Google Maps will drive visitors directly to your doorstep... If you're not careful, that doorstep might be the front door of your house!
Business information is a matter of public record. Your name, business name, and contact information automatically enters public record when you register through any government agency. This is a pretty scary realization for those jewelers who work from their home as personal jewelers.
In the summer of 2010, at the beginning of the location based services
craze, many of LBS' were buying up business lists from anywhere they could get it. In fact, I found out that the DeHood mobile application
purchased a very large list of businesses that included millions of businesses from around the US that were closed.
You see, some of the agencies that collect business information will not properly manage their lists. Instead of expunging old records, they often just keep adding additional information on top of what already exists.
There are some companies that claim to keep their lists updated...
The company Infogroup
(owners of InfoUSA, Salesgenie, and several others) claims that they use a "combination of our client's data and our business and consumer data." They provide small businesses with a free service to update dozens of online business directories for free by filling out a single form.
The company Neustar
compiled their initial list of business information, but charges a monthly fee for you to keep it updated. You have to pay them every month to keep your information updated.
A quick Google search will also reveal several companies that specialize in building lists of all newly incorporated businesses.
The point is that this information is out there, and it never seems to go away. I mentioned DeHood earlier because the list of businesses they bought included a convenience store in my home town that closed when I was a boy. It also included a doctor's office located at the same address where my office is today. Both of those businesses closed more than 20 years ago, yet that information was still for sale through list management services.
Sometime around September 2010, Google also purchased a list of businesses to merge into their Places service. They had been offering plenty of incentives for business owners to register in the "new" Places at that time, but progress was slow. They acquired a list of millions of businesses and merged it into their live system without any consideration for privacy. I distinctly remember a personal jeweler appeared in my home town, in a residential area only a few blocks from my office.
The new Google Places for Business will show you when new information is "updated" in your Places listing information. I've created this exaggerated screen shot so you could see what it looks like:
I shudder every time I see those blue "Updated" indicators because I have no idea what was updated or where Google got the information from. I once detailed the horrible situation where business information was changed without warning
, and it cause a lot of trouble.
It seems like Google is actively updating its business information database with licensed data from other sources, as well as allowing the general public to update it too.
Although Google is slowly compiling their own list of user generated business information, they obviously still license data from other companies. Sadly, several list services are providing Google with chaos causing contradicting information about the same businesses.
Take a look at this page from Infogroup:http://www.expressupdate.com/why_express_update
and then this one from Neustar:http://www.expressupdate.com/why_express_update
Although Neustar does not show as many as Infogroup, you can see the potential for overlapping information. Even though you might pay Neustar for their service, a free listing update from Infogroup could potentially overwrite that paid service.
You should be able to tell by now that is a recipe for disaster that I haven't found a way around other than to manually monitor your Google Places for Business listing.
All these business databases revolve around the core data of your business name, address, and phone number. This is commonly referred to as NAP.
Take some time to Google your business name and look at all the online business directories that have information about your store. There will be dozens of directories out there, many with online reviews, and many will have divergent information about you.
One of the current common beliefs among the SEO community is that your business information should be standardized across many, if not all, of the business directories you can find yourself in. One method commonly used to help increase your local ranking is to work through all the popular directories and standardize your NAP, business descriptions, and anything else that you don't want to leave to chance... or outdated purchased lists.
This NAP standardization is thought to send a signal to Google that the same information they have on file is the correct information. Google does everything it can to use different "signals" to measure reliability. It's assumed that a few dozen NAP directories with the same information would comprise a rather accurate and strong signal.
So here's a project for your Local SEO to-do list:
1. Update your business listing in Google Places for Business here:
2. Do a Google search for your name and compile a list of all the online business directories that have your store information in it.
3. Work through every one of those directories and update your information. Many of them will provide a free ability to update, but a few will require paid subscriptions.
4. It's my personal opinion, speaking from experience, that paid services like Neustar and Infogroup are not worth it. They seem like a shortcut for time, but like nearly every other shortcut in the SEO universe, it never works out as expected over the long term.
Google Maps will drive people directly to your door, but it's your own fault if that door is at your previous address.