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The Local Search Guide for Estate Agents

How and where Estate Agents need to be listed in the UK.

Challenges estate agents face in local search

Most people move home infrequently, so, when the need does arise for someone to look to buy, sell or rent a property, they may have little to no experience of working with the estate agents serving their area.  The local online presence and reputation of the estate agent is therefore crucial.

When people search for “Estate agent + location”, how and where you appear in local search is influenced by many factors, but two of the most important are the local listings sites where your agency is listed and local customer reviews.  Your website may look great, but what people find elsewhere may have more influence on whether they pick up the phone and call.

This article outlines the unique elements that influence how and where an estate agent appears in local search and what can be done to improve search performance.

How to list Estate agents

Local search is dependent on consistent Name, Address, Phone number (NAP), CategoryContent and Customer Reviews being consistently listed in LOCAL online directories and citation sites.  (See bottom of this article for estate agency local listing and local citation sites).

Estate agents need to follow these simple listing tips:

Name: list your business name as it would appear above the door. For example, “ABC Estate Agents”

Ensure that the name is consistently listed everywhere.  Do not be tempted to create a different listing with different keywords such as “ABC Property Management”.  Choose one name and stick to it.  If you have changed the name or taken over the premises of a previous estate agent, then be sure to look for the old names and either remove those listings or change the names accordingly.

If you provide different services at the same address, for example, Sales and Lettings, be very careful how you list this. It is possible to list different business services at the same address, but there must be clear NAP distinction between them. Our blog how to solve the problem of multiple listings for estate and letting agents provides some valuable insights in dealing with this challenge.

Address: Your address is extremely important as it is a major indicator that you are local. It needs to be listed consistently.  A problem for long established estate agents is that addresses can change very subtly, for example, different listings appear with slightly different street spellings on address formats, or the postcode may have changed.  Check your address with the Royal Mail Postcode checker then use that in the listing sites.

Phone Numbers: Use the same telephone number in all listing sites.  Do not use different numbers for different sites; this will only confuse search engines. Use the same number on your website branch page and highlight it in micro-format.  If you have changed your number, you need to find and update the sites that list the old one.

Opening Hours:  Incorrect opening hours are a dissatisfier, so keep them up-to-date.  Although most listing sites provide opening hours, the only ones that really matter are Google My Business and the primary property listing sites.

Category: Unsurprisingly, you need to be categorised as an “Estate Agent” or “Letting Agent”. Most sites, including Google, provide additional categories such as Commercial Property Agents, Apartment Sales and Lettings, Holiday Home Letting Agency etc.  Only use these if relevant. Focus on your main category.

Content:  Most listing sites provide space for a business description, images and weblinks.  Use these to their full potential by adding branding and key-word rich content that focus on your services and area. Avoid stock images, instead use location-specific images, for example of areas that you serve and of the team.

Customer Reviews: Customer Reviews associated with your specific address in Google My Business can influence local search performance and customer purchasing decisions.

Unfortunately, you don’t need to ask unhappy customers to write a bad review; aggrieved estate agency customers can go out of their way to write detailed negative reviews; however, you do need to encourage happy customers to write good reviews in your Google My Business listing, Facebook and other local review sites relevant to estate agencies.

Testimonials on your website are useful, but they do not influence your local search performance, and they won’t be read if people have been put off by poor reviews elsewhere first.  It is therefore crucial that you monitor, respond and fix issues highlighted in negative reviews.  Reviews on listings are permanent. They can grow or undermine your local reputation! Embrace them!

Local Listing strategies for Estate agents in the UK.

There are hundreds of local listing and citation sites in the UK alone. However, not all are useful or relevant to estate agents. So how do you decide on which listing sites to use?

We have grouped the listings below for you into Distributors, B2C Generic and Estate Agent specific sites, B2C Generic and distributors:

Estate Agents specific sites naturally perform better in local search results for “estate agents + location”. You should set-up and manage your NAP listing on these sites and, where possible, enhance it with content. In no particular order, these are:

Note: Some of these estate agencies listing sites may require you to pay for the listing or related service.

‘Distributors’ are important sites that feed NAP listing information to multiple sites. By updating these sites first, you will see some of the downstream directories updated over time.

These sites are:

  • Thomsonlocal
  • My118
  • Central Index
  • Local Data Search
  • Infoserve
  • Factual
  • Here.com
  • Royal Mail
  • Dun & Bradstreet

B2C Generic sites list different local services including estate agents. They vary in quality and usefulness; however, these are some of the main ones that estate agents can claim and manage;

  • Yell.com
  • Yelp
  • Cylex
  • Hotfrog
  • Freeindex
  • MisterWhat
  • Scoot
  • Touchlocal
  • 118.com
  • 192.com
  • iGroup

If you’ve put the effort into claim and manage your listings, be sure to check them periodically.  Unmanaged listings can change and eventually lose their content and value.

The Benefit

By managing your NAP information in the right places and encouraging customer reviews, you will improve your local search performance and increase the number of places that people find your information online.

