SEO for directory websites: name consistency theory

TL; DR – Local SEO Guide recently conducted a search on three local business directory websites. Our goal was to find new ways directory websites could increase rankings and visibility with the traffic generated by user searches for listings in their respective directories. We found that directories that matched their title to their listings GBP had a 47% -65% improvement in their rankings.

If you are a directory website looking to expand your reach in search, then we have some research that should impact your strategy. Our recent case studies suggest that local directories are missing out on opportunities to improve local SEO and the ranking of directory listing results in Google search.


What is the theory of coherence of names?

If you missed LinkedIn’s live stream on Theory of coherence of names, don’t worry, we will cover the important details. If you prefer, you can also get the summary by watching the full video below and / or following though with the slides.

Basically, the theory is that:

  1. Some directory traffic is organic traffic generated by Google queries for a specific business location and related information.
  2. Directories that have mismatched information in the title for page listings compared to what Google has listed in the company’s GBP may not rank well or have poorer rankings due to referencing this outdated or incorrect data.
  3. Online directories can then optimize local SEO SERPs by ensuring that their directory listings contain business information that matches Google’s business profile listing as closely as possible.

Not too suddenly, right? The core idea is that Google believes that search queries are more relevant, one of its own local ranking factors–For the user when the directory page listings contain information such as name, address and telephone number (NAP) consistent with what the company reports to Google.

And, since the directory listing is deemed most relevant by The Google algorithm which can increase ranking and visibility for associated searches because Google understands the entity to associate with the GBP when the titles match.

History and background: theory of the consistency of names

Vice President of SEO Services, Karl Kleinschmidt, initiated this search in early 2022. Initially, Karl noticed a key association between two key elements for a corporate directory client which were:

  1. The titles of local business listings
  2. Google Business Profile Knowledge Pane Titles

There appeared to be a positive association between the rankings for listings where these elements were congruent. This led him to delve into how headlines affect Google’s understanding of the relevance and ranking of directory pages in Google search results.

The first results were encouraging. On average, lists that matched tended to do much better than those that didn’t match the title for both lists.

The results of the case study

In the first directory alone, LSG found thousands of opportunities where the information found in the Google Knowledge panel did not match the information in the directory.

  • In all 3 directories studied, several thousand directories did not match the name of the list in GBP.
  • Directory sites were unaware of the scale of mismatched headlines, their importance, and the impact they were having on their organic traffic.
  • In one case, there was a 65.09% improvement in the average ranking of ads that match less than exactly match.
  • In another case study, adjusting the matching headlines could increase the average ad rankings by 10 places.

Name Consistency Impact

The findings could have a major impact on the ability of several directories and businesses to seize new opportunities to rank better. The data so far suggests that there are few directories and companies dealing with this and it is costing them exposure in thousands of locations.

In our case studies, we classified how closely the listings in GBP matched the directory listing name as follows:

  • Not = 0% – 33%
  • Some = 33% – 0.65%
  • Mostly = 66% – 98%
  • Almost completely = greater than or equal to 99%
  • Fully = 100% [Exact Match]

The data was predictably accumulated based on what we had seen so far with consistency of names and rankings. That is to say it ranked relatively worse, on average, the less the names matched in both lists.

Case study n. 1 – A directory of local services

  • 48.53% improvement. in the ranking position when they were a exact match.
  • 8 improvement of the position in the standings with matching titles
  • Improvement of more than 2 positions when the page the list contained the security in GBP

In the first case study, LSG looked at 7,500 Google listings from a local services directory. The ranking difference between listings whose titles matched exactly (“Completely”) and those that matched less (“Doesn’t”) was significant. We found a 48.53% improvement in ranking when they matched exactly.

Ads that matched between 0% and 33% (“It doesn’t”) had an average ranking of 16 on Google when the ad name was searched. The average position for listings that achieved a complete match (“Completely”) was in 8th position.

This is a difference of 8 positions!

When checking whether the directory page title simply contains the title of the Google business profile listing (GBP), there was also a difference in ranking – more than 2 positions. So while an exact match seems to be better, you can see an increase in ranking simply by making sure the title in GBP is in the title of the page.

On the Y axis, you can see the respective average rankings with:

  • Position 16.30 for the lists of pages that did not contain the GBP security in their title
  • Position 14.11 for page lists that had the GBP title totally contained in the page title

This represents a 13.43% improvement and 2 position changes between SERP rankings when the GBP headline was fully contained in the page title.

Case study n. 2 – Site of the health aggregator

  • 47.17% variation in the ranking position when they were a exact match.
  • 19 improvement of the position in the standings with titles that matched exactly
  • More than 10 improvement of the position when the page listing contained the title GBP

In the second case study, we looked at a director from a different industry to see how they compare. This time around, we looked at 171 Google listings from a health aggregator.

Looking at the page titles that matched exactly, we found that they had an average ranking of 21.62. Those who matched least came in at position 40.93 and those who matched “mostly” (66% – 98%) had an average position of 32.28.

We also looked at page rankings when they simply contained the title in GBP. On the Y axis, you can also see the respective average rankings:

  • Position 29.54 for page lists that did not contain the title in GBP
  • Position 19.48 for those who had the title GBP totally contained in the title of the page

This represents a 34.05% improvement and 10 position changes across SERP rankings when the GBP stock was fully included but not an exact match.

Case study n. 3 – National directory of companies

  • 65.09% variation in the ranking position when they were a exact match.
  • 6 position improvement in the standings with titles that matched exactly
  • Improvement of 3 positions when the page listing contained the title GBP

In the third and final case study, we reviewed 569 Google listings from a National Business Directory. The results were consistent with previous case studies.

On the Y axis it is possible to view the respective average rankings with:

  • Position 9.31 for that adverts did not match
  • Location 3.25 for those who were a exact match

This represents a 65.09% improvement and an average position change of 6 positions across the SERP rankings.

Once again we looked at page rankings when they simply contained the GBP headline. On the Y axis, you can see the respective average rankings with:

  • Position 6.04 for the page lists that it did not contain the GBP security
  • Location 3.33 for those who had the GBP title totally contained in the page title

This represents a 44.86% improvement and 3 position changes across SERP rankings when the GBP stock was fully included but did not exactly match.

Why do the business listing names NOT match?

The most common reasons we found for incorrect listing information included:

  • Changed the list
  • Obsolete data
  • Wrong data source
  • It could be an indexing problem

How to prioritize your local SEO strategy

One way to prioritize your listings and business 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 less than the associated GBP name.

You may want to contact the company to help determine if a change in the GBP name is needed or if the directory listing name needs to be updated. The decrease in ranking is a lost opportunity for them to gain more traffic and increase the ranking of their pages.

Questions for different types of business

This isn’t just an issue for directory sites, although they would certainly benefit from fixing their listings and increased visibility for their listings, all businesses using directories should be aware of this opportunity. For instance:

  • Businesses with multiple locations can use it to ensure accuracy in matching their local listings.
  • Any company-wide business with Google Business listings would also be impacted by reduced rankings if the listing names in directories don’t match.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of opportunities to outperform the competition and boost your rankings by investing in this competitive advantage, which too few are taking advantage of at the moment. If you are interested in learning more about this strategy or want to talk about opportunities to improve your listings and / or your business ranking, you can drop us a line below.

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