The web is great at aggregating large amounts of data and sharing it where it sees most fit. So when consumers search for local solutions to their problems, search engines like Google and Bing are more than happy to scour the web for online listings of businesses like yours.
Here’s the problem. Just because the information’s out there doesn’t mean it’s correct. What’s worse – just because YOU put the information out there once upon a time, doesn’t mean it’s still a correct business listing.
Online Business Listings
Effective online listings serve as a virtual storefront for your business, containing details such as your business name, address, phone number, services and other important information. Popular listing sites include Google Business Profile, Bing Places or Yelp. However, many industries have their own targeted listing directories, like Angi for home services.
Christian Ward, Chief Data Officer at Yext, suggests thinking of your online listing as a neon sign for your business helping people locate you. Just as you wouldn’t ignore a burnt-out bulb on your physical sign, any gaps or outdated information in your online listing demand swift attention.
Much like maintaining a physical storefront, regular upkeep of your online presence ensures potential customers can easily find and connect with your business.
Common Causes of Incorrect Online Listings:
Despite regular upkeep, inconsistencies in your online listings can be caused by a myriad of factors from duplicate listings to outdated or incorrect information. Here’s what to watch out for:
Duplicate listings are most commonly the result of:
- A business owner or agency adding multiple listings unintentionally.
- Customers inputting incorrect information via channels such as online reviews.
- Customers or listing site owners creating listings for your business.
What harm can duplicate listings cause? They can actually do a lot to muck up your squeaky-clean online reputation.
To start, it negatively affects your search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines see duplicate information as a form of spam, so they’ll rank your business as less-than-trustworthy. Or, if a duplicate, incorrect listing begins to outrank an accurate one, you’re about to have some very unhappy leads and customers on your hands.
Duplicate listings can also cause consumers to split their reviews among the two (or more) listings. With reviews spread out among these sites, your ratings are likely to drop. And, there may be reviews out there you’re unaware of and therefore haven’t had the opportunity to address.
When your online listings are incomplete, you’re not offering consumers nearly enough information to convert into customers. Name, address and phone number (NAP) are most important when it comes to helping them get in touch with you. Ensuring you’re linking to a website is critical, too.
Without this information, search engines won’t want to recommend you to consumers in the first place, meaning you may not even get the opportunity to compete for their business.
When you’re changing something about your business like a phone number, website, hours of operation or even its physical address, adjusting your business listings is probably the last thing on your mind (right behind tipping the movers, turning on the water, and oh yeah, moving all that signage). You’re probably most worried about communicating these changes with current customers, so you don’t lose them!
But failing to update even one outdated listing could have serious consequences. Because of how listings update—feeding information to one another regularly—an outdated listing could actually come back to bite you in the way of replicated outdated listings automatically generating on other sites.
For most local business owners, this is the most frustrating issue with business directories—the fact that you can have incorrect online listings out there that aren’t even your fault. OK, some incorrect online listings could be the cause of a fat finger, or even carelessness when jotting down an address too quickly (tsk, tsk). But for most small businesses actively trying to maintain a healthy online presence, incorrect online listings could be popping up without your knowledge or input!
… how? The internet is trying to do you a solid. Remember when we mentioned earlier how good the web is at aggregating data? It’s also good at making assumptions and asking any user (even the wrong ones) to verify information it’s put together. Ever left a restaurant and had a search engine or mobile application ask you if the business’s hours of operation were correct? It happens all the time. Most consumers are innocent enough—they aren’t maliciously trying to add incorrect information to your listings. But they’re being asked to provide additional information, regardless of their level of knowledge or willingness to help. So a quick “yes” or “no” from them could mean incorrect online listings for you.
Finally, How to Fix Online Business Listings That Are Incorrect
Luckily, there are ways to fix it. You’ve basically got two options.
- Manually fix each and every listing you can find for your business. You’d do this by searching for your business’s name and clicking through the results one at a time. Then, review each listing and follow the site’s instructions for editing them if necessary.
Pro tip: It’s possible that someone else created a listing for your business. If you see “claim this business’ on any of the site, do it! By claiming the listing it’ll allow you to keep the it under your control once you’ve got it looking the way you want. This means it’ll be less likely to change going forward without your input.
- If that sounds like a lot of work (trust us, it is), you can hire an automated listings management system or service to do the work for you.
You Online Information Matters
Harnessing the power of online listings can increase your businesses visibility, attract new customers, build trust and contribute to long term growth.