We are all aware that bad or incorrect listings exist in the online space. How many times have you found a bad online listing for your business? How many times have you received correspondence from a boss, coworker, employee, or customer saying that your local listings are incorrect? How often have you personally driven to a business just to find an industrial park when you arrive? It’s frustrating, I know, because these things happen all the time – and they don’t have to.
Cleaning up your local listings may seem like a time-consuming project, but I promise you it’s worth the effort. Incorrect online listings negatively affect your business in a variety of ways, including online marketing tactics such as SEO and PPC. I’ll tell you how to start taking care of your local listings now, and improve your overall online presence.
If you want to know more about where these bad listings are hiding, check out my first article of this series: Why Bad Listings Never Die.
Where Does Bad Data Originate?
There are four primary data aggregation companies that exist in the marketplace today: Neustar/Localeze, Infogroup, Factual, and Acxiom. These four companies are in the business of maintaining and distributing location data, and that data is what drives online listings for many web publishers, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Each data aggregation company gathers information in its own way. One company rips the spine off of phone books, scans the pages using optical character recognition, and then uses a quasi-human editing process. Another company ships phone books offshore and has people key in the data. Still other methods are used, but you get the idea: A large portion of the data originates with old phone books. As a side note, keep in mind that phone books are only 75 percent accurate when they hit the street.
Start with the Data Aggregators
If online data originates with data aggregators, then companies should resolve their data problems directly at the source. Each of the data aggregators will take a direct feed of data and add it to their database. They will actually allow your data to supersede their own; this is where the cleanup starts. By correcting your data with these companies, you are essentially making sure that the right information is distributed when it is sold downstream. And believe me, several of the aggregator companies sell that data downstream. There are over 250 customers for that data in the online space alone. It’s then referenced by a variety of media properties, including search engines, Internet Yellow Page companies, social media sites, in-car navigation systems, and handheld devices.
What does this type of distribution do for your location records online? Well it does several things, but the two most important are:
- Assures your data is included in the distribution
- Makes sure you are covered from an accuracy standpoint
These two elements establish trust and increase the validity of those records online. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl the web looking for information such as addresses and other location-based data. Now the crawlers are seeing the same data everywhere they look. The business name, addresses and phone numbers are all consistent — and the trust in that data goes up. Creating more trustworthiness in the listings increases their influence within search engines.
Utilize Direct Submissions
Your next option for local listing cleanup is to go directly to the top sources. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and several others will allow you to submit your location data to them directly. In most cases, these major players feature a dashboard that allows you to upload and manage your listings. While this can be a hefty job, it is a process worth completing. The data aggregators should be step 1, followed immediately by going direct.
Once your data has been submitted, you then have the opportunity to claim and verify ownership of your listings. Sites do this in a number of ways, but the most common is a phone call or post card delivery with a PIN number. In the case of the call, an automated outbound dialer will call the number you submitted for your location. A recorded voice will then provide a PIN number, which is unique for that location. That PIN will then need to be keyed into the dashboard on the site to complete the verification process. This allows you to customize and enhance your listing information and profile pages.
Enhance Your Listing Profiles
With claiming and verification completed, you can now move into the enhancement and ongoing management of your listings.
Begin by customizing each of your profile pages. Include detailed business descriptions, photos, hours of operation, categories, keywords, and other important information to differentiate your locations from competitors.
Be prepared to update your profiles as your business evolves over time. You may open or acquire new locations, change phone numbers, rebrand, merge with other companies, or any number of developments that will change your listings. Having a strategic on-going management process in place will help keep your listings in order.
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what is takes to clean up your listings. The process involves a variety of components, including data aggregators, direct submissions, profile enhancement and ongoing management. It is time consuming, but it is an essential element to running a successful business. This is the first place to start with respect to your online marketing efforts. If you have local listings and they are not managed, stop what you are doing and get them under control now.