One of the biggest steps in the "life" of a small business is changing their office address. It is equally important for their online presence as it is offline. Google, as the local search leader, likes to go very harsh on businesses deciding to change their core information (name, address, phone number - NAP). If you do not follow a very specific timeline and methodology you could end up in a situation like this. Of course, there are ways to deal with duplicates, but who wants to pass through this hassle! So, where should you start?

Lisa Barone compiled a great list of places you must change your address. These include off- and online properties. As this article talks about the Internet perspective of the problem, I focus on the "local search footprint" (as per Ms. Barone).

You should start with a research of your business' online presence. There are three major tools I've been using that have helped me tremendously:

Oh, did I mention all those (currently) have free versions?

Here is how I use them:

1. I first roll Yext's tool to find the listings on all the major directories (it actually tells me much more than I could ask for, but that's a separate topic). I copy the links to those in an Excel file and go on.

2. Then I go to Whitespark's citation finder, and... well, I find citations. Note that to do that, you would need to use the "Search by Phone Number" feature. And if your phone number and business name are generally inconsistent, I guess you would first need some professional help.

I copy the links to the citations that this tool finds, too.

3. I make a very similar thing using What it adds to the first two tools is information about the business information available on Bing, InfoUSA (as known publicly), and Localeze. After I copy these links, I'm ready to start with the brute work.

I change the address on all the directories. If you hired previously someone to list you on all these, and you forgot to ask them about the log in credentials, it might be a good idea to do that before you start with this step. It is very important that you finish this task at the shortest possible time. Otherwise Google might get confused (did I hear ultra-smart, super sophisticated algorithm?) and decide to create a duplicate, or right out mix your business information with outdated one.

After you've done all the changing on all the third-party business directories, you should finally change your address on your website and your Google Places listing. If you do not want to wait "2-3 weeks" for the change to happen, I'd suggest you take my third advice from here.

And that's it! Easy. And can you imagine you and me are doing all that simply because Google's Places cluster system is too "smart"?