Companies that want to be easily found online when prospects are ready to buy put an enormous amount of trust into publishers and publisher networks to disseminate accurate information about their business across a variety of sources. In order to justify this trust, publishers need to invest in up-to-date data that will translate into accurate, search engine-optimized business listings. We asked our resident expert, Doug Parsonage, Vice President, Data Licensing, how publishers can build trust and meet their customers’ needs.
A longtime Data Axle Veteran, Doug Parsonage has been helping licensing clients exceed their business goals for the last 30 years. Doug is skilled in customizing solutions to best fit the needs of his clients, developing and managing client relationships, and growing key strategic partnerships. His passion is helping clients in the local search, navigation, local listings management, insurtech/fintech, and direct marketing industries. Doug holds a BA in English from Miami University, and in his free time you can find him cheering on the Nebraska football and volleyball teams, listening to the newest indie rock artist, and spending time with friends and family.
Trust is critical to both sides of the local search equation. Consumers make buying decisions based on the information they see online while publishers are largely in control of that information. They have the power when it comes to:
1. Which listings get published
2. Where those listings are shown on the page
Publishers today have the benefit of access to a LOT of data about local businesses from a multitude of sources. But what is a publisher to do when these data sources disagree about the details (company name, address, phone, website, hours, etc.) related to a local business? They have to make decisions based on what data (and data sources) they trust the most. These decisions are not taken lightly because they ultimately impact the customer experience – which gets us to the other side of the equation.
Considering the megaphone that is social media, delivering a good experience to the consumer is more important than ever before. Earn a consumer’s trust, and they will evangelize on your behalf. Lose their trust, and they’ll vocally move on to another provider.
Data quality is paramount and, as many companies know first-hand, the cost of bad data is considerable. Not only does inaccurate data impact the likelihood of the consumer using the directory again, it also impacts how the consumer perceives the company they were trying to find and patronize. In a recent report by BrightLocal (aptly titled Local Citations Trust Report), 80% of the people in their consumer panel said they lose trust in the business when they encounter inaccurate location details online.1 Furthermore, 68% of these same consumers indicated they would stop using that business in the future based on the inaccurate information they were given and the subsequent poor user experience.2
Information about local businesses changes frequently, and this is only heightened in our current environment. For example, operating hours have been changing much more often as businesses continue to adjust to the impact of COVID-19. Some have modified their operations to offer special hours for seniors. Others have expanded drive through support and restricted in-store hours. Additionally, businesses are shutting their doors at a higher rate today as a result of current economic conditions. All of these changes present a data quality challenge for publishers if they don’t have the means to identify or manage them. To meet this challenge, publishers should work with local business listings providers that have exhaustive processes to detect any changes, validate them, and update their data to reflect them in real-time.
When businesses take an active role in managing their own listings, they improve their online visibility. This goes back to that word “trust”. Search engines and directories are looking for signals that will allow them to trust one listing over another. The companies that keep their listings accurate and up-to-date within key local search channels are creating consistency about key business details (company name, address, phone, website, etc.). This consistency of data is a key signal that publishers take into consideration when determining where to rank a particular business location in their search results.
Yes, making sure your business listing is rich in details is important for two reasons. First, the “completeness” of a listing is yet another ranking signal that publishers pay attention to. Think of it in terms of a bank considering offering you a loan. If you have a “thin” credit file, you are a riskier bet and are less likely to get a loan than if you have lots of (good) credit history. The same thing is true with local business listings. A listing with lots of information (operating hours, photos, business description, payment types accepted, social media links, etc.) will be trusted more by the publisher than a sparsely populated one. Secondly, as consumers perform more and more discovery searches or “unbranded” searches (Ex: “Coffee near me” vs. “Starbucks near me”), having rich information about your location is critical. If all things are equal in terms of ratings and proximity to a consumer’s location, being able to see a nice picture of the business, knowing they are currently open, and that they accept Discover (vs. nothing more than a name and address), will steer their decision.
The simple answer is that you want your company to be represented wherever a consumer may search. This means you want distribution to a broad set of local search directories. It also means having your listings distributed to alternative “publishers” – such as in-vehicle navigation systems or voice assistants. While lots of companies think about listings management from a local SEO perspective, the reality is their overarching goal is to convert a prospect to a paying customer – no matter the channel. It is just as important to show up in the car, for example, as it is to show up in an online directory – especially considering buying intent is significantly higher when a consumer is on the go.