That is the title of an email I received the other day, and boy did it burn me up! Not because it’s untrue. Just the opposite: inconsistent information on the web about your business can seriously hurt your SEO. What burned me up is the email came from a service that claims to help you keep your business information consistent online. On the surface it sounds great — pay an annual subscription fee and an automated service helps you keep your business listings up to date. The problem is these automated services only work with a handful of directories and don’t work with some of the major ones where your business should be listed. Even more problematic is these services are not perfect; and some are far from it.
This particular service’s name is met with much contempt in our office. We’ve had clients who previously tried the service and then had to hire us to clean up the mess it made. It’s an uphill battle dealing with the fallout and in some cases it took many months to clean up. Sometimes the service erroneously created duplicate listings on directories because the existing listing did not have the exact business name, or perhaps had a different phone #. A human could have found the old listing using a little elbow grease and deductive reasoning; something a mathematical algorithm is still not smart enough to do. There are also times when wrong information was entered by the service and that information started getting ‘scraped’ by other websites and directories.
There are hundreds and thousands of places on the internet where you can post information about your business. Most of those websites crawl the internet looking for information about companies and auto-populate themselves so the website seems full of information when people get there. The problem is those websites don’t verify information they find, they just find stuff and post it there whether it’s accurate or not. Then that information is found by another automated bot and gets populated somewhere else, and so on and so forth. So if you aren’t constantly monitoring your online identity it’s easy to see how out of control your online identity can become.
Automation technology has been amazing for manufacturing and other processes in our brief history on this planet. So I suppose it’s become second nature for some to assume Automation = Good (unless your job was eliminated by it.) The problem is that automation in our industry sometimes isn’t so good, and some things should still be done manually for accuracy. Or you at least need to have humans in place to verify what the algorithms and robots are telling you. These automated directory-building services don’t have humans double-checking the work. And what’s worse, from our experience and from the multitude of complaints you can find online, they don’t seem to have the resources in place to correct errors that occur. Unfortunately Google places a lot of weight on having consistent business listings across the internet (the same addresses, phone #’s, etc.) so when your identity starts to get screwed up it quickly pervades across the internet, Google takes notice, and your website gets dinged for it. When a service can muck up something as simple as having multiple satellite offices in the same town you have to ask yourself how valuable the service really is.