Home  › Marketing › Local

Information and Trust in Local Search

  |  June 4, 2009   |  Comments

Local business owners should claim and verify their local business listings in Google Maps. A new dashboard should make that easier to do.

Local search existed long before there was a World Wide Web. If people wanted to search for a local business, they would use the Yellow Pages, which have been around since the 1880s.

Most of us remember how ragged those thick books full of yellow newsprint got from being used so frequently. When a phone number, address, operating hours, or other factual information about a local vendor was needed, the Yellow Pages was usually the first (and sometimes only) place we looked.

Today, we're more likely to ask that the books not be left on our doorsteps. But not too long ago, there was no substitute for the business data compiled and organized in the Yellow Pages book and made accessible to all. We all conducted local searches in the Yellow Pages.

A Yellow Pages sales representative typically visited every business in his territory every year to advise business owners on their advertising, show them new features and opportunities, and personally take their orders for the upcoming book. The sales rep also tried to up-sell them so their ads would appear in a better position. Advertisers who spent the most money received larger ads and those larger ads were placed first in the category sections in which they appeared.

Each telephone number was associated with a business, confirming its existence and location. Just by subscribing to a business phone line, each business was given a basic listing in the Yellow Pages, so all legitimate enterprises appeared in the book in the most appropriate category for their goods or services. It was possible to pay to be in multiple categories and also in multiple books, representing other areas from which the business hoped to draw customers.

Advertisers were encouraged to publish only information that would be consistent for a full year. When a business moved or shut down, a call to the listed number would inform the caller that the number had been changed or disconnected.

Overall, the system was reliable, transparent, and ostensibly fair to all. Through popular usage for more than 120 years, this is what advertisers and customers came to expect of local search.

Living up to the heritage of providing searchable, reliable business information sorted in a logical way that is equitable for all advertisers is a continual struggle for online local search providers. Consumers need to feel that they can trust the business data they find on the Internet.

Most people find that information on Google, so they feel Google should provide reliable information. After all, no one wants to drive across town to visit a store they found on Google Maps only to discover that the business doesn't even exist in that location. This sometimes happens when a business owner tries to trick Maps into listing them closer to the top of a list of similar businesses for certain searches and, even though it often isn't the fault of Google Maps, it still gets the blame.

Businesses must have confidence in the listing process. Owners should be able to believe that if they play by the rules by claiming and verifying the information that Google displays about their enterprise, they won't be put at an unfair disadvantage by those who don't. Multiple listings and listings for locations that don't exist are rampant in Google Maps.

It's worse for some industries than others. Unscrupulous marketers often make it worse by trying to game the system and doing things just because loopholes exist.

Google Maps constantly works to improve the reliability of the information it displays. However, the task's enormity dictates that it be handled through algorithms rather than through human intervention. So, while the process is improving, it's difficult to get individual issues addressed.

One of the best things all local business owners can do is claim and verify their local business listing in Google Maps. Make certain information is accurate and up to date. This is the single most important thing you can do to establish trust in Google's eyes and get the right information before the eyes of potential customers.

Addendum: Google just announced a local dashboard for business owners who claim their local business listings on Google Maps. Go here for more information.

This reminds me of the Webmaster Tools rollout a few years ago. Google wanted something from Webmasters (information about who owned which Web sites) and offered them Webmaster Tools in exchange for that info. Now, Google wants and needs business owners to help clean up the business data on Google Maps, so it's offering the Local Dashboard in exchange for their assistance. If you haven't claimed your listing yet, here's yet another reason to do so.

Join us for a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you from May 5, 2009, to July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 16 events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!


Mary Bowling

Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.

Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?


    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...