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November 22, 2013

Three Negative Ranking Factors to Fix Now

Search engine ranking algorithms today evaluate a variety of online signals from all over the Web, but negative ranking signals — no matter the source — are bad news for your search quality scores and ranking positions.  Not all negative ranking signals are easy to correct, but here are three that are fairly easy to fix:

1.  Mis-matched Name, Address, and Phone (NAP)

Your business name, address and phone number (NAP) must be consistent across all online channels, such as your website, social profiles, directory listings, landing pages, mobile site, etc.  For instance, if you spell out the word “Street” in the address on your website, then don’t use the abbreviation “St.” in your social profiles.  Also, the search engine bots must be able to crawl your NAP (e.g., in the page text, not displayed as an image), but make sure there is only one NAP on the page.  Multiple crawlable NAPs are considered negative signals as well.

2.  Keyword Stuffing

Search engines today are particularly good at identifying cheaters who “stuff” keywords into their websites and other online assets, so make sure you and/or your Web company steer clear of this black-hat technique.  Search engines routinely look for keyword stuffing in business names, business categories, and descriptions — especially when they are stuffed with city- or location-based keywords. Use your keywords naturally in your titles and descriptions, but don’t over use them, and never use a keyword in your business name if it is not a part of your official name already.

 3. Multiple Google Place Pages (Now Google+)

Before Google combined all of its user tools under one Google+ umbrella, most businesses had a Google Place Page (now rolled into business profiles in G+).  However, in an effort to trick Google, some businesses created multiple Place Pages in hopes of improving their local search presence (for instance, setting up separate Place Pages for different locations of the same business).  However, Google now flags this as a negative signal, along with the following:

  • Multiple Place Pages with the same or similar business title and address.
  • Multiple Place Pages with the same phone number.
  • An address that includes a suite number that is not actually a location, similar to a UPS Mail Store address.
  • Incorrectly placing your Google map marker.

Small Details, Big Results

With more than 200 ranking signals, nobody (except the search engines, of course) really knows how ranking elements are weighted, evaluated, or scored.  But we do know that ranking signals – both positive and negative – all come together to determine where in the search results your business will be listed.  Concentrate your efforts on building positive signals (through quality SEO, social media, and other multi-channel activities), and fix as many negative ranking signals as you can.  Even small details like the ones listed above can end up making a big difference in your SEO results.


Lauren Hobson is president of Five Sparrows, LLC. Five Sparrows provides professional website and online marketing services to small businesses and non-profits.