Choosing a local search automation vendor can be a complicated and intimidating decision for companies with hundreds or thousands of brick-and-mortar locations.
Performing well in local search depends on many different tactics, so finding a partner with tools and technology to help you manage them all is critical for regional-local and national-local organizations.
Not all of the questions below might be applicable to your business, but hopefully they will allow you to make a smarter decision when picking a company to team up with.
- Which data aggregators does [VENDOR NAME] partner with?
- How frequently does [VENDOR NAME] push data for your clients?
- How many sites does [VENDOR NAME]'s network syndicate to?
- Can [VENDOR NAME]'s platform send and publish to Google directly?
- Which publisher relationships are direct? Which are third-party relationships?
- What measures are taken to ensure data consistency across all channels so engines will index listings?
- What tools exist to help with duplicate listing suppression?
- How long does it take for publisher sites to update my information?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] fix one-off inaccuracies on publisher sites? How?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] monitor and report on the accuracy of data being distributed?
- What happens to the syndicated data if we stop working with [VENDOR NAME]?
Local Search Optimization
- What search engines does [VENDOR NAME] provide optimization for?
- Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s philosophy as it relates to local search optimization.
- Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s philosophy as it relates to organic local search optimization.
- What information does [VENDOR NAME] recommend pushing to the search engines?
- Are there additional components and tactics [VENDOR NAME] can recommend that can increase my performance on the search engines?
- How do we report issues with information being listed on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing?
- How can [VENDOR NAME] show the effectiveness of your local search optimization efforts?
- How is the local content created and where is it stored? Who writes creates the content necessary to perform well?
- What tools exist to help localize existing content?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] build out our local pages, or do we? How does this happen?
- Can we update the data that lives on those pages?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] accept bulk data from clients?
- Describe how we would submit our data to [VENDOR NAME]?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] ensure data is always up to date when locations go in or out of business?
- What information is required for each of my locations?
- What tools exist that will allow for easy updating and maintenance of location information?
- Is the UI a "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) interface?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] provide data storage?
- What internal IT resources does the CMS require?
- Can we integrate the local CMS with our internal database?
- How does the local CMS interact with our enterprise website CMS?
- How are the locations pages optimized for search engine performance? If so, how?
- What tools and processes does [VENDOR NAME] have to mitigate duplicate content when it comes to location pages.
- What is the average page load time for the location pages?
- Do these pages utilize microformatting? If so, which formats?
- Is there a clearly defined hierarchy to the location pages?
- Are the location pages easily found and indexed by the search engines via crawlable directory pages?
- Are the directory pages designed to pass PageRank through to the location pages efficiently? How?
- Are the directory pages customizable?
- Are there different hierarchy structures that can be created other than geographic?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] create an XML sitemap? How is that sitemap optimized and kept up to date?
- What are five differentiators that [VENDOR NAME] provides as it relates to SEO performance?
- How will our pages be optimized for a mobile experience?
- Are [VENDOR NAME]'s local pages enabled with responsive design? Will the pages be optimized for all types of operating systems and devices?
- Will the pages show up in mobile search results?
- Will we have a presence in Apple and Android apps, like AroundMe?
- Will our location information be sent to GPS and car navigation sites?
- Will our local pages be optimized with touch-screen capabilities for tablet and smartphone users?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] provide a store locator to guide website visitors to local pages?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] customize the look and feel of the locator? If so, how?
- What if we already have a store locator and we don't want to change it?
- Can we add multiple filters on the store locator?
- Is the locator optimized for a mobile experience?
- What mapping solution(s) (Google, Bing, OpenStreetMap, etc.) is [VENDOR NAME] integrated with?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] offer group pages?
- Can they be customized based on one or many database fields?
- How are locations added or removed from group pages?
- How do you ensure that locations that are no longer in business are removed from group pages? How do you ensure that new ones are added when appropriate?
- What options exist to vary how locations are ordered and displayed in any given group?
- Can the group pages be managed from within the CMS?
- Are [VENDOR NAME]'s local pages/local CMS configured for international locations?
- Can the CMS be configured to display in multiple languages?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] handle publishing content in multiple languages?
- What tactics are used to ensure secondary language pages are optimized for performance locally and organically?
- How much insight can [VENDOR NAME] give us on local activity? What metrics does [VENDOR NAME] use?
