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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.

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    Google Products Work For Estate Agents

    Google Products are your virtual shop window for key properties and services

    Sales, Lettings & Commerical?

    No matter your sector – commercial or residential, sales or lettings – you can use Google Products to highlight select properties in your local portfolio to entice buyers and sellers.

    The only requirement is that your business premises has a verified physical address.

    Why Are Google Products Useful For Estate Agents?

    The Products feature provides estate agents with another opportunity to showcase their key local properties.

    As a result, your agency impresses buyers, sellers and the rental market.

    Your appealing property photographs stand out.

    Your reputation as an agency with a professional stance to property marketing is clear: you are using the latest tools to tap into a business directory service used by millions.

    Why Are Google Products Free?

    In essence, Google releases lots of new features and leaves it up to the business community to figure out how to use them.

    Why?

    They are attempting to create an attractive ‘sticky space’ that is the go-to ‘free’ space for everyone…while also driving revenue through paid adverts.

    Features:

    • Display key properties.
    • Showcase services.
    • Categories by lettings and sales.
    • Indicate pricing.
    • Direct customers to your website.
    • Links to phone lines.
    • Insert links to websites.

    Value?

    • Certain features have SEO value.
    • There is a considerable amount of customer interaction with any Google My Business page.
    • Stand out against your local competition.
    • Prove your modern approach to marketing.
    • Increase clicks, calls and footfall.

    We have seen greater engagement, calls and click-through to websites when Google Products are used effectively.

    Why Are Agents Not Using Google Products?

    Ongoing management of products is quite a time-consuming task.

    It also can’t be automated, yet.

    Added to that, mismanaging Google Products is a significant customer dissatisfier.

    Out of date properties, incorrect pricing and broken links all effect an agency’s reputation by confusing customers and wasting company time.

    To avoid these pitfalls, be careful to optimally and professionally manage the Google Products space.

    The Specifics Of Using Google Products.

    Google Products are a relatively new feature. They appear to customers searching Google, via the (Google) Maps panel, and in Google Maps across all devices.

    Essentially, Google has left it for businesses to interpret what their products are and the information to put with them.

    These Google Products must contain an image and description, while there are optional sections for pricing, links to websites and one-click phone lines.

    It’s really that simple. As long as you can fit your product information into the modest format that Google provides.

    Note that you can categorise properties too – property of the week, rentals, sales and services, for example.

    What is Google My Business?

    Google My Business is a free business listing for local businesses.

    A Google My Business account is how businesses setup the customer-facing profile.

    This appears in Google Search and Google Maps – where their company name, information and a review section appears as default.

    Within this, Google created a number of features to promote products and showcase business services.

    Other Features?

    There are considerably more features within Google My Business to add to a public Google profile.

    Such as ‘Google Updates’, and soon ‘See What’s In Store’.

    The User Journey To Your Estate Agency.

    Think of the common user journey: searching for directions in Google Maps, comparing local offerings in Google search or directly seeking your estate agency by name.

    The one thing they have in common is your Google My Business profile.

    Yet many businesses are not capitalising on this additional advertising space within Google My Business – Google Products – which is the virtual display window for your local presence.

    While reviews, NAP and store-front images count, the visual appeal of this section is really the defining feature that draws customer attention.

    After all, they are seeking or comparing your services – so a clearly presented professional gallery of property is very attractive.

    Our research shows that Google Search and Maps are where customers most commonly compare local businesses.

    Desktop Experience:

    After a typical Google search on desktop; ‘lettings agents London’, scrolling past the paid adverts finds the (Google) Maps panel.

    Clicking on ‘view all’ pulls the user through to another web page with a list alongside a map.

    As you can see, many estate agencies appear.

    If you can, find and click on a business that’s using Google Products – they will have a feature called ‘Products’ in this window that appears.

    Note how prominently this estage agency stands out.

    It’s really important to manage this content to ensure you stand out from the competition.

    Clicking ‘view all’ in the products section brings up another a panel of properties.

    You will find pricing and several categories here.

    Clicking on each property brings up a description.

    There are also links to call directly, learn more or order online available.

    'See similar products' or 'categories' options attract customers to key properties.

    Mobile Experience:

    The Google Search experience is similar on mobile, although next to ‘Overview’ and ‘Updates’ there is an individual tab named ‘Products’.

    Click ‘view all’, and you will see key properties displayed.

    Alternatively, scroll past the reviews on the main page to see the products panel.

    If used correctly, clicking a property brings up a description, pricing (optional) and links (optional).

    Note that searching via Google Maps includes the products in the main section on mobile, rather than a sperate tab.

    Time to navigate, compare and view key properties is reduced versus a website.

    Get Found Locally.

    This Google interface is streamlined for the user experience across all devices and is commonly used – it is both accessible and user friendly.

    It goes without saying that maps and search are dominated by Google, and searching for an estate agent in most local areas is highly competitive.

    So, to complement the user experience and capitalise on this free advertising space, it is especially important to provide key properties in the Products section of Google My Business.

    Generic Estate Sign SOLD

    Summary:

    Ultimately, it has become essential to manage all aspects of Google My Business if you want a valued profile that works for you.

    The more you manage and control your Google My Business, the greater the rewards.

    When using Google Products, be sure to have accurate information in the right categories and enticing images alongside working links.

    As you already go to the effort of keeping your website and high-street window updated, why not see Google Products as an extension of this – your Google shop window.

    Many estate agents are using ‘Google Updates’ for property of the week, bookings, offers or news.

    Effectively managing your content ensures customers find you over your competition.

    Strategies

    ⇒Manage and update your Google Product listings regularly.

    ⇒Use several categories: lettings, sales and services.

    ⇒Combine Products with Google Updates for full effect.

    ⇒Include the best eye-catching imagery for each property.

    ⇒Tap into organic search with SEO for Google Products.

    Benefits

    ⇒ Stand out from your competition.

    ⇒ Catch the attention of desirable clients.

    ⇒ Raise the profile of high-value properties.

    ⇒ Get increased clicks, calls and viewings.

    ⇒ Rise-up search rankings.

    Prove you are working smart to please sellers and landlords.

    Is your profile optimised?

    How to use Google My Business Posts for Multi-Location Brands

    Google Posts are seen when people visit your Google My Business (GMB) page. They can be used to inform customers or advertise products, events or promotions. Here are a few tips on how to create high performing Google Posts to drive footfall to your store and traffic to your website:

    Firstly; Google Posts are not like Facebook or Twitter posts, instead, think of Google Posts as static adverts that are only seen by people that are thinking about visiting your store!

    Secondly; in order to create Posts that will up-sell to existing customers or draw in prospective customers you need to understand the user’s local search journey to your GMB page. 

    Finally, make Posts bold and simple! As in any advert, the objective is to grab attention and invite people to find out more.

    There is no magic bullet, you will need to test your own strategy and content based on your brand and sector.   However, based on our experience of managing multiple bulk campaigns, we’ve put together some guidelines.

    What do we mean by “understand the user’s local search journey to your GMB Page”?

    The local search journey is why, how and the frequency your customer or prospective customer visit your Google My Business Page and what they are looking for.

    This varies by sector; For example, for established high street retailers, existing customers may be looking for opening times.  For restaurants, customers may be looking for a number to call to book a table, or for an infrequently used service such as tyre replacement, a prospective customer may be looking for information before making a purchasing decision.

    A wordy Post that goes into detail about a new product is unlikely to be read by someone looking for opening times, whereas a simple headline “New Product in store now” will. Conversely, a prospective customer searching for a service business may read a detailed Post.

    By thinking about the reason/motivation and route by which a customer/prospective customer arrives at your GMB Page, you are more likely to create Posts that will engage them.

    The main factors to consider are outlined below:

    1. Who is looking at your GMB store page? Customers /

    Prospective Customer

    Is it more likely to be an existing customer or a prospective customer?
    2. What are they looking for? Information /

    Phone Number /

    Address /

    Directions /

    Opening Times/

    Website /

    If they are looking for opening times (for example) they already intend coming to you, so may be interested in what’s new today.
    3.  How are they finding you? Direct search /

    Discovery search

    Get this from your GMB insights. A high proportion of direct searches suggest that existing customers are looking for you directly.
    4.  What are they using for search? Mobile /

    Tablet /

    Desktop

    The type of image, tagline and number of words should be considered depending on the device that people are most likely to use.
    5.  When are they looking? Before purchase/

    During purchase/

    After purchase?

