Will Changing My Business Name Hurt My Search Rankings?

One of the most common questions we get asked at Meaningful Marketing is “will changing my business name, address or phone number negatively hurt my organic, or Google My Business search rankings?” We always answer “well, it depends.”

Organic Search Rankings

So, let’s first start off by talking about the organic rankings. We have not seen a client suffer negative or poor search rankings because they have inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on business directories. Now, when we first start out with a client, we do a data scrape of all their business listings and make sure they do have consistent name, address and phone number listed on all these directories. So we make sure we get on top of that right away and clean them up.

However, we do have cases where we have clients come to us who have had a few business name changes, or maybe they’ve changed addresses or a changed phone number here or there. And in those cases when we start working with them, we obviously want to go through and clean up their data, and make sure they’re listed correctly and consistently across the web. But we haven’t seen a negative impact on their organic search rankings.

So, it’s not so much the organic search rankings you’ve got to worry about, because there’s a bunch of other factors that Google looks at when they rank a website organically, and a lot of those things we’ve talked about in our SEO blog posts, things like creating good content, things like adding lots of interlinks between posts, and things like optimizing your website properly.

Google My Business Rankings

Now, moving onto the Google my business search rankings, it can hurt your rankings there if you do have an inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on these random, third-party directories.

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So, you want to make sure, if you have already or if you’re thinking about changing your business name, that you track down all your business listings across the web, and you get them updated as fast, or as quickly as possible.

So, if you follow the strategy and the guidelines we’ve laid out in the importance of your business listings blog post, you’ll see how you can go about finding all your business listings on all these directories and then keeping a spreadsheet and keeping a tally and track of if you’ve contacted that website for the change request.

Where Did All These Listings Come From?!

Now, if that’s the case, you’re probably going to see a lot of business listings out there of your business that you don’t even know about, and you’re going to wonder “how did I get on that directory?” Well, what happens is a lot of these directories were started up by people who were looking to generate leads for search engine marketing services, or who were looking to generate revenue through online advertising, and they created these directories and what they did was just basically had data scrapers, whether it’s a spider, and created all this data about businesses and then simply had that data uploaded to their website.

So they could go to a directory like Yellow Pages, gather a bunch of information about chiropractors in Atlanta, Georgia, and have all those chiropractors’ businesses listed on their own website just by simply scraping the data from Yellow Pages directory of chiropractors in Atlanta, and then uploading it to their own website.

That’s how a lot of these directories have come to produce a bunch of business listings that you don’t even know about. And if you look at a lot of companies like Yext and Elocal in the states, what they do is they’re basically the big data aggregators and they just spit out all these business listings. So, if you list your business with Yext, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a bunch of business listings across the web that you may or may not know about.

Now, obviously, if you sign up with Yext you’ll know about those listings because they’ll send you a report. But if for example you had a listing on Yellow Pages that had an inconsistent name, address or phone number issue, then a lot of directories take that Yellow Pages information and put it on their website. It’s one thing that you have to watch out for, is that you’re going to see a lot of these directories that you don’t even know about that your business is listed on, so that’s an issue.

Unresponsive Directories

The second issue about these directories, like I’ve already said, a lot of these people started these these directories as the means to generate some side revenue, whether it was trying to generate leads for search engine marketing, or it was trying to generate ad revenue. Well, a lot of these people have started up doing that and then over the years, they decided to go branch off and do something else and they’ve put less and less time and energy into that site, therefore, they are no longer manning the support emails, because they probably get a bunch of emails from people asking to update their listings, and they’ve just given up because they can’t keep up with it, because they can’t hire somebody.

So, you’re going to run into directories like that where, unfortunately, it’s going to take three, four, five tries to get your name, address or phone number updated. If you can, great, but sometimes you’re not going to be able to because nobody’s going to answer your email, so it’s keeping on top and trying to keep track of who you’ve contacted and how many times you’ve contacted them.

For us, what we do is we provide the name, address and phone cleanup in our Google My business Platinum Package, and we offer four rounds, so for once a month for four months, we’ll go in and send off change requests or claim requests for all the listings. And we’ll go about trying to change them that way. After the fourth time, if we haven’t heard back from anybody at that directory, then we’ll just have to give up and move on and fight our battles elsewhere.

Focus On The Top Directories

Now Phil Rozek from Local Visibility Systems suggests you just focus on the top 50 directories. The top 50 directories you can find out here from the white Spark blog post. So you can find out if you’re listed on any of those top directories and go about just focusing on changing those ones, or you could use a service like Yext, which I think for $499 a year will take care of most of this stuff for you.

I know a couple of our SEO clients out of the States have used this in the past and they speak highly of it. It’s a fairly good chunk of money upfront, but if it gets things done fast, then you won’t see an impact or a negative impact on your Google my business ranking.

So, it all just comes down to making sure that you have all your business listings updated as fast and as quickly as possible. So, trying to track down all those listings and sending out requests. And, again, there are a couple things you could do, you could use Yext, you could sign up for them, they will probably get it done a lot quicker than somebody like us who offer it at a cheaper rate, where we go in and do it more manually, they will basically just go in and update on one site, their site, and then it’ll spit it out to all of their directories.

However, there are still a few directories that they won’t be able to get ahold of because nobody can get ahold of them because no one’s manning the support system there, so you have the Yext option, you have the option of our option, or you could do it on your own. It all just depends on what you want to do, but you want to make sure you get it done quickly, because Google states in their Google My Business guidelines that they want to see a business listed accurately across third-party websites.

So, they want to see that your business is listed correctly and accurately across third-party directories, like Yellow Pages, like Yelp, like Foursquare, Yahoo local, and on down the list to these little random directories I’ve already spoken about. You want to make sure you get on it as quickly as possible so that you don’t confuse Google and you don’t confuse their data, which they’ve collected about your business over the years so that they don’t go “we’re confused about this business, it used to be called this, it used to be located there, their phone number was this,” and then they don’t want to compare that to your Google My Business page and have that hurt your rankings, because it’s going to be easy for you to update your Google My Business page or website, but it’s going to be hard for you to update these random directories.

So, like I said, you’ve got three options, whichever one you choose you want to make sure you get on with it as quickly as you can and you get the ball rolling and make those changes as quickly as possible.