Customers are looking for your business online, are you making it easy to find what they need?
Do you remember that thing called the Yellow Pages?
Yes, that big, yellow print directory that used to list all the telephone numbers of residents and local businesses for you to skim through before finally finding what you were looking for?
A directory that used to be the lifeline for not just business owners, looking to advertise their services in their local market, but also for agog consumers looking to fulfill their needs.
Do you still use it? If you do, be assured that you’re referring to an outdated version because the directory stopped printing after 2019, thereby bringing to an end a staggering 51-year run.
It’s true that they still have their online version running strong, but do you recall using their website the last time you wanted to find a coffee shop or a local dentist in your vicinity?
Probably not. If anything you’re definitely one of the 82% of mobile shoppers who conduct a ‘near me’ search on Google or other search engines when determining where you need to go.
Search Engine Watch reports, “Searches with local intent are more likely to lead to store visits and sales within a day. … 50 percent of mobile users are most likely to visit after conducting a local search, while 34 percent of consumers on tablets or computers will go to a store.” If your business listings aren’t displayed correctly, you could miss out on valuable customers this spring and summer.
Before the internet, one of the best ways to find a local business was through the Yellow Pages, a printed telephone directory that lists businesses by category.
These days, the Yellow Pages still exist, just in a variety of forms. Most people turn to search engines and online directories to find businesses that offer certain products or services in their area. After all, when you’re running errands and need to find the nearest coffee shop, isn’t it easier to just Google “coffee shops near me,” rather than whipping out a hefty phone book you still carry around?
Because most consumers use search engines and business directories such as Google, Apple Maps, and Yelp, it’s important for brick-and-mortar businesses to make sure they’re listed in as many relevant online business directories as possible. To that end, organizations both big and small use local listing management software to claim and manage their local listings across dozens of directories.
What is local listing management?
Many of us rely on local listings every day to help us make decisions about where to spend our time and money. We go to Yelp to find the best sushi restaurant. We turn to Trip Advisor to find hotels and activities for our next vacation. And of course, we use mapping services like Google Maps and Apple Maps to direct us to all manner of local business. We find much of this information thanks to local listing management.
Local listing management definition
Local listing management is the process of continuously updating and maintaining a business’ location data across online directories, websites, and other customer-facing platforms.
A local listing typically comprises a business’ name, address, and phone number, referred to collectively as “NAP” data. But local listings can, and should, include a wealth of other data, such as hours of operation, product descriptions, services provided and photos of a business’ interior.
There are thousands of local business directories across the internet. Many of them are niche directories that focus on a particular industry, such as home improvement, real estate, legal services, and more. While it’s important to manage your business listings on as many sites as possible, your main focus should be on the larger directories.
While it might sound challenging or time-consuming to claim and maintain all your business’ online listings, these citations can significantly simplify and speed up your approach to local and hyperlocal marketing. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that can make the process easier for you.
Benefits of local listing management
If you own or manage a local business, you’re probably already familiar with online listings and understand their importance—after all, that’s how many of your current customers find your business!
With numbers like that, it’s almost necessary for businesses to ensure they’re doing everything possible to capture local search results. If you’re new to local search marketing, or you’re interested in doing more to engage your customers, let’s examine a few of the major benefits of local listing management.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Not only do accurate listings improve your company’s ranking in search results, but having inaccurate listings can actually damage your SEO.
Google relies on listing data to provide accurate results to local searchers. If Google finds discrepancies in your listing data and cannot trust the information is accurate, it will be less likely to show your business in search results.
It’s possible that your business is listed on websites you don’t know about. There are free tools available that help businesses check their online presence, such as Moz Local or the N.A.P. Hunter Chrome extension from Local SEO Guide.
Improving brand awareness is perhaps the most obvious reason to claim and manage your local listings. The more websites and directories that list your business, the more likely a customer will find you. Not only does this increase traffic to your website, it can increase foot traffic to your store.
50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their mobile phone visited a store within a day.
Businesses that optimize their listings have the upper hand when it comes to capturing sales that originate from local searches. Don’t be the only one of your competitors not optimizing for search. With such a competitive online marketplace, it’s almost impossible to stay ahead and stand out from the crowd without local listings.
Imagine using your phone to locate a nearby bank, only to arrive and find the branch is closed—permanently. Not a positive customer experience, is it? Maintaining accurate listings is important for your business so your customers can find the information they need, when they need it.
Obviously, if you close a location or change your address, those are important updates to record in your listings. But you should also make sure your phone number, business hours, web address and dining menus are up-to-date to guarantee potential customers don’t have a negative experience trying to find information.
Speaking of driving up revenue, businesses can also increase the consumer traffic online to their websites by incorporating the best local listing management practices.
