Definitive Guide To Duplicate Research For Local SEO

Wondering how to identify and clean up your duplicate map listings? Columnist Joy Hawkins has you covered.

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Duplicate listings are one of the biggest negative ranking factors in Local SEO. Knowing if your business has duplicates out there that need to be resolved is very important for ranking success in the 3-pack. Often, duplicate listings get overlooked because they are so hard to find. This article will go through the process I use to discover duplicates and organize them so they don’t have a negative impact on ranking.

How To Find Duplicate Listings

For this example, we’ll be using a plastic surgery business in Phoenix, AZ: Mosharrafa Plastic Surgery.

(Disclaimer: This business is not a client of mine, but rather the client of a professional connection of mine at another agency. I have used this example with their permission.)

  1. First, open up my Local SEO Duplicate Tracker template and make a copy for your own use. Fill in the business details on the top line based on what you see on the business website.
  2. Next, head over to Google Map Maker and search for Phoenix, AZ so that the map lists Phoenix.
  3. Plug the phone number into the search bar, which should pull up each listing that exists in that area with that phone number.

Duplicate Research 1

  1. Right-click the business name for each listing, and select “Open Link in a New Tab.” Do this for all the listings you see here. This should give you the Map Maker URLs for each listing in the address bar for each tab you opened. URLs should look something like this:
  2. Record the URLs in Column K in the Google Doc, and note the corresponding business name on the listing in Column B.
  3. Go through each listing and record the phone number, street address, suite # (if listed), city, ZIP code, website URL (if listed) and categories for each listing into the spreadsheet. (Note: For the street address, you do not want to copy what you see on the listing by just looking at it. Click Edit > Edit this Place beside the listing and copy exactly what Map Maker has for each listing’s address. You’ll notice in the example below, the street number isn’t in the Street # box, so I will leave it blank on my spreadsheet.)

Duplicate Research 2

  1. Anything you find that does not match what is listed on the website should be marked in red so you know it’s problematic.
  2. Hit cancel at the bottom of the screen so you’re no longer in edit mode, right-click and click “View Page Source.” Press CTRL + F on your keyboard, search for “CID,” and grab the long number that you see in quotations. Insert it into this URL, replacing the bolded text: Record that as the Maps URL on the spreadsheet in Column J. Also record the number of reviews you see on the listing in Column L.
  3. Now you want to see if there are any duplicates that exist at that address that use a different phone number. To accomplish this, go over to and type in the following query: [“4611” “Shea” “Phoenix” “contact” inurl:about]. (When you do this for your own listings, use the same format: [“street number” “beginning of street name without prefixes” “city name” “contact” inurl:about].)
  4. Add &filter=0 to the end of your URL in the address bar to make sure nothing is filtered out.
  5. This returned a ton of listings using that address because this is a plaza or a building housing many different businesses. You are only looking for ones that would be related to your particular business. In this example, one that stuck out is because it lists the exact same address and suite number as the plastic surgeon. So either they are sharing a suite (which can be confusing) or Sugar Me Wax has closed down and this listing should be marked closed. If you find any listings worth noting, add them to the sheet at the bottom so you can investigate and deal with them later.

Duplicate Research 3

Going through the steps above, I was able to identify three separate listings for Mosharrafa Plastic Surgery. One was a listing for the practice itself, and two were listings for individual doctors within the practice.

Best Practices For Handling Duplicate Listings

Now that you have your list of duplicates, here are some best practices for how to handle them:

General Best Practices For Cleaning Up Your Listings

The business name should follow Google’s guidelines and should not contain any keyword stuffing. Any phone numbers listed on Google should match what’s on the website. In the example above, there was a phone number on the two doctor listings which is not present on the website footer or contact page. This is problematic.

The street address should be formatted properly and, like the phone number, should also be consistent across all professional listings. In this example, one of the doctors didn’t have the street number on his listing, which is a problem.

Suite numbers are not necessary and don’t seem to impact ranking much. It’s usually best for the user if you include it, but if the listings don’t all have the suite number, it’s not a problem worth stressing over. The city and ZIP code, on the other hand, should absolutely be present (and the same) across all listings. If it’s not, you should investigate why Google Maps isn’t sure about the city.

Usually, it’s best if you don’t overlap categories whenever possible. You should use the least amount of categories possible on the listings you are trying to minimize. Don’t ever use categories if they don’t actually apply to the business. Always remember to look at what categories competitors are using to see if you are forgetting/missing any that apply.

Controlling Which Listing Ranks Among Many Duplicates

Professional/practitioner listings are not considered duplicates, and Google will not remove them. You should pick which one you want to rank (ideally, the one with the most/best reviews) and minimize the others. You don’t want these competing against each other.

If you want to control which listing Google shows in the 3-pack, you should be very careful about what website URL you use on each listing. You want to use the strongest URL on the listing you want Google to rank.

In this example, we most likely want the practice listing (rather than the individual doctor listings) to rank. In order to achieve that, we should be linking it to the homepage, since that is what ranks highest organically for “plastic surgeon phoenix.” It would be best if the two doctor listings linked to a weaker page, such as

Duplicate Research 4

Currently, one of the doctor listings goes to, which is actually a forwarding URL (301 redirect) which is against Google’s guidelines and can result in the page getting suspended.

Best Practices For Handling Technical Issues

  • It’s very important to know the CID number for the business and make sure that when you load the Google Maps URL, it shows the right business. I ran into a case recently where a search for a university on Google pulled a psychologist listing up because on the back-end, the CID number for one was actually attached to the other. Knowing the CID can also help you get reviews transferred if ever needed.
  • If you find other listings using your address that are not there, or if you find duplicates for the business that should be removed (they’re not professional listings), make sure you get them removed based on these procedures.

Now that the duplicate research is done, the next phase is to start hammering away at the issues you discovered along with all the other factors that influence ranking in Local SEO.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Joy Hawkins
Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006 and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

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