Why do big brands have problems in local search?

Big brands that have had the same high street address for years are at a disadvantage in local search compared to new businesses that are opening around them.  How can this be?

Local Citation building is integral to an effective local SEO strategy; and core to that is consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone numbers) listed in local listing sites.

Established brands already have multiple local citations by virtue of the fact that they are probably listed in many local directories and listing site, so why should they not perform well?

 

The simple answer is – lack of NAP control!

Inconsistent NAP confuses search engines and customers and can negatively affect local search performance.  Here are the main reasons why high street brands have inconsistent NAP:

 

No Local Listing Policy – Because we’ve not needed one till now!

 

Most high street companies do not control their local listings and as such, the listings have slowly become corrupted with inconsistent naming, telephone numbers, branding and weblinks.

The difference may be subtle, for example “Marks & Spencer” may also be listed as “Marks and Spencer” or “M&S” or different telephone numbers listed in different sites, but slowly over time, these differences percolate throughout the listing ecosystem resulting in name variations, category inconsistencies and outdate telephone numbers ALL associated with the same address.

 

Change of Name through re-brand or acquisition

 

Re-branding has a major impact on local citations.  

When a company changes its name, but keeps the same address and phone number, we often see conflicting listings appearing with the old and new brand names appearing alongside each other in the same listing.  

Look at KFC – it officially re-branded from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” in 1991 – yet you can still find local listings for “Kentucky Fried Chicken” throughout the UK.

 

Change of Address

 

Moving or closing physical premises does not automatically change your on-line address.  When changing address, the usual practice is to add a new listing for the new address, however, it does not follow that the old address details will automatically be removed from on-line listings. On the contrary; on-line listings associated with the old address can linger on for years. This can leave a trail of incorrect address details and out of date telephone numbers which can be picked up in search.

A business that stops trading and closes its premises is unlikely to be concerned about the ‘mess’ they leave behind in the listings.   However, a business that continues to trade from a new address in the same town or city may be affected by the legacy of listings associated with the old address. Resulting in miss-placed map pins, incorrect opening times, etc.  For example, Woolworths closed in 2009, yet you will still find listings throughout the UK for its branches – that’s 6 years after they shut!  

 

Change of Phone Number

 

Brands change their telephone numbers for different reasons, for example to centralise customer services or to introduce a different number plan.  Whatever the reason, these numbers need to be changed in the local listings.  

Gone are the days when BT would supply your phone number and update your listing at the same time.  Today we have multiple telco companies and telephone number plans offering different services including, Local, Mobile, VOIP, Cable, 01, 02, 03, 08 etc. etc.  Whatever number you choose and whoever you buy it from, it is your responsibility to ensure it is listed correctly.

We constantly find NAP listings that are years out of date and listing dead telephone numbers.  An SEO person may not be too concerned about a dead telephone number but the brand owner will be.

 

All in all, established high street brands through no fault of their own are victims of a legacy of old information that has accumulated over time in multiple local listing sites and citations.  If nothing is done about it, old NAP details will continue to be listed for years which will interfere with your organic search performance and confuse customers.

 

One symptom of out of date NAP listings is old Google Local listings re-appearing.

If you find that old Google local branch listing keep coming back, despite you removing the, it could be that there are still a lot listings for the old NAP details.  

When you change any aspect of your NAP don’t assume that the listing sites will remove the old listing when you create a new one; they won’t! You need to tell them which listings to remove.  If you don’t you will find the old NAP details lingering for years – like a stubborn rash.

We call this “NAPpy Rash” because it is a pain in the bum!

To avoid NAPpy Rash you need to have a clean NAP.

 

Who owns NAP listings in your organisation?

In most high street organisations, the telephone number and local listings have been left to the store ‘operations’ people.  Operations decide what numbers to use and where they are to be routed for answering etc.  This is fine, however because NAP is now integral to local search, Marketing and the SEO team need to own where and how the numbers are listed;  if not, you too will suffer from NAPpy rash!  

 

 

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