It's exciting to open the doors to a new store location, but a lot is at stake when you move from a location your customers associate with your business.
Imagine this story, a sporting goods store has just moved to a new location. The sign on the storefront has not yet been erected. The hours not yet posted. The new occupant in your old space has removed your "We've Moved" poster. And phone calls from customers standing outside the store's old location are going unanswered because the staff is too busy shelving inventory. Meanwhile, the front entrance is partially blocked by a clutter of exercise machines and yoga mats. The result for any potential shopper: total confusion.
Though brief, this process of moving is bound to frustrate some customers. And unfortunately some businesses exacerbate this frustration by never properly updating their local business information online, which will propagate more bad experiences.
The Digital Front Door
The physical front door of your company can be rendered inaccessible due to missing, conflicting and neglected Web-based data. Every day, consumers encounter misinformation on the Internet about business names, addresses, phone numbers, website URLs, hours of operation, categories, driving directions and other foundational details. The result for these potential customers: misdirection, frustration, and a poor impression of customer service standards.
Data confirms just how important keeping your digital front door open to shoppers is:
Given that every lost customer represents a loss of initial and repeat transactions, no company can afford to neglect the location data layer that is now a company's digital front door. With the necessary organization, time and effort, you can clear a path for every consumer, maximizing discovery, acquisition and conversions.
5 Steps to Local Data Success
My company recently issued a report in which it was found that our average customer experienced a much-needed increase of 27 percent in listing accuracy and 57 percent in listing reach from taking active control of their online local business information. For any local business, this process involves:
1) Normalizing the Data
Create a spreadsheet approved by all departments that standardizes the name, address, phone number, business categories, website URLs and other basic information for each location of the business.
2) Auditing Existing Local Business Listings
Discover and document all existing listings on the major local business platforms, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Bing, Acxiom, Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Factual and Apple Maps. Check each for accuracy and make a note of any discrepancies. Small variations like "Street" vs. "St." don't matter, but wrong numbers in the street address, a different version of the name, or incorrect hours of operation represent serious problems. Also make a special note of any platform that contains more than one listing for a given location.
3) Distributing Accurate Data
Correct discovered errors, fill out all fields of incomplete listings, and create new listings where none exist. Remove any duplicate listings.
4) Monitoring and Analyzing
Because many local business listings are subject to public edits, and because of the way in which data flows from platform to platform on the local web, it's important to monitor listings regularly for changes and for the accidental emergence of duplicate listings. At the same time, you'll want to track how your Google My Business listings, in particular, are performing, analyzing clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions and clicks-to-website. Pay special attention to any listings that include consumer reviews, tracking them for early warnings of emerging problems at specific locations.
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5) Responding and Optimizing
Use the owner response function many listings provide to reply as speedily as possible to both positive and negative reviews. This is an essential extension of customer service. At the same time, if your analysis shows that some of your listings are under-performing, evaluate whether you've chosen the best business categories, whether your photos could be more persuasive, or whether a lack of supporting local SEO is causing your listings to rank poorly, limiting visibility.
You can undertake this work manually, or automate all of the above five steps with your choice of location data management software.
Truly Open for Business
At the enterprise level, millions of advertising dollars are invested in moving customers down funnel toward the point of transaction. Traditional publicity formats like print, radio, TV and billboards rely on a consumer encountering or recalling a specific brand when need arises. On the Internet, Google has defined events of consumer desire as "micro-moments" - instances in someone wants to go somewhere, or to know, do, or buy something. The key to opening the digital front door is in ensuring that potential customers are encountering accurate data about your business at these exact micro-moments.
Modern commerce is omnichannel. A family on a road trip can find you via the Android voice assistant in their car. A worker out walking on his lunch break can find you on his mobile phone. Apps, directories and search engines facilitate discovery via wearables, laptops, PCs and ambient search.
The moral of the story you're sharing with clients or colleagues is a simple one: in today's world, dedicating resources to the development of a location data management strategy isn't optional; it has become the only way to unlock the new front door and declare your brand truly open for business.
About the Author
Miriam Ellis is part of the local search team at Moz. When she's not writing the monthly Moz Local newsletter and answering questions in the Q&A forum, she's helping her clients master their local SEO strategies at her own firm Solas Web Design.