It’s not a walk in the park trying to figure out why your client’s Google Listing all of a sudden disappeared from the local search results while their organic rankings maintained good standing for a long period of time. I had some trouble figuring this one out, but after some discussion over on Google+ and the InsideLocal webinar that followed, I eventually found something that led me to the root cause of this “disconnected listing” problem my client’s been facing for the past two months.
Here’s a bit of background info for you to absorb first:
- The client came to me 2 months after they noticed they had a disconnected listing problem
- Their website remained ranking on the first page of Google for a number of high volume search keywords that were aligned to their business
- The client was aware that their site was at one point hacked, where files were installed on his server that comprised of black hat links (maybe some negative SEO attempts here?). They had this issue resolved before I was hired on
- This is a Canadian business (data aggregators are highly influenced by the big phone providers)
- They have a physical store front where customers (mostly businesses) would visit them at their location
I told my client, after doing some quick detective work that it would take roughly 3 months for this recovery to happen. We managed to achieve it in under 2. Although this solution worked extremely well in my case, it requires a deep understanding of Local SEO and of course, patience.
In all of my client engagements, the first month is dedicated to understanding their business as well as their past and current SEO situation. I do all of this through an audit process that I’ve developed and worked for me in the past.
Early November – After completing an audit of the website and Google Listing, I did find some opportunities for growth. However, none of these really stood out as a solution to their disconnected listing problem. What I did find on their Google Listing was they only selected one category. But, they qualified for 7 categories. After some time, we didn’t see any improvements.
Second week of December – One of the questions I ask my local search clients that are getting out of a penalty is: has your business ever operated under a different business name. If they say no, then I assume what they tell me, what it says in Google or the big aggregators is what I should reference as their “doing business as” name. After some thorough research into their citation profile, I later find out after a discussion with the client that their business at one point was registered under a different name with their phone provider. As a result, a couple high profile citation sources (including Yelp) had the incorrect business name, but the address and phone numbers were correct.
15 citation sources were affected. We attempted to claim and correct as many as we could. For some, we were required to reach out to the webmaster via email or form submission to get the information updated. A few never replied and didn’t get changed.
Exactly 8 days after this cleanup, my client was back and at the top of the local search results! Was this all pure luck? Maybe a bit, but it’s certain local citations play a big part in local search rankings. In this case, I figured that Google was just confused. A couple of the big directory sites mentioned their business address and phone with a different business name. Once that was cleaned up, our problems all went away.
What tools did we use in this investigation?
We monitored the rankings manually (using Incognito with no personalization and because this business is in the city I live in, I should get a really close result to what Ottawa folks get when they search for their keywords) and automatically with BrightLocal’s Rank Tracker tool.
We used BrightLocal’s citation tracker, as well as Whitespark’s local citation finder to find as many citation sources that were affected. Some manual searches in Google, after finding out about their alternative name also surfaced up some listings that we were able to take care of quickly.
I don’t think this problem happens regularly, but when it does, you need to (1) put your detective hat on (2) ask the right questions and (3) look in the right places and pick out the anomalies that are worth considering to build your case. Local SEO is comprised of so many things – it’s important to have a deep understanding of every aspect of your client’s business and the ecosystem of the location they are in.
I’d love to hear any similar recovery stories that you may have done for your clients (or yourself). Please share them in the comments below..