The business listing landscape is noisier than ever today because of the many local business content available online via search, social, and mobile channels. In addition, consumer local search activity is skyrocketing. According to Google and Microsoft, recent studies show that nearly 20% of searches are local (also reported by Google), and 40-50% of mobile searches are local.
With the added pressure to increase visibility online, business owners are being tempted in various ways to boost their local search presence via advertising vehicles that can water down their core anchor identities–i.e., their business listings. In some cases, advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities can tamper with a business’s online identity, unbeknownst to the business owner.
What is an anchor identity
A business’s anchor identity is its online local search business listing, primarily consisting of its name, address, and phone number–its NAP information. Think of your anchor identity as your digital storefront or the glue that holds your online reputation together and ensures that customers can find you online when they want to call or visit your business to make a purchase.
Why are business listings important
Business listings maintain the consistency of information about your business on the Web, breaking through the noise of online advertising, reviews, social media check-ins, etc. Also, most local search engines crawl listings to determine relevance and ranking.
Since online business listings are the starting point for consumer buying research, business owners must closely monitor their NAP information’s accuracy and consistency.
Listings are sometimes created with or without a business owner’s knowledge by sites that pull advertising details from various sources that do not always include correct NAP details. Business owners, therefore, need to take control of their listings now.
Don’t alter your business name
It is essential to keep your NAP information consistent and accurate throughout your business listing and to ensure it represents your true identity. If your business name is changed in a local listing for marketing purposes even one time, multiple identities may be created online for your business.
That can seriously hurt your online visibility because search engines develop their search result rankings based on their confidence in your business listing. If inaccuracies are found within your listing’s core details, your listing could be pushed further down the results page, and your customers or prospects might be more inclined to visit a competitor that appears higher.
For example, if you own a bar called Joe’s Bar (and your patrons know you as a bar) and you begin selling pizza, do not change your business name online to appear as a pizzeria (e.g., Joe’s Bar and Pizzeria). That may create multiple identities, pushing your listing down in search results. Not to mention that your loyal customer base might be unable to find you when conducting a local search for your known business name.
To promote an emerging pizza product, purchase a (temporary) paid search advertisement separate from your business listing. Search engines will not crawl that paid listing or keyword placement, so it won’t negatively affect the visibility of your organic business listing.
Maintain your brick-and-mortar address
Always include your physical address within your business listing, and avoid post office box addresses when possible. Also, don’t ever change your business address to appear local in a location where you do not have a physical presence.
Use your primary phone number
Pay-per-call phone numbers are great for advertising purposes but not for local search business listings. Maintaining a consistent phone number signals that your business listing information is reliable and gives you a better chance to rank high on search engines, directories, and social media sites. It also enables search platforms to aggregate more descriptive content about your business, which ultimately helps consumers choose your company.
Don’t include short-term promotions
Be careful of tagging short-term content, such as seasonal products, within your business listing. Instead, limit your listing to core business information. Treat the range in your listing as if it were painted information on your store window. Remember, the echo of the Web is more permanent than a billboard or direct mail piece.
Preserve your anchor identity for mobile searches
The sanctity of business listings is growing more critical with the explosion of GPS-enabled mobile devices and on-the-go searching. With local searches increasing, business owners must claim, manage, and monitor their online local search business listings across many platforms and keep advertising mechanisms separate.