Doctor Duplicate Listings Challenge with Google+ Local

Recently Google has decided they will no longer merge professional’s listings with the main practice listings in Google+ Local.   It is causing all kinds of duplicate listings with Google+ Local for such businesses like: dentists, lawyers, doctors, etc.   Linda Buquet first blog about it back on June 19th, 2012 here.

This is a major challenge for local SEO’ers who have dentists, doctors, & lawyers as clients.  As we all know having consistent NAP info in local search is essential to ranking well.   Many of the top SEO’ers back this up in the Local Search Ranking Factors.

She even got confirmation from Google Support that they do no plan on amending this decision.

“If a business and medical practitioner exists at a location, we want it to be displayed on Google Maps in order to give our users the most comprehensive information possible.”

Questions We Need To Get Answered With This Change

I assume now the best thing to do is claim those listings and optimize them, but there are still some questions I need to know before making proper decisions on how to best manage clients who have this duplicate listing challenge that will not go away.

Question 1: I am not certain yet, that when claiming them if we should be make the DBA (doing business name) as only the professionals name or if we should add the practice’s name + professionals name…?  Maybe if Mike Blumenthal or Linda Buquet or Nyagoslav Zhekov are reading this blog post, they could chime in with their thoughts on how to best handle DBA info for professionals.

Question 2: Should we as local SEO’ers now build citations for the professionals too…? My feeling is no (well not yet) because this could lead to further confusion about the business.

If you are a local SEO’er, let us know what your thoughts are about the recent duplicate listing challenges in Google+ Local and how you plan on handling it in the comment section below.

Possible Solution To This Dupe Problem

I guess what we could do is, kick it old school by claiming the listings and merging them by filling the info as being the same, then waiting for Google Places Dashboard to show the same data, then purging the extra listing from the account.  We used to do this all the time before you report duplicate listings.   If that doesn’t work and you claimed the listing and merged the data, they I suppose you could also submit to Google Places support to merge them too.

My only concern about this is that ‘professional’ listing might come back. All it takes is an approved data provider to feed Google Maps with the wrong NAP info and bingo! Another dupe listing! Which then means we are back at square one. ;(  I’d love to hear the opinion of some of the local SEO’ers about this pretty big challenge.  I have seen this badly affect: Dentists, Doctors, Lawyers, Real Estate Agents/Brokers and many other businesses that house many independent professionals under one address and main phone number. 

As Chelsea Lately would say, “What hot mess!”

FYI, 5 other note-worthy recent local SEO blog post you should read too:

  1. Google+ Local, Google Places, or Google Maps – Name Changes Don’t Matter, the Back End Still Creates Problems
  2. The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India
  3. New Study: The Best Citations Sources By City
  4. Google Paid Inclusion Programs: Buy a Top Ranking Today
  5. How Google May Identify Implicitly Local Queries



15 Responses to “Doctor Duplicate Listings Challenge with Google+ Local”

  1. Google wants it to work, SEO’s want it to work and the practitioners want it to work. But it still doesn’t work and it never has.

    You can imagine the ugly office politics and outraged phone calls to the SEO agency when a junior attorney’s listing outranks the law firm’s listing for a brand name search, for example.

    We also have professional directories regularly feeding practitioner data into Google, keeping listing the owners’ corrections from sticking.

    Google needs to give us clear guidlines on how to set up these kinds of listings so that it all works the way it’s supposed to. Without it, we’ll continue to flail and flounder around and do all kinds of things we’ll probably have to undo later.

    Com’mon Goog, help us out here!

  2. Yah, not too stoked on this as you already know.

    Creating additional citations using the same A and P but different N, in my mind, looks like a total clusterfuck.

    I get it though, especially with the increase in these full service type joints where I can go in, get a pimple popped, my back cracked & pick up some Chinese herbs on the way out. You’ve got a dozen doctors, all working out of the same location with the same P and A. How else do you differentiate?

    In the past, I get Virtual Numbers (VN), paired with a different N.

    Frankly, I am going to keep doing the same as I don’t trust this, nor do I need to create any more of a mess than already exists.

    Granted, by many folks’ definition, including Google, using VNs is creating the mess.

    Screw it.

  3. Matt, regarding your two questions:

    1) You DEFINITELY should not use the practice name in the practitioners’ listings titles. This has always been probably the single biggest reason for getting these merged.