If you are an estate and letting agent grappling with local search you will find this article useful too:

http://mishoplocal.co.uk/local-listing-optimisation/solve-problem-multiple-listings-estate-letting-agents/

If you need help with your estate agent listing, please call MiShop.local on 01273 987498 or email info@mishoplocal.co.uk or contact us using the form below

MiShop.local specialise in local presence management for estate agents.

Get in touch

To find out how we can manage your local listings please complete the form below

    What Are Google Product Listings?

    Google Product listings appear prominently within Google My Business and are seen every time customers search for your store.

    Features:

    Listings may contain several key product images, descriptions, pricing and links to your website.

    It’s a great feature for any business that sells a few products or wants to showcase a few key items.

    However, ongoing maintenance and getting the most from the Google Products service can be a challenge.

    What Are Google Products?

    Google Product listings are a feature of Google My Business that helps businesses showcase the products they sell.

    Within your Google My Business profile, you will see the option for Google Products.

    Simply, populating a list with images and pricing information will produce a prominent section underneath your contact details, and just before the Google Updates section.

    It’s a neat sandwich of promotions which really compliments your offerings and improves your public profile.

    Why Are Products Useful?

    Small to medium sized business who only stock a few products are unable to afford a full e-commerce site, or rely on footfall alone.

    Google Products is comparatively easier than complex e-commerce and maintenance of a website.

    However, be aware that ongoing maintenance of Google Products is a task in of itself with several pitfalls, especially if you are a multi-location retailer.

    Thus, it’s easy enough to setup but becomes an extra headache if mismanaged.

    How Are They Used For Best Effect?

    Each time a customers searches for your store, and ends up browsing or comparing local offerings, Google Product listings appear.

    Your products are presented alongside your NAP and just when customers are seeking you- both increasing their awareness of key items and enticing them to visit your store.

    Together, this promotes footfall, clicks and calls to your business.

    What Is The Best Way To Use Google Products?

    Ideally, a medium business would regularly update their key and current offerings.

    Examples of use:

    • Shoe Stores: Promote that latest, greatest designer trainer.
    • Car Show Rooms: Hit sales targets faster by attracting attention.
    • Estate agents: Help customers browse your key properties.
    • Banks: Display financial products and services.
    • Florists: Utilize this virtual shop window to display your bouquets.

    As you can see, Google Products is not limited by sector.

    Google Products noticeably increases product presence to drive footfall, clicks and calls.

    However, larger businesses may wish to use the See What’s In Store feature in Google My Business instead. It’s easier to update on a rolling basis.

    Concession Stores – Multiple brands listed at the same Address – Threat or Opportunity in Local Search?

    A growing number of brands are listing themselves as a concession store in a department store such as John Lewis, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges.

    Listing multiple concession brands at a department store’s address presents an opportunity and a threat in local search.

    An address is an asset in local search – so if you can list your brand at a legitimate business address it is more likely to appear in local search results.  However, the NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) must to be consistently listed in local listing sites and citations.

    The Opportunity – multiple brands (when set-up correctly) can be listed at the same address with different web links, presenting a rich local search profile and enhanced organic performance for key categories.

    The Threat – multiple brands incorrectly listed at the same address can interfere with each-others’ organic search performance and undermine the search profile of the department store.  We’ve seen examples of 7 different brands listed at the same address all of which were using the same phone number!

    We’ll explain below:

    Department stores host a number of brand concessions selling anything from clothing, perfumes, furniture and electricals to holidays and food, etc., yet as they are listed in local citations as “department store” they have a fairly limited category group in which to appear in local search.  The opportunity is to list each (major) brand concession separately in local citations in-order to broaden the category search footprint AND to let brands appear in their own respective category searches.

    For example, instead of mentioning fashion and electricals in a single category listing for “department store”, you could have three separate category listings; one for fashion, one for electricals and one for department store.

    As a result, you could get three strong search result for three unrelated categories.

    HOWEVER, this needs to be done correctly and in a controlled way to avoid NAP citation conflicts.

    Here are our guidelines for multi-brand stores:

    1. Have a NAP listing policy that all concession brands must adhere to.

    2. Brands must get the permission of the store before listing.

    3. Brands that are listed at the same address MUST:

    • Be listed as a brand not the department store name
    • Use a different telephone phone number to the department store (and other brands)
    • Be clearly and categorised (e.g. Fashion, Clothing, or Electricals, Appliances)
    • Use a different URL which preferably points to a location specific landing page.
    • Use rich brand content (in local citations).

    4. Control the number of brand and category listings.

    5. Clean or remove conflicting local citations.

    This approach is not limited to concession brands, it can also be used for supermarkets (for example) that offer different in-store services such as opticians, pharmacy, restaurants etc.

    MiShop.local helps multi-location companies to control their brand in local search.

    If you are flummoxed by how to practically implement a NAP strategy for a multi-brand location – please call us now – we can make things clearer and easier.

    Why OFCOM changes to 08 numbers affects Local Search

    (Is your NAP Mobile Friendly?)

    On 1st July 2015 Ofcom enforced “The biggest change to telephone calls in years, affecting 175m phone numbers”.