    Customers may visit the GMB Page several times during a transaction. For example – a customer may use GMB to call a restaurant to book a table, then use directions to get there.
    6.  Where are they searching from? Home/

    Work/

    On route?

    If someone is looking on-route, they are not going to want to read a big post.
    7.  How often do they look? Weekly / Monthly /

    Annually / Ad-Hoc

    The frequency that a customer/ prospective customer looks at your GMB page may influence when you post.
    8.  What type of person are they? Demographic You cannot expect your post to appeal to everyone, so think about the imagery and wording that connects with your core customers.

    These pointers won’t design the Post for you, but they will help you to think about the style of Posts.  That’s another article in itself, but here are a few tips:

    • Google Posts are more like adverts –keep them simple.
    • Google Posts are seen when people are thinking about coming to your store.
    • Use Google Posts to up-sell to existing customers or draw-in prospective customers.
    • Understand the user journey and motivations for visiting your GMB store page.
    • Images and Tag lines should grab the user’s attention and tempt them to open the Post.
    • Use bold eye-catching images. Don’t worry about using images with words in them. (Leave the words for the Post tagline).
    • The copy of the Post should quickly convey the message and invite interested user to find out more. Although the Post can have up to 300 words, this is way too long. Keep copy down to less than 300 characters.
    • Only use Offer Codes if store staff know how to use them.
    • Use the “Call To Action” button. “Learn More” or “Get Offer” works well, but not “Buy Now” unless it is a really fantastic offer.
    • Use “Event” time lines “From” and “To” dates so that Posts stay up for as long as you want them to. (Not using dates means the Post disappears after 1 week).

    How to solve the problem of multiple listings for estate and letting agents

    Managing multiple Google My Business listings at the same address is an issue that regularly crops up for estate and letting agents. Whilst Google is definitely getting better at understanding business operating scenarios, it is still far from perfect, and can be rather frustrating! Before looking at the problem and the solutions, it’s worth talking about why you might want to have multiple listings in the first place.

    Why might you want to have multiple listings at the same address in Google?

    Not all sales and lettings businesses operate in the same way across the property industry. Whilst there are plenty of agents who operate their sales and lettings businesses together, there are also plenty of business out there who operate them separately.

    Operating as Two Brands:

    An estate agent might buy a local letting agent with a great history and a strong local brand. As they themselves have a strong brand in the sales side of the market, it doesn’t make sense to re-brand either the sales or lettings parts of the business. They might decide to consolidate both businesses to the same branch location, reducing overheads and increasing profitability.

    The net result is two businesses with different branding, at the same address.

    Same Brand, but Different Divisions:

    A brand might have multiple operating divisions, possibly even set up as separate limited companies, and for business reasons want to keep them apart. They may have a sales, a lettings, and a new or country home division all operating from the same premises.

    Parts of the business may be a franchise too and want to be kept distinct.

    Keep them Separate to Measure Success:

    You might want to have separate listings to give a better idea of leads coming into each division. By keeping them separate you are able to show different phone numbers and link to different pages on your website.

    Shared Reviews – Escaping being Tarred by the Same Brush:

     I’m not saying this is commonplace, but let’s say the lettings division has had a spate of angry tenants leaving reviews on Google, the sales side of the business might not like the negative reviews impacting their ability to attract vendors. I could see a scenario of the estate agency office wanting a separate Google My Business listing to the letting agent side of the business!

    The problem

    Google treats the search phrases “estate agent” and “letting agent” the same, which to those in the property industry can seem somewhat frustrating. To be fair to Google, the public often refer to letting agents as “estate agents” so Google is kind of correct here!

    Doing a search for letting agents and finding estate agents is annoying if you are a landlord or tenant.

    If you are purely an estate agent as well, you want vendors and applicants to ring, not tenants and landlords! In the example image above, Parry Bishop and Chambers are purely an estate agent, and because Google is treating a letting agent search the same as an estate agent thinks they are relevant to the search of “letting agents Leckhampton”. Parry Bishop and Chambers have a lettings referral scheme set up, where they refer landlords on to another agent – so from their perspective lettings, calls aren’t a complete nuisance.

    However, it’s those who are purely letting agents that get the rawest deal here. Google thinks searchers want an estate agent and relegate all but the strongest optimised lettings branches to the forgotten zone, also know as ‘more places’.

    I digress a bit…

    Back to the problem at hand, with Google treating ‘letting agents’ and ‘estate agents’ as the same thing, what do you think happens if you have a Google My Business listing set up for each?

    Merge!

    Google thinks you have made a mistake and created 2 listings for the same business, and will try everything in its power to be ‘helpful’ and merge your listings for you!

    Google’s helpfulness extends to looking around the web and cobbling information together to make the listing they think you really want for your property business…

    You might end up with a picture of the sales team, the phone number for the lettings team, and you may lose your reviews, or just end up with none of the happy vendors, and all the angry tenant ones saying their lights don’t work and the maintenance guy didn’t come out at 2 am to replace the lightbulb (ok slight exaggeration, but I have seen some funny tenant reviews out there!)

    If letting agents tend to get merged with estate agents, what do you think Google makes of ‘new homes’ or ‘country homes’?

    Merge!

    Ok, James, you are basically saying if I try and run my business in what is a very normal common way to run a business, Google won’t like it… Surely Google must understand, what do they have to say about it?

    Google’s Official Guidelines

    For a long time Google’s guidelines on this were:

    “Do not create more than one page for each location of your business, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”

    Thanks for that Google, not that helpful.

    However, they have expanded on this to give more detail for departments within other business:

    Public-facing departments that operate as distinct entities should have their own page. The exact name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. Typically such departments have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories. Their hours may sometimes differ from those of the main business.

    Acceptable (as distinct listings):

    “Spring Gardens Optical Centre”

    “Cafe Nero”

    “Manchester General Hospital Department of Dermatology”

    Not acceptable (as distinct listings):

    The Apple products section of PC World

    The hot food bar inside Meadowhall

    For each department, the category that is the most representative of that department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments.

    The main business “Barclays” has the category “Bank” whereas the department “Barclays Advisors” has the category “Financial Consultant”

    The main business “Southend Toyota” has the category “Toyota Dealer” whereas “Southend Toyota Service & Parts” has the category “Auto Repair Shop” (plus the category “Auto Parts Shop”)

    The main business “GetGo” has the category “Convenience Store” (plus the category “Sandwich Shop”) whereas the department “GetGo Fuel” has the category “Petrol Station”, and the department “WetGo” has the category “Car Wash”

    Source: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en-GB

    Doesn’t that sound a lot like they should support sales, lettings, new homes and country homes as separate listings at the same address?

    Unfortunately, no!

    The distinction here is down to those pesky categories. You see the categories you would tend to describe a letting agent with are very similar to how you would describe an estate agent in Google’s eyes. Plus what categories would you tend to describe new homes or country homes division with… even more similar if not the same as you would for an estate agent!

    Add to that another area that whilst Google doesn’t mention it above is an area of potential confusion to Google and triggers mergers. That area is citations!

    Citations are references to your business across the web. A citation is any reference to your business name, address or phone number. Google finds these references and uses them to understand what data it should show in your Google My Business listing – the more inconsistent it is across the web the more confusion to Google. So if you have two divisions of your business operating, lets say sales and letting, and Google finds inconsistent references to them across the web, it’s even more likely to see the overlap and assume there is one business there, rather than the many that are portrayed across the web.

    For example, let’s say you had a sales and lettings business operating from the same address with these address and phone number details:

    Awesome Agents                  Awesome Agents – Lettings

    23 Property Street               23 Property Street

    West Side                                West Side

    Big Town                                 Big Town

    BG5 TO1                                  BG5 TO1

    01234 567890                         01234 567891

    Let’s say Google encounters these difference citations across the web:

    Awesome Agents                    Awesome Letting Agents      Awesome Agents (lettings)

    Property Street                       23 Property St                           23 Property Street

    Big Town                                    West Side                                   Big Town

    BG5 TO1                                      01234 567891                           BG5 TO1         

    01234 567890                                                                                  01234 567891

    In trying to work out the citations, Google might conclude that there is one business at the address and use the following details:

    Awesome Agents

    23 Property Street

    West Side

    Big Town

    BG5 TO1

    01234 567891

    Effectively combining details of both sales and lettings into one listing with a complete address, but using the estate agency brand name, and the lettings phone number.