- Does corporate have access to dashboards and reporting?
- Can locations or regions access dashboards and reports?
- Is [VENDOR NAME] able to automate reports?
- Can reports be automated and sent to field locations?
- Does the UI allow for customizable KPIs?
- What metrics for local search optimization does [VENDOR NAME] show in reporting?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] report on citation accuracy?
- What type of reporting for social media does [VENDOR NAME] offer?
- How does [VENDOR NAME] reporting integrate with existing reporting we may use?
- From what other tools (Web analytics, CRMs, etc.) can [VENDOR NAME] import reporting metrics?
- Can we include our own website analytics code on [VENDOR NAME]'s pages?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] import local relevant data into its interface from our website analytics provider?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] reporting break down easily to view results by location, region, or brand?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] offer customizable reports for individual users? How are those reports configured?
- What is [VENDOR NAME]'s point of view as it relates to call tracking and local search optimization?
Workflow and Moderation
- Does [VENDOR NAME] provide various permission levels for different users to login (Corporate, Regional, Divisional, Local)?
- Can we add our own user accounts?
- Are customizable configurations available for each user? How are the configurations created?
- Does [VENDOR NAME]'s platform allow for multiple divisions of a brand to log in into the system? Can we segment what each division sees?
- What workflow management and moderation tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer?
- How do we approve content updates from regional or local users?
- What tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer to encourage locations to update their pages?
- Please describe how [VENDOR NAME]'s platform enables compliance for any industry regulations with which you must comply (examples include FINRA, SEC, SOC-2, HIPPA, IROC, FSA, etc.).
- What tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer to enable brand guideline compliance?
- Describe the security protocols in place to ensure all confidential data is being protected.
- Can [VENDOR NAME] provide results from Intrusion Detection System (IDS) monitoring from the past 90 days?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] provide a copy of a penetration test and vulnerability assessment of systems that process, store, or transmit our data that was conducted by a disinterested third party in the past 12 months?
- Who hosts the pages? (e.g. Vendor provides server)
- Please describe [VENDOR NAME]'s hosting infrastructure.
- What data redundancy does [VENDOR NAME] have in place?
- What has been the uptime for [VENDOR NAME]'s CMS for the past 24 months?
- What has been the uptime for the location pages [VENDOR NAME]'s platform powers for the past 24 months?
- What service level agreements (SLAs) come with the platform?
- Which platforms and technologies does [VENDOR NAME] currently interface with through an API?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] have an API we can connect with? If yes, please provide documentation.
- What features are we able to manage via API?
- What security and protection does [VENDOR NAME]'s API have?
- Can we integrate our proprietary forms onto the location and directory pages? What about forms from Salesforce or other customer relationship management (CRM) platforms?
- Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s onboarding process.
- What can you tell me about the service side of [VENDOR NAME]'s platform?
- How is the team that will be working with us structured?
- Do we have a dedicated account manager?
- Do you have SLAs in place for response times of reported issues?
- How would we report issues at corporate? What about individual locations?
- What are all the different ways we can interact with [VENDOR NAME]'s support team?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] offer a custom service package?
- Would we be responsible for resolving location issues or does [VENDOR NAME]'s team handle them?
- Does the location page solution have social components included?
- What is the philosophy of [VENDOR NAME] as it relates to promoting local social network accounts vs. corporate ones?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] provide social monitoring for locations?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] have a social publishing platform for locations?
- Are there tools in place to ensure brand and regulatory compliance when publishing to social platforms?
- Can [VENDOR NAME] provide us with posting moderation?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] offer integration with Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Google+?
- Describe the integration [VENDOR NAME] provides with each. Is [VENDOR NAME] able to update pages? Post to news streams? Reply to comments from a location's network?
- Can I create location-specific posts for my social networks?
- Are there tools to localize content being published?
- Do I need to set up the social media profiles for each location or will [VENDOR NAME]?
- Can you create or claim social media accounts on behalf of our locations?
- What if I don't want to have individual social media profiles for each of my locations?
- Does [VENDOR NAME] have a way to generate reviews? If yes, please describe the technology powering reviews.
- Do reviews get published on our local pages or on other review sites?
- What review sites does [VENDOR NAME] recommend we focus on?
- What tools exist that enable me to monitor and respond to reviews?