    The good news is that mobile phones calls to 0800 numbers are now FREE, instead of the exorbitant costs that Telco’s have charged previously.

    The bad news is that mobile calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers could increase!

    What has 08 numbers got to do with local search?

    MiShop.local conducted a survey in 2014 to find out what people are looking for when they search for a local business. In the survey, 78% of people said they were looking for a telephone number to call. 50% said they use “click to call”, but less than 10% said they would call an 08 number from their mobile phone.

    Considering that most local search is done on a mobile phone, just think about the implications to your customers if you’ve listed an 08 number. They are looking for your details from a mobile device that means they are literally one click away from calling you, yet you have put a obstacle in their way… they do not want to call an 08 number from the mobile phone.

    They now have a choice; they either write down the number and call from a landline (if its convenient), or they call someone else, or the very begrudgingly call you and resent the fact that they are paying an exorbitant fee for the privilege of calling to give you some business!

    We were hoping that the new OFCOM ruling would make it cheaper for mobile users to call all 08 numbers. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case.

    We don’t encourage businesses to change their phone numbers, but If your branch is listed with an 0845 or 0870 number, now may be the time to think about your number strategy and whether it right for your customers. It won’t affect your local search performance, but it may determine whether a customer calls you or the next business in the search results who does have a mobile friendly number.

    MiShop.Local can advise you on what numbers to use as part of a local search strategy.

    If you’d like to read more about the OFCOM rulings and how they affect call charges, here is a good article written by Paloma Kubiak, from MoneySavingExpert.com: 0845 and 0870 number price hike warning as Ofcom changes rules on call pricing

    You can also read more about the OFCOM ruling by visiting their website at:  http://www.ukcalling.info/

    Local Citation Building – Quality or Quantity?

    We often get asked; which is better a few high quality citations or lots of citations, particularly as many local citation sites seem to be of low value?

    Our answer is “it depends on whether you are building citation for a new premises or a business that has been at the same address for years.

    Here’s why:

    1. Your NAP details may already be listed in multiple local listing sites (local citations), but if you are an established business are they correct?
    2. low value’ local citation site can actually perform very well in local search and are good for new businesses.

    1. Your NAP details may be listed already

    Due to the way that the local directory ecosystem works, your branch address data will eventually find its way onto multiple listing sites anyway.  In other words your business Name, Address and Phone number (NAP data) will appear on a significant number of listing sites whether you like it or not.  For this reason, it is essential that you control and manage what NAP data is distributed and where.

    As a rule of thumb, it is easy to create CLEAN local citations for a business opening new premises.  However, a business that has been at the same address for years may have changed its name and telephone number resulting in different NAP listings appearing across multiple directories for the same address.

    In other words, if you are opening new premises you are starting with a fresh listing and can therefore be relatively confident that subsequent distribution of your NAP data will be fairly consistent.  An established business does not have this luxury; it has a legacy of multiple NAP listings, some of which could be incorrect or contain conflicting information.

    2. Low value local listing sites can perform well in local search.

    Local listing sites are inherently ‘local’ and as such can perform well in particular searches over other sites.  This can be true even if the site itself has a low domain authority and page rank.

    From a conventional SEO perspective, some local citation sites may be dismissed as being low value, but in actual fact, they perform very well in local search.  A local sector listing site is very ‘niche’ and as such can get very little traffic, yet may outperform other sites for local search terms in a given area.

    You’ve just got to find them and ensure your NAP is correct on them.

    There are many local or sector specific listing sites which perform well in local search, but are actually using very out-dated NAP information and which do not receive regular ‘updated’ date files through conventional directory distribution channels.  You need to find these listings and fix them.

    In Summary:

    The answer to the question “quality or quantity of local citations?” is dependent on whether you are building citations for a business opening new premises, or a business that has been at the same address for years”.

    • If you are opening new business premises, you can focus on quality with fewer local citations.
    • If you are a business that has been at the same address for years you need to check for quantity and ensure that the NAP is clean; then you can worry about quality.

    Your NAP is out there! – Do you know where it is, and is it correct?

    If you need to get a new premises to appear in local search or need to clean up a legacy of old ones, please call us and find out how we can help.

    The 7 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation – Part 2

    The 7 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation is a simple structured approach to claim and manage local listings sites whether it is one location or thousands. It outlines the key components of local search, whilst providing a framework in which to prepare and manage the process.

    The 7 Cs of LLO:
    1. Consistent NAP
    2. Categories
    3. Citations
    4. Content
    5. Coordinate & Control
    6. Customer Reviews
    7. Continue

    You can find more details on 1-4 here. Here we will address Customer Reviews, Coordinating & Control and Continue.

    5. Coordinate & Control:

    Coordinate with key stake holders.

    In companies with a large local presence, it is often the case that the people responsible for local listings are different to the people responsible for branches, the brand, and SEO (for example). The right stake holders need to be identified and involved in the decisions for listing optimisation and for content sign-off. The business case for fixing listings should not be driven by SEO alone. There are brand, customer service and customer satisfaction implications for ensuring the accuracy of NAP data.

