Multi-location businesses face unique challenges in the management, optimization, and distribution of local business listing information. Accuracy is critical for every business, but those with a number of locations must also master scale.
It's easy to get bogged down in spreadsheets and a hodgepodge of tools. After all, most marketers struggle to see the ROI from local campaigns, so it can be difficult to justify putting budget here to streamline your efforts. You might simply rely on Yext, or have an agency do the work for you.
My last column looked at on-page validation or SEO factors, local landing page user experience, and local listing management together as components of your blueprint for multi-location brand success. This post will dive deeper into local data syndication – where to focus your efforts, how to do it properly, and scaling your efforts for maximum ROI.
1. Start With the Essentials: Google, Bing, Yahoo
The "big three" are free and account for 94.2 percent of search traffic. This March, 13.1 billion – or 65.5 percent – of the 19.4 billion explicit core searches in the U.S. took place on Google sites. Together, Microsoft (Bing) and Yahoo sites powered another 28.7 percent of searches, according to comScore.
However, many major brands focus on Google alone, forgetting about Yahoo and Bing. This is a huge missed opportunity to rank higher through better optimization for these free platforms.
Even worse, incorrect or outdated local business information served up to the 28.7 percent of people who search with Bing or Yahoo can result in poor customer experiences (unable to find a business location, inaccurate store hours resulting in a wasted visit, etc.).
Local marketers need one CMS to serve as a single point of contact for optimizing and correcting listings on all major platforms, especially the Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Scalable local listing management requires that you're able to optimize categories, descriptions, taglines, images, and brands carried to rank higher for more terms and increase your brand's local presence.
2. Focus on Lowest-Cost Data Aggregators: Accuracy, Optimization & Automation
Once you're straight with the Google, Bing, and Yahoo, focus on your lowest cost data aggregators. These are your options less than $99 a year, per location, combined – Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual, among others.
Major search engines compare and validate listings information using data from aggregators, which are also used to power mobile maps, apps, and in-car GPS devices. Looking forward, we'll see aggregators power the Internet of Things, as more devices demand local business content.
Aggregators are a low-cost solution that can deliver great value, enabling your brand to build hundreds of valuable, relevant backlinks to your local landing pages. They help you offer a better user experience, increase your local presence, and rank higher in local organic search results.
How Can You Get Right With Your Low-Cost Data Aggregators?
Make sure you include and verify as much of the following information as you can:
- Business name
- Landing Page URL
- Neighborhood Information
- Cities, Areas Served
- Brand Logo and Storefront Images
- Business Description with services (keywords) offered and city you serve
- Categories that match your services (keywords)
- Holiday Hours Taglines & Brands Carried (keywords)
- Social Networks URLs
- Local Map URLs
- Review Site URLs
3. Home in on Your Higher-Cost Local Listings Management Solutions on Popular Networks
Now it's time to get right with your higher-cost, more niche local listing management solutions on popular networks – Yelp, Yext, Foursquare, Facebook, and others. These are your $299 to $499 per year, per location options. Although the costs are the highest per year, these sites still deliver high-quality, affordable traffic that can top off your sales funnel.
Social networks have evolved from a place to post cat pictures and chat with your high school friends to a valuable source of information for mobile consumers. Real-time data distributors like Yext and niche directory sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and even Facebook function as social networks, but also act as or power business review sites and house local business listing information.
Accurate and consistent information is critical here again, as mobile consumers use these sites to check out your business and find a location while they're on the go – most often right before their visit. Optimization will help you appear in network-specific searches at the critical point at which a consumer is actively seeking a local product or service.
Automating the process of populating, verifying, and updating your listings on these networks makes this a far less daunting task with a higher quality outcome.
4. Track, Evaluate & Optimize: Tactics for Ongoing Best Practice Management
Alongside the automation of your local listing syndication, look to citation management and ranking tools for ongoing improvements. These will help you track performance, measure increases in ranking and traffic, and more effectively optimize your local listings across the top search engines, data aggregators, and popular networks.
Using citation management and ranking tools increases ranking and traffic, and will you give you the insight and reporting you need to move the needle:
- Automate, automate, automate! It not only saves you time, but ensures greater accuracy and therefore higher rankings and a better user experience.
- Start with essential free listings and systematically work your way through the above items to get it right. Optimize, measure, and improve on a consistent basis. Get out of the weeds of the niche directories and start with the three major ones for the biggest win.
- Take advantage of the different types of information you can share on various listings solutions; go beyond NAP (name, address, phone number). Connect to your social networks, offer holiday hours and other relevant operational information, add images, etc.
If you're finding yourself drowning in spreadsheets and constantly playing catch-up to keep your local listings up to date and accurate, it's time to implement a smarter, more effective local listings syndication strategy.
Managing all listings from a single CMS reduces your time investment and will help you increase your rankings. This approach will also grow your local presence and ultimately achieve the lowest cost per visitor for your multi-location business.