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Is Your Google My Business Listing Getting Filtered?

This article is part 1 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020.  If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.   

The local filter has existed for a long time but became much more obvious after the Possum algorithm update in 2016.  The local filter is kind of like the organic filter in the sense that it filters things it considers to be similar or duplicates.  The local filter will filter out listings based on the following information:

  1. URL & business name.  If you have multiple locations for the same business, Google will often show the one with the highest relevance and filter others.  For example, this lawyer in Houston decided to open a new office in Katy, TX.  Because his Houston office has so much prominence & relevance, it continues to rank in Katy for many terms and filter out his newer office (that has a lot less authority).  In this example, you’ll see that Google is showing me his office that is 26 miles away instead of the one down the street.
  2. Address & Proximity.  In this example, there are a bunch of personal injury lawyers using the same virtual office address.  In this image, the ones in red are all filtered.

How can you Tell a Listing was Filtered?

In some cases, the filter causes listings to be completely removed from the Local Finder results unless you zoom in.

To see all the listings that got filtered, pull up the Local Finder for a given query and scroll on your mouse very slightly to zoom in on the map once.  You should see a bunch of listings appear in the list that weren’t there before.  It helps if you have the 2 windows side-by-side so you can compare the 2 views and see who appeared that wasn’t there before.

Part of how I was able to spot these changes in the SERPs was due to utilizing Bright Local’s ranking tracker and setting my reports to scan daily and take screenshots of the SERPs.  Comparing the screenshots day-by-day allowed me to see and confirm that these listings rarely appeared together but would sometimes switch out.

In other cases, the filter causes the ranking of a listing to be suppressed but not completely removed.  Essentially, if your listing is too similar (based on criteria above) to a listing that outranks you, it will cause your listing to rank much lower because Google is trying to “diversify” the search results.  We see this all the time with lawyer listings.  We had one case where a lawyer’s listing dropped from 1 to 6 due to being filtered by another attorney in his building (different floor) and then went back up to the first position later once his relevance got stronger.  We have done testing on this and in one case saw a listing that was ranking 15+ move up to the number two position within hours after getting the listing removed that was causing it to be filtered.

How Does it Decide Who Avoids the Filter?

The listing that has the most ranking authority for that particular keyword is the one that will rank.  For example, one attorney ranks for “personal injury attorney palmdale” but a different attorney ranks for “auto accident attorney palmdale” (both are using the same address). Because a listing is filtered for one keyword does not mean that it will be filtered for other keywords.


Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Great info, and I see it as one more datapoint showing how a few programmers at Google can determine the success of one attorney over another in this shared-address scenario.

  2. This happened to my business because we were in such close proximity to a business that has a similar name. That was a really scary time falling off the map pack entirely! We moved our pin a bit and requested there pin to be moved as well and we were back in!

    1. Can you please tell me how you move the pin without changing the real physical address? I am having this issue

      1. You simply edit the address pin location in the dashboard. We typically don’t use that tactic anymore though.

        1. Thanks Colan. May I ask what is the reason you don’t move the pin anymore? Is moving the real location only option? I have such a hard time now. No one can see my business except when you zoom into the map. It is still rank in another keyword but not the keyword that I have customers in the past.

  3. With Google doing it this way it kind of means there can’t be more that one of the same business in the same office building. Wondering if the listing that does show up was the first one to show up or the most optimized listing?

    1. It’s not necessarily the first one but I have found that age is a ranking factor so it would likely give them a slight advantage. Ultimately though it’s decided based on relevance so things like the business name, website content, links, reviews etc.

  4. Isn’t “Car Accident Lawyer – |AccidentLawyer-Palmdale” a classic case of Map Spam?

    Apparently so as I just entered the same query “personal injury attorney in Palmdale, CA” and they’re gone. 🙂

  5. Hi Joy, it’s interesting that you too found that the proximity of a new business location didn’t show up in your results, and good old ranking authority prevailed in your test. I too have experienced similar results. One of my clients, a doctor, with 3 clinics added a 4th location, and it took about 2 months for that location to start showing up on Google Maps and for various queries.

    1. Hi. Did your client have to do anything or just waited? I am having similar issue after changing my address

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