For example, imagine that you’re a customer who has just conducted an online search for ‘chiropractors near me’ and have come across two listings online. While one of them has all of their information like location, timings, and website fully updated, the other has a few missing slots.
Needless to say, in a bid to enjoy a better experience, you will be more inclined towards clicking on the website of the chiropractor that has all the information updated and accurate.
Furthermore, along with increasing online traffic to their websites, maintaining impeccable listings standards also leads to an increase in physical consumer footfall for businesses.
Last we checked, there are about 2.5 million online business directories present on the internet.
Just kidding. There surely aren’t that many, but there are quite a few out there that can cost you an exorbitant amount of time when it comes to updating your business information on each one.
Let’s say that even if you create a spreadsheet of some sort that consists of all the different directories out there, keeping track of your information on all of them and updating that sheet regularly would be nothing short of climbing Mount Everest.
While it’s not impossible, it surely will take a lot of time and effort to do so.
With the presence of local listing management, not only can businesses enjoy the luxury of keeping track of their information on all the online business directories in just a short time period, but they also have the ability to make changes on the fly and have them reflect instantly.
Furthemore, due to all the information being consolidated at one central location, businesses can update their information just once and it would automatically reflect on all directories.
One of the pain points that businesses have is not being able to make informational changes in real-time. While making changes might be a swift process, it often takes time for them to reflect.
Further, the pain of not being able to make those changes all in one place adds to the misery.
Maybe a restaurant owner had to change the timings of their business and wants his customers to know instantly. However, the system that they use doesn’t allow that and takes time. Not only does that lead to a bad customer experience, but also proves to be a hassle for the owner.
With a proper local listing management software, businesses can now make those changes in real-time and update their information on online business directories from one single location.
It’s imperative that businesses always have correct information on their listings so that they can enjoy a better search rank on search engines that punish businesses for inaccurate information.
Here are three key benefits of proper online listings management:
1. Up-to-Date Contact Information
When people search for your business online, their primary intent is probably to contact your business for more information. Whether that means making a phone call for a price estimate or a visiting a showroom to check out your latest and greatest, a consumer’s immediate need is to find you.
Make sure you’re paying attention to listings and keeping your business’s addresses, phone numbers, Web addresses and email contact data correct for all locations in both Google and Bing search listings. This lets consumers contact you as easily as possible, directly from the search engine results page (SERP).
In addition to knowing how, consumers need to know when to get in touch with you. Making sure your hours are clearly and correctly outlined in your online listing ensures that customers looking you up at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday know whether they can call, have enough time to come in or need to wait a day to contact your business.
2. High SERP Placement
Having the correct information in your listings does nobody any good if customers can’t find it — but fortunately, that correct information makes it more likely they will.
As Search Engine Land explains, search engines give higher rankings to businesses they have more information about. Outdated information in your listings can hurt your ranking in search. Making sure that your listings information is always up-to-date in all directories ensures not only that your customers have the correct information, but that they’re finding it at the top of their search results.
3. Access to Reviews
Though having your basic information in your online listings is certainly important, you should also include links to review services to help bolster consumer confidence.
For instance, if you own a pool maintenance business, having reviews in your listings that highlight your on-time service, affordable prices and courteous employees means consumers will be less tempted to search for another business and more likely to call or click immediately to find out more information.
Though some listings data is gathered by search engines automatically, small businesses who invest in listings management are able to give potential consumers the latest and most accurate information, which is crucial to taking advantage of local search.
Challenges of local listing management
There are virtually no drawbacks to owning your online channels and listings. When managed properly they provide visibility and marketing opportunities for your business. But because local listing management deals with data, there are plenty of things that can go wrong when building your strategy.
Here are some of the most common mistakes you should try to avoid.
Incomplete listing information
Imagine for a moment that you’re looking for a new Italian restaurant to try out in town. You Google one that your friend recommended and find that they don’t have an online presence on any review sites. They have an incomplete Yelp profile and virtually no information on Google about hours or menus.
How likely are you to visit?
Each of your local listings should include the following information:
- Company name
- Business hours
- Company phone
- Driving directions
- Business location
- Photos of the business
- Product or service listings
Incomplete listing information makes it difficult for customers to make informed decisions. It also makes your business look less trustworthy than a business that has all of that information readily available.
For this reason, it’s important to start your strategy by claiming and completing all of the profiles on your local listing sites. Even the ones you check less frequently should be fully optimized for search engines. This allows any customer to find all the information they need about your business.
A duplicate listing often happens when a business changes something major (name, location, hours, etc.) and instead of updating their current listings, they create new ones. This may seem easier than tediously updating old listings but it’s terrible for your SEO. It’s crucial for search rankings and customer usability to avoid duplicate listings.
