One Phone Number for Multiple Google My Business Pages: Can It Cause Problems?

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I tend to suggest using a different phone number for each location of your business, but exactly what’s the downside of using the same number on all of your Google My Business pages? 

Google’s guidelines don’t tell you to use a location-specific phone number.

Merged” Google pages don’t seem to be a problem these days – and even when they were, a shared phone number probably wouldn’t have caused pages to merge.

I’ve seen businesses use one number for many locations and rank just fine – and you may have observed that, too.

Google My Business forum Top Contributors don’t indicate that a shared phone number is a big problem (though it’s “not ideal”).

Some of my fellow local-search geeks suggest using separate phone numbers – and I agree with that advice, generally.  But I haven’t seen anyone spell out exactly what might happen if you use the same number everywhere.

Here’s one possible downside: Google may not verify one or more of your pages.

That happened recently to a multi-location client of mine.  They chose to use the same phone number for their 5 (or so) Google My Business pages in different major cities across the US.  Though I’d suggested getting and using different phone numbers – one for each location – their choice also made sense in their case.  They’d had a couple of GMB pages up for a few years, and created the others in recent months.

They verified all their GMB pages without incident, except for one page.  The client got on the phone with GMB support (always a good time), and they were told that the problem was that the phone number wasn’t unique to that one location.  Of course, that was also true of the other pages, which had been verified A-OK.

After some back-and-forth and presumably a little groveling, the client got Google to wave the page through.  All’s well that ends well.

But what about your situation?  If you’re multi-location, should you use a unique number for each of your Google My Business pages?

I wouldn’t say a multi-location phone number is like giving your rankings a Kent Micronite.  If you get all your pages verified, your visibility will depend on the usual suspects.

Still, I recommend using a unique phone number, if at all possible.  You’ll make it a little more apparent to Google and to searchers that you’ve actually got people in all the places you say you do.

What’s been your experience with using the same phone number (or different numbers) on Google My Business?

Have you heard of any specific problems resulting from using the same number across the board – or heard any strong advice?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

How to Change Your CitySearch Business Categories without Breaking a Sweat

The categories you pick for your non-Google local listings also matter.  They influence your rankings within those sites, and seem to influence your Google Places rankings at least a little.

I’ve already nagged you to pay attention to your categories on Yelp, Apple Maps, and other sites.

But don’t forget about creaky old CitySearch.  It’s not a cool, up-and-coming site, but it still matters to your local visibility.  Start by making sure you’re listed under the right categories

The trouble is that the part of the site that business owners have to deal with has been half-broken for several years now.  Local SEOs have had to rely on the support staff for help with listings that need fixing.  Complicating matters is that if you email support you’ll get an auto-reply email that implies all you have to do on CitySearch is to square away your ExpressUpdate listing.

Maybe oddest of all is the fact that even if you’ve claimed your CitySearch listing you’ll have to call the support line (800-611-4827) if you want to change your categories.

The other day, fellow LocalSparker Gene Maryushenko and I were discussing a client’s case, and looking for every worthwhile tune-up we could make.  CitySearch had our client listed under the overly broad category of “Attorneys,” but we wanted to get it changed to the more-accurate “Criminal Defense Attorneys” category.

Turns out it was real easy, according to Gene:

Phil,

We discussed updating [client’s] category on CityGrid and you said you’d be interested in hearing how that phone call to support went.

As soon as I got off the Skype call with you, I gave them a call. Pressed option 2 for non-paying customer, pressed 2 to change listing info and got a rep on the line.

I told the rep I’m interested in changing the categories and he said sure, no problem. I asked to have the primary category set to Criminal Defense Attorneys and removed secondary. He said it should take 24-48 hours to process and that was it.

Call lasted less than a minute. I’m writing this the next day (10:22am my time) to let you know the change was processed.

Again, the CitySearch/CityGrid support-line number is (800) 611-4827.

I’m guessing this would work even on an unclaimed CitySearch listing, too.  Sometimes CitySearch can be buggy when you’re trying to claim or log into your listing.  Haven’t tried it on an unclaimed listing yet, though.

Any tips on dealing with CitySearch listings in general – especially the categories?

Any category-related tips on other sites?

Leave a comment!

