Because so much of the search traffic online these days is local search—which Google is well aware of—the local pack, or map pack as it is often called, is much more likely to show up when people are looking for products or services “near me” than national brands. Even if people don’t include “near me” in their search phrase, Google knows where they are and depending on the content of their search, or their search intent, will deliver them local listings when they search for something like “HVAC services,” for instance. Google knows that if the searcher is in Nashville, they’re not likely to be interested in HVAC services in Seattle.
But while marketers know that they need to ensure that their websites are optimized to show up well in search results, they also know that search engine optimization (SEO) is just part of the battle to gain Google’s—and other search engine’s attention.
Another important element is business listings.
What You May Now Know About Business Listings
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about business listings and how they work from a search optimization standpoint.
Most of the time when people think about business listings, they’re thinking about the three/map pack, Google Business Pages (GBPs) which the three/map pack is a part of and, to some degree, voice search. While there are certainly major players in organic search, though, they’re not the only way businesses might benefit. There are a wide range of more niche-specific listings available to businesses—from Yelp to TripAdvisor to the Better Business Bureau and many, many more.
Google indexes everything on the web so, in addition to your GBP listing, they’re also indexing all of the other business page listings you might be on—some that you may have created yourself and some that were created by those sites based on information they were able to gather through their own online searches.
And, another thing you may not be aware of—you don’t have sole control over the content of your listings. Other people can go in to request a change, including your competitors who may have nefarious reasons for doing so!
Citations vs. Backlinks
There is a difference between citations and backlinks. Citations are any mention of your business online. That might be as basic as just your business name, or very detailed with information about your location, phone number, hours of operations, and more. Backlinks are links to your website that are within those citations.
Both are important. But, not all of that information may be accurate or consistent. And that can be a problem.
The Importance of Consistency and Accuracy
Google is in the information business—specifically providing information to people that is timely, accurate, and relevant based on what it is they’re searching for. The more Google trusts the information it finds about your business, the more likely they are to share that information with searchers.
So, if you operate a lawn care service business and someone is searching for “lawn care near me” you’ll have a better chance showing up in a top spot if your business information is accurate and consistent across all of the business listings you may be on.
The more inconsistency, the lower your chances of showing up. The problem, of course, is that you may not be aware of all the places your business is listed, or of what is listed—and you’re also probably not going out to update that information when changes occur. Consider the overwhelming challenge discovering and correcting data across the vast high value listings sites this might represent to, for instance, a multi-location brand with hundreds of locations.
Quality, not Quantity is the Name of the Game
As you strategize about how to best leverage business listings for your business, you may face a bit of a conundrum. Quantity is important--in fact, you really can’t have too many citations. But quality—and consistency—is also important, in some cases more important, to attract the attention of Google and other search engines.
Completeness of information, for instance, is very important. Adding images, video, FAQs, and other information increases confidence and trust in your business.
Clearly, it would be impossible for even a very small business with just a few locations to manage all of their business listings to ensure they’re up-to-date and accurate. That’s where technology can help and there are a number of vendors offering business listing services, including MarketSnare.
Not all are created equal.
Many of these services have partnerships with specific business listing sites. That means that when they do reviews and updates, they’re only doing them on sites where they have partnerships. Worse, they will show you a long list of incorrect data, including from sites they do not actually correct.
That’s a problem because it means that listing sites that Google might view as authoritative may not be getting changed which can lead to inconsistency and result in lower search rankings.
In a competitive and constantly changing digital landscape, it’s important to stay on top of your business listings and base data that gives search engines confidence. They’re a cornerstone of your local organic search visibility.
If you’re a multi-location marketer and you want to learn more about how you can supercharge the power of your business listings we can help you manage them at scale to leverage both the quality and the quantity of those listings.