Although local discovery has become a buzzword, it is a business concept that has been around for centuries. Large technology companies are jumping into the fray with promising apps like Field Trip (Google), Spindle and Alike (Yahoo!), but how do people find local businesses to provide the products and services that they need today?
In years past, people would patronize a local business simply because it was recommended by family or friends (word-of-mouth) or because it was in the neighborhood. In the 1600’s, city directories were created with listings of merchants in a local area, followed by telephone directories in the late 1870’s. Since that time, nothing much changed about local discovery until the Internet changed everything. The print directories were replicated online as Internet Yellow Pages (IYP).
Early Internet search engines, such as Excite, Infoseek, Altavista and Yahoo!, were actually directories that required webmasters to submit their sites. Later, search engines began to index websites on their own, starting with Webcrawler, but later perfected by Google, which grew to dominate the search market.
A recent study commissioned by Yext, a local listing management company, showed that people now use online methods for finding local businesses even more than recommendations from family or friends. Of those surveyed, more used search engines (43%) and online/print directories (29%) to find local businesses than referrals from family or friends (23%).
The study also showed that across 40,000 listings checked on 50+ directory sites, 43% had at least one incorrect or missing address and 37% had at least one incorrect or missing name on a listing. The most common errors were missing listings and missing or incorrect addresses, phone numbers or websites. When potential customers find incorrect information about a business, 15% of them said they would look for another merchant. There is a definite cost to incorrect business data, as shown in the Yext study.
So, how do you make sure that your business information is correct when it appears in search engines and local directories? An important step in ensuring that business information is correct in Google is to set up a Google+ Local page for your business with correct information and if you have multiple locations, you should set up local pages for each location. To ensure that your directory information is correct, you can either go to the directory sites and claim/edit your listings individually, or you can use a tool that will evaluate your listings and show you where there are inconsistencies. SuperMedia has partnered with Yext to offer a free business listings evaluation tool that will perform this task for you. Once you have evaluated your listings, you can access each one of the directory sites and correct the information or there are services available that can help you with that, as well.
Regardless of how you choose to evaluate and update your Google information and business listings, it is vital that as a business owner, you make sure that your business information is correct in all the places where potential customers are looking for you.