Many new developments emerged to impact local SEO in the first half of 2014 alone, many courtesy of Google. Google began supporting new schema for multiple business phone numbers, for example, enabling organizations to define specific phone numbers for departments or multiple locations. Google recommends location pages contain this and other schema for hours of operation, address and other information.
Google also released bulk listing management for Google+ in 2014, huge news for multi-location brands that can now more easily automate efforts to keep location listings fresh. Google also removed authorship photos from SERPs, launched Google My Business, made review snippets more prominent in Knowledge Panel and allowed descriptors in Google+ business listing names all in the first half of 2014.
This pace of change is nothing new to local SEO pros. Last year, Google Carousel launched, Foursquare became a key data source, and Google Maps got a huge overhaul. Google released its Hummingbird algorithm update, and Knowledge Panels became ubiquitous. Even Facebook got in on the local search action, launching Graph Search.
Looking back further than 2013, other major developments in local SEO included adoption of the Schema.org microdata format, Google expressing its preference for responsive design over mobile websites, iOS defaulting to Apple Maps, and the launch of Twitter Cards.
Listing Management Remains Fundamental
Despite the rapid pace and extensive nature of this evolution, the importance of effectively managing business listings never wavered. Listing management has been and continues to be the required foundation for a successful Local SEO program, and the most important components of effective listing management have largely remained constant in recent years.
All listings should include clean and accurate data. This includes the basics: business name, address and phone number (i.e. NAP), but local listings should be as robust as possible, also including product descriptions, categories, services provided, hours of operation, coupons, photos and payments accepted.
Other factors to consider are your naming conventions and the “Parent / Child Relationship” if / when applicable. The “Parent / Child Relationship” could be applicable when you have a retail bank and a mortgage consultant within that branch for example.
Listings data should be distributed widely. Once you have clean and accurate data, your listings should be distributed to major search engines, IYPs, directories and social media networks. You must also distribute data to all of these aggregators: Acxiom, Neustar (i.e. Localeze), Factual & Infogroup. Unless you push data to the entire ecosystem, bad data will continue to rear its head and contaminate otherwise healthy and accurate listings.
4 Considerations of a Listing Management Strategy
Consider four major factors when creating your listing management strategy:
- How frequently to push your data to the ecosystem: in most instances, the more often the better; listings data should be distributed at least once or twice each month.
- How to ensure data consistency across all channels so search engines will index your listings properly: put a system in place to ensure Google and other search engines properly index your locations and lessen the odds they’ll pull incorrect data for any of them.
- Identify and suppress duplicate listings: automation technologies can help.
- Monitor and report on the accuracy of the data being distributed: this helps to gauge overall performance and identify specific location-level problems.
Listing Management Trumps All Local SEO Efforts
Listing management provides the basic foundational “blocking & tackling” brands should master prior to implementing a more robust local SEO program that can include:
- Other forms of SEO.
- Local landing pages (location pages).
- Reputation management.
- HyperLocal paid search and paid social, leveraging bid management technology.
- Detailed reporting and tracking, down to the location level.
If you don't have a solid foundation for listing management, it will have a negative impact on your overall local SEO program. When implemented correctly, a local SEO program can generate great results for the educated marketer, but effective listing management trumps all other local SEO efforts as the right place to start.