How to Fix Bad Data & Clean Up Your Online Act

clean-up-business-citationsLast week, we looked at why consistent data online is so important. We talked about how inconsistent or incorrect data online can lead to a number of issues. Above all else, it prevents your business from showing up in search results and makes it much harder for your potential clients to find you online.

If you haven’t read that post, you can do so by clicking here. I recommend reading about why consistent data is important first, then read about how to clean it up.

Why You Need to Clean Up Your Online Inconsistencies

Remember the local search engine ecosystem graphic we looked at last week? I have included it below because it is such a great illustration of how data is fed through local search system.


Google pulls information from a large number of sources, as you can see. Because Google’s index is built on data from all over the web, your business information must be consistent everywhere. If not, you are confusing the search engines and your potential clients who are trying to find you.

Lets face it, we don’t want to confuse Google.

How to Find Your Business Listings Online

First, you must find out where your business is listed online. Remember, many of the large data aggregator sites will list your business without you even knowing it. So how do you know if inconsistencies about your business exist online?

1. Do a quick search on Google

Start by searching for your business on Google or Bing. You can search for your business name combined with your current address, your business name with your old address, your business name with old or current phones numbers, and any other variation.

Anything that shows up in the search results is considered a business citation. Remember from last week — any mention of your NAP online is considered a ‘citation’ and is used by Google when evaluating the online authority of your business. The results that show up when you search for you old NAP (business name, address, and phone number) are considered inconsistent data. You’ll want to make note of all of these inconsistent listings that Google (or Bing) displays. Warning: there are probably quite a few.

2. Look on Google+ Local

Do you currently have a Google Local listing for your existing address? Do you have duplicate listings for the same address? Old listings?

Google+ Local is the next place to look. When you do a search on Google for any combination of old and new information, Google+ listings should appear as well. The other place to look is in any of your Google accounts.

If you have any duplicate listings or old listings, you will want to make note of these.

3. Look on Google Maps

The last place to look is Google Maps. As you did with your Google search, search on Google Maps for any combination of old/new name, addresses, and phone numbers. If out-of-date information exists on Google Maps, you will want to make note of these inconsistencies as well.

How to Clean Up Your Inconsistencies

Once you have found all the old, incorrect, or inconsistent data, you’ll need to start the cleanup process. Depending on the number of inconsistencies that exist, this process can be tedious and time consuming. While its not impossible, it is a process that will take patience, organization, and attention to detail. Lets get started.

1. Get Rid of Out-Of-Date or Duplicate Google+ Local Listings

First, you will want to delete any Google+ Local listings that are old or duplicates of your current listing. You can usually find these listings within your Google account in which the listing was created, and easily delete them.

If there are duplicates or old listings exist that are not in your Google accounts, you can report the listings as permanently closed to Google.

Note: Only updating your Google+ Local listing will not resolve the issues around the web. Google’s Local index pulls information from a large number of sources around the web, and a verified Google Local listing is only one of these sources of data. If you only clean up your Google+ Local listing, incorrect data will continue to feed into Google’s index.

2. Report Out-Of-Date Google Map Listings

If you found old listings while searching on Google Maps, you will need to report these listings to Google as ‘permanently closed’.



Note: Anyone can request to make edits on Google Maps, so you do not need to be the owner of the listing to submit edits.

3. Edit or Report on all Business Citation Websites

The last (and one of the most important) steps is to clean up your business citations. Remember, Google’s Local index pulls information from a large number of sources around the web, so you must clean up all your citations to prevent incorrect data being fed into Google’s index.

After you have gathered your list of inconsistent/incorrect information (from the first step in our business listing investigation), you’ll need to start editing or deleting the bad listings.

If you have an account associated with the listing, say on Yellow Pages for example, then you should be able to simply login and edit your listing. This is a best case scenario.

If you do not have an account associated with the listing, things get more difficult. Depending on the website, you may have to contact support to let them know you are no longer located at the listing they have on file. You may be able to submit an edit request directly from the listing. Its important to note that every listing site is different — some will take several steps to edit a listing, and others will be more simple. If you cannot find the place to edit or delete listings, we recommend contacting the support team on their site.

This Process Takes Time

One very important thing to note about this process: it is time consuming. When I say time consuming, I mean hours upon hours of searching, submitting, and following up. If you want to accurately update all your data online, you must first find the inconsistencies, submit the changes, then check back in multiple times to ensure the changes have been made.

If you want assistance finding your inconsistencies online and evaluating your current local situation, check out our Google Local Assessment. We can help you find where the changes need to be made, and give you detailed instructions on how to clean up your listings, improve your Google+ Local page and beef up your localized SEO on your website. Click here to learn more.


If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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