Hello friends, I am excited to announce that this is the inaugural post in a series we are releasing to protect hard-working businesses from getting screwed by the various pitfalls in web marketing. Throughout the series we will address design, development, social media, SEO and much more. The goal of it is to show you what bad practice looks like and how to avoid it. We like to think of ourselves as the Underdog of the internet.
Anyways, today were going to address Local SEO and directory listings. For those of you who might not know, a web-directory works very much like a modified phone book with a search function. You just put in what you want and where you live and it shows you where to call. These entries are entered by both customers and business owners (although we suggest only following entries that have been claimed by the business owner). They provide customers with the phone number, address, email, website and other details of the businesses in his or her area. It is a nifty setup.
What is less known is that these localized pieces of content are actually big factors in local search rankings. The volume and quality of the listings, positive reviews, consistency of the information, and ranking of the directory itself are all added in to your local ranking power. Your Google Places page becomes associated with these listings, their reviews are crawled, and the information is checked against your Places page, not to mention that most directories offer a link back to your site. What results is a seemingly free listing and some power back to your Places page.
So how do people get screwed here? The answer is actually quite simple yet so painful: consistency. At its core, Google is a robot (although we like to imagine it as a big fluffy puppy). It looks at things on a very factual basis. This means that any discrepancies between the info on your Places page and ANY directory makes Google cry. We advise using the EXACT info across all sites, even down to whether you write St. or Street. Sure, it may seem a little picky, but better safe than sorry.
Where it gets really ugly is when people misspell cities or try to list different addresses under the same business name and website (for multiple locations). This makes smoke shoot out Google spiders’ ears and they then assume there are two businesses with two places pages and you only get half the credit. If there are even bigger mistakes like misspelling the business name, you could end up being hurt by your directories.
Moral of the story is to keep your information as consistent as possible. We realize sometimes you are forced to put your area code in parentheses, but at least keep the info as uniform as possible. And while we are at it, make sure you record the account information for each directory. If you lose the “keys” to any directory account, you could have a real hard time changing that information if it is wrong. So keep track of everything in a spreadsheet or something, it will make your life so much easier.
That does it for the first How To Not Get Screwed. There will be more to come on local and many other subjects. Good luck out there on the internet!