My #1 Local Citations Tip: Do Another Round

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/chrisgold/6282077864/

A recent conversation with my LocalSpark amigos Darren and Nyagoslav got me to thinking:

Yes, there are dozens of things to remember do when working on your citations.  I offered 43 bits of advice in my giant post on citations from a year ago.

But you don’t want all the details – major and minor – to get in the way of one crucial step.  It’s perhaps the only practice that makes building or fixing your citations less daunting, and more likely to get completed.

It is:

Do at least one follow-up round of work on your citations.

Do it 30-90 days after the first occasion you work on them.

Better yet: do a third round of work a month or two after the second.

That’s it.  If you’re no stranger to citations, you probably know what follow-up work would involve.  But if you’d like a little more explanation, just read on.

 

Why do follow-up work on citations?

  • Because some of your listings or edits probably didn’t stick after the first attempt.
  • Because the remaining listings are probably on the tougher sites, which usually also means they’re the listings that Google really trusts.
  • Because you probably can (and always should) fill out more info on your current listings – like any fields labeled “Services,” “Description,” “Keywords,” and especially your categories.

  • Because you may stumble across more sites where you should list your business.

 

What to do, exactly?

You’re doing 5 main things:

1.  You’re checking the sites you’ve already submitted to, to make sure they published your info correctly.  To the extent they haven’t, you’re resubmitting your edits, or trying again to claim your listing, or whatever the situation seems to dictate.

2.  You’re checking on any listings that you tried to remove before, to make sure they’ve actually been removed.  If they haven’t been removed, make your request again.  You may also need to see where those sites are getting their (mis)information in the first place – if there’s an “upstream” problem.

3.  You’re bulking up any citations that only have your basic info.  Again, you’ll want to fill out as many fields as possible – especially the ones where you have the chance to describe your services in more detail.  Until very recently, Google would scrape those fields and put the relevant services MapMaker custom categories.  It’s likely they still use that info in some way.

4.  You’re taking another pass at finding more citation sources.

 

Fine, but how do you fix up the citations?

Read this superb post by Casey Meraz.

 

Which sites most need double-checking?

Yelp, YellowPages, ExpressUpdate, and Acxiom – for starters.  In my experience, those are the most stubborn sites.

 

Why doesn’t everyone do follow-up work?

Because it’s extra work.

Even if people know that there’s still work to be done, it’s never a priority.  If the rankings are bad and it’s because of messy citations, it’ll usually take months for the fixes to count for anything.  And disheveled citations sure as heck aren’t a priority when rankings and spirits are high.

Also, most citation “builders” won’t bother, because it’s easier to bill you for the first several-dozen easy sites than for the 5-10 toughies.  (Sure, the tough sites usually require owner-verification, but someone’s at least got to tell that to the business owner.)

 

It’s part of a bigger strategy

Local SEO usually takes time – months – to bear fruit.  You need to start working on it before you’re starving for visibility and phone calls.  As I’ve written, the slower you can take it, the better.

If you try to get all your citations perfect in a sitting or even within a week, you’ll probably end up frustrated.  But if you revisit them every now and then as part of your long-term push, they’ll get as close to “done” as you can get.

The nice thing is that the more rounds of work you put into your citations, usually the less there is to do each time.

What’s your #1 tip on citations?

#1 frustration?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Latest Local SEO Labyrinth: the New ExpressUpdateUSA

If you want your business to rank well in the local search results, it needs to be listed correctly on ExpressUpdate.com – AKA InfoGroup, formerly ExpressUpdateUSA.

You probably knew how important your ExpressUpdateUSA listing is.  (If you didn’t, read this and then come back here.)

But you might feel jarred by three extremely recent changes to the site and to the process of adding or fixing your listing:

Change 1.  The new layout.  It’s a little easier to find the area where you can check your listing.  Unfortunately, this is the only change that makes things simpler.

 

Change 2.  You now have to verify by phone if you want to claim and make changes to your listing.

Even if you already have a listing that you created and owner-verified by email and that InfoGroup published, you can’t simply log into your account to make changes.  You can’t simply click the big green “Login” button and enter your trusty login info.

You must phone-verify – before you can create an account, before you can log in, and before you can make any changes.

