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