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The local search ecosystem is a complex spiderweb of data providers, search engines, and business directories that all exchange and access business name, address, and telephone number (NAP or citation) data.

  • Data providers are commercial local data aggregators who gather, match, cleanse, reformat, and sell individual and business data for profit. You know all that junk mail you receive? A lot of it gets routed to you by way of the local data aggregators.
  • Search engines are familiar names like Google, Bing, and Yahoo as well as smaller or lesser known entities like AOL and DuckDuckGo.
  • Business directories run the gambit from historical artifacts like the Yellow Pages and Superpages to geo, navigational, and vertical or niche directories like Trip Advisor, Open Table, and the American Medical Association Doctor Finder.

The Local Search Ecosystem (LSE) originated with David Mihm, a local small business advocate and owner of Tidings. The LSE is a dynamic online representation of how data flows between entities in this complex, overlapping collection of local data providers, search engines, and business directories.

Why is the Local Search Ecosystem Important?

Every business wants to rank highly in Google search results. Local is one of the most profitable flavors of SEO.

How does one rank at the top of local search results?

Example Google local 3-pack showing pizza shops near Drexel University

If you searching for a product or service that Google deems to have local intent (think something like “pizza near Drexel University”), it will display a Local Pack with the three closest businesses it considers most relevant and reputable:

  • Relevant – Google will only show businesses offering the product or service you are searching for. In the example above, you can see all three businesses shown in the Local Pack are categorized as “Italian” or “Pizza”.  (The business category displays to the right of the business star rating).
  • Closest – all things being equal, the pizza shop closest to you or the location mentioned in your search query will rank higher in search results.
  • Reputable – Businesses with the highest quantity and quality incoming links, citations, and reviews (relative to their peers) will rank the highest.

Consistency and Accuracy Are Key

Given the size and complexity of the local search ecosystem, it should be no surprise that some name, address, and telephone number (NAP or citation) data are inconsistent and/or inaccurate.

Consistency and accuracy are key because they are the only way Google can differentiate one business from another.

In the example below, we can see results for “Pizza Hut near Drexel University”.

Google local 3-pack showing search results for "pizza hut near drexel university".

You can see there are two very similar businesses, one “Pizza Hut”, the other “Pizza Hut Express”. Google differentiates one business from the other using their unique name, address, and phone number data. It tracks online mentions (citations), reviews, and other rankings signals using the same. If there are many variations in your name, address and phone number data, it’s likely you’re not getting full credit for all the online mentions of your business. Online mentions are a ranking factor.

How Does One Ensure Consistent and Accurate Business Listings?

There’s no way to ensure 100 consistency and accuracy,  but making use of a citation building service can definitely help.

Citation building services let you submit your business name, address and telephone number data to a few destinations, allowing you to gain access to many, including many of the data providers, search engines and local directories mentioned above. I have a comparison of the local citation building service providers on this blog. You can compare distribution networks, services, and pricing for each of your options.

Local SEO is far more complex than it seems at first glance. Take advantage of a free telephone consultation (484-437-7977) to figure out if can offer the benefits you want for your business and, if so, your options for proceeding forward.

IMAGE CREDIT: © Copyright Nigel Mykura and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.