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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Places Basics: Two Business Listings Or One?

Many small shop owners think of themselves as being in more than one business. They have (perhaps loosely and imprecisely) marketed themselves under two or more brands into their local market and the allure of doing so on Google Places is strong.

Should they continue to do so?

Scott of BreakTheSeal in the UK asked me how to best handle this situation. He inquired:

If you have a business, offering 2 separate services but at the same address, under slightly different names, is it good to have 2 separate Google Places profiles or to amalgamate them into 1?

My predicament comes from a current client, a hair salon that also offers a specialist wig service for cancer patients.

I’m not sure whether to create 1 for each side of the business, Trinity Hair Studio and Trinity Wig Specialists, to target their individual service, or to create one for a Hair & Wig Studio. Will Google presume they’re duplicates if the same brand name at the same address is used and disregard one, if not both?

My answer:

Just because a business has two forward facing marketing brands & endeavors does not make it two businesses.

If they are to be separate on Google Places then they need to be completely separate everywhere both online and off; different DBAs, different (preferably land line) phone numbers, different suites, different print YP ads, different listings ACROSS the internet etc etc. Otherwise you can be sure that Google will assume that they are one entity and surely merge them into one.

If a business is not prepared to make the investment that the above implies (new phone line, legal filings, on-going marketing online an off etc), I would not even attempt it.

It depends not just on how the owner perceives the business brands & businesses, or how the consumer perceives them but how the Google algo perceives them. Given that it is a “black box” this is not easy to predict.

The Google merge & purge algo is imprecise and may still merge the two businesses even though they are in fact two distinct businesses, even with the many investments noted above. It is likely that the imprecision with which the business owner offered up their business has already creeped online and is “polluting” the clarity of their business in the local ecosystem

The other issue is that building out the online prominence of two businesses is roughly twice the cost and effort of building out the online prominence of one business. It doesn’t particularly scale – you will still need unique websites for both businesses, citations for both businesses, link backs for both businesses…

The safe route is to take the consolidated marketing approach. This will not only allow Google to “get it right” but allow you to focus your on line marketing resources & lower your ongoing commitments to that marketing. I would do a pre audit and attempt to assess exactly how muddled the current business identity is and first make sure that it provides a clear, single voice as to the identity of the business.

I would also consider whether there is a seasonality to the two endeavors and perhaps switch emphasis within Google Places to periodically reflect that.

Doing a great job online for one business is hard enough. Doing it for two is more than most small businesses can cope with on an on-going basis.

I am not saying, never do it. Just be sure that they understand the commitments and costs of being two businesses rather than one.