How To Move Your Business (Without Destroying Your Local Search Visibility)

moving-boxesThese days, anyone who’s going to move their business to another location needs to consider the best way to handle that move online and plan their steps carefully. You’ll want to get started with your online preparation a couple of months before you actually pack up your shop and re-open it at the new address.

The LocalU faculty put our heads together and came up with this list of tips and a checklist to help you make your move through the virtual world as smooth as possible.

Phone Number
Even if you have to relocate your business, you don’t necessarily have to change your phone number. Our best advice is to keep your phone number when you move, if at all possible.

Google Local Business Listing
Your first thought may be to start by changing your address at Google Places. Don’t do it. It’s against Google’s Business Listing Quality Guidelines to have a Places listing for a location that is not yet open and active. So changing your Google listing to your new address should coincide with the actual physical move. Here’s an explanation from David Mihm as to why it should be done this way

The reason that simply correcting misinformation about your business at Google does not solve the problem is that Google’s Local index pulls in business data from a nearly-infinite number of sources across the web. Some of these are more authoritative than others (such as those provided by Localeze, Infogroup, and Acxiom), but a business owner’s verified listing is only one source of this data. If all you’re doing is updating your Google+ Local Page, you’re going to continue to see problems because “new” erroneous data will constantly feed into Google from all of its other sources.

When you do update your listing on the day of your move, chances are good that Google will create a new business listing with the new address and still retain your old listing with the old address. You don’t want to have more than one Google business listing, so look for duplicates after the move. If you find any report them to Google for removal. Here are some options for contacting Google Local support.

We all know how hard it is to get reviews. So if you have any reviews on your Google listing when you move, make sure those get moved over to your new listing, too. Will Scott’s team at Search Influence recommends that you record the URL of the current listing (with the reviews) so that you can provide that to Google support, if needed, in order to get them shifted over to your new listing. You can do this via the form here while logged into your Google account.

Google Review Transfer Request

There are cases where Google may not agree to move reviews. Mike Blumenthal covers those in this post.

Address
There’s no point in using anything other than the “official” address for your new location, as that can cause ongoing problems. So make certain the new address you will be using matches up with the US Postal Service database. You can check it here. Once your new address is determined, make certain everyone involved knows to use it in that exact form in everything they do going forward, both online and offline.

Website
Your website is considered to be the most authoritative document about your business on the web, so you’ll need to make certain Google sees the new address on your site as soon as you move and before you make changes to your Places/Plus listing. Your address is probably listed on various pages and in various places (footer, sidebar) on the site. All need to be updated.

Real World Records
You can simply put in a change of address at the post office to keep your snail mail flowing, but for Local Search purposes, quickly updating your address in the “real world” records that Google pays attention to is well worth the effort. This includes, but is not limited to: phone company, utility companies, business registrations and licenses at state and local governments, professional associations and trusted local groups, like the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Online or Virtual World Records
You’ll need to discover all of the places online where Google may be seeing your business listed with your current address so that you can begin changing them to reflect the new address. The faster you can get your address updated in the directories that Google seems to trust the most, the less your local rankings are likely to suffer. However, you should expect your visibility in Google’s Local Search results to diminish for at least six weeks as Google sees your new address online and gains trust in it.

Since the major data providers are trusted sources for Google and they spread the information they have far and wide across the internet, you should begin with updating at those sites. Although it varies by directory, most of them have a way you can search to find your listing and then permit you to change it with some sort of verification process.

Localeze does not call the business to verify a move, so you can update your listing there before you occupy your new premises. Mike Blumenthal recommends doing so about 6 to 8 weeks before the actual move. Infogroup and Acxiom do call, so your choices are to either make changes there (again 6-8 weeks in advance) and tell them you’ve already moved or to wait until you do move to make the change. Be certain to make the needed updates at Factual, also, so that your new information gets fed into Apple Maps from that source.

GeltListed, Whitespark Local Citation Finder and Yext all provide tools to help you discover the places where your current address is listed (citations) and needs to be changed. You’ll gather the most complete information by using all three of these tools.

When updating citations, always check for an existing listing first and try to update that. If you cannot, then delete the listing with the old address and create a new listing with your new address. (We want to avoid duplicate listings.)

For some directories, you may need to go through the process of searching for your business first to find your listing. For nearly all, if you do not have logins to an existing account, you will need to create and verify an account with the directory before you can claim the listing and make changes to it. For some of them, changes may not be possible, but don’t give up too easily because it’s important to get as many of these updated to the new address as possible. You may have to look around on the site for an email address or form to submit to contact some of them and request changes.

