Ever wonder why Emily's (the file clerk in the basement) phone rings off the hook? Is she really that popular? Upon closer examination, you realize her direct phone line is listed as the main sales line for your company on a number of local search sites. So in effect, those are your local search sales leads going out the window.
The culprit: incorrect listing information for your company has found its way into the local listing database of some data provider and is now spreading like wildfire from local search site to local search site.
Parallel problem: you go to a local search site and discover that a particular restaurant you just drove by doesn't exist, at least according to the online map site, even though the restaurant has been there for six months.
Welcome to the wonderful world of local listing data.
How Are Local Search Listings Updated?
The accuracy and relevance of local listing data has become a key issue across the Web. Because this data is collected from, distributed by, and distributed to multiple sources, it's difficult for businesses to correct bad listings -- or even display current listings.
Google's recent SERP (define) change to increase local search results to 10 displayed listings illustrates how important local listing information is to its users.
For the most part, local search sites that provide local listings purchase the data from third party database providers that source the information from -- wait for it -- printed yellow pages directories. There are three primary database providers of local listing information: InfoUSA, Localeze/Amacai, and Acxiom, all of which provide the various search engines, directories, and vertical sites with local listing data. Each has its own process for validating business listings, but none has cracked the code to provide a comprehensive and completely accurate list of businesses across the country.
You Can Lead a Horse to Water
Compounding the issue is how and when the local search sites utilize the information from these database providers. In some cases, even if you go through the process of advising each individual site of updates to your listing information, it may get over-written with the old incorrect data the next time the publisher applies the latest update from the database provider.
Be thorough and check often. If you're a business with one or two locations, the task is relatively easy; go to the major local search sites that cover your area and update or add the correct location information directly:
- Google Maps
- Yahoo Local
How to Update Local Listings for Large Enterprises, Small Businesses
If you're a larger regional or national advertiser, the solution is a little more complex due to the sheer number of locations that typically need to be updated and maintained on a regular basis. In these instances, advertisers and agencies can often provide this information directly to these sites in a trusted feed environment.
Google is the only major local search site that offers advertisers the ability to setup and submit bulk business listing feeds direct (and for free) via their Local Business Center Web site. All other local search sites require payment for bulk submissions or don't offer direct bulk feed capabilities at all.
In addition to the Google feed, there are also multiple product offerings in the marketplace today that will provide advertisers with a more comprehensive "one-stop shop" solution for their bulk business listing needs. Two such offerings can be found through Localeze or LocalLaunch.
On the other hand, if you're working with a search marketing agency, chances are good that a trusted feed (or multiple feeds) may already be established between your agency and some (if not all) of the major local search sites. In most cases, the actual creation, optimization, and submission of these feeds are offered as a turn-key solution can range in price from $30 to $40 per month per listing (and up), depending on the size and complexity of your business listing update needs.
Not all feeds are created equal, however. The best feeds are those that not only cover the major local search sites, but the larger database providers as well (as mentioned previously in this article).
Regardless of the solution you ultimately pursue for the development and ongoing maintenance of your local business listing information, monitor your listings on the major sites at least monthly to ensure the information being provided is both accurate and complete. Just like any optimization program, those who continue to update and optimize their listing information on a regular basis will achieve the best results over time.