    Coupled with this, for really big chains, it is not practical or feasible to update everything in one or two months; a roll-out schedule and communication plan is required.

    Coordinate with the branches to ensure staff cooperation.

    Some listing sites may call, email or even send a letter to the branch to verify or activate NAP changes.

    Branch staff need to be aware that the process is under way, why it is being done, what to expect and what to do if they get a call, letter or email. Failing to make branch staff aware can result in listings not being activated, and the old data remaining.

    Do:

    • Prepare a communication plan to explain to branches what is happening, why, and what they need to do in the event that they receive a call, letter or email.

    Don’t:

    • Start the process until you have confirmation that relevant branch staff are aware of what to expect.

    Control login details.

    Lots of sites, lots of logins! Keep everything under control.

    Most sites require a login email and password to claim the listing. You need to ensure that you keep these under control in one place.

    Losing control of a listing site is not a disaster, it’s just very inconvenient and often frustrating to try to get control back from the listing site. Far better to enforce suitable controls from the outset.

    Do:

    • Designate an owner in the business for login details.
    • Use a common Admin email address for each branch listing.

    Don’t:

    • Let local branches use their own login details unless they adhere to strict guidelines and follow the same procedures.

    6. Customer Reviews

    Customer reviews written on local listing sites have a big influence on your local search performance.

    Fundamentally, reviews are written by customers that are either happy or unhappy with your service. No amount of SEO activity can fix that! You need to focus on delivering the service that customers are paying for and encourage them to write reviews.

    Do:

    • Encourage customers to write reviews in Google + Local and the listing sites.
    • Provide printed guidelines or prompts to remind customers to write a review, where to go and what to do.
    • Get into the habit of asking for reviews (ideally you want a steady stream of reviews rather than a surge and then nothing).
    • Monitor the reviews and respond to them; it shows that you care. Reviews can also provide valuable feedback and insights into what customers think about your business.
    • Think of reviews as a positive force. You can’t stop people writing about you, so go with it and use them to your advantage.
    • Get staff involved in understanding their value and how to encourage customers to write them.

    Don’t:

    • Ask customers to write reviews in store – or on the same device. Multiple reviews written on the same IP address will be penalised.
    • Absolutely do not write your own reviews.
    • Pay for, or reward customers to write reviews.

    7. Continue

    Continue to monitor listings and refresh content periodically.

    Occasionally refresh the content with new images and wording. Look for new listing sites to add content. A gradual and sustained approach to claiming and optimising listing sites helps to maintain your profile.

    If you must change any aspect of your NAP, make sure this is done across all the listings. Monitor sites for ‘rogue’ listings. For example, new listing sites using old data files.

    These simple 7 principles will go a very long way to improving your local search performance.

    If that seems like a lot of work, call MiShop.local to help.

    Old brands have bigger problems in local search than new ones

    We’ve been performing local listing optimisation and local citation building for more than 5 years. In doing so, we’ve noticed that businesses that have been at the same address for years don’t tend to perform as well in local search as a newly opened businesses.

    Why is this?

    Why should a business that has been at the same address for years perform less well in local search compared to one that has just opened?

    The answer is simple; A legacy of uncontrolled NAP data!

    When we do a listing audit for clients, we look for consistency in Name, Address, Phone Number and Categories in multiple local listing sites. Ideally the NAP should be the same on all listings. A newly opened business won’t have any listings, and therefore a new NAP can be added afresh to local listing sites creating a consistent NAP anchor onto which the search engines can ‘hook’.

    Old established business however tend to have hundreds of listings on multiple listing sites for the same address, but not in a controlled way. These listing sites will have NAP data that goes back for years. Many of them will have variations in brand name, different phone numbers and sometimes wrong addresses. They may also have accumulated content which is out of date and incorrect. We regularly find listings with really old brand names, dead phone numbers and dead weblinks.

    The outcome; Newly opened business start with fresh clean listings which are consistent and correct and give a strong search signal, whereas old businesses have a legacy of conflicting NAP data which confuse the search engines and customers, and ultimately affects their local search performance.

    What can be done about it?

    Old business that have been at the same premises for years need to clean their NAP listings!

    If you’re business has changed its’ name or telephone number over the past 20 years, there is every chance that you will find the old names and numbers still listed. Hunt them down and remove them.

    If you think we are exaggerating about looking for changes that may have happened 20 years ago, then consider this: KFC re-branded from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” in 1991, yet you will still find old branch listings for Kentucky Fried Chicken in multiple listings sites. We’ve found listings where the telephone number was 15 years out of date and had been re-assigned to a retired lady in Dundee who was getting calls for the business that it used to belong to!

    Remember, search engines try to make sense of information not clean it… it is your job to ensure your NAP data is correct.

    Once branch NAP listings are clean and consistent, even old established businesses can expect to see their local presence improve.

    MiShop.local specialises in identifying and cleaning NAP data for multi-location companies and helping them to control their brand in local search.

    Please call us if you would like a sample audit of your branch network listings.

    The 7 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation – Part 1

    The 7 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation is a simple structured approach to claim and manage local listings sites whether it is one location or thousands. It outlines the key components of local search, whilst providing a framework in which to prepare and manage the process.

