A major part of local SEO involves making sure a client’s listings are fully optimized, especially the most important listing, the Google Business Listing.
A unique trait of Google listings is that they’re notoriously difficult to get rid of. Hitting a delete button isn’t enough– they have to be merged with another identical listing.
When a new and valuable client joined our team, I immediately noticed that he had duplicate Google listings, and suggested that we merge them. Little did I know, this would become arguably the most stressful experience I’ve had with a client in years.
When Merging Listings Goes Wrong
“It’d be better to funnel all of your reviews under a single listing named after your practice”, I told him over the phone.
This was the plan, and everyone involved was excited for it.
I’ve performed this merger for at least 20 clients in the past, and the concern is always the same: They’re adamant over whether the reviews will carry over to the new listing. The new client, a successful dentist with three locations in Illinois shared this concern, and I reassured him up and down that yes, the reviews would be intact after his listings are merged.
This process always ended well for everyone involved, and I couldn’t have been more confident. I took the Google Business Listing that had his name and prepared it to be merged with another that we used for his practice.
Only a few days elapsed after the listings were merged before I heard from our client again. Seeing the email in my inbox, I thought for sure that this was a quick “Thank You” email, or perhaps some other SEO related questions, but that wasn’t the case.
To put it lightly, he wasn’t thrilled with some of the aspects of the merger. Sure, the reviews had carried over as I had promised, but there were other issues:
- The photos on his old listing were gone, and some had been there for years.
- The Google Posts on his previous listing didn’t carry over either.
- The new combined listing didn’t rank as high as one of his previous listings.
A Team Call Goes Awry
Days later, we had a team call to update the doctor on his progress. As an experienced local SEO specialist, I was always confident in these calls. I knew what I was doing, I knew I did a lot of quality SEO work for him, and I was confident I could convey it in a way that left him happy. I also couldn’t have been more wrong.
With a team of nine people in the room, including our marketing director, project manager, and various other specialists, I reviewed my notes before the call. We had done guest blogs to improve his rankings, created Google Posts that were gaining traction, and I had cleaned up his listings so they’re consistent – in short, I was ready for another successful call with one of our most valued clients.
“Can We Hear From Someone Else Now?”
I volunteered to go first, and after our marketing director introduced the team, I began my overview but was quickly interrupted with questions. And these weren’t casual questions, but questions asked with a strong sense of urgency from both the client and his office manager.
“What happened to those photos they treasured from three years prior?” “Where did all the Posts go that their last company had provided for them?” Brimming with good news to tell them about the SEO work I had done for them, it quickly became clear: We were not moving past this issue.
The more I defended the merged listings and reassured him that it will take time for it to regain its ranking, the worse it got. They were livid that their photos seemed to be lost forever, and after just a few minutes, they were over me entirely. The unstoppable confidence I carried into every call had failed – in front of the client, his assistant, and numerous coworkers, he asked to continue the call with someone else.
Embarrassed and Defeated, but Determined
I didn’t need the stunned glares from my coworkers to understand the brevity of the situation. Although my intentions were good, and I’d merged dozens of listings successfully in the past, this one was not a success. I had angered one of our best clients and had to find a solution fast.
It was Friday and the week was over, but this was the only thing on my mind. I couldn’t rest until I at least had a plan to get back in our client’s good graces. As I brainstormed on my way home, an idea occurred to me: I might still have access to that old listing, and therefore, all of the old photos he cared about.
On my laptop at home, I confirmed that I hadn’t yet deleted that old listing and all of his photos were intact. Emailing him immediately, it seemed that I was closer to resolving this problem.
Putting in the Time and Effort
With the photo part of the problem resolved, there was only one thing left — hustle to improve his rankings. I backlinked to him in guest blogs, created strong Google Posts, and thoroughly optimized his listings.
A few more calls happened where he expressed his concerns, and how he wasn’t happy at the reduced rank of his new listing. Each call served as a reminder that I wasn’t worth the title of SEO specialist unless I could fix this.
Restored Rankings and Lessons Learned
SEO isn’t an overnight process. Knowing this, I piled on as many high-quality backlinks and other efforts as I could, biding the time until the results would show. Within weeks he was back on the first page, and soon after, was showing major improvement in his overall rankings.
This experience was one I’ll never forget throughout my SEO career. The lessons learned are valuable and will stay with me for years to come. These lessons include:
- Never be too confident or assume that any process will go perfectly.
- Forwarn clients that old photos or Google Posts may be lost when merging listings.
- Understand that your confidence can be abrasive when it doesn’t match the results.
Mistakes are the Greatest Teacher
In marketing, learning from strategies that miss the mark and making adjustments is a major part of the process. The next creative strategy may fall flat, or it may prove to be the best way to increase a client’s conversions. The only way to find out is to try.
Going into that experience with complete confidence and then having it backfire was thoroughly humbling, but it was something more than that too. It was a priceless experience that made me a better SEO. Experiences like these force us to question ourselves, make adjustments in our thinking, and make us better prepared for the next challenge.
Ultimately, one lesson emerges above the rest: it’s not a series of successes, but the occasional setback that inspires us to reach the next level in our professions.
Nick Napier left the Navy after 7-years to get his MBA. He currently hosts the Rogue Writers Podcast and the upcoming Digital Edge podcast in addition to creating high-quality content on a regular basis and consistently improving as a local SEO specialist.