Optimizing a website for SEO presents an ongoing set of challenges that require up-to-date knowledge of complex algorithms. Google enforces strict standards designed to prevent so-called “black hat” SEO tactics intended to provide an unfair advantage.
If you have more than one identity associated with your business, however, it’s easy to get on Google’s bad side, even with the best of intentions.
What Are Identities in SEO?
To understand this question, think about our own personal identity. It includes your name, your Social Security number, your address and phone number, and myriad other details that you use to represent who you are and what you do.
Google looks at your website and online presence in much the same way.
Now think about your spouse. They probably share some aspects of your overall identity, including a last name, address and phone number. If they have the same occupation as you do, or work at the same company, the similarities begin to mount.
What about someone who shares your name? If they live in your city, the local DMV might confuse your driving records. What if your namesake makes it onto the TSA’s “no-fly” list? You’re likely to be stopped at the airport or even detained.
How Google Views Identities in SEO
Google isn’t human. To establish SEO rankings, it uses algorithms — albeit sophisticated ones — to determine search engine rankings. So, like the TSA or the DMV, the search engines look for similarities that may tip them off to nefarious attempts to cheat the search rankings system.
Unlike the legal system, however, Google doesn’t give you the benefit of the doubt or allow you to demonstrate that you meant no harm. Instead, the search engines are likely to flag your site and label you a person who wants to cheat the system.
Once that happens, your efforts to optimize your website will stall like a ’68 Buick with a blown engine and no gas cap.
Who Uses Multiple Identities?
Medical practices — including doctors, dentists and surgeons — often encounter problems when optimizing their websites for SEO.
Imagine that a medical office has six doctors. Each maintains his or her own identity. They may each have different specialties or cater to different categories of patients. Each doctor wants to be listed in medical directories and use a Google hyperlocal identity.
Although optimizing the website for the overall medical practice is standard operating procedure, Google’s algorithms throw up a red flag when we try to optimize for each doctor.
Legal practices and other professional services, such as CPAs and Realtors®, have the same challenge. But even if you don’t have multiple identities sharing a website, you can get sideways with the algorithms if you don’t list your name, address and phone number — known as the NAP protocol — exactly the same way in every online location.
Imagine that a business has a different website for each individual working there. This is a common occurrence with real estate professionals, in fact. Now Google may begin to wonder if the same business is trying to increase its SEO odds by using multiple websites.
The same problem can sometimes even affect unaffiliated businesses that share an address, but have different company names and suite numbers.
Overcoming Multiple Identities to Optimize Your Website
SEO companies have a few tricks for overcoming the multiple identity challenge.
Although the specific ways we tackle this challenge are complex, the strategy involves the Google My Business local practitioner listings. If your goal is to have your business’s overall website rank highest, we need to be careful about identifying individual practitioners in the office.
If, however, each doctor (dentist, surgeon, real estate agent) wants to rank individually, we can set up separate practitioner listings for each one. This alerts Google to the fact that you have multiple identities within your business, and this prevents your website from being blacklisted.
This approach also allows us to alert Google to individual identities within your business that do different things. For example, an orthopedic practice may have surgeons as well as therapists and sports medicine doctors under one roof. By linking each practitioner’s Google local listing to their own website or service page on a main site, we can optimize your website for multiple specialties and keywords or phrases. We can also establish Google My Business for the business itself as well as an overarching brand.
In addition to providing digital marketing services, Be Locally SEO also helps businesses address challenges that fall outside the normal search engine optimization protocols. Contact us today to learn more about optimizing your website for multiple identities.