Updated : Feb 2019
Is the accuracy and consistency of listings around the web a search engine ranking factor for competing local businesses? In this Local SEO guide, we will highlight the importance of accuracy and trust in promoting your local products and services online.
Common questions from local business owners: How can I improve my search ranking? What is local SEO marketing and its benefits?
But before you can become an effective marketer and go through an entire local SEO checklist, you should first become a customer. In other words, think like your typical target customer to have a better idea of what they are really looking for.
Have you ever tried using Google to find a product or service in your locality? Of course you did! Now was it a happy ending?
If yes, then you will probably use Google again right? If no, then this situation is one of Google's biggest fear.
Google is popular for a reason - and it is stated in their mission: our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. If you can incorporate this to your business strategies, then you are on the right track.
Now if you want to implement local search engine optimization and take advantage of the Google traffic to acquire leads and customers for your business, it is crucial to focus on accuracy and trust rating.
This is especially true for local small business owners who will eventually hire SEO firms and services to build online presence on their behalf. A good SEO agency should implement accuracy when establishing various web assets for local business clients.
Reflecting your business details as accurate as possible can help maximize the effectiveness of your online marketing strategy.
Trust and Accuracy as Part of Your Local SEO Checklist
It is All About Trust
It can be pretty obvious, even without a case study. If you are going to please Google, and if there's one word that you should always keep in mind, it is TRUST. This should also be a crucial part of your local SEO checklist, audit and strategy on the onset.
First of all, you need to show that you are a real business, with real business brand name and location. To back it up, a phone number and a website to serve as your ultimate calling card.
A fast-paced world, that's what it is. People are trained to get what they want with just a click of button!
To save time, cash, and energy, people like to go to the web and find solutions to their daily problems... solutions which mostly come in the form of local products and services. But what happens when a certain business has incorrect information on the web and people do not get the experience they are looking for?
What happens when customers personally go to the location of that business only to find out that they are told inaccurate information? Customers then start to lose trust not only on that business but also on the search engine they used... and Google takes that seriously. Losing trust from customers means losing reasons for customers to keep using Google as a search platform.
To keep up with the demands, Google uses additional business information such as business hours, location, and content information while also highlighting reviews. They provide a handful of information in their local search results using various features that enhance the experience of the users.
If they are not confident of the information available, they aren’t going to show it because if they do, there is a chance that information may appear inaccurate. When that happens, customers will fail to trust Google. That is why trust is a big word that Google takes seriously.
Accuracy of Existence Based on Locations
Let's focus on the importance of accuracy when it comes to your business location. For one, most local SEO experts treat each location as if it is a separate client due to various factors such as targeting and listing accuracy... and of course to keep each micro task or SEO tool organized.
If you have multiple locations, you need to deal with each of those locations separately. It would be best if you have a separate campaign for each. The more targeted your every move is, the better the outcome will be.
Logically, accuracy should come naturally for each location your business operates. This is one of the ways Google checks that you are what you say you are or if what you claim is true with regards to your location.
Notice how most Google My Business listings have to be verified via postal card (although in some special cases can be done via phone or via the official web properties you own).
There are various location targeting cases for local businesses online but yours can probably fall into these categories:
It is also important to clarify the type of business you are trying to present through your online marketing assets which include your website and any online listing you might build.
When developing a road map, it always starts with the identification of your specific goals and purposes.
Accurate Business Name, Address & Phone
Customers and leads are the lifeblood of any business while conversions rely heavily on the so called NAP (name, address, phone) details of your local business that you put on the web.
Your NAP can lead your business to two destinations.
If it’s accurate and consistent across the Internet, you can establish a bridge that will get customers to discover your business.
But, if there's no accuracy and consistency, what you build are barriers not opportunities.
Customer experience is always a factor to keep in mind. Most people today are in a search for quick, legitimate results. In running a business, being listed on the top three Google local maps results (or what we call the maps pack) is a priority.
This is where customers primarily make a decision. But what if you aren’t visible on the top three listings but your competitors are?
This is where you want to be but you are nowhere to be found. What should you do? This is where local SEO for small business websites comes into the picture.
What is local SEO and how to do it? Know more about the tips here.
Listing Accuracy - How is Trust Considered By Google?
Google’s method to determine if a local business search result is trustworthy or not is through its listing accuracy.
Your listing is what appears when people search for your business or businesses like yours on Google Search or Maps. Once you've set up your Google My Business page with all your business name, business hours, images, etc, your business should show up... at least ideally. But what if it doesn't? Maybe you should pay attention to your listing accuracy.
It can happen that your listing has several variations online, even without you knowing it. This inconsistency hinders your business from reaching that top three spot you're aiming for. These variations may take place in any of the NAP of your listings.
For some reason, your business may have inconsistencies with the information provided. For example, it may be a number added to an address that you don't want, or it may even be an outdated phone number.
One example of variation is when the name of your business has a different name on a website or directory that's not well-known. It may be the name of the former business that took place on the location where your current business is at. You may not worry about it assuming that people wouldn't really visit this website.
But for the sake of your business's reputation, it is something to worry about. No matter how slight the variations may seem, those still have considerable effects on Google’s trust in your business which then affects your customer acquisition.
Google Talks About Trust
It is ideal to establish a business website in which you can market however you like. But when considering trust, it is crucial to know all the foundation concepts in order to maximize results.
Here's a video of how Google considers Trust. It is a pretty old video and terms like "page rank" may now be a thing of the past. But focus on the foundation elements that he has mentioned here.
If you really want to get know about every little factors that they consider in evaluating a page, take the time to read this: Google Search Quality Guidelines. It's a 164-page document but here are 3 magic words: Expertise - Authority - TRUST.
