Most local businesses, whether individually owned and operated or a national brand, now recognize that business listings are an important piece of the pie for a local online presence and crucial in helping reach customers and deliver sales.
This is largely due to the prominence local search platforms give business listings as more consumers are searching locally via Web, mobile, and social networks. And, as more consumers are searching on various platforms for local products and services, businesses have realized that their "anchor identity" listings information -- name, address, and phone -- is often inaccurate or inconsistent across local search sites and doesn't feature important enhanced and descriptive business details to help improve SEO visibility.
What's a Business to do?
There is no shortage of tools in the market that allow businesses to create a local online identity. Most of the major local search platforms, vertical sites, and directories offer links/portals where businesses can submit local business listings information for a variety of applications.
However, many of these properties are unable to verify that the "editor" of the information is an authorized representative of the business and don't provide guidance and best practices for optimizing the performance of listings across the entire local search landscape.
Business Listings Management: Internal vs. External
There are two schools of thought driving the business listings market as it relates to content quality, accuracy, and consistency.
One side believes it's best for listings providers to control the listings themselves by building a wall around them and using internal methods to determine that the information is correct. Their presumption is that businesses don't know how to efficiently update listing information and that it's impossible to verify authors in a scalable way.
The other side is best described as a "tear down the walls" free market approach called "Business Listings Identity Management." This school of thought is based on the idea that a business listings provider shouldn't assert complete control of local business listings information. Rather, the business is the ultimate authority of its anchor identity and knows their business and local market better than anyone else and is best suited to enhance listings with hours of operation, products, services, specials, coupons, photos, and other information.
Rigorous measures need to be taken to ensure the editor of the information is verified and properly counseled on best practices for updating content. A continuous dialogue should be created to re-verify the editor and make certain that listings content remains updated and accurate.
The goal of this approach is to become as transparent as possible, offering an authoritative and straight path between a local business and the search market -- providing a place where a business can take ultimate control of its anchor and enhanced identity with the end result propagated consistently and accurately online everywhere. This allows businesses that are verified and validated on an ongoing basis to claim their identity, resolve obvious conflicts, and enter into an ongoing dialogue with the local search market via their business listings -- in effect creating an environment where information can be trusted and presented to consumers with confidence by local search platforms.
To be successful, local business listings providers need to offer authoritative listings identity management best practices and processes to businesses for updating and managing online listings.
Verified, Educated Business Representatives are the Ultimate Listings Authority
For many local businesses, online marketing isn't their expertise. And even with good intentions, they can inadvertently create inconsistent versions of their local listings identity.
Working with authorized businesses representatives consultatively and continuously to update and enhance content adds a level of governance to the business listings identity management process, guaranteeing that the content is created in a consistent and optimized manner to perform best across local search engines.
Walls that control local listings information should be torn down to benefit local businesses and local search platforms. Businesses are the ultimate authority for managing local search business listings, provided the manager of the listing is validated, authorized, and actively engaged through the process with best practices.
Join us for SES San Francisco August 16-20, 2010 during ClickZ's Connected Marketing Week. The festival is packed with sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, ad networks and exchanges, e-mail marketing, the real time web, local search, mobile, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an expo floor with 100+ companies, networking events, parties and more!