Google estimates more than 20% of all searches have a local component to them.
Business Identity Information and Why It Matters
Imagine owning a retail shop in a shopping strip, just off the busiest street in town. Business is good, but it could be better. People come and go most hours of the day, but they don't seem to get your name right. The sign reads "John's Retail Shop" but it's supposed to be "Jim's Retail Shop." In the offline world you just explain that the sign maker made a mistake, and rather than have a blank space above your door, you used it until it could be replaced. But online, there's no one there to tell a web visitor that "Jim" should actually be "John." That's the identity debacle in a nutshell. Let's take a closer look at how wrong identity information can hurt a business online.
Search engines are machines. They're built by humans to be smart, but they're only as smart as their programming. For this reason, they need signals to tell them where good information appears on the web. The search bots (automated collectors of all things on the web) follow links from site to site, pulling in signals and collecting information for the search index. Businesses that have accurate, collectible, and retrievable identity information on the top-tier data networks will gives strong signals for their business being important to a local industry. Very simply: a business that has listings across popular directories will perform better.
Consider the case of the plumber. He's Jack. Jack has his business information in several online directories, but they're all using different addresses. He's even moved his site from one domain to another over the years. These changes can be seen throughout his online identity information.
Now consider Jill who owns a pastry shop. She updates her online information on a regular basis. She creates new directory listings, updates major social review sites with address changes, and keeps an eye on her search engine listing pages.
The search engines see data for Jack's business and get confused. They're only machines, after all. Over time the data information on Jack becomes fragmented and appears as though he's running multiple businesses. He's lost credibility with search engines, but also with potential clients.
Jill's shop has earned the trust of search engines. They understand who she is and where she works. This added layer of credibility helps her website appear higher in search results.
The more accurate information out there about your business, the better you chances for obtaining higher results.
Emphasis on Local Search
Remember how we talked about search engine signals? The directory listings help your visibility within local search results for your area. The more high profile links you have pointing to your website and carrying your identity information, the better your link profile looks to search engines. Increase the visibility of your business through a service like the Digital Advantage and you will be doing your business a great service.
Local search has gotten increasingly more useful over the years. But there's still intruders. Smart lead gen companies have infiltrated many local search results pages and appear like they're locally run. Perform a "Champaign Dentist" search and you'll see results from such companies. One layer of defense for your business would be to control a Google Places listing, a Yahoo Local one, and all the other major listings for your business. Get your business identity information out to as many of those sites that will take it. You'll be more relevant than the lead gen guys, and you'll be increasing the value of the search results, so search engines will keep you in site.
The News-Gazette Digital Services team has built a service that works for local businesses in Central Illinois communities. We're combining identity, reputation, and search services into a monthly package. The results would be seen in web exposure and through new leads from business websites. The goal is to increase your credibility and your search presence so you can compete in local search. We're offering a package we feel can compete with any national company's attempts at something similar, and we feel we're offering it at a price businesses can afford. Take a look at the Digital Advantage service, purchase either a monthly or annual subscription, and get started building your business' online credibility today!
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