Over 50% percent of businesses in the US have at least one piece of information listed incorrectly on the various online local directory sites. These sites include search engines, local data aggregators, mapping apps, and review sites like Yelp, Google Places, and YellowPages. When information is inconsistent, inaccurate, or incomplete, it causes confusion for both customers and search engines. This results in lower rankings on search engines, and worse yet, a loss of potential customers.
How Business Listings Affect Local Search Performance
Search engines like Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local automatically add your business as a local listing by collecting your business’s information from local data aggregators. If your information is incorrect across any of these major data aggregators, your listings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing will be too. If the search engines “see” multiple different versions of your business’s name, address, or phone number displayed on the major data aggregators, then search engines will consider them either 1) untrustworthy, or 2) entirely separate businesses.
How does this affect your local search performance? When business information is inconsistent, Google has less trust in the business and will actually penalize it with lower rankings, putting your more ‘trustworthy’ competitors before you in searches. Even worse, your business may not even show up in local search results in and around its correct location, making it difficult for anyone to find you.
Inconsistent listing also causes frustration for your potential customers. For example, if your address is incorrect, it will show up in the wrong location on Google maps and even worse, your customers will be sent there! At that point, they are likely to find a different spot to go, and guess what? You just lost a client without even knowing.
To minimize the risk of lower search rankings and loss of customers, it is important to take control of your listings and verify them. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to take control of your business listings.
How to Take Control of Your Business Listings
Here are four steps that you can follow to maximize the potential of being found in local search while minimizing the cost and risk involved in having incomplete, inconsistent, or inaccurate local data.
- Claim your business listings. Start by searching your business name on Google. You will likely see a result for your Google Places listing as well as other local directory listings. Explore the listings and claim and verify each one.
- To claim your listing on Google Places and Bing Local, you will need to first request a PIN verification. This verification will be sent to either your business phone or physical address. Once your listing has been verified, you will be able to make changes to the data and add additional business information.
- Delete any duplicate listings. You may find that even within the same search engine there are multiple (and often times incorrect) local listings for your business. Delete any duplicate listings that reflect inaccurate information that may be out-dated, or have not seen any recent activity (like customer reviews).
- Ensure the information is correct. When filling out profiles, always double check your information. Make sure they have the business name, correct address, phone number and other information like hours, website URLs, and categories. Spare your prospective customers the frustration of having to look elsewhere, or worse, for someone else. While editing addresses, remember that everything needs to be consistent, down to the abbreviations of the street addresses, and suite numbers. For example, Blvd. is not the same Boulevard to Google. Instead, Google sees this as an inconsistency, and it will likely affect your rankings in a negative way.
- Optimize your listings. Make sure your business description accurately reflects the category of your business, as well as the product/services you offer. Add images of your business (including the exterior, interior, product and/or service) to attract more people and help them find you (through a street view photo, for example). Remember, the more information that is filled out, the more trustworthy the listing becomes.
- Manage and monitor your reviews. It’s important to stay on top of your business reviews. This will allow you to spot any customer reviews or feedback that can potentially harm your reputation. Make sure to leave a reply and show an attempt to resolve any negative reviews or comments – this helps build trust with your current clients, and illustrates a certain level of customer service that’s appealing to prospective customers.
Cleaning up and maintaining your listings can be time consuming, especially if you have more than one business location. If you need help, take a look at our Local SEO package. As part of the package, we will take care of managing your listings for you, so you have more time to focus on your customers.