Local Search Archives - MiShop.local

The Local Search Guide for Estate Agents

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

Challenges estate agents face in local search

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

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

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

How to list Estate agents

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

Estate agents need to follow these simple listing tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Listing strategies for Estate agents in the UK.

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

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

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

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

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

These sites are:

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

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

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

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

The Benefit

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

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

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

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

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

Get in touch

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

    Google Products for Estate and Lettings Agents.

    Google Products are your virtual shop window for key properties.

    In our extensive local analysis, several estate agencies have already positioned themselves above their competition by effectively using Google Products.

    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.
    Both visually; with your appealing property photographs, and as an agency with a professional stance to property marketing – using the latest tools to tap into a business directory service used by millions.

    Like many features in Google My Business, Google Products are underutilised.

    Partly as they are a new feature, but mostly because businesses do not realise their true potential – it’s not well known how powerful Google My Business is to leverage local search, that certain features have SEO value or that there is a considerable amount of customer interaction with specific features… Some of which help you stand out against the competition.

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

    However, ongoing management of products is quite a time-consuming task which 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 My Business is a business listing for local businesses.
    Within this, Google created a number of features to promote products and services.
    These are not complicated or sophisticate, rather, they are a free platform to showcase different parts of an estate agency business.

    What Is Google My Business?

    To clarify: a Google My Business account is how businesses setup the workings of their customer-facing profile which appears in Google Search and Google Maps – where their company name, information and a review section appears as default.

    However, 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’.

    Google Products are a relatively new feature which appears to customers searching Google via the Maps panel, and in Google Maps on both mobile and desktop.

    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.

    In this case, a business has packaged its services and offerings to showcase them as they like: a photo, description, price and a link to their website.

    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 – a tab for lettings and one for sales, for example.

    A Common User Experience:

    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, and 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.

    Our research shows that Google Search and Maps are where customers most commonly compare local businesses.
    So it’s really important to manage this content to ensure you stand out from the competition.

    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.

    How do Google Products Appear To Your Customers?

    Desktop :

    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 Google My Business page (which, appear as the business title with reviews beneath) for a company that’s using Google Products – they will have a feature called ‘Products’ in this window that appears. Clicking ‘view all’ in the products section brings up another a panel of properties with pricing, often categorised by lettings and sales.

    Note how prominently this section stands out. If the options are used correctly, clicking on each property brings up a description as well as links to call directly, buy or order online via their website. Underneath, you will see similar products or categories – another feature which attracts attention and keeps customers interested in key properties.

    Mobile :

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

    Google Maps Dominates Navigation.

    As this Google interface is streamlined for the user experience across all devices and is commonly used, it is both accessible and user friendly – reducing time to navigate key properties in a products portfolio versus a website.

    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.

    Many estate agents are also taking advantage of ‘Google Updates’, yet another section that can be used for key properties, bookings, offers or news.

    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.

    Managing Google Products

    To reiterate: The other half of the tale is that these products are simple to setup but can become difficult and time consuming to maintain.

    It’s all too common that businesses leave outdated images, links and descriptions online. This doesn’t just look bad; it actively deters your prospects. Or worse; mismanaged products create inquiries that waste your time by confusing customers, while your business may gain negative reviews in the process.

    Similar to your NAP, any Google Products displayed need to be up to date.

    Summary:

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

    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.


    Depending on how effective you are at managing your content, some people will gravitate towards certain listings over others.

     

    Strategies for Estate Agents:

    • Mange and update your Google Product Listings regularly.
    • Use categories to separate: lettings, sales, property of the week and services.
    • Use Google Products for several key properties.
    • Include the best eye-catching image of each property.
    • Raise the profile of high-value properties.
    • Tap into organic search with SEO for Google Products.

    Outcomes:

    • Rent properties quickly with increased bookings.
    • Catch the attention of buyers and sellers.
    • Increase your visibility as a business in Google Search results.
    • Get more clicks and calls.
    • Garner attention and views with high-value properties.
    • Sell key properties faster.
    • Stand out from your competition.
    • Raise your local profile in search results.

     

    What Are Google Product Listings?

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

    Features:

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

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

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

    What Are Google Products?

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

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

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

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

    Why Are Products Useful?

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

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

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

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

    How Are They Used For Best Effect?

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

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

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

    What Is The Best Way To Use Google Products?

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

    Examples of use:

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

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

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

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

    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?

    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.

    Why Franchises Need a Centralised Local Search Strategy

    Most Franchises are local businesses, so having a local on-line strategy is incredibly important. However, getting franchisees to implement and manage their own local online strategy is inefficient and will result in performance issues and brand inconsistencies, which frustrates the franchisees and compromises the brand.  It also creates significant complications if franchisees leave the network.

