Moving to a New Business Address? Don’t Forget to Tell Google

We all know that moving can be a big pain in the backside.  Boxes, sticky tape, labels…  And then you just have to unpack everything the other end.  But we live in a world where Royal Mail redirects, We Have Moved postcards and answer phone messages are just the tip of the iceberg.  And that is only magnified if you’re a business.

When you consider how people may use the internet to locate your business, it’s important that you do everything you can to ensure that search engines log your new details correctly.  BOTTLE is in the middle of an exciting move, with the office relocating… Relocating means changing address, which means I’m doing this right now.

Getting your business address consistent

One of the central tenets of local search engine optimization is to ensure that your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number, NAP for short, is consistent everywhere it’s mentioned around the web (and offline, too – there’s no point getting everything online correct if your business cards have the wrong details). Your NAP is basically your digital thumbprint – Google’s unique identifier for an individual business.

So when you move locations, you create an inconsistency in your NAP.   Your address is change, and if you change your telephone number then that too clashes with what Google already knows.  Sadly, you can’t just send search engines a “We Have Moved” postcard. In worst case you end up with visitors turning up at the wrong address, but even if your communication to visitors is top-notch inconsistencies in your NAP can lead to lower search engine rankings for keyword searches.  Google hates duplicate content.  And the same goes for duplicate listings.

The first thing I did was to run an Accuracy Report on GetListed for old and new NAP information. I wanted to see which search engines had indexed which location(s), and in what manner.  That way you know if you need to alter anything.  GetListed is primarily a US tool, however there is a UK function in Beta that can provide some insights…

Social networks

Once you know how your business address is being logged by search engines (if you are able to pull results from GetListed) the next thing is to make sure they are all being fed the same information.  Where your business address is listed online, and you have the option to change it, do so.  So on your website and on social networks.  Pay particular attention to Google+, and local business pages on Google.  Whilst the information does have a tendency to switch back (because Google is trying to associate it with your old NAP), it’s important to know where you need to make changes.

To a lesser extent don’t forget to check out Facebook and Foursquare (as well as other location services) – every little helps…

Setting your Google Maps address

Search Google

Do a Google search for your old NAP and on Google maps click the down arrow to “Report a problem” – and on the following screen note the correct information and tell Google why you are requesting the change.

Also pay particular attention to any external sites that return your old business address – some listings sites will allow you to edit the details manually, others you will have to contact the site owner to request the change.

One last step is to visit Google MapMaker. Think of MapMaker as a Wikipedia for locations. Google users from all of the world can add, edit, delete, and consolidate business information using this tool. For the most part, each edit is reviewed by other Google users before it goes live to the public.   And most people don’t know about MapMaker.  But as it’s a Google property, Google loves it.  And MapMaker seems to process changes sometimes quicker than edits to Google Maps – so edit away!

Now all you can do is kick back and wait.  It can take a good while for these changes to filter through to all search engines.  So keep a note of all the changes you make, and the results that you get and note when there are changes.  There will be… it might just take a few months to get there!

I’ll admit, this isn’t something I’ve done before, so I’m basing this on logic… What other things should be considered to help solidify your business address move in Google’s eyes?

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A Return To Blogging: Introducing Raw Discourse

Back in 2011 I wrote an open letter of apology to my blog.  I grovelled for taking time away from it, and promised to do better.  But life has a tendency to get in the way and somewhere along the way, this blog just got left behind…  It’s not that I wanted to stop writing.  Far from it – it’s always something I’ve done for my own enjoyment.  But I started writing more regularly for BOTTLE Uncorked, engaging wider in social media communities and simply having my debates on Twitter and I ended up with no reason to continue my communications blog.  I lost focus, direction and my enthusiasm slowly petered out.

Then Google started tweaking it’s algorithm.  SEO companies scrabbled around to catch up with the changes brought about by Panda and Penguin.  But then, at the end of last year things got really interesting…

Panda and penguin

Okay, so this may have been an excuse for a cute picture.

Back in August 2005 Google filed a patent for “Agent Rank” which was an indication at Google was dipping their toe in the “human” role of SEO.  Agent Rank was, unsurprisingly, all about ranking “agents” and using how their content was received online – and then using those interactions to determine how their content ranked.  But it wasn’t until the end of last year that Google’s reinvigorated “Author Rank” finally came into play.

In a nut-shell Author Rank doesn’t just take into account the content on a site, but who wrote that content.  It’s Google finally acknowledging the role influencers have to play online.  Okay, so this may be a way of making everyone use their Google+ profiles, but I genuinely see the value in recognising the “human factor.”  From a public relations point on view, when you’re trying to reach a particular target audience it is common-sense that different people, publications and websites will have more influence on your target group.  And now this all comes into play with SEO too.  It’s not just what you write on a blog, but who writes it that will make a difference to how your site rank with Google.  And so what if Google makes you jump through hoops to get there.

So with the view to full disclosure, that is partly why I’ve returned to this blog.   It’s my attempt at waving my digital arms around in front of Google’s Crawlers.  But it also with a sense of nostalgia that I return.

For the first time in a good year I’ve lavished some attention on my blog. I’ve given it  a good spring clean,  a new look,  recognised a new focus and have even given it a new name:  Raw Discourse .  I mean this blog to be a place for conversation, debate and open sharing of ideas about all things communication – from social media, to marketing, PR, offline conversation and language.

As always, please do get in touch if you are interested in contributing to the conversation.

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Google+: Are we riding the wave?

Google+ is everywhere.

Everyone wanted to be on it.  We grovelled for invitations, longingly staring at our inboxes with the impatience of children on Christmas Eve.  We read article after article, preparing ourselves for the new tools, familiarising our tongues with new terms and limbering up our profile writing skills.

So now that Google+ has hit 10 million users are we actually using it?  Apparently not.  According to Experian Hitwise the average user spends only 5 minutes using the new social network.

But why?  Google+ seems to have everything you could want from a social network.  You can divide your connection into private communication circles (a bit like Facebook groups), you can follow people you have never met in real life (like Twitter), you can video chat (like on Skype – and now Facebook), and businesses have be promised special company pages (once again like Facebook).  It even seems to encroach a bit on Flickr’s territory with a smattering of photo sharing, and just last week Google announced its release of some Foursquare-like badges earned from searching.

From the outside Google+ and its related tie-ups seem to be the full package.  With so much technology and integration it’s been purpose built to link up your offline experiences with your online life.

But I suspect that this is actually the problem…  How are you actually meant to use Google+?  Is it a professional platform or a personal one?

Technically if you use circles correctly if can be both, but I suspect Google may be trying to spread itself too thinly.  It’s not that the tools aren’t up to scratch – in fact, aside from an early bug or two they seem pretty stable – instead it’s that users just aren’t sure exactly how to approach the network.

I’ve seen many people flock to the site, scramble around create a few Circles, post the “Wow, isn’t Google+ really cool” first update, and then go quiet, slipping into the shadows of the social network watching and waiting to see how other people use it.

Some people thought that Google Wave was going to be huge, until is crashed spectacularly onto the shores of the social web and vanished… The positive for Google+ is that is seems to have found a foothold with it’s integration, but it needs its users to actually use its functions for it to really succeed and make a lasting impression.  And for that, only time will tell…

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