Tuesday, 4 November 2014

When Big Brands Fail With Local SEO


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By now, big brands and franchises recognize the importance of local search and the impact it has in the consumer journey.
Advertisers like myself make sure of this by rattling off stories about how we increased call volume or drastically improved visits to website location pages.
We may also paraphrase compelling stats from recent studies, like “80% of consumers use search engines to find local information” or “83% of shoppers would be more likely to visit a store if they could check the availability of an item online beforehand.”
So, it may come as a surprise to hear that big brands and franchises still struggle when it comes to Local SEO. They benefit from regional exposure and brand recognition. They usually have deep pockets and the digital clout (domain authority) to outrank smaller brick-and-mortars. Yet still, they fail to achieve their potential.
It turns out that there are two core issues that many retail enterprises struggle with: mismanaged data and inaccurate profiles and listings.

1. Mismanaged Data & Process

Trying to coordinate and confirm the most up-to-date Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) for fifty to hundreds to thousands of store locations is a challenge for most enterprises and their internal team.
Confirming the store hours, SKUs and services, images, menus, website URLs, unique offers, and other local entities tremendously compounds that challenge.
Solution: It is important for brands to organize and protect their data. These are assets that can be repurposed for their website or shared with their retail partners.
This information can be collected and then stored in a database or cloud. Individual store managers and franchise owners can be given permission to submit updated information, and an internal process should be implemented to keep the data and assets current.

2. Old Or Inaccurate Profiles & Listings

Big brands have a vast digital footprint. This is normally a good thing but not if their location information is inaccurately published on third-party sites like Google, Yelp, Bing, Foursquare or Yahoo.
An important local ranking factor in search involves the normalization and cross-verification of location information. This, along with proximity and other factors, helps Google identify which store location to show first in its search results.
So, it is crucial that the Name, Address, and Phone numbers are accurate and consistent across the major search engines, directories and local data publishers.
chipotle local listings
Solution: Manually, or bulk import, and verify locations into Google My Business. There may be some locations that were previously verified under a different Google Account, in which case there will be additional legwork involved in having to re-verify under the new account or some type of transfer or sharing of ownership for the listing.
Duplicates in other directories can be identified using third-party listing services like Yext orMoz Local. Yext has a paid option with the ability to suppress or re-route duplicate listings.
Any duplicate that cannot be suppressed or updated in bulk, would unfortunately have to be manually reclaimed or updated with each individual directory. No fun!

Too Big To Fail?

Not likely. Once franchise brands have a handle on their data and normalize their local listings, they have the foundation needed to monopolize local search. That said, there are other key assets to consider:
Mobile-Friendly Pages For Every Location. Each brick-and-mortar location should have its own page, optimized with city and state in the <title> of the page. Within the page, include the phone number and physical address. This is also the place to include store hours, events, product and service categories, and other details specific to the location, like free wi-fi, etc.
Site Speed. A website’s page load time continues to be a ranking factor for search engines, and some are saying it is even more critical for users searching from a mobile device. In general, a quicker load time of pages is directly aligned with good user experience – so this is something big brands should have the foresight and resources to pull off.
Clicks From Search Results. The click-through rate (CTR) from search results is anotherlocal ranking factor to consider. A good meta description can help here, but franchise brands should also consider the benefits of structured data markup or schema.

Final Thoughts

Big brands and franchises should dominate local search listings due to regional exposure and brand recognition. However, many retail enterprises struggle with data management and profile listings management.
Solutions lie in improved data management; accurate, current profile listings; mobile-friendly pages for every location; fast loading websites; good click-through rates; superior meta descriptions and structured data markup.