    What’s the Solution then?

    If you are an agent experiencing the delights of mergers between your listings, by now you are probably keen to know what the solution is!

    There are actually 2 approaches here… 1. Make your listings as distinct as possible, 2. Embrace the problem.

    1. Make your listings as distinct as possible

    What’s more distinct than a different address? I don’t mean relocate your divisions – by all means do it if that is a possibility, as it’s a great solution to the problem! For most companies though, that’s not an option… What I mean here is you can add distinguishers to the address to make them different.

    Let’s say your address was:

    23 Property Street

    West Side

    Big Town

    BG5 TO1

    If you had a sales and lettings branch at the same address, you could do the following:

    Estate Agent Brand                Letting Agent Brand

    Ground Floor                           First Floor

    23 Property Street                 23 Property Street

    West Side                                  West Side

    Big Town                                   Big Town

    BG5 TO1                                     BG5 TO1

    Or another alternative might be:

    Estate Agent Brand                 Letting Agent Brand

    Suite 1                                           Suite 2

    23 Property Street                  23 Property Street

    West Side                                   West Side

    Big Town                                    Big Town

    BG5 TO1                                     BG5 TO1

    You would, of course, need to reflect these addresses across the web to keep a consistent citation NAP (Name Address Phone Number), and not confuse Google. To keep them apart you would need a lot of strong distinct citations to help Google understand.

    Then fill the rest of the listings in as distinctly as possible as well. Different categories, different images etc.

    Plus you want to link through to different landing pages, one for lettings and one for sales. You could take the approach of www.awesomeagents.co.uk/estateagent  &  www.awesomeagents.co.uk/lettingagent or estateagent.awesomeagents.co.uk and lettingagent.awesomeagents.co.uk for example.

    If you want to live dangerously and ignore Google’s guidelines you could give the businesses slightly different names for the purpose of the web.

    For example, if the brand was “Awesome Agents”, you could call the lettings brand “Awesome Letting Agents” and the sales side “Awesome Estate Agents”.

    The drawback is you may find you have 2 or more distinct listings, but they don’t rank well.

    2. Embrace the problem

    We’ve looked at some of the reasons you might want your listings to be separated, but if it’s a choice of separate listings driving few (if any!) leads or combined listings that drive a good pipeline, don’t you think it might be worth looking at?

    If you are operating under the same brand name, there are ways to flow leads into their own distinct measurable funnels…

    ‘Keeping them distinct to measure success’ problem

    A problem often cited is wanting different phone numbers for different teams, one number for sales, one number for lettings etc. This might be done to make sure calls go through to the right place, and measure the number of phone leads coming in. Technology to the rescue…

    You can use one phone number with a menu system to direct calls into sales, lettings, new homes – where-ever you need. Once something that only big companies could afford to do, with simple cloud-based systems, it’s now a doddle for agents to set up, and easy on the wallet too.

    Plus you can measure the leads, and integrate with CRM systems.

    On the website itself, you would need to have one consolidated branch page, where you could feature the same number with menu system for calls, and contact forms with a drop down to select your department. Most contacts tend to come via the phone, and the majority of users do not click through to the site, so a decent phone solution is very important.

    ‘Reviews’ problem

    The fear of negative reviews from one part of the business dragging down the performance of another are often unfounded. If you have a proactive policy of getting positive reviews, and you respond to negative reviews, then you’ll be in a better position than most agents out there!

    Reviews are a ranking factor, and a combined listing is going to have a lot more power than 2 or more individual listings.

    The same goes with other ranking factors of a listing. Consolidated citations, consolidated stronger pages on the website – they are some serious advantages!

     

    Summary

    It’s easy to bury your head in the sand in frustration with Google when it doesn’t understand how your business operates. Fear not though, there are solutions to make multiple listings work, and ways to make one listing work for multiple business divisions. At the end of the day it comes down to which path your business is more comfortable with, and some hard work up front, either way, to send Google the message about how your business operates.

    Author Bio

    James Robinson has been a digital marketer since 2006. He’s had a career leading teams and developing successful strategies in agencies and client side. James is a digital marketing consultant who provides consultancy, training and white label services for design, development and digital marketing agencies.

     

     

     

    Image Credits

    Featured Images: 

    Ozzy Delaney

    Eric Kilby

    Some great words of wisdom from an accomplished estate agency digital practitioner.

    If you or a member of your team has been affected by these issues and need help in fixing your Estate and Letting Agency listings, then please call MiShop.local on 01273 987498 or email info@mishoplocal.co.uk…. We’d be delighted to help.

    Google Posts for Multi-Locations

    Google Posts enable businesses to advertise events and promotions within their Google My Business listing.

    Much has been written about Posts for small businesses (here’s a good example in SearchEngineLand), however, this article is for enterprises with more than 10 locations.  Based on our experience of managing large post campaigns, we will outline the benefits and practical considerations of setting up and a multi-location Post campaign.

    Why should an enterprise use GMB Posts?

    There are a number of benefits for Posts, including:

    • Free Ads.  No Pay Per Click! – Posts can get thousands of impressions and clicks for free!  For an enterprise with hundreds of locations, that is potentially millions of extra impressions.
    • No ad-blockers!  Although Post can be considered a form of local advertising, they are not like normal ads that pop-up in a search.  They are static and will only be seen by people looking at a specific location in GMB. They are not therefore blocked by ad-blockers, which is a significant advantage. However, Posts must not be used for ‘in your face’ selling, rather as a means for informing and engaging with customers.
    • Simple calls-to-action – Posts can be used in different ways, for example, promoting the launch a new product range, late-night shopping, appointment booking, exclusive offers, sales, newsletter sign-ups, etc.  They can drive footfall to your store as well as traffic to your website.
    • Significant open-rates – We have seen open rates of around 25% of total views for a GMB listing.  The ‘click rate’ depends on the nature of the Post and the call to action itself.  This varies from post to post, business to business, and indeed location to location.  Either way, posts are a highly effective way to raise awareness and drive local promotions.
    • Simple to administer – Posts are simple and fast to set-up.  All you need is an image, a few words and if you want, a link.  Although they are limited in size and number of characters, an eye-grabbing image and a simple tag-line can be very effective, and because there is little scope for ‘creative’ they are cheap to prepare.
    • Cement the intent! – Posts are only seen by people who look at your GMB store listing. A Post may coax a prospective customer into the store, or persuade an existing customer (checking your opening times for example) to spend more.
    • Attention-grabbing and no competition – Posts are not like ads, they don’t appear in organic search, they only appear in front of people visiting your GMB page; this is a moment of truth as your Post will be read at a time that is relevant to that person. A Post will grab their attention when they may be considering visiting your store.

    Challenges and considerations when using Posts for enterprise

    Posts are simple and effective, but there are limitations and challenges for multi-location brands. Here are the main ones:

    Posts cannot be managed dynamically – You cannot, for example, integrate with your store inventory system and automatically create or remove posts according to what a store sells or has in stock.  This is a constraint when promoting specific products. Options for getting around this include:

    • Create generic Posts that apply to all stores, or different Posts according to groups of store categories or sizes.
    • Link to a store specific inventory/promotion pages if you have one.
    • Link to generic promotion page on your website.

    Uses an appropriate “Call-to-Action” to drive footfall and traffic to your website – Posts provide a call-to-action link including: “Get Offer”, “Buy”, “Learn More, “Reserve”, or “Sign-Up”.  In all instances, you can use a trackable link to a relevant landing page.  However, CTA links are optional, sometimes the Post itself is sufficient and people don’t need to click for more information.

    A post cannot be scheduled to appear on a specific date – Although you can specify when an event will start, the Post will go live as soon as it is created.  So if you want a ‘flash sale’ post to appear on the day of the Sale, you will have to create it on the day you want it to go live.  Depending on the number of stores, this has resource implications.

