Dealing with multiple phone numbers in Google Local

  • 1
  • November 5, 2009
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

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.