Opinion: Take control of location data before it leaves you behind
What do artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, disruptor apps and the future of healthcare have in common?
Location, location, location.
One of the most important things to do in 2020 is take control of your company’s location data online. You might think you have, but changes and advancements to online search, our reliance on phones for guidance, technological advances and a proliferation of bad data through social media are combining to make the task exponentially more important.
As digital marketing and online selling have become imperative for businesses, it has to be as easy as possible for consumers to take off-ramps from the online search world into the brick-and mortar-world.
But those off-ramps lead to revenue only if they lead customers to your door. What many businesses still don’t know is that establishing and maintaining your business’s location is no longer a one-step process.
Why search matters so much
It used to be that, when we set up a business online, we’d input our company’s address on a website. We owned and controlled that site, so if the business moved or opened a new space, we had only one page to update.
Today, once business owners put location information online, Google scrapes that information, interprets it and adds it to its knowledge graph—the data base that Google uses to enhance its SEO. As social media and other user-generated content has proliferated, company information has come to exist in more places, posted by more accounts and more often falls outside of the company’s direct control.
According to a Yext study, 73 percent of high-intent traffic to businesses is happening in search and other online channels instead of a business’ website. That’s a lot of opportunity for things to go awry. For instance, consumers might check in on social media and tag where they parked, instead of the front door, creating confusion about the correct address. Businesses might remember to update their location on their website and Yelp but forget their out-of-date Facebook page. Business owners might put off managing multiple Google My Business accounts.
As Google controls more of the customer’s online journey, businesses must be proactive when it comes to managing their location data. When customers go to the wrong place, so does their revenue.
Location even more relevant
We’re at a turning point. Taking charge of online location information can set you up to reap the benefits of technological advances. Delay, and you’re likely to lose out.
This past summer, it came to light that GrubHub had been publishing fake websites that closely resembled websites by real restaurants. By buying up tens of thousands of domain names, creating landing pages and even setting up online order forms, they positioned themselves between searchers and the small businesses who’d signed with GrubHub. That meant they scored a commission on more orders, a practice some are calling predatory.
GrubHub maintains that their intention was to increase the number of restaurant orders, but the practice of cyber-squatting—the bad-faith registration of an available domain name or trademark—is a long-standing danger.
Both Lyft and Uber have been testing self-driving cars. Those cars are going to depend on the location information their maps find online to get to destinations. The likelihood of delivering passengers to the wrong location is significant.
In coming years, the role of your website might become less and less important because the information will come from Google, which might bundle it for a consumer’s journey. If a potential customer were to search online for a new, local Chinese restaurant, Google might surface one, show its menu, and even help book a rideshare service.
This bundling is already happening within the healthcare space. Lyft and Uber both have healthcare divisions. By bundling healthcare information with Uber or Lyft, doctors’ offices are seeing more patients showing up, or showing up on time.
Accurate, available, searchable location information was always important. Now, it’s crucial. But how does a business ensure its online location data is accurate?
Managing your location information
The first thing to do is to run a location inventory. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about, so take the leap.
Sometimes the process turns up unpleasant surprises. Some will be simple enough to solve on your own. If the inaccuracies are widespread, or if a business is larger, it might be more cost-effective to work with a partner to clean up errors.
Ultimately, develop a plan to publish updated location information over a period of weeks, and even months. This will improve SEO and, over time, lead to an increase in revenue.
Whether it drives business results or actual customers to your door, there’s no more important way to connect with customers than by helping them find you. Don’t let business pass you by.