In case we haven’t yet convinced you that local search is important, would seeing a custom “report card” — tailored to your business — seal the deal? You might think that because your business shows up on Google Maps, you’re all set. Yes, that definitely makes a difference, but there’s more to local search than showing up on the map.
We recently did a survey of small businesses in North County San Diego and found that less than half (49%) had a verified or “claimed” listing on Google, meaning that the business owner has control over the listing. Now, that doesn’t mean you get to determine your search placement, but it does mean that you get to update your business’s vitals (like your name, address, and phone number) we well as being able to add photos, videos, business hours, get access to analytics, and respond to reviews. We’ve noted before that NAP consistency is critical to your search rankings, especially when it comes to local search. Google expects your NAP data to match what is provided on your Google My Business page as well as your website (and Bing will want it to match Bing Local, and so on).
What does this mean for the businesses that didn’t have claimed and verified listings? One quarter (25%) simply didn’t show up in Google’s local search listings, meaning they’re basically invisible to potential customers searching via Google or Google Maps. Another 25% have a “placeholder” listing; in other words, a listing shows up but it isn’t claimed or verified.
While on the one hand that placeholder means they’re on the map, it’s far from ideal — the listing could contain inaccurate information or reflect poorly on the business. Why? Google users can leave reviews for placeholder listings as well as verified and claimed listings. Only about 35% of the businesses we sampled had Google reviews, and of those, only about a quarter had the minimum of five reviews needed for Google to display an average rating in search results.
Even if reviews don’t appear as an average in the search results, those reviews still exist — and we found that only 10% of the businesses in the survey had a Google rating that was 4 stars or higher. And again, this is most significant for businesses receiving reviews on “placeholder” listings — customers are making a judgment about the business, and the business owner has no control over the webpage where the reviews are being posted. One quarter of the reviews we found were left on pages that were unverified by the business owner. While claiming your page doesn’t allow you to remove negative reviews, it does let you insure that the information you do provide is accurate, and it also gives you the opportunity to respond to reviews. This is important because online reviews can be the tipping point for converting a prospect into a customer.
Higher Power SEO reviewed the North County businesses using a tool that we created, allowing business owners to check out the “health” of their local listing on Google. Our tool can actually be used on any website as a member benefit for an industry association or coalition (we’ve also deployed it for Little Saigon San Diego). Business owners can get a grade that shows how well they’re performing on Google, as well as tips on improving their online performance.
Curious what grade your business gets for its local online presence? Give our online tool a try! If you’re not happy with the grade you get, take a look at our local search services. Still not sure what package is right for your business? Contact our local search expert, Frank Rose, and he will be happy to schedule a free consultation for your business.
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