    We talk to many franchises about the benefits of local presence management. Many of them say “thanks for the advice, but we’ll get our franchisees to do this!”, but invariably the franchisees don’t do it, and as a result, the franchise loses as a whole.

    It is in both the franchisor’s and franchisee’s interest to manage all local digital assets centrally.
    A centrally administered local online strategy has the power to magnify the brand, whereas a locally managed strategy can dilute and compromise the brand.

    This article talks about the benefits of a centrally administered local strategy and the issues faced by franchises that get their franchisees to do it alone.

    The benefits of a centrally administered local online search strategy

    For franchises that are built on franchisee autonomy, there is a reluctance to centralise anything, let alone local search and digital advertising, however there are significant benefits, and dare I say demand from the franchisees to centralise digital. Here are some that we’ve identified.

    • Economy of Scale
      • Enjoy the cost and efficiency benefits of pooling your resources. A centrally administered digital strategy is more cost efficient than individual franchisees trying to do it themselves.
    •  Economy of Knowledge
      • A centrally administered digital strategy is better able to benchmark the performance of franchisees and adapt a digital strategy that can benefits the franchise as a whole.
    •  Economy of Brand
      • Franchises with a significant local presence can unify their local online presence to raise brand awareness nationally.
      • Franchisees working alone will dilute the performance of the brand online, whereas a centrally administered strategy will magnify it.
    •  Franchisees Benefits
      • Franchisees benefit by appearing in more local search results whenever and wherever people search for their services. They also look professional wherever people find them, resulting in more footfall and calls.
      • Franchises can focus on what on delivering a service rather than worrying about their local digital presence.
    •  Franchisor Benefits
      • Franchisors benefit by ensuring brand continuity across the network. This strengthens brand awareness and looks impressive to prospective franchisees.

    Issues faced when franchisees try to do local themselves

    • It won’t get done completely or consistently
      A franchisee’s time is best spent growing the business and serving customers, not trying to learn and manage a local digital strategy. Although managing local listings is easy in principal, it takes time and effort to get it right. It is very unlikely that the franchisee will have the time or inclination to do everything themselves. It is also unlikely that it will be done thoroughly or consistently. This will result in performance and brand inconsistencies.
    • It won’t be managed
      In our experience, even if a franchisee does a little bit of local online work to start with, they don’t manage it going forward, they forget login detail and then things start to ‘unravel’.
      Listings need to be managed for search optimisation purposes as well as brand continuity.
    • It will lack of continuity and ownership
      If a franchisee leaves the franchise, it is very unlikely that they will remove their local online presence or give their login details to the franchisor. This can be damage the brand and undermine the new franchisee as the old listings may contain dead telephone numbers and weblinks and possibly bad reviews. It then becomes the responsibility of the franchisor or new franchisee to try to fix things, which is further complicated by not having login detail.
      Conversely, the departing franchisee may have built a very strong local online reputation which may be lost, causing the new franchisee to have to start building an online presence from scratch, which takes time and effort.
    • Lack of brand consistency looks unprofessional.
      Brand consistency is particularly important at the ‘boundaries’ of franchise territories. If franchisees manage their own online presence, it is likely that it will be different to that of an adjoining franchise territory. Customers that are on the boarders of territories could see more than one franchisee listing; if the franchisees do not share the same brand identity, the power of the brand is undermined.
    • Off-line print not matching on-line search
      Franchisees that use local print campaigns, such as a door drop for example, also need to be consistent online. A potential customer may go online for more information and either not find the franchisee, or have an underwhelming brand experience.
      It is a mistake to assume that potential customers will go directly to a website for information in a flyer; they may search for “franchise name + location” for example and look for a location. If the results do not match that of the franchisee’s flyer, or worse, there are no results at all, it can confuse or undermine the confidence of the potential customer.

    Top five tips for franchises to ensure brand consistency online.

    • Have a Policy – who does what, what can and can’t be done by the franchisee.
      • Have a Naming conventions for online listings and stick to it.
      • Identify the online services that can (and can’t) be used.
      • Review periodically. Online channels are constantly evolving! What is good today, will be different tomorrow.
    • Maintain a list of approved sites and examples of how they should be used and what they should look like. Include a mix of general listing sites, local social sites, sector specific and location specific listing sites.
    • Maintain a brand content library including:
      • Logo
        • Have different sizes and styles of logo to fit different sites.
      • Images
        • Brand generic images that reflect the brand.
        • Branch/location/franchisee specific images, e.g. shop fronts, staff
        • Name each image with key-words. For example; plumber_brighton.jpg
        • Review and update images periodically.
      • Business Descriptions
        • Keyword-rich descriptions of different lengths ranging from 1500, 1200, 1000, 800, 500 and 200 characters.
        • Ensure descriptions are engaging and can be adapted to the local market.
        • Review and update periodically.
      • Approved social media links
    • Maintain a list of ALL the sites that you are using and keep a record of their login details.
    • Refresh the sites periodically
      • Sites that aren’t maintained lose their effectiveness and can look outdated.

