With news that Apple is entering the local search maps market with iOS 6, there’s increased attention on how and why marketers need to focus on the management of local search business listings for better online brand visibility across major search engines and social sites. This includes Google, Bing, Facebook, and now Apple.
According to the Local Search Usage Study conducted by comScore, business listings are the most trusted search results for consumers, over sponsored and paid search listings. Therefore it’s imperative that brands have an ongoing local search strategy, due to the growing complexity of the search landscape. This strategy must include keeping their core identity—name, address, and phone number (NAP)—for their business locations up-to-date and accurate.
Marketers can start by following a few tips: First, when submitting online business listings to local search and social sites, do not deviate from core (or NAP) details. Otherwise, inconsistent versions of a store or another business location could permeate the local search ecosystem. These conflicting listings make it challenging for local search platforms to verify the true identity of a local business and in turn make it difficult for customers to find the information they need. This not only includes a phone number and address, but social content (e.g., Yelp reviews, Foursquare check-ins) that tethers a local search business listing.
Second, remember that paid search results do not supersede or replace local search results. Even if a major brand has a paid search campaign (including sponsored search results and display advertising), marketers need to treat local search results separately.
Third, once online business listings are updated and consistent across local search, marketers should continue to manage and monitor them and make changes when a location moves, closes, or opens. Listings need to be continually reverified by an authorized individual, so that local and social sites have a high level of confidence in the listing, which can lead to higher placement in search results.
Managing online business listings requires a long-term, strategic marketing strategy for maintaining information across many local search platforms. Brands need to take a strategic approach and remember that submitting content once, and only in one or two places, isn’t enough.