The Trials and Tribulations of Local Listings
At Point It, I am often handed the task of setting up local listings for various clients. I’ve meandered down the road of using paid listing distribution sites, which scatter listings across the vast wonderland that is the internet. However, those services have burned me time and time again, with delayed publishing times, lack of reporting analysis, and listings just plain not showing up.
Talk to any SEO whiz, and they’ll be sure to remind you that local listings are important. Retail clients want to add on listing after listing, making sure to be as visible as possible, especially right before the holiday season. When Mommy goes to buy little Bobby a new toy, they don’t want her deterred by not being able to find directions or a phone number for a local store. That information should be right at her fingertips, like that ancient old yellow-pages phone book used to be.
So what’s a client manager to do? How do you manage uploading multiple listings across various local platforms without wanting to pull out all your hair? Well, I’m here to warn you of some of the reoccurring roadblocks I have slammed into while managing local listings, and some of the measures you can take to avoid them.
Google Places/ Google+ Local
Ah, remember that update Google sent out towards the end of May, letting small businesses owners everywhere know that Google Places was no more, and Google+ Local was the new hotness. Business owners (and lil’ client managers like me) could still use their Google Places UI to upload, edit, and manage their listings. However, they would be pulled into Google+ Local, which brought along some changes:
- Listings now found under the Google+ Local tab
- No more videos on local listings
- No mobile or tablet listings available (yet)
- Integration of ZAGAT ratings with customer reviews
Now while these changes seem tame, the “let me just touch my toe into the water, and pull it right back out” feel of Google Places and its UI being connected to Google+ Local has caused listing errors for many of my clients, and many other business owners using it. In short – it’s very buggy. Some errors business owners have struggled with include Google + Local listing their readily open business as suddenly “Permanently Closed”. Or, existing customer reviews disappearing. And even more frustrating, new reviews not going through, causing owners to again solicit feedback from already responding customers. Because, who doesn’t love someone asking for praise a second time?
Many of our local clients have had similar troubles, including images for one listing showing up on another, listings that are published and live in the Google Places UI not showing on Google+ Local, and Google+ Local deciding to categorize your listings without using the business categories you’ve provided. Often I’ve found myself staring at my data file, wondering what happened between uploading and publishing. I’m still grasping for straws! Especially since Google Places/Google+ Local do not have designated reps to reach out to.
How do I avoid all of that?
Some of these errors are just part of the transition to Google+ Local as a new local platform. Be sure to audit your listings often. If you aren’t seeing them online, make sure to check their status in your data file. If images are pulling incorrectly, or descriptions or categories looking wonky, always check for your own human errors or the errors of whoever set up the account initially. If you’re still hitting a wall – take a deep breath. I’ve been there! What’s most important is being honest and transparent with your client. All you can do is put together a well-developed upload form and keep an eye on your client’s listings. Being found consistently is important to them, so it should be equally important to you.
Bing Business Portal
Let’s say you have 100 locations you want to get up on local listing sites. Yikes, does that sound like a lot of mind-numbing screen sharing. But never fear! Both Google Places and Bing Business Portal have bulk upload capabilities. However, the process may be lengthier than you expected.
If you’re an agency or third party representative managing these listings, be prepared to solicit a confirmation email from the business you’re representing. They’ll need to provide headquarter information and a confirmation that you can manage it. No sweat, right? Well, you’re upload form better be up to snuff, or you’ll be playing duck, duck, goose with the Bing Business Portal bulk upload support team (hey, at least they have one at all). Once that headache is over, you’re all uploaded and ready to go. However, don’t expect to be able to view or directly edit your bulk uploaded listings within the BBP UI – because it’s hidden:
What the WHAT?
I have to go contact someone else to make small edits or changes? What a pain. So how do I manage this? For BBP, if you have a smaller set of listings, I would suggest entering them individually rather than through bulk upload. Though it’ll be a much lengthier process, you then have access to the UI to make small changes or updates. Also, you can then build your own mobile local listings for each location for free. These capabilities are available in bulk upload, you’ll just have to email someone from BBP Support (who may take a couple of days to respond) to make instant changes. My biggest suggestion is to start a strong relationship with that contact. Save their email, reach out to them often – use them as a resource through this process.
Now, that is just skimming the surface of the oh-too-familiar problems you may face when using these two popular local listing platforms. But you grin through it, because locally relevant and seen is a good place to be. And with the integration of social media continuously creeping into local services, it’s a necessity.