Getting your business listed consistently online can be considered one of top local search ranking factors, and is a critical marketing tool. Google My Business has gained importance at the expense of other variables. However, listings management remains a crucial local marketing tool.
Greg Sterling, Uberall VP of Market Insights, walked us through findings from Uberall’s large study of the impact of listings management on more than 100,000 business locations in the US and Europe. This study gives businesses the data they need to succeed in a 2021 environment. Boostability’s SEO Manager Maja Teagle then walked us through how local listings management can benefit your SEO strategy.
Watch our full Search Sessions here or read on for some key takeaways:
Local Business Still Matters
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen a significant rise in e-commerce. But despite the rise in online shopping, consumers are still buying local products from businesses in their area. In 2020, Google’s “near-me” business search queries didn’t disappear. People are still very much looking to support small businesses and focus on their local market. Searches like “curbside pick-up,” “where to buy + near me,” and “what’s open near me” saw an increase.
Importance of Business Listings
Managing business listings across a broad network of local directories has been a foundational local SEO tactic. NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency was relied upon by Google to verify the existence and legitimacy of local businesses. Therefore, listings management is very important.
With such a large ecosystem of online listings and directories, historically there has been a convoluted data exchange system behind the scenes. Business listings consistency has been an issue. It really required active management from a business to ensure their information was accurate.
When consumers land on consumer sites, directories and apps, you want business information to be accurate and complete. If you weren’t actively managing your business data, you could be sure that it was being managed for you by aggregators and other third parties. The bottom line: you want your customers to see consistent information, you want them to have a uniform experience.
So what has changed? Google has increasingly emphasized direct data collection from businesses through Google My Business. Many of the third party sites have declined in consumer traffic and visibility. In 2020, Whitespark did a study that noted a decline in citations (third party mentions of a business) importance. In roughly six or seven years, the perceived importance of citations has declined from the number one ranking factor to the sixth. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have relevance!
Do Local Citations Matter Anymore?
Many local SEO professionals may argue that listings management no longer holds importance now that Google puts such an emphasis on Google My Business. Google gives specific advice on what you can do to improve your search visibility. Complete your GMB profile, have accurate business information, engage in reviews management, and add photos. Focus on relevance, distance/proximity, prominence. “Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories”. Google says they still care about listings and citations across the internet.
So, how important are local citations? Uberall did a study to find an answer. Many agree there’s importance to having a presence on the big listings (Google, Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps, Bing) as well as verticals for industry sites for travel, restaurants, real estate, health care, etc. But what about companies that are capturing local data?
Uberall Listings Management Study
The central question in Uberall’s study isn’t should I list on these big directories. The question is, do listings consistency and long-tail distribution matter. And, what is the impact on local search visibility and consumer engagement?
Uberall examined 115,000 enterprise and SMB locations in the US and Europe. They wanted to determine the impact of extended directory distribution on local search and Google Maps visibility, consumer engagement (calls, clicks, directions). The data was collected from January 2019 to October 2020. They created a control group that featured inclusion in GMB, Facebook, Apple Maps, and Bing. The experimental group featured extended distribution (varied by market). Roughly 70 directories were included in the study across US and Europe.
Key Study Findings (US Data)
Increased visibility, more engagement.
- Listings distributed on ten or more sites saw an average of 80% improved local visibility on Google.
- An average of 67% improvement in consumer actions for businesses listened on ten or more directories.
- When distribution extended to 30 or more directories, user actions increased by more than 136%.
- Profile completeness also boosted visibility and resulted in a 69% increase in website clicks. Impact of 90% (or higher) profile completeness on GMB engagement metrics (directions, calls, clicks). Data show increases in all GMB actions for both the EU and the US.
Third party directories are helping give credibility and visibility to the business listings. As you expand your distribution further to a broader network, you will see a corresponding benefit with branded and unbranded search. Improving online brand visibility and consistency with your business listings can increase clicks/calls, revenue, ROI (see below).
Even as people are talking about the boom of e-commerce, consumers are engaged at the local level more than ever. Although listings consistency isn’t the top ranking factor, Google still values third-party citations. Active listings management across a network produces a double-digit lift in search visibility and consumer engagement. These visibility gains translate directly into revenue.
Local Listings Management = Better Local SEO
Proximity-searches, or “near me” searches, have become more prominent with the increased use of mobile devices and information being readily accessible right from a smartphone. Uberall did a study on local search and found that 82% of people use their phones to conduct “near me” searches. With that high of a demand, it’s clear that local SEO is necessary for local businesses to stay relevant and competitive in their industries. And to capture customers in the area that are looking for them.
Local Listings Improve E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)
Your listings provide accurate & consistent information about your business across all listings that are generated and managed through that software, and in turn boosts your E-A-T. This includes information like NAP among other valuable information like hours of operation, link to the website, accessibility information, specific services or products offered, and much more.
Local businesses need to meet the standards for E-A-T and must provide a seamless user experience because if not, this translates to search engines that your website is not trustworthy and it’s of a lower quality compared to local competitors. And in that case, your website will be pushed farther down in the search engine results pages and competitors will outrank you.
Local Listings Improves Customer Experience
Listings that are optimized, accurate, and consistent help improve the customer or user experience which is another factor that is heavily tied to the success of an SEO campaign, regardless of whether it’s local or national. Your existing and prospective customers should be able to find information about your business as quickly and as easily as possible. And having an updated listing will give people that information upfront and in one place so they’re not hunting for it.
Local Listings Help Generate Reviews
Online reviews are the second most important ranking factor for increasing your positioning in the local map pack. Local listings can also provide local businesses the opportunity to acquire customer reviews that they can observe and engage with. This is where Prominence comes into play. It’s a category of the local search ranking guidelines. And prominence can help you increase your rankings in map packs and organic local search.
Obtaining as many authentic positive reviews is the goal and it improves a business’s reputation which does increase trust with prospective customers and search engines, resulting in a higher rank. But there can also be a silver lining with negative reviews that are genuine. This gives business owners the opportunity to respond to the negative reviews and rectify the issue, and restore that trust with both the customer and search engines.
Overall, a local listings management software is an extremely useful tool to incorporate into your local SEO campaign. It simplifies and makes it more efficient to keep your business’s information up-to-date and consistent across all of your listings online. And this is absolutely essential to succeed in the local search landscape.