I deal with thousands of local listings a month and many of the problems mentioned in the earlier articles. Here are my thoughts on improving the overall experience for local busines owners and searchers:
- Serve multiple cities - Some companies create fake listings and fake addresses because they can only appear in the city their address is in. Google Maps filters by city to ensure the integrity and relevance of the results. Here are some possible solutions:
- Take into account if other cities are mentioned in the web references to the business.
- Add a “Cities Serviced” field to enable local businesses to add, for instance, surrounding cities.
- Make user and search-engine friendly permalinks so that people can link to the listings, and take into account the anchor text of the link.
- Facilitate listing adoption – Business owners who find the internet difficult typically don’t have websites and don’t know they can adopt their listings. We as internet marketers, search enthusiast, and search engines have to accept this. Yes, we as searchers may not find that very obscure perfect result for “Coffee Shop with Wifi Open After 10 that is dog friendly in Mountain View, CA” but we will not be susceptible to searches full of spam as we are today. A “Report Spam” button would be great, but all searchers aren’t as good samaritans and will most likely rephrase the search, or simply go to Yahoo!. So what is the solution? Be more open, as Android and Open Social are. Create an API where authorized agencies and/or companies can manage the listings for the plumbers and locksmiths of the world. The companies that will most likely be the first on board with this are yellow page and newspaper companies and they will probably charge a small fee.
- Make management of multiple locations easier – I recently spoke at SMX Local and ran into an attendee who was an in house SEO and managed the online marketing for several hundred hotels. She was surprised that even though she used the Local Business Center’s (LBC) bulk upload she was still vulnerable to her listing being taken over. I explained to her she still needs to verify them manually in the UI and confirm by phone or postcard. Why was she confused? Here is what the LBC says about bulk uploads:“If your business has many locations, you can add or change the listings for all of them at once by submitting the information in a spreadsheet. This is called a “feed.”This gives someone the impression that the bulk upload will be enough to avoid listings being taken over, and it won’t. So what is the solution? This one is tricky and might require they just use the phone verification method or adopt the earlier solution I presented that being going through an Authorized Listing Manager.
As Google Maps evolves, it may want to consider adding these, or similar features, to ensure all local businesses are accurately represented.
Stephen Espinosa is a Local Search Expert and the world’s biggest Chicago White Sox fan. He writes regularly at www.StephenEspinosa.com. He and his dog Carl live in Winchester, CA with his wife Stephanie. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.