    The 7 Cs of LLO:
    1. Consistent NAP
    2. Categories
    3. Citations
    4. Content
    5. Customer Reviews
    6. Coordinate & Control
    7. Continue

    This blog will address the first 4 and next week we will complete the 7 with Customer reviews, Coordinate & Control and Continue.

    1. Consistent NAP

    NAP is king! Ensure your branch Name Address and Phone number are consistently listed across all local listing sites and that they map to NAP details published on your website store finder.

    Name: Use the same business name in all listings for a given location.

    Do: Use the brand name above the door of your shop or on your printed literature!
    Don’t: Use key words in the name unless it is part of your registered business name.

    Address: List the address fully and consistently, including post code.

    Don’t: Make up addresses or use addresses that are not yours.
    Guideline: If you can’t collect a letter sent to an address, don’t use it!

    Phone Number: List one number per location across all listing sites.

    The number should ideally be a local number.

    Avoid sharing the same number across multiple locations. If you have a call centre that serves a number of locations, consider having a local number that routes to a central number. This can be done very cost effectively with local VOIP numbers.

    Avoid changing numbers. Once listed, try to keep it.

    Although tracking numbers are important, for the purpose of Local SEO, it is strongly recommend that you use the same number for all local listings*.
    *Using the odd tracking number for specific paid listings, should be okay, but avoid multiple tracking numbers across multiple listing sites. Off-line tracking numbers (on printed literature for example) can be used as normal.

    Do: Make sure that the number matches the one on your store landing page on your website.

    2. Categories

    Correct and consistent categorisation is essential, in fact it is more important than key words.

    Unfortunately there is no category standard between listing sites so you will need to select the category that is nearest to your business on each listing site. Some sites allow you to select up to 5 categories, whilst others provide “Tags” where you can list your own categories.

    Do: Use the category that maps to Google + Local categories.
    Tip: If you cannot find a category that clearly fits your business, look at a selection of similar businesses in your sector to see how they are categorised.

    3. Citations

    Local citations are mentions of your NAP details on other webpages. The largest source of local citations is Local Listing Sites, of which there are hundreds in the UK.

    Local Listing Sites are not the same as conventional link building sites. Very specifically, they contain NAP details and at least one business category. The amount of information listed can range from very basic to extensive business information with an opportunity to add rich content.

    Do:

    • Identify the local listing sites most relevant to your sector and location.
    • Claim your listings (if you are already listed) and optimise them with rich content.
    • Add listings to relevant listing sites that don’t have you listed already.
    • Fix incorrect listings.
      • If you find an incorrect listing about your business, do something about it. Either claim it and fix it, or tell the listing site. Don’t leave it.

    Don’t:

    • Add a new listing if there is already an old listing on the site that may be wrong.
      • As mentioned, you need to tell the listing site what is wrong with their data. Don’t assume that if you add a new listing for the same address with a subtle difference in Name or Phone Number that they will automatically remove the old listing. They won’t!

    4. Content

    Many listings can be enhanced with rich content including:

    • A logo
      • Protect your brand. Use correctly sized logos for each site. Incorrectly sized logos can be cropped, pixelated or distorted.
    • Photos
      • Use images of the branch and products and services sold.
      • Save images with key word descriptions, for example pizza_restaurant_brighton.jpg
    • Business descriptions
      • Prepare engaging and meaningful key-word rich descriptions to fit different listing sites.
      • There is no evidence to suggest that duplicate business descriptions are penalised. For example, there are only so many ways to say “I’m a plumber. I fix taps”, however there is value in preparing different lengths of business descriptions to fit different sites. These can range from 2000 characters down to 200 characters.
    • Opening Hours
      • Opening hours are a major attribute of local searches – make sure they are correct.
    • Web links – this should link to the branch-specific landing page on the website.
    • Social media links (Google+, Facebook, Twitter etc).
    • Products and services
      • Some listing sites enable to you to list products and services in considerable detail.
    • Email

    Do:

    • Prepare engaging content that presents your brand in a positive light.
      • Listings improve your local search performance, but they are also adverts in their own right. LLO should not be an SEO activity in itself, it should ensure that your brand looks good wherever people find you, or choose to look for your services.

    Don’t:

    • Start the process of claiming listings sites until all content is signed off.

    Why big brands have problems in local search

    Big brands that have had the same high street address for years are at a disadvantage in local search compared to new businesses that are opening around them. How can this be?

    Local Citation building is integral to an effective local search strategy; and core to that is consistent Name, Address and Phone numbers listed in local listing sites.

    Established brands already have multiple local citations by virtue of the fact that they are probably listed in every directory and local listing site, so why should they not perform well?

    The simple answer is – lack of NAP control!

    Inconsistent NAP confuses search engines and customers, having a negative effect on your local search presence and even worse, giving customers the wrong information.

    Here are the main reasons why high street brands have inconsistent NAP:

    No Local Listing Policy – Because we’ve not needed one till now!

    Most high street companies do not control their local listings and as such, they have slowly become corrupted with inconsistent naming, telephone numbers, branding and weblinks.

