Are You Competing with Your Own Business Identity?

ipad-iphoneIs your business identity at war with itself? This may be the case if your company’s comprehensive advertising program is built on a foundation of inconsistent and biased business information.

Many companies struggle with this issue as inconsistent, cross-platform ad content regarding a business’ anchor identity creates confusion and noise for consumers who are desperately trying to find distilled business information through online, mobile, and social local search channels.

Additionally, with formerly offline-only media (e.g., newspapers, Yellow Pages) now offering online versions, the digital intermingling of comprehensive ad media has created a massive amount of conflicting and biased data. This presents a major problem as consumers have shifted their media preferences to digital consumption via smartphones and tablets — often using them in the living room in tandem with other media — where they are searching online for businesses and expecting their search results (in any ad context) to universally reflect the company’s baseline anchor identity or name, address, phone number (NAP) business information.

Overcoming Pre-Digital Advertising Exclusivity

If we go back and examine the advertising days of old (I’m referring to the ‘90s and before), advertising across multiple types of media was managed disparately and targeted based on the individual media type without any real overlap.

For example, a business owner would place a yellow pages ad with a directory publisher representative who collected the information and delivered pithy, descriptive content intended to catch the eye of a consumer browsing a particular heading. Additionally, the business would likely place another ad in the local newspaper and that sales rep would go through the same process to make the ad stand out within the newspaper context. The business would also likely buy a third ad with the local radio station, which would be developed by yet another sales rep looking to make the ad appealing within the context of current radio programming.

It’s easy to understand why the process of collecting the content about an advertiser was different in these three instances, as each distinct media sales process was tailored to represent the advertiser without any thought of the other media channels. Bias (or influence) was often a requirement for each type of media and had no negative consequence because there was no overlap among the media outlets.

Even when the Internet began gaining mainstream popularity, the previous media still operated in silos. However, with today’s widespread adoption of digital media and search — and specifically local search coupled with consumers’ thirst for valuable, relevant descriptive content about a business — these formerly exclusive media outlets cross paths constantly in the form of web crawls, content sharing deals, and advertising exchanges.

As a result, the subtleties that individual ad media used in their formerly isolated ad content development are now having a negative and confusing impact across multiple platforms where this information now exists in a shared environment. The unintended consequence of creativity and artistic liberty that successfully caused an ad to stand out in an isolated medium now creates noise and distortion about the base (NAP) identity of that business when shared across platforms.

Achieving a Consistent Business Identity in a Digital World

To ensure a normalized version of your company’s anchor identity throughout search results, key stakeholders in the local search ecosystem should follow the following best practices:

  • Business Owner: Be cognizant of your base identity. Regardless of the types of media you include in your advertising and marketing programs, incorporate the same NAP so your widely accepted corporate identity remains universal. Additionally, be sure to monitor your identity on search sites that are important to you for traffic. As an example, restaurants should track how they come up on their local and vertically-focused sites. If something doesn’t look right on the results, contact the site. Keep in mind that the information generated may come from a different site, so identifying the root data source is vital.
  • Online Agency/SEO Firm: Avoid originating unique identities with individual advertising promotions for clients, as this can distort the company’s anchor identity. Instead, tether your ads to existing correct identities. There are helpful tools for querying the common data sources to retrieve the identity of record. Also, ensure that you conform to standards for a company’s base identity by using the proper commercially-used business name, a standardized business address and the commonly accepted main phone number.
  • Search Platform/App Developer: When reconciling descriptive content obtained from disparate databases, reconcile it to the authoritative source whenever possible. This will not only create a satisfactory experience for the business owner and the user, but you can be confident that the business owner is the most invested person for keeping the information current and correct.

The digital age has forced the intermingling of advertising and user-generated content sometimes to the detriment of the sanctity of the businesses true identity. As the search for local information continues to rise so does the need for a shared consistent identity across all platforms.

About the author

Jeff Beard is General Manager & Senior Vice President of Localeze, a Neustar service. A listings management veteran, Jeff is responsible for leading Localeze's long-term strategic vision while driving growth, new-product and business development. In 2005, Jeff led an initiative focused on building information products targeted at the local search industry. From this initiative, Localeze was created. Localeze has quickly become the largest business listings identity manager for local search.

Prior to Localeze, Jeff served as vice president of corporate development at TARGUSinfo, where he led the company through its acquisition of Amacai, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of TARGUSinfo. Jeff was a key player in Amacai's 2001 launch and was primarily responsible for the operation and management of all business units. Prior to joining TARGUSinfo, Jeff spent 13 years at Acxiom Corporation, where he held a variety of sales, sales leadership and product positions.