The majority of consumers (58%) say they use their smartphone daily to search for local businesses, while another 71% say they use local search to find (and confirm the location of) a business before they visit it for the first time.

There is no question then, that business listings are what get them to the stores. Therefore: it is critical that your business listing information is both accurate and consistent across the internet.

The Consequences of Inaccurate Local Business Listings:

Across all industries, it is estimated that nearly $10.3 billion worth of sales are lost every year because of incorrect, missing, or incomplete local listing information. Please Note: Customers using local search are ready to make a purchase and inaccurate listing data inhibits their ability to do so. 44% of consumers report that inaccurate business listings have prevented or dissuaded them from making a purchase.

Not only does bad listing information impact your sales, but it also has a negative effect on both your visibility and your rankings in local search results. Local listing data is responsible for nearly 50% of how Google’s algorithm determines your ranking, making listing management the single most influential factor affecting your visibility in local search results.

Given how critical listings are to ranking results, it’s astounding to discover how many businesses are operating with inaccurate, missing or outdated listing info. Nearly half of all location listings currently contain bad data.

4 Tips to Optimize Your Listings:

  1. Know the difference between Foundational and Competitive Ranking Factors

Having accurate and consistent listings across Tier 1 Citation Sources has been determined to be one of the top foundational local search ranking factors. “Foundational factors” are those elements that a business must have in order to even be eligible to rank on Google. Without them, you will never have a chance. However, once you submit them, that’s it. You can’t implement them ‘more often’ or ‘better than another business’ in order to rank higher.

This means that your goal is to aim for 100% accuracy and consistency across your listings in all the Tier 1 Citation Sources. Doing so should be the first step you take in Listing Optimization.

Search Engines

2.  Complete listing data

First, you will want to verify all of your local listings. Verified and complete listings save your customers time and build confidence. Google reports that businesses whose listings are verified are twice as likely to be considered “reputable” by their customers. By providing customers with more information, a verified and complete listing instills confidence that the business is legitimate, still exists, and that the information presented is correct and actionable.

In addition to verified listings, your business name, address (or service area), phone number, website, store hours, description and correct business category are all considered “must haves”. This is the foundational information that both customers (and search engines) are looking for.

ProTip: When it comes to listing information, “set it and forget it” is a dangerously bad idea – for several reasons: 1) Local Variation: If you have seasonal hours, adjusted holiday hours, a new phone number etc., it’s critical that your locations are updated to reflect it. 2) They change – all the time. Data Aggregators (and consumers) have the ability to update your listings – often with inaccurate information. The average business listing is updated once every 6 days. Setting it up right on Monday is great – but by next week, it may be wrong again – unless someone stays on top of it.

3.  Duplicate Suppression v. Duplicate Reduction

Duplicate Listings (any time you have more than one listing of the same location on platforms like Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) happen all the time. They exist for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that they create confusion among search engines and customers, and have a profoundly negative impact on your rankings and search results.

“What is duplicate suppression? What is duplicate reduction? And which one do I need?”

Duplicate Reduction is the act of manually claiming duplicate listings and either merging them into the primary listing, or marking them closed.

This method permanently removes duplicates on the major directory sites, eliminates confusion for searchers and yields positive search engine and directory visibility returns.

Duplicate Suppression is a term coined by a popular listing management company. They allow their customers to manually click on a “duplicate suppression” button in their dashboard, which then flags the duplicate and hides it from searchers.

The problem with duplicate suppression, is that the service isn’t available on any of the major search directories e.g., Google, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, et al. Duplicate suppression has no way of hiding (or updating) information on any of these search directories. In addition, duplicate suppression is not permanent. It only remains so long as you keep paying for the service. If you want effective, permanent and meaningful duplicate location listing management – then Duplicate Reduction is the only solution.

4.  Additional Bonus Factors  

Once your listings are verified, accurate and all duplicates are eliminated, there are a few additional tactics you can employ to help boost your rankings in the local search results. These factors separate you from the competition, give customers an understanding of your brand, and convince them that you are the best option.

Photos, ratings and reviews are the most powerful factors that influence customers when researching a business online. Photos (both professionally taken and those posted organically by customers) are great because searchers use them as visual cues to assess the quality of your business. And online Ratings and Reviews are what potential customers lean on when they want first-hand accounts of other peoples’ interactions with your brand.

In addition to photos, ratings and reviews, you can also add attributes, Q&A Sections and even relevant posts to your listings. All of these “bonus factors” add clarity to your listings, help define and describe your brand, and help generate interest/attention of potential customers. A basic Best Practice recommends that you try to make your listings as complete as possible by completing every available field on every directory listing.

Final Thoughts:

Search engine algorithms are trying to ensure your business is legitimate so they can make a reliable recommendation when customers search for your product or service keywords. Location Listing verification, accuracy, consistency and duplicate reduction are essential for any business that wants to be discovered online. Schedule a Demo to learn more about Prism’s complete Location Listing Management services!