How healthy is your location data?

This is the time of year when my industry colleagues make bold predictions about trends affecting local marketing in 2016. But I’m more concerned about a question you should be asking right now: how healthy is your location data?

I doubt that many brands spend much time thinking about data health. It’s not the sexiest topic in our industry, and its importance is vastly underestimated. Many companies I talk with assume that data health means checking their local listings perhaps once a year to make sure their name, address, and phone numbers are accurate. They also think healthy data does nothing more than protect and control their storefronts.

But having healthy data is much bigger than data accuracy, and data health is synonymous with having effective marketing, period. 

In 2015, we saw some brands make some important strides with their location marketing, especially with the use of contextual content to create customers. For instance, during Advertising Week in Manhattan, Dunkin’ Donuts served up contextual content through a ‘Find the fastest coffee’ ad, which contained the information about distances and wait times for nearby Dunkin’ Donuts locations. 

find-fastest-coffee

The use of contextual content made headlines and attracted customers. But for the contextual content to draw pedestrians to its storefronts, Dunkin’ Donuts needed to crunch two types of location data: 

  • The walk times to Dunkin’ Donuts locations near Times Square
  • The wait times in each. 

Inaccurate data would undermine the contextual content and create a negative customer experience.

Businesses that treat location data as a valuable marketing asset, as Dunkin’ Donuts has been doing, will build their brands, not just protect them. Doing so starts with having strong data health, which I define as accurate data with strong reach. 

The road to healthy location data

Having healthy location data means, in part, establishing a findable identity with accurate location data, such as correct name, address, and phone number (NAP) information published on your local listing.

But for your data to be healthy, you need to distribute it properly across your ecosystem where your potential customers are making “I want to go” and “I want to buy” decisions. Those micro-moments of discovery are occurring everywhere, ranging from voice searches done on Apple Watches to in-car navigation systems. 

And consider the reality that publishers are pushing search results to consumers before people even conduct searches. For instance, Apple Spotlight search now populates ‘near me’ categories (such as places to eat) on an iPhone to anticipate searches that Apple believes you are going to make depending on the time of day.

The key to being found during those near me moments is to make sure your data is shared across the ecosystem where those near me searches happen – or making data accessible.

Making your data accessible is not a paid inclusion play with Tier Two search engines. Data accessibility means sharing your data with the most influential aggregators such as Neustar Localeze and publishers such as Facebook.

When you make accurate data accessible, you make location marketing more valuable. According to proprietary research conducted by my company, SIM Partners, brands that increased their data health score by 20%, in support of their listing management efforts, saw traffic to their location pages increase up to 450% and on-page action conversion rates increase by 216%.

  • I recommend that enterprises assess the health of your data on a monthly basis along two dimensions: 
  • Local listings: how accurate and complete is the data on your local listings? Have you accounted for any seasonal changes (such as holiday store hours) or developments in your business, such as the opening of new locations? 

Your ecosystem: how well are you sharing accurate location data with the data amplifiers such as Apple, Facebook, Factual, Foursquare, and Google, which ensure that customers can find your brand across the digital world? Are you regularly updating data amplifiers with changes to your local listings? 

Monitoring your data health will also identify steps you need to take in order to respond to changes that occur constantly with your brand and ecosystem.

For instance, as noted, your business might create new local listings to account for the opening of new storefronts, or Google might update an algorithm. For a business with thousands of locations, those types of changes can occur frequently.

So how healthy is your location data? If you don’t know the answer, you are missing an enormous opportunity to create customers through location marketing.   

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