You might think all of this emphasis on local search is too much — do you really need to go to the trouble of claiming your listings, verifying your information, and so on? Wasn’t Google supposed to be doing all the work, indexing the world’s information, capturing map data with their driverless cars, etc.? And besides, aren’t people looking for you, anyway?
Well, new customers might be looking for you — but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can find you. The La Costa Town Square shopping center, which opened near our offices in early November 2014 (the official grand opening is this spring) is a case in point. It’s a massive new shopping center at the intersection of Rancho Santa Fe Road and La Costa Avenue, with two roads looping through it, several large anchor stores (Vons, Stein Mart, Petco, and 24 Hour Fitness), an array of restaurants, banking, and services, and several spaces yet to be claimed.
But on Google Maps? Right now, if you look at street view, it’s a construction site. And even if you’re looking at the actual map, it’s not much better. One of the roads running through the center, Via Montebello, simply doesn’t exist. Another, Via Mercato, is shown inaccurately (it looks like it ends at Via Campanile, but in real life it keeps going).
Despite construction being complete, there doesn’t seem to be much there online — and when it comes to business listings, it only gets worse. After all, even if Google hasn’t caught up with mapping the streets, there’s no reason why these business’s locations shouldn’t show up on the map. You’d probably expect that giant corporations — like Starbucks and Bank of America — would have someone, if not an entire department, making sure they show up on Google, as well as other search and social sites. But it turns out this isn’t the case — despite La Costa Town Square being a pretty substantial open-air mall, right now according to Google, there are only six businesses there.
It turns out that these six businesses aren’t even listed properly! One of the listings is a generic, unverified listing for La Costa Town Square. Left to its own devices, this is pretty much what Google would come up with — a more or less empty listing created by data aggregators. If you’re searching, it doesn’t tell you much. On the other hand, the Vons grocery store does have a verified listing, but the road it’s on doesn’t appear on the map. A second listing for “Vons grocery store” is actually for a location several miles away on El Camino Real. Two of the four banks at the center have verified listings — Wells Fargo and San Diego County Credit Union — but neither shows up accurately on the map. You’d need to drive over there and have a look to actually find either location. The most complete listing that shows up right now is Stein Mart, which has a verified listing… but no address. Perhaps they know that Via Montebello doesn’t show up on the map?
Even though there are still empty storefronts waiting for tenants, there are a large number of businesses already open in La Costa Town Square — you just wouldn’t know unless you were there already. Via Montebello — the road that doesn’t appear at all on Google Maps — has a dry cleaner, a Postal Annex, a tutoring center, a gym, Petco, a barber, and a restaurant, but only Vons and Stein Mart have any presence online. Via Campanile has seven businesses that are open, but only one — SDCCU — appears on the map. Three restaurants, a dentist, and even a Starbucks don’t appear at all. Of the three banks on Via Mercado, only Wells Fargo shows up — there are Chase and BofA branches, but you’ll only know about them if you spot them from Rancho Santa Fe Road. The three restaurants on that street don’t show up either.
With time, this will likely all get sorted out — the map will be corrected, and hopefully at least the businesses that are outposts of chains will claim their listings. But the mystery of the missing mall really drives home the importance of claiming your local listings. Sure, these big guys can count on name recognition — even if the Starbucks isn’t busy at first, they’re probably not too concerned. If you’re opening your first storefront, however, you can’t count on this “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. It could take data aggregators combing the web a long amount of time to create even a generic listing for your business — and there’s no guarantee that your listing information is accurate. If you’re in new construction, the situation could be even worse. It’s estimated that Google updates its maps between every one and three years. Those “invisible roads” could stay that way for some time, even in a pretty major shopping center like this one.
There isn’t usually a moral in a mystery story, but this one’s got one: If you’re a small business, it’s vital to create, claim, and verify your business’s listings. Big retailers and restaurants might be able to get away with waiting for the web to catch up with them, but smaller businesses without as much brand recognition can truly suffer. In this kind of situation, where web searches make it look as if your location may not even exist, it would pay to go even further — adding your own photos (so potential customers can see it’s not just a construction site or “for rent” storefront) and pinpointing your location by adding descriptive information to your business description (e.g., “located between SDCCU and The Habit Burger Place in the new La Costa Town Square shopping center”).
We’ll keep checking back on La Costa Town Square to see when the web solves this mystery. In the meantime, if you need to claim your business’s local listings, we can help! Give Higher Power SEO a call at 760-881-4736 to learn more about our local SEO services.