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Importance of the local listings management


Local SEO

Managing your business’s local listings across the search ecosystem is challenging for single-location companies, retailers, and enterprises with hundreds of locations. While the business itself is the ultimate source of truth on local data, many third-party sources, aggregators, and intermediaries capture and share information across search platforms, apps, and sites. That creates complexity – and chaos.

Building outstanding customer experiences from search to sale

The way local data is processed for distribution by big platforms is complex and often results in inaccurate information, duplicates and other inconsistencies. The result is low visibility, poor location data or a generally less than optimal consumer experience.

Local listings correctness plays a critical role in the customer journey. The local level’s online business profile and experience are essential in building visibility, driving traffic, and converting motivated consumers from search to sale.


Listings management isn’t a “one and done” duty

Each time the Google index is refreshed – old data is replaced by new data, and accurate listings may be replaced with inaccurate ones. Plus, the high incidence of duplicate listings creates consumer confusion and dilutes brand presence. Local Listings management isn’t a “one and done” duty. It’s a discipline that requires ongoing effort and attention.

Before weighing your business listing aspect, it’s valuable to see how your business listings already appear across online directories and how reliable they are. Luckily, we’ve developed a free tool that can check all the basic business listings and citations. So if you find any that are missing or inaccurate, you can start with these.

Check your local business accuracy score.

Key findings:

  • 93% of consumer survey respondents agree with the statement, “Finding incorrect information in online directories frustrates me,” and nearly 80% said that “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.”
  • Inaccurate local listings are costing brands big business, as an estimated $10.3 billion in sales are lost each year due to inaccurate or incomplete local search results (Local Search Association).
  • Local listings are constantly evolving and being updated not only by the businesses that control them but by consumers, social media users, search engines, local data aggregators and other third-party sources of information, as well.
  • Managing local listings for a single location requires diligent monitoring and ongoing optimization to keep listings accurate and up-to-date. Multi-location brands face unique challenges in managing listings for hundreds or even thousands of locations in geographically, economically and socially diverse markets.
  • Consumers overwhelmingly shop local—in fact, 93% of consumers shop at stores less than 20 minutes away from them. Furthermore, 88% perform research online before making a purchase (Digitas) and 90% are influenced by online reviews and information (Bright Local).
  • Inaccurate local listings can lead consumers to a closed store or otherwise interfere with their customer journey. An often overlooked aspect of local listings accuracy is the impact of misinformation on search engine trust in your brand. Inaccurate, outdated listings are counterproductive to Google’s goal of providing each consumer with the best answer for their local query. Brands must constantly demonstrate to search engines that their location is the best choice for a relevant organic or Map Pack result.
  • Given the stakes, local listings accuracy isn’t a “nice to have” marketing goal; it’s a critical facet of your brand’s online presence in every market.


Why local listing accuracy matters?

While the specific signals in Google’s search ranking algorithm are a well-guarded secret, the search giant has always been open about what drives its ranking decisions. Its How Search Works page states, “From the beginning, our mission has been to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” User experience trumps all else as Google aims to be the single source of truth about local businesses and a one-stop shop for consumer needs.

It’s certainly not the only search engine out there but in the United States, Google commands nearly 93% of search market share. How your brand’s locations appear—and how often—in Google’s local search results can have a major impact on your business. Today, consumers often find enough information on the search engine results page (SERP) to make a decision and convert, without even clicking through to a webpage. In fact, Google pulls so much information into its local listings that just 1 in 60 local SERPs views result in a click-through to a website.

Brands challenged to manage local listings at scale

Constantly monitoring and updating local listings across local search platforms, mobile apps, navigation systems and directories is near-impossible without the right technology in place. A singlelocation business may be able to stay on top of their listings with a resource dedicated to manually updating its listings, but this hands-on approach becomes inordinately expensive and slow for multilocation brands.

Without automated monitoring and the ability to publish to multiple sources at once, there’s simply no way to keep up the accuracy search engines and consumers require.