 

Change 3.  The area where you can add your listing for the first time (in case you’re not already listed) doesn’t seem to require verification – by phone or email.  If you search for your business (see point #1, above) and nothing comes up, scroll down and you’ll see the “Add a listing” option.

Or you can just go straight to http://www.expressupdate.com/place_submissions/new

By the way, when it comes time to pick out a category to list your business under, you might find InfoGroup’s category-picker to be slow and frustrating.

It’s easier if you go to OSHA’s Standard Industrial Category search tool and find the most-appropriate category for your business there, and enter that into the “Primary SIC” field.

Next steps

So what do you do now?  Depends whether you’re a complete do-it-yourselfer business owner or you’re having a friendly local-search pro help you out.

If you’re going it alone:

1.  Check up on your ExpressUpdate listing now.

2.  If your business is listed 100% correctly, you don’t need to do anything –  although it would be smart to take 2-3 minutes to claim your listing anyway.

3.  If your listing isn’t 100% accurate, make sure you’re by the phone so that you can claim and then correct your listing.  Do it now, or the incorrect info will come back to bite your local rankings in the rump.

4.  If your business isn’t listed at all, add it and follow whatever instructions you get.  Because InfoGroup’s policies just changed, I haven’t had the chance to confirm whether they’ll tell you exactly what to do, or whether you just have to check up on your listing again later and claim it by phone once it’s approved.  In any case, you will need to claim the listing personally, sooner or later.

How about if you’re working with a local SEO?  In that case, there’s only one difference: now ExpresssUpdate requires a little teamwork.

It used to be that your friendly local SEO-er only needed access to your business email address in order to do anything that needed to be done with your listing.

Now if your local-search consigliere says that you need to claim your listing in order to make changes to it, you two need to nail down a time when you’ll both be by the computer and you’ll be by the phone, ready to follow the instructions for verifying your listing.

By the way, if you need to, you can actually reach a human who can fog a mirror.

Final thoughts

If you run a business in the US, the changes at InfoGroup matter to your local rankings and visibility.  As a local SEO, I’m not wild about the changes, because they’re extra little hoops to jump through with my clients.

But I can totally see why InfoGroup made the changes: It’s harder for bad information to enter their system (which helps their new Data Axle offering).  Ultimately, that means the local search results in Google and elsewhere will be a little more accurate.  If your competitors are doing stuff that’s not kosher, life might get tougher for them.

I doubt that ExpressUpdate is moving to a freemium model, the way LocalEze did recently.  But who knows.  My advice is: square away your listing now, while it’s still free and relatively straightforward to do so.

New Hoop Added to Google+Local Phone Support

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Google+Local phone support ever since it came out last month.  And it sounds like the folks at Google are still doing a good job.

But apparently now they’re making you jump through a hoop (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing).

According to this new comment by Janelle Gilbert on my earlier post, Google now is asking business owners who contact phone support to verify their requested changes by email.  Here’s what Janelle wrote:

Update to my earlier comment: I used Google Phone support again today, and they now require authorization from the client in the form of an email–from the client’s domain–in order to approve changes an agency rep makes. In this case, I needed to manually verify a listing while simultaneously merging duplicates. Google sent an email to the utility Gmail account I set up for my client, “ABC Corp.” Google’s rep gave me verbal instructions, and here’s the actual email text:

Hello,

We spoke earlier today regarding your business verification. In order to verify your listing, we need to confirm that you own or have the authority to represent this business on local Google+ pages. Please complete the following steps in order to do so:

– Respond to this email and carbon copy (CC) a person who has an email address with the relevant business domain. For example, if we were attempting to verify a listing for Google, we’d CC someone with an @google.com email address.

– This person should ‘reply all’ and give written permission for Google to verify the listing. The response can be as simple as ‘Please verify the listing in the Google Places account, example@gmail.com.’

Their response will assist us in manually verifying the listing. If you need any additional assistance or questions feel free to reply to us.

This is a recent change according to the Google rep, and I can verify (pun intended) that statement since my last contact with Google Phone Support was mid-January and client approval was not required at that time. I hope this helps other agencies out there!

Have you contacted Google+Local phone support and been asked to jump through any verify-by-email hoops?  To what extent is this news to you?  What’s been your experience with the new support feature so far?  Leave a comment!