    The difference may be subtle, for example “Marks & Spencer” may also be listed as “Marks and Spencer” or “M&S” or different telephone numbers listed in different sites, but slowly over time, these differences percolate throughout the listing ecosystem resulting in name variations, category inconsistencies and outdated telephone numbers.

    Change of Name through re-brand or acquisition

    Re-branding can have a major impact to your local citations.

    Where a company changes its name, but keeps the same address and phone number, we often see conflicting listings appearing with the old and new brand names appearing alongside each other in the same listing.

    Look at KFC – it officially re-branded from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” in 1991 – yet you can still find local listings for “Kentucky Fried Chicken” throughout the UK. Or Lloyds TSB – they split into Lloyds and TSB in 2013, yet there are still multiple listings for Lloyds TSB.

    Change of Address

    Brands that move premises a few doors up or down the high street can find themselves with duplicate listings. Moving premises on the same street only changes the shop number; the Name, Telephone Number and Post Code stay the same. This can get very confusing.

    Change of Phone Number

    Brands change their telephone numbers for different reasons, for example to centralise customer services or to introduce a different number plan. Whatever the reason, these numbers need to be changed in the listings.

    Gone are the days when BT would supply your phone number and update your listing at the same time. Today we have multiple telephone service providers and number plans offering different services including, Local, Mobile, VOIP, Cable, 01, 02, 03, 08 etc. etc. No single company is responsible for ensuring that numbers are listed correctly. If you have a new number, it is your responsibility to ensure it is listed correctly.

    All in all, brands through no fault of their own are victims of a legacy of old information that has accumulated over time in multiple local listing sites and citations.

    An address is a strategic asset in search, but only if local citations have consistent NAP.

    Cleaning old listing to achieve correct and consistent local citations takes time and energy and systematic approach.

    If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article,
    please use the contact form below or call MiShop.local in confidence on 01273 987498.

      Reinvigorating the Great British High Street

      Released this month, The Digital High Street 2020 Report published by The Digital High Street Advisory Board, sets out a 5 year strategy to reinvigorate the UK’s traditional high street with a focus on the impact of digital technology and the digital future.

      The report makes 4 primary recommendations which they say, and we also believe, are crucial to the revitalisation and continued success of the high street in a digitally dominated world.

      Whilst the foundation of success for the High Street hasn’t changed (economically strong, convenient, engaging. Relevant, adaptive, authentic and diverse, and experiential- see full report for more information) the tools available have and will continue to change.

      Although, the high street has already weathered many changes including the impact of digital technologies, the challenges are not over. Digital technologies will continue to shape the high street.

      The recommendations are:

      1. Sufficient access through infrastructure- This sets out the aspiration for providing a digital infrastructure over the next five year, to be in line with the UK’s digital goals, so that all of our high streets can fully participate in the digital economy.
      2. Basic Digital Skills- As technologies develop, in order to fully participate, so do need the skills. Digital exclusion can hold back the individual and organisation from fully achieving their potential and competing in a technologically driven market.
      3. High Street Digital Lab- The creation of a centralised  aggregation of the general available technologies, digital applications, tools, methods and training programmes, in order to provide a platform for digital consumer services for each community across the UK on behalf of its local government, high street businesses and charities.
      4. High Street Digital Health Index- To make progress, these goals must be translated from qualitative aspirations into measurable indications of fitness. The adoption of the High Street Digital Health Index concepts will be a resource for both national and local governments.

      The report recognises that many high streets in the UK may be well underway in addressing these areas, however, for those who have yet to adapt and adjust to the digital age will quickly find they fall further behind.

      The report stresses that these solutions are interdependent and that the success of the high street relies on a complete solution rather than trying to treat a series of symptoms.

      We believe that this is a very important development in providing practical steps for the digital development of the High Streets and is a cause very close to our hearts.

      We think of Local SEO as a digital ‘bridge’ between the physical premises on the high street and its online presence.  For this reason, we are seeing a strong growth in the need for Local Listing Optimisation services as part of a local SEO strategy.

      You can read more on the full report and The Great British High Street here

      thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk

      Franchises – How to improve your local search performance

      Franchises – Tips on how to improve your local search presence.

      More than 50% (and growing) of all web queries are now performed on a mobile device.

      Why is this significant for franchises?

      Well if someone uses a mobile device to search for services, the results are tailored to their immediate location. This is called Local Search. Most franchise businesses are “local”.

      Local search is different to conventional web search as it is influenced by your address and phone number more than your website. In fact, a business without a website but is listed on local business listing sites can appear higher in local search than a business with just a website.

      The implications are huge, a business with a local physical presence has a strategic advantage over web only business.

      Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) Consistency is king.

      For local search, Google, Bing and other search engines look for NAP data (Name, Address and Phone Number) on local listing sites to verify that a business exists in a given location. The more consistent your NAP details on local listing sites, the greater your chance of appearing higher in local search. Inconsistent NAP data, for example same name but different telephone numbers listed at the same address, or different names but same telephone number listed at the same address will confuse search engines. As important as NAP consistency, is Category consistency. A miss categorised business will not appear in local search for its category.