    Posts need to be managed – Keep them fresh and relevant.  If you are managing a date specific campaigns, you will need to plan and then set-up and remove them accordingly. Posts last for seven days unless they are set as an “Event”, in which case they will last until the event is over.  However, Posts don’t completely disappear when the event ends; they can still be seen by mobile users in the “Posts” tab for up to a month, so you will need to delete them if you do not wish them to be seen.

    Post analytics are basic – They tell you how many people read them and how many clicked on the call-to-action link (if used).

    Measuring footfall directly attributed to Posts is difficult unless you use a trackable offer that can only be spent in-store.  Given that many people are likely to read posts on their mobile, consider using the Post itself as a ‘voucher’ or link to an offer page that can be presented on a phone instore.  Ensure that the stores are aware of the campaign and what they need to do before launch.

    Analytics are recorded at an individual Post level, not at an enterprise or campaign level.  If you delete the post, you lose the analytics. You need to record the analytics of each post prior to deleting the post.

    Trackable links – Posts do not integrate with Google Analytics; however, you can use UTM codes to track the downstream actions accordingly. You can either use a unique link for each store or alternatively use one campaign link for all stores.

    Follow Google Post Guidelines – Google has a list of things that cannot be posted.  Although most brands do not promote drugs, pornography or violence, there are many that sell alcohol.  Just mentioning “glass of wine” in a post can result in the post being removed.  Also, avoid sales-speak such as “BOGOF”, 2 for 1, 50% Off! etc.  Read Google Post guidelines for more information. If you are unsure, run a test before roll-out.

    Managing Post campaigns for multiple-location brands.

    The good news is that Posts are very easy to set-up and are a highly effective way to promote the local store, as well as driving traffic to your website.  The bad news is there is currently no facility for enterprises with more than 10 locations to manage Posts in bulk.  However, we can help!  Our unique service enables brands with up to 5000 locations to use Google Posts.

    We manage (under NDA) the largest post campaigns in the world for all types of retailers, car rentals, restaurant, pub chains and more.

    In Summary:

    • Posts are proven and effective way to raise awareness of store campaigns and promotions.  
    • Posts have SEO benefits
    • Google does not offer bulk Posting, however MiShop.local can!

    About MiShop.local

    MiShop.local provides local presence management services including Posts for Enterprise to multi-location brands with 50 to 5000 locations.

    Avoid ‘Computer Says NO’

    Be very careful when setting up multi-location listings in Google for the first time.

    Don’t assume that you can just upload a file and away you go!  Oh no, doing it this way can result in those immortal words “Computer says NO”

    The best approach is to create an organic local presence before uploading a file to Google My Business.

    Google “the machine” will publish new listings if they match your existing organic presence and you conform to their guidelines.

    However, if you bulk upload without laying the foundations, the chances are Google will say “hang on” this isn’t quite right and put your listings into  ‘pending’ for a human to review; If that happens the Google human can make things very complicated for you or even block the submission.

    When Google the computer says “No” -Google humans step in… and that’s when it can get really complicated!

    To avoid “Computer says No”, follow Google’s guidelines, establish an organic authority before listing, be patient and don’t do anything out of the ordinary!

    Or better still get help from an expert – call MiShop.local.

    Why charities need to manage the online presence of their shops

    Understandably, charities have limited marketing budgets and need to maximise return on investment. Investing time and money to manage the online presence of a charity shop may seem unnecessary, but in reality, it is essential, not only to meet the changing habits of consumers but also as a means of driving footfall and growing brand awareness.

    Firstly, a bit about “local search” – When people search for “charity shop”, the results will appear in Google Places or Google Maps! How and where you appear is influenced more by your physical address than your website. In all likelihood, your shops will already be listed, but are they correct and are they performing to their full potential?

    So what? Surely charity shops rely on passing trade, and as many don’t have an e-commerce site, why do they need to care about their local online presence?

    Charity shops are like any other retail business; people want to know when you are open, where you are located, the services you offer and whether you have what they need, they may also want to know how to donate or volunteer etc. However, it is wrong to assume that people go directly to your website to get this information. They don’t! Instead, they start with Google to search for opening times, contact details, directions, products, and services. They also read and write reviews and ask questions about local services.

    Coupled with this, Google has invested heavily in Google My Business pages, which brings together information from around the web about your shop into one place. It is a Knowledge Graph for a specific location and is the first point of call for most people searching for local information. Google My Business is the ‘online front door’ to your shop and the most important digital asset you can have in local search.

    The Anatomy of a Google My Business Page

    Below is an example of a Google My Business Page as seen on a desktop. The information is the same, although the look and feel are slightly different for mobile users.

    Should Charities Manage Their Local Presence For Performance Improvement or Hygiene?

    Local presence management should in the first instance be about “hygiene”; meaning that the information used by your customers should be correct wherever they find it in local search. For the most part, if people search for “your brand + location” they will find you, just make sure the information they find is correct. In other words, your brand name, address, phone number, weblink and store opening times need to be consistent and correct. Coupled with this, not all charity premises are shops; charities have offices, volunteer groups, service depots, support services, care centers, etc. all of which can (and do) appear in local search results. You may not want the public to call or visit certain sites, or they may only be open at certain times, so it is up to you to check that your premises are listed appropriately.

    Correctly listed information is a hygiene factor that happens to have SEO benefits.

    At the very minimum, charities should ensure branch details are correctly listed in the main local ‘doorway’ listings, namely; Google, Bing, Facebook and Apple Maps. Doing so will ensure you appear in most local ‘brand’ and ‘charity shop’ related searches.

    Optimising for local search performance.

    Not everyone will search for charities by brand or think to look at a charity for a particular product or services, for example; furniture. A charity that collects and sells furniture needs to appear in searches for “furniture clearance” and “furniture store”. Competing for these keywords requires an organic SEO strategy including; optimizing your listings, website, blogs and social media etc.

    There is, however a law of diminishing returns with local SEO; there is only so much that you can do and in fact need to do to get on the map. This is driven by a number of factors including local competition, local population size and demographics AND the user’s location in relation to your location. In other words, performance varies on a location by location basis. If you have multiple shops, it may be impractical to ‘micro-optimise’ each location, which means you need to focus on the fundamentals of claiming and managing your Google listings, ensuring other local listings are correct and point to a locally optimised store page.

    Other Considerations

    We promised to focus on the fundamentals of local search. If you are tight on resource, start with Google Places. However, here is a very high-level overview of other areas you should consider for local:

    Apple Maps

    3 out of 4 iPhone users will use Apple Maps instead of Google Maps. It is an important digital asset that needs to be managed, although it does not offer the same level of flexibility, functionality or insights as Google Maps.

    Bing

    Bing Places, is less complicated and easier to manage than Google Places, but does not have the same level of functionality or insights. Its reviews are sourced from different listing sites around the web such as Yelp and Foursquare.

    Facebook is also local.

    Charities with multiple locations can have a Facebook ‘Place Page’ for each shop connected to the main brand page via a ‘store finder’. Facebook rules can be configured to govern how Place Pages are branded, who has access, and whether they are managed centrally, locally or both. However, most charities have many standalone, unofficial, unmanaged and unbranded Facebook Pages for each of their shops. Customers may be checking-in and posting on these pages without the charity’s knowledge. By setting up a Place Page hierarchy, charities can control information and interactions with customers that wish to follow their local charity shop or office.

    Local Listings

    Fundamental to local SEO is local business listings. Local business listings are an important reference point that can further raise your local online presence and improve search performance. The likelihood is that most charity shops will be listed in a number of these, however, it is important that the shop’s Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is consistent wherever it is listed.

    Website

    Ideally, each shop should have its own locally optimised webpage where the NAP and opening times are presented in schema markup and are consistent with that listed in Google Places and local listing sites. The webpage should also have local tags in the URL e.g. www.yourwebsitename.co.uk/brighton_charity_shop , and ideally, contain local content and references.

    Customer Reviews

    Customers reviews raise your profile in local search. Unfortunately, unhappy customers aren’t averse to writing bad reviews about charities, however, you can encourage your supporters to write positive reviews that raise your local online profile and help to promote your cause.