The impacts of inaccurate local listings are wide-ranging and potentially include:

  • Poor user experience, particularly when consumers are given the wrong store hours, inventory information, or other key information that inspired their visit to your store.
  • Updated/corrected location information can be slow to update across the entire ecosystem unless brands are intentionally distributing the correct data en masse. Navigational appson smartphones and in vehicle GPS systems that have the wrong address or map pin location may literally drive potential customers away in frustration. This is not an uncommon issue; in the last year, 22% of consumers visited the wrong location for a business because the address was incorrect online.
  • Reduced local search visibility, as better optimized and more accurate competitor listings are displayed more prominently in local search results.
  • Eroding consumer trust in your brand as consumers don’t necessarily understand how erroneous information makes it into your listings. According to a BrightLocal survey, consumers are more likely to blame the local business for an inaccurate local listing than the directory it appeared on.
  • Missed opportunities to convert searchers to in-store traffic and the inevitable loss of sales as a result.

1 in 3 searchers will simply choose another brand if they can’t find what they need

What’s worse, where your local listings aren’t appearing at all, your brand doesn’t even have that first chance at making an impression. In fact, 1 in 3 searchers will simply choose another brand if they can’t find what they need. Are you losing foot traffic to competitors due to a lack of visibility or inaccurate information at the local level?

Local business data is constantly evolving

Each year, approximately 20% of business records change as 2.4 million businesses crop up or close down.

Data degradation in local listings is both rapid and prolific. An estimated 60% of local business identity data is out of date within two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This web of enterprise-level location data is complex; it’s complicated, constantly shifting, and absolutely critical to maintain. Next-generation local optimization is proactive and takes a holistic approach by seeking out and removing sources of friction in local listings before they interfere with a customer’s experience. In this blog, we will explore specific tactics for managing your brand’s data in the sprawling multi-location ecosystem but first, let’s learn who a few of the players are.

##The role of syndicators, aggregators and other data providers In a perfect world, each business would be fully in control of its location data. In reality, countless third parties, aggregators and intermediaries disseminate business information across an increasingly complex network of directories, networks, and websites. Where and whenever that information appears—right or wrong—it has the potential to make or break a sale. In the BrightLocal Local Citations Trust Report, we learned that 68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories. What’s more

It’s true that the value of citations as a ranking signal has been diminished as Google Search has evolved. This is especially true for SMBs. However, the value of citations for brands and in the consumer’s journey from search to sale cannot be overlooked. While small businesses may have dozens or a few hundred citations to manage, enterprise brands often have tens of thousands for search engines to evaluate. When 10%, 25%, or 40% of those citations contain contradictory or outdated information, both search engine and consumer trust in the brand suffer.

Aggregators gather data from multiple sources which is evaluated to determine the most accurate listing for a business. As data is gathered from multiple sources and not directly from the business, inaccuracies can appear due to the dependence on third-party sources. To improve quality, some aggregators offer a syndication service to override third-party data entirely.

Syndicators enable the brand to publish accurate information widely. Pushing the correct location data out across hundreds of sources at once not only replaces any misinformation on those platforms but sends a clear signal to all others who draw data from them that the fresh, optimized syndicated information is the source of truth.

For enterprise brands, the ability to monitor local listings at scale and identify opportunities is mission-critical. The process of syndication to capitalize on them is the next step in a holistic local listings management strategy.


Managing your brand’s listings in a complicated data ecosystem

In the age of the constantly connected consumer, a holistic local listings management strategy takes into account the entirety of the customer journey from search to sale. Over half of all search traffic is now mobile and

Consumers use local listings to discover new products, book appointments for services such as a haircut or tire change, make a reservation at a restaurant, see if there are specific stores nearby open at that time, and much more. Once a specific location is found online, consumers then expect to see photos read reviews, and access other information to help them make a decision and get directions or phone the store with a single click. Rio SEO and Neustar Localeze have identified five must-have traits enterprise brands should strive for in their local listings.

5 Characteristics of an effective local listings strategy

Where do you begin to formulate a local listings strategy of your own? Consider these five best practices a framework for getting started and start thinking about how you will achieve each of these objectives.

  1. Accuracy Verify each location’s details, correct errors, eliminate duplicates, and syndicate the correct information regularly.
  2. Consistency Achieve a uniform brand presence across all search sites, maps, directories, apps, and devices. Retain brand controls while empowering local managers to create the hyperlocal content that consumers crave.
  3. Integration Sync updates across Google My Business, Search, and Maps so customers in all regions and neighbourhoods have access to the same accurate information in real-time.
  4. Optimization Ensure that listings for each location contain all information customers expect to see. This includes interior and exterior photos, hours, methods of payment accepted, real customer reviews, and more.
  5. Visibility Show up everywhere consumers are searching by making the relevance of your brand and its products and services clear to search engines. Use specific keywords in your optimizations and properly mark up the Local Pages to which your local listings drive traffic to help search engines make the connection between motivated searchers and your locations.