      You should also add rich brand content to the listing sites including photos, logo, opening hours, business descriptions, weblinks, etc. which further enhances your search performance and raises your brand profile.

      The process of cleaning and adding content to local listing sites is known as “Local Listing Optimisation” LLO and is an essential part of Local SEO.

      Finally, customer reviews written in Google + Local and other local listing sites (associated with your NAP) can further enhance your search performance.

      Most franchises operate as a local businesses, and as such, need to have a local search strategy.

      Every franchise is different, with different local search challenges, for example, some have multiple branches, others operate out of a van, or have a call centre with one number, etc. There is no one solution fits all, however it is true to say that every local search strategy must have a NAP policy and ideally local listing optimisation. Without this, franchisee listings will be inconsistent resulting in sub-optimal search performance and the brand compromised. Local Listing Optimisation is a highly effective way of raising your brand profile across hundreds of free local listing sites, but if it is done incorrectly, it can look amateurish and even damage the brand. You must control your brand in local search.

      An effective local search strategy needs to include the franchisee.

      Franchises that leverage their local network can significantly improve their overall search performance. This means that the franchisees play an important part in the franchise search strategy and need to be included in every aspect of the local search optimisation process.

      Here are a few tips on how to improve your franchisees local search performance:

      The 5 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation

      1. Consistent NAP

      NAP is King! Ensure your branch Name Address and Phone number are consistently listed across all local listing sites. The more consistent the NAP the better.

      2. Categories

      Ensure you are categorised correctly on the listing sites. If you are a plumber you need to be categorised as a plumber. Use listing sites that specialises in your sector.

      3. Content

      Enhance the listings with content including:

      • A logo
      • Photos
      • Business descriptions
      • Opening Hours
      • Weblinks – this should link to the branch specific landing page on the website
      • Social media links (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
      • Products and services
      • Email

      4. Customer Reviews

      Customer reviews written on local listing sites are permanent and also have a big influence on your local search performance. Encourage customers to write reviews in Google + Local and the listing sites.
      Monitor the reviews and respond to them; it shows that you care.

      5. Continue

      Occasionally refresh the content with new images and wording. If you must change your NAP, make sure this is done across all the listings. (However, avoid changing your NAP unless it is absolutely necessary)… remember consistency is king!

      These simple tips can go a very long way to improving your local search performance.

      Bad reviews can be good!

      Customer Reviews increasingly play an important role in our purchasing decisions.

      Reviews written on local listing sites associated with the NAP of a business location can influence its local organic search performance.   They not only raise the profile of the location within the listing site itself, they can provide key-word references for search engines.  Importantly, they are permanent!

      Colourful reviews which describe in detail the customer experience are more engaging and more influential.  Think of reviews as mini blogs written by your customers.

      Fundamentally, reviews are written by customers that are either happy or unhappy with your service.  You need to focus on delivering the good service and encourage them to write reviews. No amount of SEO activity can can fix bad reviews.

      Bad reviews can be good reviews!

      Prospective customers will read reviews and make a reasoned decision about whether to proceed to purchase.  People read the bad reviews.  The odd bad review amongst predominantly good reviews is unlikely to put them off, however, if the review is recent, detailed, scathing and appears genuine, then it can affect their decision.  We’ve seen examples of very unhappy customers going out of their way to write long bad reviews on several different listing sites, just to make sure that everyone got to read about their poor experience.

      However, and ironically, the way you handle a negative review as a business can positively influence customer decisions.  As the business owner, you can respond to the review via the listing site.  If you handle a bad review in a constructive and professional way, not only could you win back the aggrieved customer, but also win new ones!

      If you can resolve the customer’s issue to their satisfaction, many will go back and adjust the review to reflect this.

      A trade customer of ours said that a negative review led to more business as people were impressed by the way that he had handled it.

      The lesson is, listen to your customers and respond to the negative reviews!  (Responding to every positive review is too much and unnecessary)

      A few do’s and don’ts for managing customer reviews on local listings:

      Do:         

      • Encourage customers to write reviews in Google + Local and the listing sites.
      • Provide printed guidelines or prompts to remind customers to write a review, where to go and what to do.
      • Get into the habit of asking for reviews (ideally you want a steady stream of reviews rather than a surge and then nothing).
      • Monitor the reviews and respond to them; it shows that you care. Reviews can also provide valuable feedback and insights into what customers think about your business.
      • Think of reviews as a positive force. You can’t stop people writing about you, so go with it and use them to your advantage.
      • Get staff involved in understanding their value and how to encourage customers to write them.

      Don’t:

      • Ask customers to write reviews in store – or on the same device. Multiple reviews written on the same IP address will be penalised.
      • Absolutely do not write your own reviews.
      • Pay for, or reward customers to write reviews.

      Why is NAP important in Local Search?

      Businesses change, but the address doesn’t! Don’t expect the search engines to work out what your business should be listed as.

      Everything about a business premises can change over time except the address. For example; the business owner can change, the business name can change, the phone number can change, what the business does can change, however the address will always be the same.

