Last month, I discussed the prevailing problem of small business owners whose contact details appear inconsistently across multiple local directories and search sites.
When a barbershop can’t be found at the address that appears on Google because the owner changed locations and forgot to update his online profile(s), everybody loses – from the business owner to the search engines and most of all, the frustrated consumer who ends up at the wrong address.
In this post, I will describe a few of the available solutions to this problem. As with most marketing tasks, a business owner can either do it herself or outsource it to someone else.
Doing it yourself is pretty straightforward: just access the easy-to-use dashboards on the relevant local search sites and directories and update your details there.
Check out Google’s user-friendly LBC interface below:
Sounds pretty simple, right? It is, just make sure you don’t forget to claim and update your profile on Yahoo, Bing, Yellowpages.com, Superpages, Yellowbook, RHD, Citysearch, Local.com, Yelp and dozens of other local directories, not to mention the hyper-local city guides in your area and the leading industry specific sites (e.g. dentists.com, lawyers.com) relevant for your industry.
In other words, this task is about as easy for an average local business owner as filing an annual tax report is for me, and since failing to update your online profile is not a federal offence, most local business owners just don’t bother with it.
We see this daily on AmIVisible, where many business owners who look at their online presence report find mistakes in their contact details and express their frustration, asking us to fix the problem. And yet, when we explain to them how to make these corrections on the various local search sites and directories, most end up doing nothing…
With this in mind, I reached out to some of the leading companies in the space to see how they can help. The most relevant category are the data aggregators / providers; the companies that feed the base data on millions of businesses to the search engines and local directories. The leading data providers that feed millions of business records across multiple local search sites are InfoGroup, Acxiom and Localeze.
Localeze distributes 14 million business listings to 85+ local search platform partners. The company offers a service to SMBs that allows them to update their details across their network of sites. Gib Olander of Localeze adds: “Localeze provides businesses with the essential tools to navigate this issue, helping them verify, enhance and manage their identity of their local listings across the Web.” It’s worth noting that 500,000 businesses are already using Localeze’s solution to manage and update their business details.
Acxiom provides a similar service. According to Elaine Screnci from Acxiom, the company submits its small business database “directly to the largest search engines, to over 80 companies in the Internet Yellow Page and Local Search marketplace, and to 250+ Distribution Partners through online private labeled solutions”. Acxiom recently launched a new service called MyRepMan with partners that includes a ‘front-door’ approach to submission of merchant information to hundreds of sites including search engines, local search, social networking, regional and verticals.
UBL has taken a different approach. In addition to submitting its business listings directly to local search sites and directories, it also distributes its data through some of the other data providers, most notably infoUSA. Doyal Bryant of UBL explains: “By doing our ‘universal’ distribution method, we can be certain over time that the right listings will appear on over 250 search engines, online yellow pages, social networks, mobile phones, 411 directory assistance services and GPS navigation devices.”
While these services offer a convenient one stop shop for business owners, they usually cannot certify when exactly their network of local directories and search engines will integrate their updated data. It may take weeks or even months for some of the search sites to use the data they receive from these aggregators, and in some cases they may choose not to use it at all.
For example, Google receives data feeds from multiple providers as well as from the business owners themselves. Since it has to reconcile discrepancies in the different sources, it cannot guarantee the data providers if and when their updated listings will be used on the Google Maps search results.
For the business owner who wants immediate results without the hassle of manually updating each and every local search site, there is another group of companies that will update the search engines on your behalf.
For example, LocalSplash collects all pertinent information about a business by using a decidedly “old school” tactic; explains CEO Steve Yeich, “We actually talk to every one of our business customers to confirm the accuracy of their information. We store this data in a single database and then distribute the data directly to leading search engines like Google, as well as to leading online business directories.”
Finally, most internet-minded business owners work with one or more web specialists, whether it’s a rep from their IYP, CMR or just a local SEM / SEO shop. Many of these providers help in some way or form, by using the above data aggregators or by establishing direct relationships with the large local search sites and directories.
To sum, the problem of inconsistent contact details has many solutions, of which I’ve listed only a handful. Some of the solutions are highly useful and cost effective. However, for the majority of SMBs the problem will remain largely unsolved as long as:
- Most business owners will not take the time to update their contact details across dozens of sites, and
- Google and other directories will not accept updated contact details fully and immediately from anyone who is not the business owner himself (a Google executive reconfirmed this policy for this post.)
This situation assures that the internet will remain rife with inconsistent SMB contact details and that there will be plenty of opportunity for innovative companies to deal with the problem.
If you’ve had good or bad experience with the services described above or if your company has a solution that wasn’t featured in this post please add it as a comment below.
Disclaimer: Palore / AmIVisible maintains a business relationship with some of the providers mentioned in this post.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.