Today's question comes from Canada. And the question is from JZ Becker who wants to know, “Can you talk a bit about ranking signals like trust? We hear these mentioned from time to time by Googlers but there's no official documentation available from Google on the topic.”
Great question. Trust is sort of a catch-all term that we use. So PageRank is the most well-known type of trust. It's looking at links and how important those links are. So if you have a lot of very high quality links, then you tend to earn a lot of trust with Google.
There's other signals. There's over 200 different signals that we use in our ranking. But you can kind of break them down into this notion of sort of trust and how well you match a particular query. So, how topical you are. What's your information retrieval score? Just on the merits of what the user typed in.
PageRank is one of these trust-type algorithms that's trying to figure out, we use several words, reputation, trust authority. And it's not that we have something specifically called trust rank, or we have something specifically called authority rank, or something like that. We're basically just trying to say, in the general scheme of things, how much reputation, or how much are we willing to believe that this is a high quality page, or a high quality site? Those sorts of things.
So in general, what you want to have is a very reputable site. But you also want to have a site that's about, or a page that's about the topic that the user typed in. So in an ideal world, you've got both. It's very high on the reputation scale, but it's also exactly what the user was looking for in terms of typing in and finding a match for what they were typing.
So we use a lot of different words like trust, reputation, authority. And PageRank is a specific example of those sorts of things. But we mean it in a more general sense. It's not, typically, a specific algorithm. It's just trying to figure out how much–if a regular user saw this, maybe without even seeing a query at all–how much would they consider it a high quality page? How much would they consider it really useful, as far as being able to answer whatever questions that particular site was about? Hope that helps.
So How Do Local SEO Agencies Maintain Accuracy for Your Business?
The Local Ecosystem of Your Website
Upon starting a Google My Business page, you directly provide information about your business. Some details can also come from the "Report a problem" option in Google Maps or Google Mapmaker. Aside from you, Google gets information from other sites about your business and its listing.
Additionally, Google gets business information from sites that give information directly to Google through feeds and platforms where data is accessible such as:
- Review sites
- News sites
- Government websites
- Phone directories
- Phone books
- Business directories
Every time information about your business is accurately mentioned on these platforms, the confidence that Google has regarding your own provided business information ascends, leading to higher positions in the most profitable parts of the search results. Any mention is commonly referred to as "Citations".
Citations simply means a mention of your business details, mainly your NAP across all business directory or yellow pages types of websites.
But if the information about your business has some misleading or confusing variations on the web, chances are that your business might not get enough of Google’s trust.
When these platforms mention one of your business's wrong variations, Google decreases its confidence in the information you provided. If there are numerous sources that show statements contradictory to the information on your Google My Business page, Google can oftentimes make the conclusion that these sources are more trustworthy than the information you directly provide. This may lead to misconceptions that will largely affect your search ranking.
What can you do about this?
Having a business at risk is problematic but in this case, it does not mean that a solution is entirely impossible. The first thing to consider is to make consistent what's inconsistent. Remember, consistency equates to trust in business dealings.
Make the move to find the sources that point people towards variations of your business. Fix the information that needs to be fixed so all sources lead to the singularity of your business. In this way, your business can go back on track in achieving Google’s trust.
For any local SEO firm, this process of scanning and checking for existing business listings is often referred to as citation audit.
How to Find NAP Variations
The easiest route to finding these variations of your business is to search on Google using your business name, address, phone or other details unique to your business. To maximize your searching efforts, also try a custom search and search operators to identify the different citations of your business info.
If you've already come across sites that display variations of your business, you may directly do a custom search, find all the sources that put up incorrect information, go to the website, and fix it.
There may be sites that you may be uncertain of, directories than you don't know, or variations that you're not already aware of. These cases do not allow you to search for them directly. What you can do best is to search for your phone number in different formats.
There are other tools that you may use. One useful resource is Whitespark's Local Citation Finder tool to find different citations for your business and (bonus) ... your competitors as well! And you're right! You can now reverse engineer!
But let's stick to the accuracy of your citations for now. Any effort to correct citations to make them more accurate and trustworthy is normally called a citation cleanup. This is what local SEO agencies normally offer as part of their on-boarding.
Local SEO Services for NAP inconsistencies
If you have a few hundred up to thousand incorrect citations, you probably can't fix NAP inconsistencies all by yourself.
They get and transfer information from one place to another. Going to one of these provide you a platform for your data correction.They can fix inaccurate information on your behalf.
Through these, you can earn your way to gaining Google’s confidence in your Google My Business. In return, Google itself may put your business in its search results.
Fixing and correcting your information is not a one-time process. Maintenance and consistency is the key. Instances of data corruption may also happen, because sites not only get data from a single provider, they also get information from each other.
You must revisit these sites from time to time, be watchful of data inaccuracies on Google manually or team up with the stated top-level data providers or local SEO agencies.
Other Local Search Ranking Factors You Should Know
Benefits of Local SEO - Why Go Through All the Trouble?
See for yourself.. Here's the 2017 ReviewTrackers Local Search Report ' s Summary.
What You Can Do:
Here's your AxiFic takeaway for this post!
- Get your Google My Business listing set up - Accurate and Complete!
- Find all the variations and inaccuracies in your data around the web
- Correct all data, and
- Work with a primary data provider to take care of accurate information
Bonus Local SEO Take Aways:
- Define Your Target Local Audience
- Define Your Specific Local Offers
- Define Your Compliance with Search Quality
- Match Everything - The common interest among: Your Business, The Intended Audience, and The Traffic Channel (In this Case Google)
- While you're at it, check for competitors' citations and get similar listings for your business. 🙂 Of course, you would also want to outperform them by adding more quality citations.
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*all images are non-copyrighted stock photography