    Google Posts

    Google Posts is a fantastic new feature in Google My Business. This free feature can be used by charity shops to raise awareness of specific fund-raising events, highlight your cause, encourage people to volunteer or sign-up to a newsletter (for example). The only challenge is managing it at a local level. You can read more about Google Posts here

    Q&As (in Google My Business)

    Q&As (In Google My Business) is a recent development. Questions are mostly answered by a community of local Google Guides that mean well, but may not know the correct answers. Q&As are in their infancy and are not easily managed by large charities across multiple locations, so this is one to be aware of at the moment. However, it may be a function that is monitored by the Social Media Team.

    Conclusion

    Charity shops, like other retailers, need to manage their local online presence in the ‘doorway listings’ Google, Bing, Facebook and Apple Maps as well as local listing sites. Most charity shops are already listed, but not in a controlled way. Charities need to:

    • Claim and manage Google, Bing, Facebook and Apple Map listings.
    • Ensure local listing sites have NAP consistency.
    • Link to a locally optimised shop webpage.
    • Encourage and monitor customer reviews.
    • Use Google Posts and Facebook location pages to drive local awareness.

    Do brands need to manage listings everywhere?

    For many years, the best practice for an effective local SEO strategy was to have a consistent NAP on local listing sites.  Although consistent NAP is still important in key sites, it is no longer the case that you have to be listed everywhere!

    Today, many local listing sites have little impact on local SEO, particularly those sites that list for the sake of listing and offer no value to customers.

    NAP everywhere is not necessary

    In Moz Local’s annual local search ranking factors study, it is clear that the importance of local citations and local listings is declining.  We’ve seen this ourselves and note that aside from a few key sites, the greatest value sites are sector focused with highly localised and relevant customer content.

    “Citations and links as we have known them will continue to play a part in the ranking algorithm, but they will be less and less important as Google increases their understanding of entity prominence and the real world.” Mike Blumenthal – GetFiveStars

    This is because Google is getting smarter at recognizes local citation sites that are valued by customers whilst ignoring those that are not.  Google also now places more value on brand sites that use correct local NAP micro-formants and schemas.

    If a listing site does not offer value to users, then how can it benefit you?

    Where should multi-location brands be listed?

    Given the shift in Google local, multi-location brands can relax about being listed everywhere and focus on the places that matter to their customers.

    In our experience, most established multi-location brands tend to have many (organic) local listings anyway.  These will naturally arise due to the way that listing sites ‘propagate’.  There may be NAP inconsistencies, but unless these are dramatically wrong, these are unlikely to interfere with local search performance.  The focus then becomes one of listing new stores and removing old store listings.

    There are exceptions, for example, chains that have re-branded or move premises frequently. In this case, legacy listings can confuse search engine and customers.  There are also chains in certain sectors that, for whatever reason, do not have an organic listing presence, and as a result do not appear in search.

    This not to say that you can get away with one or two listings, nor will you be penalized if you have many, you just need to be smarter about which listings need to be managed.

    Sector-specific, niche local citations, and sites that have high customers engagement with reviews (for example) are valuable.

    There are some key listing aggregator and distributor sites that you do need to be listed, however, there are many local listings sites that you can ignore.  It really does depend on your sector.

    A simple technique to determine which sites to use is to see what sites appear in local organic search within your area.  A local listing site by its very nature should be optimized for local search.  If a site does not naturally appear in organic search, then why bother with it? There are too many of these to list them.

    Our principle is; if a listing site does not appear in local organic search, it is not sufficiently valued by Google, and is very unlikely to be valued by users; so why waste your time managing listings on it?

    Page rank and domain authority are guiding factors, but not absolute guides.  Some high performing local sites may be sector focused or highly localized; with little global authority, but highly localized value.  That site may be at the bottom of the table in rankings, but at the top of the table in local search in a given area.

    Essentially, multi-location brands can focus their efforts on managing the main user sites that are most relevant to their sector, so aside from Google, Bing, Facebook and Apple Maps that may be Tripadvisor (for example) for hospitality chains or NHS direct for dentists and pharmacies etc.

    That only leaves the sites that actually matter, namely; Google, Bing, Facebook, Apple Maps, key sector sites, some aggregators and (if relevant) SatNav sites.  These are your local search doorways to your brand!

    What about optimizing for local performance for multi-locations?

    Due to the nature of local search, there is a law of diminishing returns for trying to optimize multiple locations for local search.  Google is getting a lot smarter and is using factors that, to a greater extent, is leveling the playing fields for local business.  For example, it does not matter how much you optimize for local, if you are not physically located where a customer is searching, you aren’t going to be put in front of them!

    You do however need to monitor reviews and ensure your branches deliver a fantastic service.  It is customers reviews that will ultimately determine whether people come to you or not.

    Don’t waste your time on branch level local ranking reports, instead monitor searches volumes that the branches appear and actions; such as click for calls, directions or website.

    Google provides all the analytics data you need to determine whether they are working effectively for you.  If a branch GMB listing is underperforming (compared to the rest of your branch network), you can conduct a local audit to determine what the issue is.

    To find out how we help multi-location brands to manage their “local search doorways”, please click here

    Facebook ‘Locations’ for Franchises

    What are Facebook Locations?

    With Facebook Locations, you can connect and manage all your business locations on Facebook. Facebook Locations enable you to add new local Pages, edit information for existing locations, and manage your locations from one central spot.

    With Locations, businesses can:

    • Help customers find a business faster
    • Offer localised content
    • Manage all locations in one place
    • Cascade brand content to all location pages
    • Aggregate check-ins on the main Page
    • Manage local Facebook ads

    Challenges faced by Franchises in Facebook

    • Inconsistent branding
    • Inconsistent NAP details
    • The level of engagement with Facebook differs from franchisee to franchisee. This results in some pages with a large following and consistent content, some with very little content and no following and some with no page at all.
    • No centralised management – If a page is set-up by a franchisee employee and they then leave this can then make it extremely hard to gain access to the logins and the page becomes redundant.
    • Unofficial pages

    How does ‘Facebook Locations’ Solve these Challenges

    • All pages within the hierarchy structure will feature the same Profile photo, cover photo and company description as the main brand page unless stated otherwise. This ensures all location pages follow brand guidelines.
    • NAP details can be updated as necessary through a bulk upload form (more information on this can be found below)
    • Facebook Locations offers cascading options to ensure there is an active presence on each location page. The three options are as follows:

    Posts from the main brand page will only cascade down to local pages that do not already post their own content. Once a local page starts posting its own content the cascading posts form the main brand page will stop – Facebook Default

    Posts from the main brand page will cascade down to all local pages as well as any posts the local place page posts as well.

    No posts from the brand page will cascade down to the local pages. The only posts on the local pages will be their own.

    • All locations within the hierarchy are managed from one central spot within Facebook. This ensures that the whilst the franchisees can work and contribute to their location pages, the ownership of these remain with the franchisor.
    • Manage Rogue Pages: Having official location pages for your brand may help cut down on the number of rogue pages created from user check-ins. These verified pages are easier for users to see and hopefully make it a simpler check-in process through their preference.

    The Service

    We will firstly complete a free Facebook audit on the franchises current presence.

    From the audit, we will determine:

    • How many pages need to be migrated?
    • How many pages need to be created?
    • How many pages need to be claimed and deleted?
    • Do any pages need to be merged?

    Complete three processes based on the results of the audit.

    1. Page Creation – For any locations who do not currently have a Facebook presence a location page linked to the brand page will be created.
    2. Page Migration – For any location who do currently have a Facebook presence with an engaged following we will take these pages and implement the location structure.
    3. Page Claiming and Merging/Deleting Process – For pages that exist but are not currently managed, we will claim and then either merge with a managed page or delete.

    After the initial set-up of locations, we will continuously update the pages with any changing NAP (Name, Address, Telephone) details and create new pages on the brands request for any new locations.

    About MiShop.local

    MiShop.local provides local presence management services including Facebook Locations to multi-location brands. We currently have set-up and managed over 1000 locations on Facebook.

    For more information on Facebook Locations, you can check out our blog post on them here. Alternatively, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01273 987498 or at info@mishoplocal.co.uk if you

    The Local Search Guide for Funeral Directors

    How and where funeral directors need to be listed online in the UK.