Checklist: Moving Locations in Local Search
We’ve condensed all of the above into a one-page Moving Locations Checklist (PDF) that you’re welcome to download and print out. We hope it helps guide you and keep your organized through the moving process.

Final Thoughts
Be thorough, be persistent and stay organized. During this process, keep careful records of what needs to be changed, what has been changed and the logins needed to control your listings at various data providers or directories.

Google will not see your new address everywhere at once because each website updates on its own schedule. About three months after your move, run GetListed, Whitespark Local Citation Finder and Yext again to see if there are any places where your old address can still be found. If so, contact them again for an update.

(Top image by Claire P. and used via Creative Commons licensing.)

11 Responses to “How To Move Your Business (Without Destroying Your Local Search Visibility)”

  1. FYI, Google allows new listings to be created 2 weeks prior to the official opening of the business.

    That’s if you want to manually create a new one instead of rolling the dice and changing your address via the places dashboard.

    Whatever you do, don’t change your address via MapMaker. Reviewers are trained to deny that edit because it violates MapMaker policy.

    • Thanks for the insight, Mark. Does Google have it published anywhere that you can set up a new listing 2 weeks in advance of opening a new business? I’d love to find that if you know where it is.

      • Sure Mary! You know sometimes we MapMakers just internalize the precedent set by Regional Expert Reviewers and Google Reviewers by their approval and denial of edits and use that as policy….I was worried this was the case and that I wouldn’t be able to provide a written policy.

        Great news, though: https://support.google.com/mapmaker/answer/2922265?hl=en&ref_topic=2889864

        Scroll down to “under construction businesses”

        • Thanks for the great detective work, Mark! I notice that this information is provided in Mapmaker Help Advanced Tutorials. Unfortunately, as often happens with Google, the information is not in all the places it needs to be. The Google Places quality guidelines here: https://support.google.com/places/answer/107528?hl=en say: “Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public are not eligible for a listing on Google Places.” It sure would be nice if Google gave us the same information everywhere and if they dated their information pages, as well. It’s not unusual to find conflicting info and we can’t tell what is the most recent.

  2. Great work, Mary (and other Local U-ers). Thanks for the checklist, too – love it.

    There’s also this handy resource from Lisa Barone:

    http://outspokenmedia.com/online-marketing/change-your-business-address/

    • Thanks, Phil! I hope it helps all of us to have a place to refer people to on moving a business. If you have any other tips, we’d love to see them here.

  3. Mary, this is fantastic information? I do have a question, what about more than one location? Expansion, as opposed to relocating a business? Any information you have will be greatly appreciated. In any event, sharing this within my network! Happy Holidays and Stay Awesome!

    Tonie Snell, Chief JobMingler
    925HIRE, LLC

    • Hi Tonie, You can basically follow the same steps as far as spreading your information around for a new location. Please take a look at the previous comments from Mark Goho. He is a Mapmaker and gives us a link to the Mapmaker directions for the timing of adding new listings for locations that are not yet open. This isn’t exactly what Google tells us in the Places guidelines, but is great to know, as it will enable you to get your listing created and probably verified and live by the time you actually open the new location.

  4. Great post Mary! You absolutely need to be persistent and hold the client’s hand in this process. I went through this exercise with one of my clients recently when they moved into their new location. I had advised them not to change their location anywhere until they’ve officially moved. It worked out in the end.

    We did, however, run into a slight problem with the pin marker. We didn’t have a new listing created, instead we had claimed the existing listing and modified the location. The pin marker was stuck at the old address, even though the new address was displaying in the search results and in our dashboard. It took 3-4 weeks before that was rectified via Map Maker. It required persistency and patience to figure that one out.

    Another thing that worked out for us, because we’re in Canada, is a phone call to their phone provider to update their address made a huge difference. I would recommend any Canadian businesses who are in the process of moving to consider that in their move strategy.

    A local newspaper also featured the business and published their new address in the article. Something to consider if that is possible in your hometown.

    To end this ridiculously long comment off, the best place to verify / check your address in Canada would be through the Canada Post website :) >> http://www.canadapost.ca/cpotools/apps/fpc/personal/findByCity?execution=e2s1

  5. Tip of the hat for the great checklist for moving and checking the address at the usps. I will be using both of those.

    Jason Weaver

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