Why Local Businesses Should Be Like The Jerk

“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” Steve Martin’s character in the movie The Jerk is ecstatic. He rifles through the pages and finds his name. “I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday!” He knows the importance of being listed. “This is the kind of spontaneous publicity—your name […]

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“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!” Steve Martin’s character in the movie The Jerk is ecstatic. He rifles through the pages and finds his name. “I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday!” He knows the importance of being listed. “This is the kind of spontaneous publicity—your name in print—that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.”

Businesses feel the same way. They are excited to see their name first appear in the phone book. And the emotion would certainly be stronger if their business was not there. Businesses have a vested interest in helping customers find them. They know the importance of being listed.

The Jerk had it easy. The phone book was it. But his words ring true today. Now businesses face the challenge of myriad local sites featuring listings that range from simple names and addresses to extensive profile pages.


Businesses want to ensure that they are listed, but how do they search for sites where they do not appear? That is like asking everyone not present to raise their hand. Small businesses are busy enough just running their stores. And yet, as businesses of all sizes become ever more aware of and savvy about the importance of the Web for local search, they are dedicating themselves to just such a task.

Open List recently enabled merchants and consumers to submit additions and corrections to our sites, and the results have been exciting.

First, the initial submission came in within minutes of the link going live. Minutes. Are local businesses interested in participating in the local Internet? Clearly. That initial submission was the first snowflake of an ensuing avalanche. The majority of submissions are coming in from business owners—they want to be listed. They are motivated. And this growing imperative of participating in local information sites also bodes well for strong growth in local online advertising as businesses deepen their engagement on the Web.

Second, most of the submissions add businesses to the collection. Allowing business to participate is a highly effective way to keep the data set not only comprehensive, but current. The next largest set of submissions provides additional information about listed businesses—hours, parking, wheelchair access, etc. Here both businesses and consumers are avidly submitting information. And the remaining submissions contain corrections to data and alerts that businesses have closed.

As I have discussed elsewhere, data perfection is a myth and an opportunity. The business landscape changes far too quickly to allow a data set to be perfect, but the opportunity this affords is to engage the community of business owners and consumers to provide up-to-date information. We are seeing this in action. The financial motivations of businesses and the altruistic motivations of consumers have created a strong desire to participate. Phone books were updated once a year. Local sites can be updated constantly.

The Jerk knew the importance of being listed in the phone book. Local businesses know the importance of being listed on local search sites. As each business joins the local conversation, may they experience the joy of the Jerk.

Chris Linnett is director of Open List for Marchex, where he blogs regularly about all things local at LocalPoint, in addition to his regular column for Search Engine Land. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.


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Chris Linnett
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