    Funeral directors are local businesses and as such, appear in local search results when people search for funeral services.

    This article outlines the unique elements that influence how and where a funeral director appears in local search and what can be done to improve search performance.

    Challenges funeral directors face in local search

    We all search for products and services online, however, people rarely need to search for a funeral director. So, if the need does arise, it is important that people can find funeral directors using the search methods that they are familiar with.

    It used to be the case that families would use the same funeral directors. However, with increased migration, people may not know the funeral directors in their area, or the person organising the funeral may not live in the area either. People are searching for funeral directors without previous experience of them.

    A funeral director website is important, but even more important is how and where people search for funeral services. Gone are the days when they would open the Yellow Pages and look for a familiar name, instead they go online and search for “funeral directors + location”.

    “Funeral director + location” is a local search term, the results of which are influenced by numerous factors, but the most important is where business address details are listed on line and customer reviews. It is very likely that a potential customer will click on a local listing in Google, Bing or Facebook before clicking through to your website. If that listing is incorrect, doesn’t look good or says that you are closed, when you are open, or has a negative review, there is a chance that they will not call or click to your website!
    Searching for a funeral director can be a ‘distressed search’; so the person searching is not going to spend hours comparing websites, so first impressions will count wherever they find your details.

    How to list Funeral Directors

    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.

    Funeral Directors need to follow these simple listing tips:

    Name: list your business name as it would appear above the door. For example, A.B.Thomas Funeral Directors

    Ensure that the name is consistently listed everywhere. Do not create a different listing with different keywords in the name such as A.B. Thomas Funeral Services, A.B. Thomas Funeral Directors, A.B Thomas Stone Masons, etc.  Instead, choose one name and stick to it. If you have changed the name or taken over the premises of a previous funeral director, then be sure to look for the old names and either remove those listings or change the names accordingly.

    If you provide different funeral services at the same address, for example, Stone Masons, be very careful how you list this. It is possible to list different business at the same address, but there must be very clear NAP distinction between them and ideally a different website link. Do not be tempted to list two business at the same address with the same phone number and website.

    Address: Your address is extremely important as it is a major indicator that you are local. A problem for long established funeral directors is that addresses can change very subtly, or in fact, the post code changed. Check your address with the Royal Mail Postcode checker [http://www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode] then use that in the listing sites.

    Phone Numbers: Use the same telephone number in all listing sites. Avoid listing 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.

    Importantly, many funeral directors operate an out-of-hours telephone number. It is very difficult to list different numbers for the same address for different purposes, so if possible, use the same number all the time and route the number to your telephone answering service after hours.
    Opening Hours: If you have a 24-hour answering service, be sure to set your opening times as 24/7; in that way, you will always appear in search results as “Open”.

    Category: You need to be categorised under Funeral Directors, Funeral Services and Funeral Arrangers. Some sites may provide additional categories such as Stone Masons, Funeral Flowers, Funeral Cars etc. Only use these if relevant. Focus on your main category.

    Content: Most listing sites provide space for a business description, images and web links.

    Words – Think of local listings as classified ads- they need to be punchy and to the point with keyword rich content that focuses on your services in your area.

    Don’t waffle or use the same description on all listing sites. Although you are not penalised for using the same content, there is value in having a range of content in different sites.

    Images – Use engaging images. Although a death is a sad event, try to use neutral welcoming images rather than dark, lonely sad ones. You’d be surprised how an image influences the click rate.

    Customer Reviews: Customer Reviews associated with your address in places like Google can influence local search performance and customer purchasing decisions.

    There has been a significant growth in people writing local online reviews, however, funeral services are different. Understandably, the bereaved are less likely to write an online review unprompted, although they are usually happy to write a thank you letter or testimonial for a Funeral Director.

    Testimonials on your website may influence customer purchasing decisions (if they read them), but they may not influence your local search performance. It is, therefore, necessary to ask customers to write a review in Google or other local review sites that influence local search. This needs to be done sensitively and at the right time. We suggest sending a simple printed request and instructions a few days after the service.

    Local Listing strategies for Funeral Directors in the UK.

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

    We have grouped the listings below for you into; Distributors, B2C Generic and Funeral Services:

    Funeral Services specific sites naturally perform better in local search results for “funeral directors + 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:

    Local Authority / Local Council Websites

    A local authority or council website will list information about local funeral services.

    Note: Some of these funeral related sites may require you to be a member of their association before you can be listed.
    If you’ve put the effort in to claim and manage your listings, be sure to check them periodically. Unmanaged listings can change and eventually lose their content and value.

     

    ‘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 funeral directors. They vary in quality and usefulness; however, these are the main ones that funeral directors can claim and manage;

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

     

    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 need help with your funeral director listing, please get in touch below or alternatively call MiShop.local on 01273 987498 or email info@mishoplocal.co.uk

    Get in touch

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

      The Myth of Instantly Updating Listings Everywhere

      Some local listing services claim they can update every listing site instantly.

      This is not true and nor is it necessary, and here is why…

      Some facts about updating local listings:

      An effective local search strategy requires consistent NAP listings in local listings and local citation sites.

      There are hundreds of local listing sites, which work in different ways and at different speeds.   Very loosely, we group these into two types of sites:  On-Grid and Off-Grid.

      “On-Grid” sites pay to receive regular listing updates via a distributor such as Thomson.local or Central Index. However, very few On-Grid sites will update their data instantly, instead, they can take up to 6 weeks before a change takes effect.  Coupled with this, distributors don’t actually guarantee that the listing sites will implement a change request, nor do it accurately!

      “Off-Grid” sites periodically receive an update from a distributor (or other sources), but not as a direct feed; These tend to be niche sites that focus on specific sectors.  There are also sites that use their own crawling tools to update information on their own listings, which again takes time and may not happen for several days or even weeks.

      Most ‘claimed’ listings can be updated immediately, however, some sites can delay publication of changes by 3-5 days depending on the change and their verification processes.

      So how can some companies claim instant updates everywhere?

      Well, it is possible to enter into an agreement with specific directories to provide an instant update, but these data feeds tend to work more like an advert on the listing site rather than as a proper listing. So, the listing ‘ad’ changes, but it does not necessarily change in the body of the listing site itself, nor is it disseminated to other on-grid or off-grid listing sites.  This means that instant updates are restricted to a few sites within the portfolio of the service. It is therefore not currently possible to instantly update every listing site everywhere. Period!

      This is fine if you are happy with the portfolio of listings offered; however, this is not good if you have sector-specific listings which fall outside of the service.

      Is it actually necessary to update instantly everywhere?

      Ignoring the fact that it is not currently possible, the question is why might you want to update instantly everywhere?

      In our experience, the only element of a listing that may need to change frequently is “Opening Times”.  For retailers that change their opening times frequently, it is important that listings reflect this.  However, people do not use basic listing sites to check opening times they use Google!

      We manage the opening times for a number of big retail brands.  We don’t claim to update every site everywhere instantly (see above), but we do update Google My Business opening times instantly.

      Before using our service, our retail clients had a significant number of customer complaints about incorrect opening times.  Guess what, as soon as we started managing opening times in Google My Business, complaints about opening times stopped!

      We can only conclude that people are not using the conventional listing sites for opening times, so why be concerned with instantly updating opening times on listings that aren’t used?  Instead, focus your efforts on getting your NAP listings correct, and then manage the heck out of Google My Business.

      Finally, if you open or close business premises, then understandably you want to add or remove listings everywhere as quickly as possible.  However, we’ve already established that this cannot be done instantly everywhere, so what is required is a systematic process of adding (or removing) listings in the right place and sequence, so as to take advantage of the way that online and offline directories work within the listing ecosystem.  Placing an instant listing within a closed portfolio of listing sites will not create a sufficient SEO footprint to instantly improve your local search performance; it takes time!

      Google indexes listings at its own pace, not yours!

      So, relax, prioritise and change the listings that matter to your customers and sector.

      If you want a service that cleans and manage listing sites that matter to your business and keeps the most viewed ones working for your, then call MiShop.local for a no obligation consultation.

      Why territory names can deter customers in local search…

      Most franchises are ‘local’ and as such need to manage their local online search presence and reputation.  However, many franchises operate in territories or service areas, and as a result are tempted to use their territory names to differentiate one franchisee from the other in local search.

