When it comes to maintaining your small business’s online presence, it can feel like there are too many variables out of your control. Search engines like Google seem to hold all the cards most of the time. The truth is, unless you know how to plan and execute an effective online advertising campaign—or you hire a marketing specialist to take care of that for you—you won’t have very much control over what happens to your company’s online presence. However, there’s one thing you can control, and that’s the accuracy of the information you put online about your company.
Why Is Conflicting Information Problematic?
Maintaining consistent, accurate information about your business on all the different online channels is crucial. Google and other search engines want to present the best possible information to their users, so they gather data from around the web to verify what’s on your company’s listing. And when Google sees conflicting details about your company coming from different sources, it flags your listing for having the wrong information: Google won’t want to display your business as a search result if there’s a chance it’s not a legitimate company. This results in poor rankings and, sometimes, suspended listings. Needless to say, if there’s a lot of inaccurate or inconsistent information out there about your business, your online presence will take a colossal hit. Conflicting information won’t just slow down your progress—it will blow your progress to smithereens. It’s a tripwire that businesses trigger over and over and over. So how can you figure out if your business has conflicting information floating around out there? More importantly, what can you do about it? Let’s find out.
What Does Conflicting Information Look Like?
First, you need to know what you’re looking for. For example, if the information about your company on your Google listing doesn’t match what it says about your company on your Yelp listing, then you’ve got a case of conflicting information. This can take a variety of forms:
- Mismatching spelling, spacing, and/or punctuation of company name, such as:
- “B&B Appliance Repair” versus “B and B Appliance Repair”
- “Mike’s Plumbing” versus “Mike’s Plumbing Service”
- “Day and Night Heating” versus “Day and Nite Heating”
- Mismatching address, such as:
- Different cities
- Wrong house numbers
- Wrong street suffixes (Columbus Dr. versus Columbus Ave.)
- Mismatching service offerings or business categories, such as:
- Different main categories
- Listing services you don’t provide
- Not listing services you do provide
- Mismatching website URLs
Take the time to fill out your online listings carefully and correctly. It may feel tedious and time-consuming, but it’s worth the headache you’ll save down the road. However, no matter how diligent you may be, sometimes outside events can create a situation where your information is no longer consistent.
What Commonly Leads to Conflicting Information?
Even if you were extra careful when you originally created and filled out your listings, you may still find there’s a substantial amount of conflicting information out there. What could explain this?
- You made typos or other manual errors.
- You recently moved locations.
- You recently changed phone numbers.
- You previously worked with an online advertiser who left your listings in shambles.
- You previously engaged in spam-like activity.
- A directory auto-generated a listing for you using incomplete information from one of your listings on another site.
- Someone (maybe a customer or a competitor) edited one of your listings on your behalf.
What Can You Do to Fix It?
Let’s start with a dose of honesty: Some of these fixes will be easier than others. For instance, if it’s simply a matter of updating your listings after you moved locations or changed phone numbers, then you can easily fix those problems yourself. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two to log in to all of your accounts and update the information accordingly. (Pro tip: Keep a running list of all the sites your business is listed on, including log-in information for each. Doing so will make this process much, much easier in the future.) However, things get trickier when you’re trying to track down conflicting information you don’t even know about. If you worked with an online advertiser in the past, they might have left all of your old information up when you quit without giving you any indication of where it lives on the web. Similarly, if a third party sneakily edited one of your listings without your knowledge, you’ll be pretty much in the dark. In these trickier cases, you have two options: Devote numerous hours to tracking down all of your listings and checking each one, line by line, for mismatching information—or pay someone else to do it for you. Many online advertisers offer affordable, one-time services designed to search for red flags and clean up conflicting information on your behalf. The initial search is typically performed by an automated system, while the cleanup is done manually by a specialist. After calculating how much their time and sanity are worth, many business owners decide that hiring a specialist is worth it.
Regular “Maintenance” Is Key
It’s easy to feel like your online presence is out of your hands, but there are simple things you can do to take back some control. Avoiding inconsistent information is one of them. It’s an effective way to fulfill Google’s need to provide top-quality information to its users. When all of your facts are matching, Google won’t doubt you. Keep tabs on all of your listings and correct mistakes as soon as you see them. It’s like car maintenance: You don’t have to change your tires or oil all the time, but you need to check them regularly so you can catch and fix problems as soon as possible. If you need to, invest in an advertising specialist who can help you with this maintenance. Whatever you do, keeping all of your information matching across the board is vital to the stability of your online presence.