Now assess your local listings risks and opportunities:

  • What business are we leaving on the table or losing to competitors in each market as a result of our local search presence?
  • How are we currently measuring local search performance and does that align with our business goals?
  • What does our digital presence tell consumers in each of our locations, and does that align with our brand?
  • Are we inadvertently creating friction in our local consumers’ journey from search to sale, and how can we eliminate that?
  • How can we better support local managers, owners and franchisees in developing and maintaining a robust local presence?
  • Are we taking advantage of all fields, content types, and other optimizations available to us in each directory, network, or platform?
  • Does the quality and quantity of data about our business and its locations instil or erode search engine trust?
  • Where are competitors outperforming us at the local level and how can we win back that business?

By now, you should have a more solid understanding of your local listings challenges and opportunities. Let’s take a look at solving specific listings issues, then explore the effects of a working local listings management strategy.


Solving 3 common local listings issues

While each business is unique, there are common challenges that multi-location brands face in local listings management. Here are three of the most potentially damaging types of local listings issues, and the good news is that they can be your most excellent opportunities, as well.

Duplicate listings Duplicate or multiple listings for the same location are among the most common and persistent local listings challenges. They create chaos for consumers, who aren’t sure which listing to trust. They also create search engine distrust in the brand, as it may not be clear which listing is accurate.

There are a lot of different ways duplicate listings can occur, making ongoing management paramount.

Ownership conflicts It may seem like common sense that a brand should control its own listings, but these waters muddy quickly when you factor in franchisees and local owners, issues around corporate email ownership, and even the odd unscrupulous competitor. There are plenty of ways an enterprise brand can lose control of listings at the local level. What matters is your approach to taking them back.

Each location can have multiple Google My Business users, but only one Primary Owner. Whether your company has corporate stores, franchise locations, service areas or some other structure, ideally the brand should be the Primary Owner of all listings. This is true of all listings and profiles, whether on Bing, Manta, YP.com or elsewhere—anywhere a profile can be claimed.

Some ownership conflicts are simpler to resolve than others. In a large healthcare facility, for example, there are hundreds of professionals all under one roof and sharing a single address as far as Google is concerned. When a physiotherapist vacates an office and a nurse practitioner moves in, gaining ownership of the listing could be as simple as asking that physiotherapist for ownership.

But what if you are no longer in contact with the listing owner, or they have some interest in retaining ownership of the listing?

Google recommends that users follow this specific process for requesting ownership of a business listing (multi-location brands can use bulk verification to request ownership of an existing listing). The owner then has 7 days to respond.

Negative or low review volumes The impact of local reviews on visibility is often overlooked, but couldn’t be more important. 72% of consumers won’t take action until they’ve heard what others have to say about your business. What’s more, reviews are a heavily weighted Local Pack ranking factor, according to research by Moz. The quantity, diversity, and recency of each of your locations’ Google Reviews are given a good deal of consideration in whether—and where—your location should appear in response to a local search query. In organic search, review signals are nearly on par with citation signals and GMB in importance.


Given that 85% of consumers ignore reviews older than three months in age, it’s important that you have a system and tools in place to facilitate reviews solicitation and management. Over half of consumers expect to see a business respond to a negative review within a week, yet 63% of those who’ve left a negative review received no response at all. Local reviews are both a liability and an opportunity the brand cannot afford to neglect.

Are you in control?

Enterprises and multi-location businesses need a single source of truth to drive accuracy and uniformity in listings across the local ecosystem. Yet your brand is unique, and its local marketing needs are unlike any other company’s.

That’s why OBENAN Local SEO Software combines powerful local search technology. Local Listings give brands complete control over listings, citations, and local data accuracy. See where your brand and locations stand—take advantage of a free Local Presence Audit. You’ll get an evaluation of the health of your presence across the local ecosystem and discover critical opportunities to improve your local listings and rankings. Get started with OBENAN Local SEO Software.

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