By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column

Have you ever looked up a business’ address on­line, and driven all the way there, only to find that the business has moved? Or maybe you’ve seen their hours online and shown up at their door, only to find them closed. It can be frustrat­ing, indeed.

When those things happen, do you blame Google? Probably not.

If your company’s contact information is wrong online, potential customers aren’t going to fault the search engines – they will blame you. And I’m not just talking about the “Contact Us” page on your website. I’m talking about the literally hundreds of authoritative online directories, also known as “citation sites,” that have scraped the internet for contact information about your business.

These citation sites pull information on local businesses into their databases, categorize it and make it available for search engines to use in lo­cal search results. These online directories often appear on the first page of Google’s search results – a prime spot to be in.

In addition to “general” online directories such as Google My Business, Yelp and YellowPag­es, there are also industry-specific/niche directo­ries, like HomeAdvisor, FindLaw and KBB.

As an example, if you search for “florist Iowa City” on Google, you’ll see several online directo­ries show up on the first page:

  • Yelp.com
  • TheKnot.com
  • YellowPages.com
  • FlowershopNetwork.com
  • FlowerShopping.com

 

If you’re a florist in Iowa City, you would want to make sure that your flower shop is not only list­ed on these sites, but that the information about your company is correct and accurate.

Because Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines trust certain online directories enough to show their info on the first page of search results, they want to make sure that the information dis­played about businesses is correct.

To a search engine, the following information would be seen as two completely different business­es because the contact information isn’t exactly the same:

Patient Care LLC
1451 Second Ave. NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
319-555-5555

Patient Care
1451 Second Avenue Northeast
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
319-555-5555

If search engines see discrepancies like this in a company’s name, address or phone num­ber (NAP), that makes their algorithm question which listing is correct. As a result, the search en­gine may not show either listing in search results, which is a huge missed opportunity for you.

As a business owner you want to visit authori­tative online directories and do the following:

  1. Search to see if your business is listed
  2. If listed, confirm that your business name, address and phone number are exactly the same on all directories (e.g. St. versus Street). If the in­formation is incorrect, you should contact the di­rectory to get the listing fixed.
  3. If your business is not listed, submit your business listing consistently across as many on­line directories as possible.
  4. Keep checking your listings to ensure that incorrect information hasn’t crept in.

 

Some citation sites, like Yelp, will allow you to “claim” or “verify” your listing. Typically, this is done by email, a phone call or a postcard to your place of business. By claiming your listing, you can get control of it and make necessary changes to your hours, company description or address if you need to. You can also respond to any reviews that are left about your business.

Ranking high on Google is your website’s main goal, and getting your company listed on quality and trustworthy online directories can help get you there faster. That’s why it’s so important that you make sure your company has claimed or confirmed that your listings on online directories are accurate. Here are a few online resources to help get you started:

 

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/ speaker, is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Cedar Rapids. Reach her at http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com

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Adam Moore

Adam Moore has been editor and chief content officer with the Corridor Business Journal since 2014. He has worked in a variety of news and trade journalism roles, most recently serving as managing editor of Interiors & Sources, a national trade publication serving commercial architects and designers. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Northern Iowa in 2006.