Dealing with multiple phone numbers in Google Local

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  • November 5, 2009

Google Local has a different algorithm to the main Google search engine and requires different optimisation methods. The main ranking factors for Google Local include elements such as citations and customer reviews as well as the usual link factors and the expected address and geographical factors.

There has been a lot of talk recently about using tracking numbers for businesses and the concerns are quite valid. If you have 2 phone numbers listed in different places then it’s the same as having 2 domain names showing the same website but a lot harder to fix. Some companies have a geographical number, an 0845 number and several tracking numbers all listed in various places which makes it very hard for Google to accurately measure citations.

Given the vast number of small businesses without a website (~50-55%), or weakly-optimized one (probably an additional 40%), Google Maps and the other local search engines need indicators of relevance and authority that are not based primarily on links. User reviews on major portals like Yelp or Citysearch are obviously key indicators, as is the information that businesses tell the engines directly at the respective Local Business Centers.

But citations are also a critical component of any Local SEO strategy—recall that Local Search Ranking Factors contributors placed them as the #2 most important factor for ranking this year.

What’s a citation? Essentially, just a mention of your business information (your name + address, your name + phone number, or both) somewhere out there on the web—even if it doesn’t contain a link—remember that most businesses don’t have anything to link to!  The bottom line is that search engines’ ability to tie a particular phone number to a particular business gives them increased confidence in that business’s information, especially if that information matches what the business owner has entered into the Local Business Center—so they’re more likely to rank it.

Phone numbers may even be seen as a stronger confidence indicator than addresses, as Chris Silver Smith stated eloquently in his interview with Eric Enge last month:
“The phone number has in the past typically been considered something that doesn’t vary as much as some of the other information from all the different business sources.”

The best method we’ve found to fix the issue of multiple numbers is to find all the old phone numbers in existence and search for them on Google before contacting all the directories and websites listing them to correct the data. Time consuming but totally worthwhile.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • tag44

    Well i must say that it takes time but really it is very resourceful in future. Nice post Patrick once again, thanks for the post.

  • Brent


    How about using a tracking number of the web site only and all third-party and LBC listings use the “real” business phone number? Is there any correlation with lower maps rankings?

    • Patrick Altoft

      Brent I believe that Google looks at the number being displayed on your website to see if it matches the local business listing so you really need to have the same number in both places.

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  • Mark Kennedy

    “The best method we’ve found to fix the issue of multiple numbers is to find all the old phone numbers in existence and search for them on Google before contacting all the directories and websites listing them to correct the data. Time consuming but totally worthwhile.”

    That’s very good advice. I think this would work well for businesses that have been around a long time and are now ready to claim and cleanup their LBL strategy.

  • Luci

    This is really useful information, though means that somethings could be problematic but I hope I’m miss understanding –
    If a business has several phone numbers listed on their website, but perhaps only one listed on LBC, does the presence of the other phone numbers cause a negative effect?

    And, like Brent said, if other data on the internet lists one main phone line, and the website lists a different one – perhaps a new line or as Brent said a tracking number – this has a negative effect too?

  • Clive

    Going back to Brent’s comment for tracking numbers we have found an effective way is to display the tracking number prominently but as an image. Most people will use this.

    You can have the regular number next to the address. This way Google is happy AND you have effective tracking!

  • Adrian Cameron

    I am more interested in how long the citation process takes. I have corrected my listing on LBC in line with Google recommendations, but am finding that citations are not flowing, even though I am listed in quite a few local citation sources. Why is that? How long will it take, if ever, before those citations get listed?

  • alex

    great topic , i am really having problem with it,

  • Paul Web

    We went through this hassle when we moved to our new offices. It was bad enough having to update our numbers with all of our clients but it was even more time-consuming getting the new details correct with Google.

  • Dav

    awesome, great staff ,very usefull,keep it up,i think many people have to deal with it, but google keep changing the algorithms, this is really getting annoying to me. thanks again

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