If you employ the use of a local listings software or an agency, many times there is the option to collect and consolidate any duplicate listings. This allows you to maintain listings and the information about your business available online. It also creates a more cohesive experience for your customers.
There’s nothing more frustrating than Googling a business and finding no information. A total lack of information on your online listings is a red flag to customers. Even incorrect listings provide a customer clues on how to get in contact with your business.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need to be online to attract new customers. Online search has become a cornerstone of ecommerce and digital marketing. Local listings have now moved into the territory of “must-have” marketing solutions. You do more damage to your brand by doing nothing with your online listings.
How to track and manage your local listings
If you’re ready to start claiming and managing all your business’ local listings but aren’t sure how to begin, there are options. The method you choose will depend on a few factors, including your budget, how many locations you own, and how much time you’re willing to spend.
Below are three of the most popular methods businesses can use to manage their online listings and brand reputation.
1. Purchase a local listing management software
Businesses have a wide variety of software tools available for managing local listings. These products can provide efficient solutions for businesses looking to maintain their listing data with relatively little effort.
Listing management software allows businesses to control their NAP data from one central hub and push it out across all customer-facing platforms, including major data aggregators Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom, and Factual. These data aggregators are responsible for publishing much of the business information people find through local searches.
While there are some products that focus only on listing management, many others provide additional features that benefit local businesses, such as online reputation management, social media management, SEO, and store locators.
2. Hire a local listing services agency
Not thrilled at the prospect of adding another software tool to your tech stack? There are hundreds and hundreds of digital marketing agencies and SEO services that focus on local marketing often provide listing management for their customers.
If you’ve never hired an agency before, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Does this agency have experience running local listings for your specific industry?
- Does this agency have any contracts or partnerships with your competitors?
- Who will your point of contact be? How available are they to answer your questions?
These questions will help you narrow the field and find the right agency for you. Hiring a consulting firm does allow you to ask questions and receive guidance from experienced digital marketers. This option is preferred for small businesses and start-ups because it allows them to lean on experts and save precious time that might be wasted on learning new skills and software tools.
3. Track everything in-house
It’s possible to claim and update your local listings on your own. This solution is better suited to small businesses with one or a few locations rather than franchises or businesses with hundreds or thousands of locations. Hunting down and correcting NAP data can be a time-consuming effort for enterprise-level companies.
It’s a slippery slope though, and costs can balloon out of control if you’re not careful. Be sure to careful track the costs of your own DIY program. In some cases it may be cheaper and easier to purchase software or hire an agency. If you’re able to keep your SaaS spend under control, however, this is often the cheapest option.
If you’d prefer to manage your listings on your own, one of the most important things you can do is sign up for Google My Business and complete your business profile. Your next step should be correcting inaccurate NAP data and deleting duplicate listings on other websites and directories by using the tools mentioned above.
50 Free Websites to List Your Business
As a local business, attracting customers in today’s technology driven world, you must get your business listed in all of the major online directories. Many of these directories are well known websites like Facebook, Google+ & Yelp.
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Merchant Circle
- Discover Our Town
- EZ Local
- Get Fave
- My Huckleberry
- Magic Yellow
- Map Creator
- Judy’s Book
- Home Advisor
- Business Local Pages
Follow this checklist when you do get listed
There is more to just listing your business on these directories, however. Be sure to follow the checklist below to make sure that your listings work for you and generate the largest amount of reach for mobile and local internet searches.
- Consistent NAP making sure that your business’s Name, Address & Phone number is the same (exactly the same) on every listing is vital.
- Detailed Company Description: Let your company shine with a great business description. You should highlight your company’s history and product / service offering.
- Link to Your Website: One of the greatest strength of local online profiles is how they link to your website; this has the potential to drive massive amounts of traffic to your website. Local listings are mostly used in local, mobile searches, be sure your website is mobile-friendly or you could be losing visitors fast.
- Claim the Listing: Some local search engines allow a user to claim their profile through a short verification process. Claiming a profile can increase the reach of your profile immensely.
- Secondary Business Information: Over 30% of all local searches are for the phone number, address, or hours of operation of a business. Be sure to include items like hours of operation, menu, calendar of events, etc on your local profiles.
- Pictures & Videos Media items like photos and videos have a much higher conversion rate than standard text. Be sure to load images and videos to your profiles.
- Customer Reviews: Reviews send signals of confidence to search engines and mark engagement from customers. You should always encourage customers to leave reviews of your business and respond to those reviews.
How can Sooner Marketing Solutions help you
When it comes to local listing management, Sooner Marketing Solutions will manage your business listings on all online directories, consistently across the internet.
Using our solutions, in addition to saving time, effort, and money, you would also be able to rank higher on search engines by providing real-time updates and accurate information to customers.
So, why wait? Get started today and sync your business information to all important sources.