Customers are looking for your business online, are you making it easy to find what they need?
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.
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 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.
Some of the top online business directories include:
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.
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!
use their phones to conduct “near me” searches.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
* Below are the top five leading local listing management software solutions from G2’s Summer 2020 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.
Companies who use BirdEye have access to a multitude of tools that make it easy to be found online. BirdEye is a comprehensive customer experience platform. More than 50,000 businesses of all sizes use BirdEye everyday to be found online through reviews, be chosen by customers with text messaging interactions, and be the best business with survey and insights tools.
“I love the way BirdEye software integrates with our office management database. Once set up with the help of the BirdEye crew, its functionality has been flawless. Our patients now have the opportunity to provide our office feedback in a very simple and easy way. Instant notification of a new comment has allowed our team to immediately reinforce the reviewer's kind words or address any concern they may voice.”
“It is limited in some of it's features; such as having a customer database that collects who has been sent a review and if that person responded. There are times when I'm sure I am sending the same person more than one review request. It would be nice to have the option to see if I have already sent a review request to that specific person, and if they have responded to the request with a review so that I am not sending review requests to people who have already completed a review.”
Yext puts businesses in control of their facts online with brand-verified answers in search. By serving accurate, consistent, brand-verified answers to consumer questions, Yext delivers authoritative information straight from the source — the business itself — no matter where or how customers are searching. Yext allows you to capture consumer intent and drive digital discovery, engagement, and revenue — all from a single source of truth.
“The UI is intuitive and user friendly. I'm able to seamlessly go from data management to seeing performance. Great tool to manage business information on third party sites in real time. Collect and manage first and third party reviews to improve your business trust and authority. Their new Answers (on-site search) technology leveraging the knowledge graph is the best way to surface relevant information to users on your website.”
“Yext can be quite pricey - you're going to pay for the Ferrari if you want the Ferrari; If you just want the Honda, there are probably other solutions out there that would be a better fit for your budget. If you're looking for a local SEO solution specifically, there are probably better point solutions.”
Thryv is an end-to-end client experience platform built for small businesses. Software that helps you get the job, manage the job and get credit, all from a single screen. Helping small business owners meet today’s expectations, from one simple platform. Include best in class support, available anytime – unlimited 24/7, with business specialists who understand the goals and unique needs of small business owners.
“Thryv has been amazing to work with regarding setting up my account and following through to make sure even months after opening and account and even during quarantine, that I am using all the areas they offer as well as staying in touch and supporting me throughout the changes in my business. I do not regret going with thryv for my social media/ business needs.”
“The software can be limiting and not as flexible as I would like sometimes. I have found that a little frustrating but each time I have had help to better learn the software. I have a better understanding of how to best use the products to my advantage. However, it seems like the company is growing and working very hard to be a perfect solution for business owners.”
SEMrush is an online visibility management and content marketing SaaS platform that enables businesses to optimize their online presence across all key channels. SEMrush data and insights are trusted by 5,000,000 marketing professionals worldwide. With more than 40 tools within the software, data for more than 140 countries, integration with Google and task management platforms, SEMrush is a comprehensive all-in-one tool.
“SEMrush gives me a great dashboard to see how we are doing overall, and compared to key competitors I want to keep an eye on. It also gives me the ability to dig deeper into the measurements and get as granular as I need. I absolutely love being able to group my keywords by tags so I can easily view groups of closely-related keywords. SEMrush is just the tool I needed, a one-stop shop for SEO and SEM.”
“Like many products, there are some really helpful features that let you dive deeper that require you to pay for. The pricing tiers on the site seem straightforward but once you get in the tools there are one-off items that you get up-charged for. It would be nice for them to be a little more transparent, and there also some features come bundled that I don't need. It would be nice if some items could be swapped for others to offset additional costs.”
Reputation.com provides businesses a user-friendly solution to manage third-party reviews, respond from one single dashboard, audit and correct business listing, monitor and publish on social media and gain operational insights including customer sentiment and industry benchmarking.
“Reputation.com is one of the best tools available online to build a good reputation and work on it to grow. Integration of Google Seller Ratings surely makes it better. Scheduling and reporting features are also provided for better analytics and more detailed information. Third-party applications can be easily integrated with the software to get accurate analytics and as the user pleases. Customization of the software is pretty easy, which makes the user's job easy.”
“Things often break in the system with little or no communication as to why. When you reach out to try and get answers it takes a long time to receive a response. It would be helpful to receive a daily update email indicating messages have come in or responses are still needed. Also, in terms of the responsiveness score it would be helpful to know how far back to go to make sure you are doing everything possible to show responsiveness to the community and get the best possible results for the internal metrics and tracking.
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:
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.
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.
There are plenty of options and avenues for promoting your business online. And with those options come the burden of choice. Start small with your local listing strategy and allow it to grow with your business. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a bulletproof local listing strategy will take time to build.
Search engines aren’t the only place consumers will look for your business! Remember to keep your business’s social media pages up-to-date with your store hours, contact information and current promotions. Learn how to create a Facebook business page that works.
Stephanie is a research analyst at G2 concentrating on marketing and digital advertising software. Prior to joining G2, Stephanie spent four years in B2B marketing and corporate event planning at a small publishing company. This experience nurtured her passion for understanding how technology can help solve the unique challenges many small businesses face today. Stephanie’s areas of interest include brand perception, customer experience, local marketing, social media, and event planning. She received her B.A. in journalism and Spanish from Marquette University and in her spare time enjoys reading, gaming, and trying new vegetarian restaurants.
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