      This article discusses why using territory names in local listings could deter customers.

      Franchise Territory Names can deter customers

      Franchises operate territories, and as such get very parochial about how each franchisee is listed.  As such, many franchisees are listed with the brand name followed by the franchise territory.

      For example; “Shiny Cleaners Milton Keynes” or “Shiny Cleaners Northampton”.

      For retail franchises (one where customers come to your premises) this is not such an issue, however for a service area business (man in a van) where the franchisee is serving a wide area, a territory name in the title may lose you business.

      Here’s why;

      Your listing will be seen by people outside of your territory.

      Territory names limit your search relevance and can deter customers.

      If your franchise territory is included in your business listing name, you are potentially being overlooked by customers who don’t think you will service them; however, there may be an adjoining franchisee who can service them.

      If a potential customer searches for your services in a town or county that borders your town or county, it may be that the ‘wrong’ franchise appears in the search results.   If the customer sees a different town or county name in the business name title to where they are located, they may think the franchise does not serve their location and therefore not call.  The customer won’t necessarily look for the franchisee that does serve their location.

      As well as this, listing a town after you brand name can deter people who do not live in that town yet are within your territory.  For example, Warwick is 10 miles from Coventry, yet someone in Warwick seeing a listing for “Joe’s Plumber Coventry” will see Coventry and think “They’re not going to come to Warwick”.

      A territory name can deter customers the further they are from the franchisee’s base.

      The map below shows how territory names in local listings may deter customers on the border of two adjoining franchise territories.

      What’s the solution?

      To make yourself relevant to a wider customer audience, you need to remove the territory from your business listings and only list your brand! 

      By only listing your brand name, your search results will have greater relevancy to a bigger customer audience as you will no longer be dismissed on the basis of geography.

      Why might Franchisees object to this approach?

      Franchisees may object to removing the territory name from their local listings if they believe franchisees adjoining their territories will take their enquiries.  However, by adopting this approach, the franchise network will be stronger as it will pick up more business than if it were to operate as individual territories.

      To address the issue of ‘cross boarder’ issue of customers calling franchisees from outside their territory, franchises must have internal processes and controls to ensure that customer are served by the appropriate franchisee.

      A franchisee address (wherever it may be) can be leveraged to raise the profile of the franchise network.  For example, Franchisee A may live in Franchisee B’s territory.  However, Franchisee A’s address could be listed to raise the local search footprint of the brand as a whole.  It does not mean that they need to deliver the service in that area.

      Are there any exceptions?

      Yes there are exceptions.  If the territory is small (in area) or there is a particularly dense population, or in a big city, then it can make sense to include a territory or location name.

      Summary

      Franchisees need to trade on their Brand not their location.

      The further away a customer is from the franchisee, the less likely they are to call. 

      Remove the territory name from your local listings and maximise your local presence to increase the overall franchises search footprint and relevancy.

      4 tips for Service Area Franchises to improve local search performance:

      • List franchisee locations with consistent Name, Address and Phone number in Google My Business, and local listing sites.
      • Don’t use the territory name in a business listing.
      • Extend your local brand and search footprint by using franchisee addresses ‘strategically’.
      • Have an internal process to re-assign customer enquiries to the correct territory.

      If you are a franchise and would like to discuss how your franchisees can improve their local online performance, please call MiShop.local. or click here to book a free on-screen webinar.

      Duplicate Listings – Why they confuse search engines and customers, and what you need to do about them.

      As the name suggests, a duplicate listing is more than one listing for a business at a given location. In the following article, we talk about what this actually means, why it is bad for local search and what you can do about it.

      So what is a “duplicate listing”? The word “duplicate” suggests an identical “copy”, however in local search we use the term “duplicate listing” when there are two (or more) listings for the same business at the same physical address, but which may be slightly different.

      A duplicate listing is two or more similar listings for the same business at the same address.

      Why are Duplicate Listings bad for local search?

      Duplicate listings are bad for local search as they often contain conflicting or inconsistent information which confuses search engines and customers. 

      If a search engine cannot clearly differentiate between two listings, it may not show either of them, or lower their search ranking, or only show one listing (which may be incorrect).

      Duplicate listings can be merged as they are shared by aggregators and distributors across the various directories; so what may have started as two separate listings, may eventually morph into several variations of the combined listings, which further adds to the problem.

      A symptom of duplicate listings in Google Maps is multiple listings (of the duplicate data) in other directories.

      Search engines try to organise and make sense of information!  If there are two or more listings at the same address with similar information, the search engines are not able to easily ascertain which one is correct, or which one should take priority. This isn’t about whether the listing itself is wrong, it’s about the overall effect it has on your search ranking.

      Types of NAP variations found in Duplicate Listings

      The main variations that cause duplicate listings (at the same address) are Name, Phone Number and URLs.

      The following simple examples, illustrate the attributes of listing that confuse search engines:

      Name Variations: 

      Duplicate listings with different names are very common, particularly for companies that have re-branded, do not have a strict brand name policy or have been at the same address for many years and have a legacy of subtle name changes.

      Example of Name variations found in duplicate listings include:

      • Brand
      • Bran (Misspelt)
      • Brnd (Truncated/ Shortened) (may not be the full brand name)
      • Brand (Reversed) (for example “Brand A” may be listed as “A Brand”
      • Old Brand Name
      • Old Brand + New Brand Name (two names merged together).
      • Brand Ltd.
      • Brand Limited
      • Brand Plc.
      • Parent Company Name (instead of the brand name)
      • Brand + Street Name
      • Brand + Town Name
      • Town Name + Brand
      • Brand +Service Area
      • Brand + Category
      • Brand + Country
      • Any combination of the above (It is not uncommon to find variations of the above merged into a new listing which is then listed as a duplicate).

      Fixing duplicate listings for re-brands takes time and a specialist approach which may depend on the nature and type of re-brand.

      Serious consideration is also required when listing different brands at the same address, for example concessions stores. (See our previous article

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

      Phone Number Variations:

      Duplicate listings with different telephone numbers are very common particularly for established brands that have been at the same address for many years.

      Companies that have changed their telephone numbers in the past 15 years can expect to find numerous listings with old telephone numbers still listed.  Some of these numbers may be dead, re-assigned to another company, or never answered.

      Be aware of where your local brand details are listed and ensure they do not contain old phone numbers.

      Category Variations:

      It is rare, but not impossible to find duplicate listings where the only difference is the category. If the NAP is identical, the duplicates can eventually be consolidated into one listing under one category. However, this can potentially result in the business being miss-categorised.

      URL Variations:

      Duplicate listings with different URLs are common where brand have had different website domains in the past.  Whether they are subtle differences such as changing from brand.co.uk to brand.com or major differences such as oldbrand.com to newbrand.com.

      Franchise brands with franchisee owned websites can have major issues, which significantly undermines the brand.

      Although many companies re-route legacy urls to the new domain, we often find dead links or re-assigned links or even hijacked links being listed in the Brand’s duplicate listings.

      This issue arises when brands change their domains, but do not update their listings to reflect this. This is another confusing signal to search engines, which is potentially diverting traffic away from your website.

      It’s your responsibility to ensure your business information is correct!

      Don’t assume that the directories, listing sites and search engines will clean the duplicates for you! They won’t, because they are part of the problem.

      Don’t rely on 3rd party machines and people who do not know you to manage your brand information.  Doing so can result in duplicates and merged listings.

      Only you can decide whether the information is correct!

      You need to take control of your brand in local search.

      What are the benefits for removing duplicate listings?

      Removing duplicate listings not only makes sense for SEO, Brand and Customer Service purposes, it also could save you money.

      We often find duplicate listings for telephone numbers that no one answers.  In other words, the telephone line is live, but it’s not going anywhere!  Not only is this poor customer service, the business is paying for a redundant telephone line!  If you multiply this across many branches, it adds up to a lot of money.  But before you can switch off a telephone line, you need to be confident that it is not listed anymore.

      If you are a brand with multiple locations and suffer with duplicates, or would like help and advice in fixing them, please call MiShop.local or click here to book a free on-screen webinar.

      Local Listing Optimisation or Citation Building. What’s the difference?