    2) In my opinion, the answer would rather be “Yes”, but of course it depends on who is building the citations (hint hint). Why is that? Because this way you will not confuse the cluster algorithm – on the contrary, you will help it as you will support a cluster with more third-party data. For instance, if you have two Google+ listings: “ABC Medical Center” and “Dr. Siva Singh” that have exactly the same address and exactly the same phone number, then it is possible that Google might merge them. However, if Google has a lot of information that actually Dr. Singh is a separate entity from ABC Medical Center, but not just some mistaken/outdated piece of information on just 1-2 websites, then the chances for Google to merge them are much lower.

  4. Hey Matt,

    “Maybe if Mike Blumenthal or Linda Buquet or Nyagoslav Zhekov are reading this blog post, they could chime in with their thoughts on how to best handle DBA info for professionals.”

    I posted my thoughts and some solutions the other day here: Overcoming New Google Places Duplicate Listing Problems for Dentists, Doctors, Attorneys And quite a few pros weighed in with comments there too.

  5. GOOD JOB!your post was very helpful, thanks

  6. Thanks Linda for the added resource.

  7. Thanks Nyagoslav. Yeah, I guess for now we just use the Dr’s or professionals name. Interesting on the citations. You don’t think there is a major problem with the same phone number and address + different DBA. And then what if one of the professionals ends up out ranking the practice… you know the founder of that organization is going to blow a gasket. 😉

  8. Mary, Exactly! Help Google!

  9. Matt said “And then what if one of the professionals ends up out ranking the practice”

    Mary said “You can imagine the ugly office politics and outraged phone calls to the SEO agency when a junior attorney’s listing outranks the law firm’s listing for a brand name search, for example.”

    Yep that’s exactly why I was blogging tips for how to MINIMIZE the practitioner dupes. If you don’t – and leave it up to Goog – it could get convoluted.

    BUT the junior atty should not outrank the law firm’s listing for a brand name search if his name is formatted John Doe, only if the name on Place page is Practice Name: John Doe

    Matt and Mary both said “Help Google”. Since Google does not really help with ranking or care how our Dr ranks OR care how much trouble this causes marketing consultants, I think we are out of luck. They care about things like # of business records and # of reviews to up their competitive numbers AND they care about showing every listing to satisfy consumer search needs.

  10. I think that it is too early to say exactly as there are still too many changes in the works. Once things have merged in G+ and we see how everything works we can make some decisions about best practice. The question still on the table is whether G+ has significantly less merging than occurred in Places.

  11. Hey Mike, thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I think you have a good point that it is still too early to have best practices for this dupe challenge, but it’s real tough explaining to clients who are experiencing. Right now I am not seeing less dupe issues with the new Google+ Local. What would you do if you had a dentist practice all the doctors listings where re-appearing as dupes…?

  12. True Linda, not likely we’ll get help. But maybe if enough of us bloggers bitch about it they’ll create a best practice in their FAQs on how to deal with the duplicate listing challenge.

  13. Matt, I think I will be writing an article exactly on this problem, but just to give you an idea on what I think: Google’s clustering algorithm is not as simple as just looking at two listings/clusters and deciding to merge them because of similarities. It learns. One way it might be learning is by seeing that if there are multiple listings with the same address and phone, but with different business titles, and if all these listings are owner-verified, that would be a clear signal these ARE separate entities. So that is why deleting the records for the practitioners has always been a BAD idea, because what you delete is just the front end, the cluster is still there, and it is very possible that if it does not reappear during the next update, it will in a couple of updates… Moreover, most of the mergers in the industry are happening not just because the address and phone are the same, but because the NAP is generally not really consistent + all the listings are using same generic categories (Dentist, Attorney, Physician, etc).

  14. Nyagoslav, interesting you say “learning” algorithm. I still don’t see evidence of Google’s cluster being able to tell the difference between listings that have the same phone + address, but different DBA. I see it confusing the data all the time. Especially if listings share the same phone number, that is the kiss of death in my experience. Interesting your note on same categories causing merging issues… I’ve never looked at that. Hmmm…. I’ll look into that more. If would be nice if Google would not merge “claimed” listings. That would also help solve a big, problem too. I am still see the major is the split of off page ranking factors with citations and reviews getting split between multiple listings. I think that is way sometimes can cause a major drop in rankings and for my clients this uber important not to happen. I can’t wait to read your blog post on this…. let me know when it’s up and we’ll link to to from this post to keep the resources connected on this topic.

  15. Adam, yeah such a pain.

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