Do’s and Don’ts of Local Listings for National Brands
Local listings can be extremely intimidating and must be approached with the right brand strategy.
Ever tried managing more than 100 local listings for hundreds or thousands of locations? If you answered “no,” you are lucky. If, like most brand marketers who would respond “yes,” you are already having nightmares about closed location listings, duplicate listings, listings with incorrect content and listings with lost credentials.
While these challenges are overwhelming, the benefits from having accurate, consistent and honest information about your brand online can be extremely rewarding. Below are some best practices to get your brand’s listings in order.
A properly implemented local listing strategy for your brand will:
- Increase local search engine optimization,
- Boost online reputation and
- Create a strong, consistent brand presence online.
First, let’s start with things you should avoid.
Don’t Use Automated Solutions
Automated solutions may seem like a magical solution to the problem of correct local listings, but these automated software solutions are not a real solution. They do not actually correct locations data, but are simply a paid overlay that lacks four main qualities:
- As soon as you stop paying for the automated service, your listings revert to the way they were before. In essence, nothing is really fixed.
- Since no log-ins are created with these tools, you can’t actually respond to reviews about your locations without creating credentials for the review site.
- The overlay does not actually change your listings so there is little- to-no local search engine optimization value. The search engines will remain as confused as ever about your locations.
- Lastly, consider the cost of ownership. While these magic fixes may appear cheap, take into consideration how much time it will take a marketing staff member to administer the solution. Does it become a full-time job?
Don’t Use Aggregated Solutions
Data aggregators are another trap to avoid. These solutions are the cheapest of all, but what do they actually do? Data aggregators are simply a place where other directories can go for more information about a business. The directories may choose to use the data provided or may ignore it completely. Keep these things in mind when purchasing an aggregated solution:
- Aggregated solutions are often the cause of duplicate and incorrect listings.
- Aggregators are simply another source of data. Directories can choose which pieces of that data to use, which can lead to in inaccurate information.
Don’t Ignore Duplicate and Closed Location Listings
A brand’s image is only as good as the customer interactions (this includes online interactions). Imagine what might happen to customers’ perspectives of your brand if they visit a store that has been closed for months and looks trashed. Duplicate and closed location listings are a frequent and troublesome problem. This affects your brand if customers found a local listing from an old location. Have a process to remove duplicate and closed location listings to ensure customers’ view of your brand remains intact.
Don’t: Bad is Bad, but Dishonesty Can Be Costly
Everyone has the nightmare of bad reviews. Customers who review your brand can affect your in-store sales by as much as 8 percent. But bad reviews can be salvaged by responding to them and interacting with the customer who had a poor experience. The worst thing you can do is create dishonest reviews. This could cause search engines to lose trust in your business and you can bet that you will not be featured near the top of any search engine or review site.
Here are some highly recommended solutions:
Do: Manually Claim and Verify
A true strategy for a national brand is manually claiming, verifying and correcting each listing. While extremely time consuming, it will, in the long run, benefit your brand. A manually claimed and verified listing is assigned the highest level of trust by that directory. This is noted by the search engines and directories, giving your listings more credibility. The more credibility you have, the higher you appear on Google.
Do: Centralize Management of Listings for Your Brand
To ensure brand consistency, maintain messaging and increase your brand’s visibility in the search engines. It is recommended that brands centralize management of local listings.
Additionally, if a franchisee decides to leave your system, you can still manage the listings for that territory and can modify them appropriately if a new owner purchases the territory. Alternatively, if that territory is closed, it should be a priority to eliminate listings for businesses that are closed. This will save your brand many headaches.
Finally, you should know how often and how accurately your franchisees are listed, as well as monitor the testimonials each location is receiving. It is beneficial to have roll-up reporting with capabilities that allow brand an overall view to drill down to individual locations.
Do: To Stand Out, Be Consistent
Enhanced data will improve the credibility of your locations’ profile and improve the chances of their being clicked on. More clicks equal more customers equal more to the bottom line. Most of all, in the enhanced data, you want to focus on two things: categories and descriptions. Categories allow people searching by industry to find your brand online. Above all, create a keyword-rich and unique description for each location. From the description, search engines can pull data about locations that the franchise serves, about services and products your franchise provides and your overall brand message. A good rule of thumb: Be consistent with your categories and unique with your descriptions.
Do: Implement a Brand-wide Testimonial Strategy
Get more active with your testimonials. Seventy-nine percent of people conduct online research before making a purchase. Reviews influence your prospects’ purchasing decisions. By responding to your testimonials, future prospects gain insight into your brand. More testimonials equal more business.
When you implement a testimonial strategy, make sure to select a platform that alerts your franchisees of new testimonials. Additionally, franchisees should have an easy way to respond to reviews. This can be done by either giving them the credentials or allowing them to respond to the testimonials from within your platform, eliminating the need to manage credentials.
Local listings can be extremely intimidating. If you do not approach them with the right brand strategy, you are simply trying to fix a leaky pipe with electrical tape. These do’s and don’ts will help you avoid many of the pitfalls and provide some guidance on how to approach local listings. You have many talents, but managing directories over countless locations is probably not one of them.
Rick Batchelor is the CEO at Qiigo, which provides the tools and technologies to manage thousands of locations via mobile, social and Internet marketing. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.