      We often get asked “how many local citations can you provide”, rather than “do you manage Local Listings?”

      Local listing optimisation and management is about ensuring that your business NAP information is consistent and correct wherever it happens to be published, whereas local citation building is about identifying high value local reference sites that also offer NAP.

      Local Listing Management is an ongoing process.

      Focusing on “citations” without considering the local listing ecosystem can be counterproductive. This blog will explain the difference between local listings and local citation and also the mechanics of the local listing ecosystem.

      The Local Listing Ecosystem

      The Local Listing Ecosystem is made up of hundreds of local directories and listing sites consisting of Aggregators, Distributors, Scrapers and Publishers which gather and publish business listing information from many different sources.   Local directories range from basic NAP listings sites to detailed business information sites offering rich content, customer reviews and even credit status.  Some sites are generic, listing every type of business and accessible to a wide audience, whereas others may be B2C, B2B, sector or even location specific.

      There are more than 2 million local business listings in the UK alone.  Keeping listing sites up-to-date is a challenging and never ending process as businesses are constantly opening, closing, moving premises, changing; phone numbers, business names or opening times etc.  Consequently, every directory is in a constant state of flux.  No local directory can confidently claim to be 100% up to date.   

      Because directories get their data from different sources, it is possible to remove incorrect NAP data from a directory only for it to re-appear a few months later.  This is because the directory may get its primary data feed from another distributor that is still listing the old data.  Adding new NAP data to a listing site that is already listing the old data NAP data can add to the problem of incorrect listings not solve it.  The listing site may not remove the old NAP listing resulting in duplicates or conflicting listings.  It can get messy!  You need to tell the directories and distributors which NAP listings to remove before adding the new ones.

      To add to the complexity, many directories that are ‘on the grid’ receive regular NAP updates from a notable distributor, however there are also many ‘off grid’ directories which update their listings very occasionally and in some cases never.  There are also the ‘start-up’ directories that use very old NAP data as it is cheap.  As a result, we frequently find NAP listings which are more than 10 years out of date.

      The Difference between a Local NAP Listing and a Local Citation.

      Local Citations are high value local websites that may or may not be a listing site.

      Some local listing sites can be claimed and optimised with rich brand content providing a good user experience and a valuable local citation (for free).  Many local listings only offer free basic NAP information with no content, which you may dismiss as not being a useful local citation.  However, this is not always the case. For example; Thomsonlocal’s free listing only offers NAP with no content, yet it is a very important distributor site that verifies new listings to ensure that they are correct.  You need to be listed in Thomsonlocal.

      Conversely a free listing on Yell.com can be a very engaging local citation which although effective, is not going to be listed anywhere else as Yell is not a distributor.

      If you are listed on a distributor site your NAP will eventually appear on many of the others sites over time, but will it be correct and will it be up-to-date?

      The reality is that your business information is compiled and distributed by people and machines that do not know you.  They are doing the best job they can, but without your input, who’s to say it is correct?

      Local Citations don’t need to be local listing sites as such, they can be local specific websites which are rich in local content specific to a given area, such as;  local community websites, local authority, local library, local clubs site (for example).  None of these are listing sites, yet it may be possible to obtain a citation from them.  These sites may not have a much traffic, or in fact a high domain authority, however, due to the fact that they are highly relevant to a specific local community, they perform well in local search for their areas.

      Many local citation sites are ‘off grid’ – As a result, they can become VERY out of date.  Make sure you keep a track of where you are listed.

      Very few companies have a grip on their local listings due to the complexities of the local listing or local directory eco system.   Local citation building and Local listing optimisation are an essential part of local search optimisation.

      You need to understand how they work and have a strategy for managing them.

      Fundamentally, your NAP details need to be correct wherever they are listed.  Managing your local listings is good housekeeping with SEO benefits.

      Key Points:

      • The local listing ecosystem is made up of hundreds of on-grid and off-grid listing sites, directories, distributors and aggregators.  Your NAP details can be on them whether you like it or not.
      • On-grid listing sites are updated by data feeds from distributors, whereas off-grid listings may never be updated or need to be added/updated by you.
      • NAP details listed on a distributor site may appear in other directories over time.
      • Adding NAP data to a listing site without fixing the NAP on the distributor site may result in duplicates and conflicting listings.
      • Unclaimed listings can be changed, whereas claimed listings are ‘locked’ by the owner.
      • Local Citations are high value local websites that may or may not be a listing site.
      • Focusing just on Local Citations and ignoring local listings can result in multiple conflicting NAP listings being listed in multiple places, which confuses search engines and customers.
      • An effective local SEO strategy requires both local citations and local listings.

      If you need help in developing and managing a local listing and local citation strategy please call MiShop.local

      Does your branch have NAPpy Rash?

      Why moving premises can leave a legacy of NAP data that confuses search engines and is a pain in the bum.

      Businesses are constantly opening new premises and closing old ones; whether it is to scale-up, scale-down, re-locate or shut down for good. However, a change of physical address does not automatically change your on-line address. Whatever the reason for closing or moving premises, the online listings associated with that NAP can linger on for years, leaving a trail of misleading address details and out of date telephone numbers, which will confuse search engines and customers.

      A business that ceases trading and closes its premises is unlikely to be concerned about the ‘mess’ they leave behind in the listings. However, a business that continues to trade from a new address in the same town or city may be affected by the legacy of listings associated with the old address. When an established brand re-locates, they will either get a new telephone number, or transfer the old number to the new address. Each is fine, but both can affect your local performance if not managed correctly.

      If nothing is done about it, your old NAP details will be listed for years.

      If you find that your old Google local listing keeps coming back, despite you removing it, it could be that there is still a lot of NAP listings for the old address elsewhere. When you change premises don’t assume that the listing sites will remove the old listing when you create a new one; they won’t! You need to tell them which listings to remove. The same is also true if you change their trading name. If you re-name or re-brand a premises, the old listings need to be changed to reflect this. If you don’t you will find the old NAP details lingering for years – like a stubborn rash.

      We call this NAPpy Rash!
      If you are suffering with NAPpy Rash – give us a call – we have the right ointment.

      Future Blog
      Why Marketing Needs to Control Telephone Numbers

      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.

        Local SEO vs Organic SEO

        Back in September we were joined by James Robinson, Head of SEO & Paid Advertising at Countrywide, to compare and present the differences between Local SEO and Organic SEO at Brighton SEO.

        Below is a link to our presentation from the day, where we compare and contrast the on-line, off-line and social drivers of local search and organic SEO to highlight their similarities and differences.

        We also discuss where you need to put your energy for successful local SEO including:

        • Schema Markup
        • Microdata
        • Local Citations
        • NAP consistency
        • Category Consistency
        • Customer Reviews in Local Listing Sites.

        It includes our top tips on local listing optimisation.

        Should Each Business Listing Have Unique Content?

        Listing sites provide space ranging from 200 characters to 2000 to write a business description. These are like a “classified ad” for your business, they should be eye catching, short and to the point and provide a call to action.

        With conventional SEO, it is considered bad practice to have duplicate content, however in local, there is no evidence to suggest that you will be penalised if listings contain the same wording.

        Why is this?

        Very simply, it is difficult for a local business to write unique content everywhere their business is listed and for a chain with multiple locations it becomes virtually impossible.

        After all, there are only so many ways to say “I’m a plumber. I fix taps!” before you start sounding like Yoda – “Plumber I am. Fix taps I do!”
        Don’t waste your time spinning words for every listing.

        Instead, here’s what we advise:

        • Write a 1500 to 2000 character business description that is engaging, describes your services and location and is rich in key words. Include a call to action.
        • Edit this description down to fit the different sites, focusing on key words, flow and call to action. Do this for 1500, 1200, 1000, 800, 500, 200 characters.
        • Remember this is an advert, you want someone to take action wherever they see it.

        MiShop.local Local Listing Optimisation service advises and helps clients on local content preparation and distribution.

        Digital Marketing Radio

        David Whatley was recently asked by David Bain (@DavidBain) of Digital Marketing Radio to talk about Local Listing Optimisation and what it means for his listeners.

        They cover everything including what is local search engine optimization, how important is your brand to local optimisation and why it is important to get listed in smaller local directory websites.

        You can listen to the full interview here.

        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.