Your core business listing information could be the most important element of your online presence. Publishing your business’s name, address, and phone number on the Internet is essential if you want customers to find you.
Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area….90 percent use search engines, 48 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, 24 percent use vertical sites, and 42 percent use comparison shopping sites.
Given this information, your first priority in managing your business’s online presence is to ensure the accuracy and consistency of your business name, address, and phone number across all of the various sites customers may use to research products and services.
Sounds easy, right?
Challenges in Managing Your Online Presence
Managing your business listing information across the entire Internet is quite challenging for a number of reasons:
- There are multiple major players and a multitude of lesser players in the local search space, all potentially misrepresenting your business with inaccurate or incomplete information.
- Business listing information is generally sourced from a limited number of base databases, but is frequently inconsistent, especially when it comes to business names.
- In many cases, only your core business information (name, address, and phone number) is available online and your listing does not really provide the information consumers need most.
- Finally, different types of sites make optimal use of different types of content. A mobile application will rely heavily on an accurate standardized postal address for your business and can be used to provide consumers with timely offers, while a site like Yelp relies heavily on photos and reviews.
Without a doubt, the major players in the local search space are the top tier search engines – Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In the BIA/Kelsey study above, remember that 90% of consumers use search engines to find local products and services. So, the major search engines should be your top priority when you set out to manage your online presence. Fortunately, the top three search engines all offer fairly straightforward platforms for managing your business listing online:
The major search engines not only consider your business listing in results, but also other citations of your web presence including your web site, reviews, videos, and consumer reviews and mentions. These sites will have the “big picture view” of the online presence of your business from across the Internet.
In addition to the major search engines, 48% of consumers use Internet Yellow Pages sites (IYPs):
These sites are primarily directories that provide business information based on business category and geography. Most of these sites source listing information from the print yellow pages, so if you registered your business with a phone line, your listing probably already appears on these sites.
Trailing the major search engines and IYPs, there are other types of sites and apps that publish business information:
- Vertical Sites: These sites focus on business listings for a particular industry. Examples include healthgrades.com for medical professionals, tripadvisor.com for travel and hospitality, and findlaw.com for legal professionals.
- Reviews Sites: Reviews sites offer a platform for consumer research and discovery. Consumers primarily use these sites to read and share reviews of local businesses. Examples include yelp.com, citysearch.com, and angieslist.com.
- Social Sites: Social sites like Foursquare, Facebook, and Google+ offer another layer of consumer engagement with check-ins, special offers, and direct sharing of content among users.
Consistency and Accuracy are Key
The most important information, without a doubt, is consistency and accuracy of your business name, address, and phone number across sites.
As you visit the various sites to claim your listing, you may find slight variations in your business name. On one site, your business may be listed as “Joe Smith, Attorney”. On another, you may find “Attorney, Joe Smith”, and yet on another site you may be listed as “The Law Offices of Joe Smith”. Pick one representation of your business name and stick with it for every listing you claim.
As for your business address, be sure you list a local, physical address if at all possible. Many small businesses operate from home or service customers at their homes and operate business from a post office box. Some sites, like Google+, will allow you to keep your local address unpublished, and say that you service customers within a certain area and that is fine. However, there are sites, and especially mobile apps, that are looking for and expecting a local, physical address. Unless they are capable of designating a service area, like Google, you may not find the placement you are hoping for from a free basic listing on many of the local search sites.
If you’ve purchased advertising online, chances are your listing will appear with a special phone number on a call tracking line. The call tracking line allows you and your ad agency to determine the performance of your ad which is very important. Just be aware that some sites, like Google+ and Yelp, really want to publish your local phone number because they know a local business is what consumers are looking for when they perform a local search. Also, if you are publishing a call tracking line on some sites and a local number on others, you may find your organic ranking a bit diluted due to inconsistent citations, so keep this in mind.
SuperMedia Can Help
SuperMedia’s Local Listing Claiming (LLC) service can provide a single access point for adding, updating, and reviewing your business listing on more than 40 local search sites.