    MiShop.local can help – we are a leading authority in advising, tailoring and managing local on-line solutions for franchises.

    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.

    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.

      Is your website mobile friendly?

      Is your website ready for the 21st April Deadline?

      The next Google ranking change is critical for your business

      Don’t be left behind with the new Google mobile friendly search ranking update! Google has announced that a website’s mobile friendliness will be an official ranking factor in their mobile search algorithm as of April 21, 2015.

      Simply put, if your website is not optimized for mobile devices, that is responsive or with a dedicated mobile site, you will see a drop in traffic after the 21st of April. So if you’ve been meaning to get around to optimizing your website for mobile, now is definitely the time.

      Why is this so important for your business?

      Search on mobile is popular

      • 80% of internet users use a smartphone to access the internet
      • 47% of internet users use a tablet to access the internet
      • The number of mobile searches surpassed desktop searches in 2014

      Search on mobile drives business

      After performing a local search on a mobile device:

      • 51% of users visited the business
      • 48% called the business
      • 29% made a purchase from the business in-store
      • 24% made a purchase from the business online

      Sources: eMarketer, SmartInsights, MERKLE | RKG, Google

      Can Google find your website after April 21st?

      You can easily test if your website will make the cut come the 21st of April with Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test.

      If you don’t get a green light from Google, don’t worry, help isn’t far away. When you trust MiShoplocal.co.uk to build and manage your online presence, you can be confident that your website will be responsive or mobile friendly and perform well in search results for many reasons beyond just being mobile-friendly.

      Why you should choose us

      Build your online presence with MiShoplocal.co.uk and you’ll be sure your site is professionally built with search engines in mind.

      Our websites include:

      • 100% mobile-friendly responsive design
      • Professional SEO
      • High online conversion
      • Great customer support

      CALL US TODAY TO GET STARTED! Tel: 01273 987498

      Google doorway pages update – impact on local businesses

      This week Google announced An update on doorway pages revealing that they will soon launch a ranking adjustment that could impact on ‘Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns’. So what could this mean for small service area businesses and franchises?

      Of course, it’s impossible to know until the adjustment is released but lets look in more detail at what Google are trying to achieve and this in turn may help to understand the outcome.

      Firstly, what is a Doorway Page?

      Generally Doorway pages are designed for search engines, not for human beings. Sometimes they automatically redirect to the desired page using Javascript and server side redirection.

      Other Doorway pages are more like landing pages in that they have navigation, design and minimal content similar to normal website.

      For more detailed information check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doorway_page

      In the announcement Google say, “We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.”

      They give the following as examples:

      • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
      • Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
      • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy

      Their definition of Doorway Pages can be found here

      The problem is, the Google examples cause confusion for service area businesses and franchises as they highlight “pages targeted at specific regions or cities”. It has long been a common practise for this type of business to build location specific pages covering the areas that they service.

      If a company has multiple branches or locations with their own unique address and phone number details, then these ‘Location Pages’ are quite straight forward and valid. In fact Google provides clear advice and technical recommendations for this here – Location pages for local businesses and organizations

      They encourage that “each location’s or branch’s information should be readily available on a webpage” and the information should include the address, phone number and opening hours and presented in an easy-to-understand format utilising schema.org structured data markup.

      So what happens when a business has a single location but has a service area that includes other nearby towns? Again, it is common practise to build specific landing pages focusing on the areas or towns/cities that they cover. This could be seen as slightly spammy but is a practical solution for local services to be found in organic search.

      Will these single location websites be penalised with the release of the Google doorway pages update? It is highly likely that websites that have cynically produced multiple cookie-cutter location pages, with no regard to duplicate content or relevancy to the visitor, will be affected.

      Conclusion

      We hope that the new Google doorway pages update will not affect your average small service area business such as plumbers and electricians. The key will be to keep service area landing pages to a minimum, just the main towns in the area and make sure that the content is unique, relevant and tailored to that specific location.

      The location area pages should be linked clearly from the top level navigation using a title such as “areas we service” (do not put a big list of links to locations or postcodes on each page).

      Coming up with relevant content for each page is difficult but worth the extra time and effort. Things to consider are local testimonials, articles on completed projects in that area with photos and local staff information.

      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.

      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.

      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!