SEO for Directory Websites: Name Consistency Theory
Local SEO Guide recently conducted research on three local business Directory websites. Our goal was to find new ways that directory websites could increase rankings and visibility with the traffic generated from user searches for listings in the respective directories. We found that directories that matched their title to the listings’ GBP had a 47%-65% improvement in their ranking position.
If you are a directory website that’s looking to expand your reach in search, then we’ve got some research that should impact your strategy. Our recent case studies suggest that Local directories are missing opportunities to improve local SEO and the position of directory listings results in Google search.
What is Name Consistency Theory?
If you missed the LinkedIn Livestream about Name Consistency Theory, don’t worry, we’ll cover the important details. If you prefer, you can also get the recap by watching the full video below and/or following although with the slides.
Basically, the theory is that:
- A portion of directory traffic is organic traffic driven by Google queries for a specific business location & their information.
- Directories that have mismatched information in the title for page listings vs what Google has listed in the Business’ GBP could not be ranking well or have poorer rankings due to this outdated or incorrect data being referenced.
- Online Directories can therefore optimize local SEO SERPs by ensuring that their directory listings have business information that matches–as closely as possible–with the Google Business Profile listing.
Not too much of a stretch, right? The central idea is that Google understands the search queries to be more relevant–one of its local ranking factors–for the user when directory page listings contain information like the Name, Address, & Phone Number (NAP) that is consistent with what the business reports to Google.
And, because the directory’s listing is deemed more relevant by Google’s algorithm that can increase its ranking and visibility for associated searches because Google understands the entity to be associated with the GBP when the titles match.
History and Background: Name Consistency Theory
The VP of SEO Services, Karl Kleinschmidt, started this research in the early months of 2022. Initially, Karl noticed a key association between two key elements for one business directory client which were:
- The titles of local business listings
- Google Business Profile Knowledge Panel titles
There appeared to be a positive association between the ranking for listings where these elements were congruent. This led him to dig deeper into how titles affect Google’s understanding of the relevance and the ranking of directory pages in Google search results.
The initial results were encouraging. On average, the listings that were a match tended to do much better than those that didn’t match the title for both listings.
The Case Study Findings
In the first directory alone, LSG found thousands of opportunities where the information found on the Google Knowledge panel didn’t match the information in the directory.
- In all 3 directories that were studied, several thousand listings did not match the GBP listing name.
- The directory sites were unaware of the scale of mismatching titles, their importance, and the impact it was having on their organic traffic.
- In one case, there was a 65.09% improvement in the average ranking from listings that matched the least with those that were an exact match.
- In another case study, fixing the matching titles could increase the average ranking of listings by 10 positions.
Name Consistency Impact
The findings could be very impactful on the ability of different directories & businesses to seize new opportunities to rank better. The data so far suggests that there are few directories & businesses who are concerned with this and it’s costing them visibility across thousands of locations.
In our case studies, we bucketed how closely GBP listings matched the directory listing name in the following manner:
- Doesn’t = 0% – 33%
- Some = 33% – .65%
- Mostly= 66% – 98%
- Almost Completely = Greater than or equal to 99%
- Completely = 100% [Exact Match]
The data stacked up in a predictable way based on what we’d seen so far with name consistency and ranking. That is to say that it ranked comparatively worst, on average, the less the names matched across both listings.
Case Study #1 – A Local Services Directory
- 48.53% improvement in ranking position when they were an exact match.
- 8 position improvement in ranking with titles that matched
- More than 2 position improvement when the page listing contained the GBP title
In the first case study, LSG examined 7,500 Google Listings from a Local services directory. The difference in ranking between the listings whose titles were an exact match (“Completely”) and those that match the least (“Doesn’t”) was significant. We found a 48.53% improvement in ranking position when they were an exact match.
Listings that matched between 0% – 33% (“Doesn’t”) had an average ranking of 16 on Google when the name of the listing was searched. The average position for listings that completely matched (“Completely”) was in the 8th position.
That’s 8 position difference!
When looking at whether the directory page title simply contains the Google Business Profile (GBP) listing title, there was also a difference in ranking–more than 2 positions. So, while an exact match seems to be better it’s possible to see an increase in ranking by just making sure the GBP title is in the page title.
On the Y-axis, you can see the respective average rankings with:
- Position 16.30 for page listings that didn’t contain the GBP title in their title
- Position 14.11 for page listings that had the GBP title totally contained in the page title
This represents a 13.43% improvement and 2 position changes between the SERP rankings when the GBP title was fully contained in the page title.
Case Study #2 – Healthcare Aggregator Site
- 47.17% change in ranking position when they were an exact match.
- 19 position improvement in ranking with titles that matched exactly
- More than 10 position improvement when the page listing contained the GBP title
In the second case study, we looked at a director in a different industry to see how they compared. We looked at 171 Google Listings from a Healthcare aggregator this time.
When looking at the page titles that were an exact match we found they had an average ranking of 21.62. Those that matched the least stood at position 40.93 and those that “mostly” matched (66% – 98%) had an average position of 32.28.
We also looked at how the pages ranked when they simply contained the GBP title. On the Y-axis, you can also see the respective average rankings:
- Position 29.54 for page listings that didn’t contain the GBP title
- Position 19.48 for those that had the GBP title totally contained in the page title
This represents a 34.05% improvement, and 10 position changes between the SERP rankings when the GBP title was fully included but not an exact match.
Case Study #3 – National Business Directory
- 65.09% change in ranking position when they were an exact match.
- 6 position improvement in ranking with titles that matched exactly
- 3 position improvement when the page listing contained the GBP title
In the third and last case study, we looked at 569 Google Listings from a National Business Directory. The results were congruent with the previous case studies.
On the Y axis, you can see the respective average rankings with:
- Position 9.31 for listings that didn’t match
- Position 3.25 for those that were an exact match
This represents a 65.09% improvement and an average 6 position change between the SERP rankings.
Once again we examined how the pages ranked when they simply contained the GBP title. On the Y-axis, you can see the respective average rankings with:
- Position 6.04 for page listings that didn’t contain the GBP title
- Position 3.33 for those that had the GBP title totally contained in the page title
This represents a 44.86% improvement, and 3 position changes between the SERP rankings when the GBP title was fully included but didn’t exactly match.
Why do the business listing names NOT match?
The most common reasons we found for the incorrect listing information included:
- Changed the listing
- Outdated data
- Wrong data source
- Could be an indexing issue
How to Prioritize your Local SEO Strategy
One of the ways to prioritize the business listings & locations to focus on first is to consider which would have the most significant impact. Unsurprisingly, these are the business listings that have names that match the least with the associated GBP name.
You may want to reach out to the business to help determine if a change is needed in the GBP name or if the directory listing name should be updated. The decrease in ranking is a missed opportunity for them to gain more traffic as well as increase their ranking for their pages.
Applications for Different Types of Businesses
This is not just an issue for directory sites–although they certainly would benefit from fixing their listings and getting more visibility for their listings–all businesses that use directories should be conscious of this opportunity. For example:
- Multi-location businesses can use this to ensure there is accuracy in their local listings matches.
- Any enterprise-level business with Google Business listings would also be impacted by reduced rankings if the listing names in directories don’t match.
There are plenty of opportunities to edge out your competition & increase your rankings by investing in this competitive advantage–one that too few are taking advantage of at the moment. If you are interested in learning more about this strategy or want to chat about opportunities to improve your listings and/or business rankings, you can drop us a line below.