16 Feb What is location data? A Beginner’s Guide
People typically think of location data as your current location according to your smartphone. However, while a user’s geo-coordinates are certainly an element of location data (and a valuable one at that), location data has evolved well beyond this user-centric concept, especially when it comes to businesses.
In truth, location data is as much about your business locations as it is about the customers who frequent them. Think of location data as both a customer’s current location and the information specific to a business location. Local search is what connects these two endpoints.
On the customer’s end, location data is typically generated by your smartphone, tablet or desktop. So long as location tracking is enabled, this information is easy to acquire for Google, Bing, Yahoo and Facebook.
On the business end, location data has traditionally focused on a business’ name, address, phone number and hours of operation. But this limited definition is rapidly evolving with the ever-increasing sophistication of search engines. Today, location data now encapsulates almost all of your publicly facing information about your locations.
Why is location data important?
Here are four ways that location data benefits businesses:
- Local search: Search for any type of nearby business on Google and what will you see? A short summary of the most important information about relevant locations relating to your query. These local, or “near me” searches, are most often the first opportunity for a business to make an impression. The quality of your location data helps determine what order your business ranks for each query. If your location data is wrong or conflicting on various sites across the internet, you’ll fall lower in local searches and decrease your online visibility. This costs you customers.
- Proximity advertising: Location data also helps you target potential customers near a given location using geo-fences. Location data is critical when creating campaigns around certain products and services relating to specific locations. For example, if you’re an automotive store running a campaign around locations that have a certain tire in stock, it doesn’t do you any good to advertise near locations that don’t have those tires in stock. The same goes for location-specific services. This type of expanded location data is what Placeable’s ProximityAds uses when creating custom campaigns for advertising platforms.
- You don’t send customers to the wrong location: Did Google Maps ever send you to a location that wasn’t where the map said it would be? You can blame faulty location data for that. If your location information is wrong, you’re liable to send a customer to the wrong spot. This is especially true for addresses plugged into Google My Business, because Google Maps uses that information to generate map pins.
- Organizational effectiveness: Your location data, especially if it’s quality, improves the effectiveness of your organization by ensuring that everyone is using the latest and most accurate location information for billing, marketing, sales, operations, etc.
How will location data be used in the future?
Location data has only recently expanded beyond your basic name, address, phone number and hours of operation. This is largely thanks to Google My Business and its introduction of location attributes for things like outdoor seating for restaurants, handicap accessibility and others. Expect this trend to expand into everything location-specific about a business, including your products. In fact, Google already uses your local product inventory feed to inform customers about product availability at your locations.
Digital assistants and search engines will also increasingly use location data to parse out specific details about a location. The quality and completeness of your location data will determine if you’ll rank for these local searches.
Additionally, location data will drive your omnichannel marketing efforts. When customer profiles are used in coordination with location data to target customers at the right moment in the right location with the right message, the often touted (but rarely seen) omnichannel experience will finally be realized.
How should businesses handle their location data?
In general, you should create a master database containing all of your location information about each business location. Each time that your location information changes, be sure to update your master database. You’ll then use this database to measure the data quality provided by search engines and social media platforms.
Unfortunately, cleaning up and maintaining your location data is a time-consuming process. For a more detailed explanation of how to clean up your location data, check out the following resources: