Centralizing Location Data: 3 Steps to Local SEO Success
After five years of growth in the north Chicago suburb of Evanston, my company outgrew the space and recently relocated to Chicago's Loop. I was part of the relocation effort and the number of decisions that had to be made to move the SIM Partners' headquarters was staggering and unexpected. We had to find the space, build it out, furnish it, wire it, build out the IT infrastructure, coordinate the move itself and so on. Thankfully, we entered our new headquarters ahead of schedule and, while some finishing touches remain, we couldn't be happier with the space.
Unfortunately, as it does for so many businesses, updating our online location information was relegated toward the bottom of the move's priority list and we had to put off addressing this critical task until two weeks had passed in our new space. As a technology company entirely focused on creating tools that maximize local opportunities online, we understand the importance of maintaining accurate listings and the ins and outs of listing management well. Despite moving only one of our locations, we couldn't make it a top priority. Thankfully, we don't receive much walk-up traffic in our office since we cater to marketers in national-local businesses.
But what about a small business owner or a multi-location brand with hundreds of locations or more to support? If we have trouble prioritizing this critical marketing activity, how can businesses that aren't focused on local online data be expected to do it? Making the updates in a timely fashion is critically important for many of these businesses who need their customers to find them before they can get them to visit and earn their business.
Automation and process can help!
Brand marketers can leverage automation and process to ensure even thousands of locations are kept up to date and visible to potential customers. Whether businesses try to go it alone or license technology to make the task more manageable, the end goals should be the same:
Standardize business data
Disseminate business data consistently; don't just fix existing information
Lay the groundwork for people to successfully find the business when searching, regardless of device, location or time/day
National-local businesses that have locations opening, closing or moving often find these issues exasperated by well-meaning franchise owners or location managers either trying to improve their location's data or ignoring that data completely. Either of these scenarios can lead to data management and distribution being inconsistent with what the local ecosystem wants to see and that means results falter.
Digital marketing pros supporting national-local businesses should consider these steps:
1. Determine where your local business data is currently hosted and take inventory.
Critical data for each and every location includes business name, address, phone number(s) webpage/site URL, hours of operation, categories, products/services offered and areas served. Additional elements worth sharing include staff details, current offers, supported charities, organization memberships and more; once you locate the data, be sure to keep track of it. Oftentimes, this data exists in multiple locations; marketers who notice any of these elements missing in one system should be sure to keep digging for it in other locations. Our clients are often surprised at how much fantastic local data they find but never knew existed.
2. Warehouse the data and put processes in place so this hub is constantly updated.
Warehouse the data in a centralized location and put processes in place so this hub is constantly updated. There are multiple ways to do this, but third party tools can be a good solution if they easily integrate with your internal systems via loaders and APIs. The more locations to manage, the more technology can help automate the process and uphold brand standards.
3. Incorporate tools for effective data distribution.
Incorporate tools into this local data warehouse to push updated information to as many places as possible in a way that makes sense to the ecosystem. Minimally, marketers should focus on three important sets of web properties to keep updated: their own websites; data aggregators, including Foursquare; and Google My Business. Ensuring data consistency in all of these places will lay the groundwork to enable Google to make sense of what is going on in the local ecosystem and generally results in a strong presence for local businesses on the local and local-organic SERPs.