07 Apr Think cleaning up your location data is one and done? Think again
You’ve spent hours—days even—cleaning up your location data. Every map pin is in its proper place. Addresses and phone numbers are checked and doubled checked. You’ve also claimed and merged the duplicate listings hemorrhaging traffic from your local pages. It’s time to wipe your hands and mark “location data” off your spring cleaning list, right?
Bad news, managing location data is a continuous process. You’d be amazed at how quickly the entropy of the local search ecosystem erases all your hard work.
Not only will your brand inevitably need to update your listings, but new and inaccurate data constantly pops up. Trying to stay on top of new data problems can feel like you’re playing location data whack-a-mole. This is particularly true for enterprise brands, where a small team of marketers must juggle the data for hundreds or thousands of locations in addition to their other daily duties.
So how does location data become such a mess? Location data woes come in two types: the changes you intentionally make and those you don’t.
Location data intentional changes:
Intentional updates are the good kind of location data changes. These are the updates that keep your brand’s locations running smoothly. For example, if you open, close, or move a location, you’ll need to update your listings on Google, Bing, Apple, Facebook and anywhere else that customers find you.
Updating seasonal hours are one such example of a necessary update. When the holidays are upon us, chances are you’ll not only need to extend your hours, but you’ll also need to change them back again once you survive the holiday season. If the hours need to change by location, region or country, you’ll have a major project on your hands.
It’s not that difficult to make these changes if you only have a handful of stores. But when you start managing the data for hundreds or thousands of locations, you’ll be lucky to have a day go by in which at least one location doesn’t need its information updated.
But intentional location data changes are a necessary inconvenience for creating a quality digital presence online. Less convenient are the unintentional changes that third parties and search engines make on your behalf.
Location data unintentional changes:
Unfortunately, the local search ecosystem constantly creates bad data. The three biggest culprits of bad data are the crowdsourcing of location attributes and the low-quality data of third parties.
Search engines are getting smarter by the day in their ability to understand the intent of queries, not just their ability to match keywords. The smarter search engines get, the easier it is for them to offer tailor-made results for your local searches. However, search engines can only provide hyper-relevant answers about a location if they have that data on hand. Often they don’t.
As such, Google is crowdsourcing business attributes by asking users on Google Maps about recent visits to a location. It’s also the reason that Google allows you to suggest an edit for a business location.
Nine out of ten times, users update Google with quality information. It’s that tenth time that will have you scrambling to fix it.
You’d think that there would be more safeguards against inaccurately changing a location’s listing information without the consent of the owner. But you’d be wrong. It’s exceptionally easy for a user to make suggestions and changes to your business information online.
Malicious intent can also be a problem. It’s spooky how easy it is for a competitor to sabotage you by going on Google and suggesting changes to your hours or telephone number. As such, it’s important to constantly monitor your location data across the local search ecosystem and fix problems as they arise.
Finally, third-party data owned by franchises, ATM networks, or third-party locators often dump inaccurate location data into the local search ecosystem. No matter how many times you go back and edit this information, if the third party keeps syndicating out bad data, you’ll have to keep fixing it.
What’s a time-strapped marketer to do?
The first thing you need to do is establish your location data as your source of truth. Create a location database that you know has accurate information so that you can tell whether the information out in the local search ecosystem is correct. You don’t want to be making matters worse by syndicating out bad data or “fixing” information that’s already correct.
Next, syndicate your quality location data regularly to counter any bad data that has popped up. Each time you syndicate, think of it as resetting the local search ecosystem.
Finally, consider automating the location management process. If you have only a single location to manage, you might be able to get by with manually making changes. If you have hundreds or thousands of locations, it becomes increasingly important to rely on automation.
Either build a location data platform internally or look to a third-party to clean, standardize, and automatically syndicate your location data. If you’re particularly strapped for time, find a third-party that has a managed services team. That way you’ll only need to write a check and let the experts manage the data for you.
No matter how you decide to tackle your location data, just remember, managing your data is a process, not a project. Cleaning up your location data is never one and done.
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