Update 6/15/2013: I had the microdata code in source code…
Do SEO consultants expect their clients to want more leads?
Is it a good thing if customers seek you out?
Apparently local SEO is too effective for driving leads to some small businesses. Once Google picks up the signals for a brand, the boost to visibility across all locations in Google’s database can be annoying or overwhelming for small businesses or franchises. This issue has been brought to me three times in the past year or so. I head the SEO department for a full service advertising agency with clients who are usually national consumer brands or a sizable B2B business. Some clients have local branches or franchises that operate like a small business, and sometimes we help out a friend of a client or agency with a small business.
Google Places Service Area Only, No Address
The first time I received a complaint about local SEO was from a national brand client that does 100% of its business through locally owned franchise offices. We used Google Places’ bulk listing and verification to optimize and maintain all the franchise local listings from the corporate level. We also created local SEO signals on the client site using microdata and in the Neustar feed aggregater service. Shortly after the listings went live, the client notified us that a franchise which was run out of someone’s house had a person come to the door. That local franchise owner wanted to limit his leads to phone calls only. He was not prepared to have customers knocking on his door. We then had to identify any franchises that did not want customers at their door and set the configuration on those so that there would be no address listed in Google.
Closed Location Won’t Remove From Google Maps
The second time local SEO brought unwanted leads was for a meal delivery service that also has pick-up locations around Atlanta. After we redesigned and optimized the website, we used the Neustar local business listing feed service to boost brand signals and point some links at each location. Shortly after, Google started displaying many locations, including one that had previously closed. We did everything we could in Google Places and even Google Map Maker to remove the closed location. But Google kept listing it because an old listing with a review was still out there on an obscure business directory, creating a signal for that location. The final effort was to request the directory listing be deleted.
Corporate Headquarters Doesn’t Deliver
The third time local SEO generated unwanted leads was for a client of a client which was a Pizza company. The corporate headquarters kept receiving phone calls of people wanting to order pizza. They wanted advice on how to remove the location from Google. But this is where I draw the line. In this situation, my advice was to to leave the listing up and try to relabel it or make it obvious that it was corporate headquarters and not a restaurant. Removing the corporate office may reduce an overall SEO signal for your brand that helps your website and other locations rank higher.
Local SEO Signals Control Google Maps
Getting locations off Google maps can be hard once they are on. Google collects data from multiple sources besides your Places dashboard when it chooses to display a listing… including government databases, review sites, Yellow Pages, business information aggregaters (Acxiom, InfoUSA, Neustar). It’s easier to add info than it is to remove it, because you have to remove your footprint from multiple sources, which requires tracking down those sources, creating accounts, claiming the listing and sometimes making phone calls or emails requesting the listing be removed. That’s why in the third example we recommended adding info to make that location more obvious that it is the corporate office, and not a pizza delivery restaurant.