      Imagine you are a search engine trying to make sense of NAP data that is spread across hundreds of local listing sites associated with the same address. You find different names listed, some are similar, and some are completely different. Which one’s correct?

      Then you look at Phone Numbers. You find the same phone number associated with the same address, but also potentially other addresses and even other businesses! Which one’s correct?

      Then you look at Categories. You find the same business name but with different categories! Which one’s correct?

      Which one would you prioritise in local search results? Logically, you would choose the NAP details which are listed most consistently. However, what if the most consistent NAP is out of date because a new business has just taken over the premises? What if a business has been in the same premises for years, but recently changed its name, or telephone number? etc. There are many variations, but ultimately the search engine has to make a decision…Which one is correct?

      Consistent NAP data on multiple local listing sites provides an “anchor” on to which the search engines can hook. We call this the “NAP Anchor,” as together the Name, Address and Phone number provide a unique identifier for your business location to anchor to.

      Even subtle variations such as spelling or brand name variations can affect performance.

      The more consistent the NAP across multiple local listing sites the more authority it has and the more confidence search engines have in raising it in their local search results.

      Search engines try to make sense of information not clean it.

      Inconsistent NAP confuses search engines and impacts your local search performance.

      Make sure you have a clean NAP!

      Why Manage Your Local Listings?

      Your business data is being compiled and distributed by people and machines that do not know you!

      Incorrect listing information confuses search engines and customers and can affect your local search performance.

      There are hundreds of local listing sites in the UK ranging from general listings such as Yell.com and Thomsonlocal.co.uk to sector specific listings such as wahanda.com, and location specific listings such as allinlondon.co.uk. There are also Local Social sites such as Yelp.com and Foursquare.com. Local listing sites can be B2C, B2B or both.

      If you have a local presence, the chances are that you are already listed on many of these sites, but not in a controlled way.

      Local listing sites work in mysterious ways. There is no one authority listing site to which all listings defer. Instead, sites get Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP), Category data and even brand content such as business descriptions, opening times and logos from different sources.

      Some listing companies compile and distribute NAP details to other listing sites, whilst others aggregate (or scrape) NAP details from various sources. Some sites are more diligent than others in verifying the quality of their data, for example by calling the business to check that their information is up-to-date, or conducting an ‘activation’ call when claiming or activating a listing. Most sites however expect the business to ‘claim’ and update their listing themselves. There are even ‘wiki’ sites that encourage the public to update listing information.

      Some small directories buy NAP data on an ad-hoc basis. As a result, it is not uncommon to find them listing data that is several years out of date! Coupled with this, listings can be ‘hijacked’ accidentally or deliberately, meaning that listing data can be corrupted. The consequence of this listing ‘ecosystem’ is that outdated and incorrect information can continue to be listed in multiple places unless you take control of it yourself.

      Inconsistent NAP data and incorrect branch information confuse search engines and customers and can compromises your brand.

      Ultimately your business data is being compiled and distributed by people and machines that do not know you. Only by taking control of your local listings and keeping them up to date can you ensure that your NAP details and brand are represented correctly.

      Are You in Control Of Your Local Brand Presence?

      • Do you know how your brand is portrayed on local listing sites?
      • Are you comfortable that information about your brand is compiled and displayed on 3rd party listing sites that do not know you?
      • Are you comfortable that anyone can change information about your business without your knowledge?
      • Only by claiming your listings can you control how your brand appears in local search.

      Most local listing sites rely on 3rd party directories, business owners and even the public to keep the business listings up-to-date. However, there are no ‘rules’ as to who, what, when and how information should be updated. Consequently, many sites list information which is out-of-date and incorrect.

      Your business could be listed on these sites with the wrong phone number, wrong address, wrong web link, wrong business name, wrong category, wrong logo, uninspiring or uninformative business descriptions.

      Every interaction with your brand should be positive. If your customers find information that is incorrect, regardless of what it is or where they found it, it could inconvenience, frustrate or even confuse them.

      These may seem trivial, but put yourself in the shoes of a customer that has followed directions to an incorrectly placed map pin, or turns up when the shop’s closed, or calls a dead or the wrong phone number, or click on a dead link, etc. Best case, they look again, or, maybe they give up and go somewhere else! Don’t assume that they will always go to your store finder, they won’t!

      As well as NAP details and opening times, these sites can also display information about your brand. Is the description inspiring and contain key words that work for you in search? Is it on brand?

      Is the logo correct? Does it stand out?

      Click-through rate increases when your brand stands out.

      Your brand image on these sites is just as important as having the correct name and address. A branded listing stands out from the competition and is more engaging.

      How you are categorised is important too… Are you a restaurant, or an Italian Restaurant? Are you a Fashion Retailer or Supplier? Are you a Plumber or a Plumbing Supplier? Miss-categorisation means that you will not appear in the right local search results.

      Only you know what information is correct and how you want your brand to be portrayed on 3rd party listing sites. So why leave it to someone who does not know you?

      To control your local brand presence you need to claim and manage your local listings. 

      If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article,
      please use the contact form below or call MiShop.local in confidence on 01273 987498.