the best experience possible through their search engine. Trust is such a huge thing for Google, they want the pages appearing on the first page to be the most reliable sources possible. When you’re entering business information into your GMB, that info appears on the SERPS and Google Maps.
Outside of Google, there are other places where your business can be listed like directories such as Yell. What happens if the info on your GMB is different on other sources? To put it simply, your rankings could be penalised and Google will lose trust in your business information.
So why would Google care if your business information is different on external sites?
Let’s say you’re in Brighton for the first time, and you’re looking for somewhere good to eat. You decide on a local Indian restaurant, you set Google Maps to give you a route to that restaurant. You walk for 20 minutes, only to find there is no restaurant here and you’re in an obscure housing estate. The average person is going to blame Google.
Skip forward a few weeks later, you want to take your family out to a nice restaurant. You Google your favourite fish restaurant that’s out of town. You set a route on Google maps and start your drive. You arrive only to find that it’s a construction site. Their GMB says it’s open, but upon going into their website, you find out that it’s been closed down.
At this point, an average user with no knowledge on GMB and SEO will be ranting about Google Maps. They could have completely written off Google Maps and pledged to never use it again.
The thing is, both times it wasn’t technically Google’s fault. It was the two businesses fault for listing incorrect information. This is a common error for businesses that may have moved addresses but not updated their info, or unknowingly left their old GMB entry and created a new one. Having a correct GMB is super important for effective local SEO as it catches local traffic.
Companies can make mistakes on their GMB and lead users into a bad experience from incorrect information. Regardless if it’s a businesses fault, ultimately that bad experience was on the Google platform, and many people will hold Google accountable to that and assume it was Google’s fault. It gives them a bad rep and leads to users not wanting to return. This is something Google takes very seriously.
The fear of this happening means Google will be doing everything they can to ensure this doesn’t happen.
How they do this is by scraping the internet of data and comparing it with your GMB information. If there’s data out there that doesn’t match your GMB listings, something doesn’t add up. Whether that’s your website or other 3rd party directories, if they are not matching, Google will lose confidence in your information and will not trust your listing.
So in a nutshell, Google will not want your business to show up on their platform if there’s a risk of it being incorrect.
Thankfully, Google is getting smarter at understanding signals on whether the information is correct. Because of this, citations are not as big of a ranking factor as before. However, it is still important to ensure the framework of your listing is accurate. 3rd party directories should still be ensured that they are correct. The good news is because this isn’t as big of a ranking factor anymore, you no longer need to spend hours listing your business information on every directory known to man. Just make sure you are on the popular ones, and make sure they are all 100% accurate so that there are no trust issues with your business and Google.
In my opinion, this is a fantastic change by Google. Trying to boost your rankings by listing business information on every possible directory ended up becoming a mess. Trying to boost rankings from citations can very easily take you down a dark path where you could end up hurting your rankings. This is because some directory sites to put it simply, are poor. Some directories were confusing and time-consuming to implement, others didn’t allow you to add all of your information such as opening times. This lead to information becoming inconsistent and was a pain to remove.
Many times to remove directories required verification which meant needing details you did not have access to. Such as a phone call verification to the client you are doing work for. If you are an SEO agency, this was far from ideal. In the end, the objective of making sure your directory listings are all consistent had the opposite result, leading to a mess.
This goes without saying that thanks to Google’s ranking factor change to local search, there is no need to add listings to obscure directories. Adding a few listings to big and trusted directory sources will do the job. Make sure that you check if the directories you are adding allow you to add all required fields of your business. So if there’s a directory that doesn’t allow you to add opening times, don’t add it.
Of course, if you already have listings on multiple small directory sites, make sure they are correct or just remove them altogether if you have power to. In essence, accurate listings from quality sources should be the focus, it’s not a race to have the most listings. Don’t add listings to poor quality business directories.
Citations should be the foundation of local SEO, not the be all end all now. I believe that this change was done by Google to avoid these problems and to essentially make ours and their job easier. I think Google just wants listings on trusted reliable directory sources now. It’s a win-win for everyone.