Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | December 29, 2018

Duplicate Suppression vs Duplicate Reduction: What’s Best for Local SEO?

t is estimated that nearly $10.3 billion worth of sales are lost every year because of confusing, inaccurate, or missing local listing information.

Customers searching online for local businesses rely on local search sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook for the accuracy and simplicity they bring to the search process. However, when customers run into problems like duplicate listings, incorrect phone numbers and missing addresses it complicates the entire process.

When customers encounter these types of issues it diminishes their trust in the businesses to the point that they look for a new business or even abandon their search all together.

One of the biggest issues that have plagued the local search industry and have been detrimental to businesses’ local presence has been duplicate listings.

A duplicate listing is any time that a business has more than one listing on a given platform, be it a data aggregator, local search directory or search engine. A single business should only have one unique listing for each of its locations on GMB, Facebook Places, Yelp, TripAdvisor etc.

Where Do Duplicates Come From?

Duplicates are hurting businesses and turning away customers, but where do they come from?

  1. By the Brand – Many businesses often unknowingly create their own duplicate listings. This is a frequent scenario that occurs when businesses do not have a set definitive listings management solution in place. Often multiple listings will be created or claimed on a single directory by different parties within the same business who did not know someone else had already done this. Another possibility is that a 3rd party or the directory itself had added a listing for a location or multiple locations without the business knowing.
  2. By the Customer – This is one of the biggest contributors of duplicate listings that businesses are up against. Sites like Yelp and Facebook that allow customers to check-in at businesses are also enabling them to create duplicates by allowing them to “add missing businesses”.

While this is an honest attempt by the customers to bolster local business directories and improve their data, it is causing problems for the local businesses. If they don’t immediately find the business or if they don’t care to look, any customer that wants to check in at a location on one of these sites and immediately create a new business listing.

  1. By the Aggregator – Business listing data aggregators (Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup, Localeze) collect their information from a wide variety of both online and offline resources to determine the correct location information (NAP, etc.) for all the existing businesses. It is the aggregators’ job to keep track of and maintain a database for the approximately 35 million businesses in the United States. Handling this amount of information comes with its fair share of problems, one of which is the ability to identify and clean duplicate listings.

Why are Duplicate Listings a Problem?

What is it that makes duplicate listings so problematic that search engines will punish businesses for it and customers will actively avoid businesses who have them?

Creates Clutter – In the world of local search, consistency and certainty is key. Customers turn to local search and choose businesses because they trust the information that is being presented to them. Search engines trust the data they supply by ensuring consistency of listing information across all their data sources. One of the biggest issues that comes with duplicate listings is the inconsistency in business information.

The primary listing which has been claimed and is being managed by the business should will all the correct business info (hopefully). While the duplicate, which has gone undetected and unmanaged, can be running rampant and have all the incorrect information except for maybe the same business name and website.

This type of inconsistency confuses search engines and makes it hard for them to determine which listing is correct and which should be displayed. There’s the potential that the search engine or directory ranks the incorrect listing in front which would be detrimental to the business.

Confusion is also created amongst customers who find either the incorrect listing or both of a business’s listing. Finding the incorrect listing would make it nearly impossible to get in contact with or visit the location while finding both makes it difficult to determine which information should be trusted if any at all.

Terrible for Local SEO – Listing data and accuracy are responsible for 45% of how Google decides to rank businesses in the local search results. Since accurate and consistent data is so important to Google and search engines, businesses with duplicate listings will more than likely have both listings punished and pushed down in the local search rankings.

The duplicate listing may also cannibalize the ranking strength of the correct listing, meaning that rather than the ranking strength being concentrated into one single listing it is now being distributed between the two. At this point, not only is the search engine dividing the ranking strength between two listings, but actively punishing both listings for causing confusion.

Splits Customer Reviews – 93% of customers read online reviews to determine if a business is good or not and 13% of Google’s local search ranking factors are attributed to review signals. At a time when a single review could be the difference between a customer choosing you or your competitor, every review matters.

Duplicate listings cause a business’s reviews to become fragmented between multiple listings. Half of the customers are leaving reviews on one listing while the other half post reviews on the actual listing. Not only is this bad for customers looking for reviews to help make their decision, but it also hurts a business’s ability to rank in the local search results.

How to Fix Duplicate Listings

When it comes to tackling the duplicate problem, there are often two schools of thought: Duplicate suppression and Duplicate Reduction.

Duplicate suppression: This is a term used by a popular listing management company in the US. This company has figured out a way to scale and “simplify” the duplicate removal process. Clients who use this method can press a duplicate suppression button in their dashboard which then flags any duplicates and hides them from the public.

While this is a fast and efficient method for “removing” duplicates from the public eye, the major issue is that duplicates are not hidden on the most important search engines and directories: Google, Bing, Yelp and Facebook. In addition, the duplicate suppression is not permanent. It only remains so long as you keep paying for the duplicate suppression service. While fast and efficient, this method is not a permanent or effective solution to the duplicate issue.

Duplicate Reduction: In comparison, duplicate reduction is the act of MANUALLY claiming each duplicate listing and either merging them into the primary listing, bringing its reviews, images etc. to the primary listing, or marketing the duplicates as closed.

This method is much more time consuming and hands-on, however, it will permanently remove duplicates on all the major search sites, aggregators and local directories. This eliminates any confusion for searchers and produces positive search engine and directory visibility returns.

Since duplicate reduction is so dependent on time and manual effort, it is highly recommended that you employ a qualified listings management provider to do this for you. Doing so also ensures that your listings can accurately be changed whenever necessary and will help to defend against any new duplicates or inaccurate listing changes in the future.

Curious as to how many rogue duplicate pages you have running free around the web? Schedule a demo with Chatmeter to get a FREE duplicate listings analysis. Find out exactly how many duplicate listings you have and on which sites. Then, we’ll help you develop the right strategy for tackling your duplicates.