If there are only a few directories and data aggregators, claiming a directory listing one at a time could work. But hundreds of them make the task very tedious or almost impossible. This is where the use of automated listing management software would be advantageous.
Automating the process of building a local business citation, though, is one thing. Ensuring every entry is complete and accurate is another matter. For some companies, the best method could still be manual listings management. However, there may be various concerns that businesses must be aware of before making a choice between the two.
So this begs the question, “Automated listings management vs. manual listings management, which is better for your business?” This article intends to help you find out.
The Importance of Business Citations or Directory Listings
Here is one example to illustrate the importance of local business citation. A person uses Google to search for a particular food (e.g., burger, steak, pasta).
A typical Google search result would show a rich snippet called Places. In the example above, the search query “burger” yielded these results:
- Burger King
- Westend Burger Bar
- Speed Burgers and More
No doubt, these three establishments already have a competitive edge. One reason is that they appear before the top-ranking pages.
Another thing to consider is data aggregators and directories. For example, in the same query for “burger,” TripAdvisor and Yelp were among the top-ranking pages. A citation in these pages would expose a business to its readers, generating awareness and sales.
Directory listings could, therefore, be the key to generating higher revenues for many businesses.
Do you know how many people who search for a local business using a smartphone would visit within 24 hours? According to Google, 76 percent or seven to eight out of 10 people would.
Realizing that citations are essential to improve online presence and increase search visibility, more businesses are investing in local listing management services. As one of the foundational SEO ranking signals, citation building is one of the core activities of local digital marketing.
7 Benefits of Business Citations
Many companies today are considering local listing management for these reasons:
1. Increase Search Visibility
Consumers may not stumble upon a company’s website in search results. But they might still find the company in a directory. This type of exposure is an advantage of citation building, where every listing increases local search visibility.
2. Updated and Correct Contact Information
People who search for a local business do not only want to know more about products or services. Often, they want to get in touch or visit the business. So one of the things the local citations service or company can do is to keep contact information updated and be more discoverable.
3. Enhance Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Content and links, according to Google, are the most important ranking signals. But many other factors contribute to ranking high on search results. One of them is inbound links from reputable directories. At any rate, the combination of business citations and quality backlinks may help boost SEO rankings.
4. Take Advantage of Voice Search
A survey of consumers by BrightLocal revealed that six out of 10 had used voice search in the previous 12 months. But first, one must understand the difference between a voice and a typed search.
Image source: BrightLocal
Users usually type a query plus location when searching for a local business. Search engines, in this case, provide results based on on-site content. Voice searches are not the same as the queries are more conversational. Instead of specifying a location, they use phrases like “near me.”
Businesses can use citation building as a strategy to increase directory listings and boost local SEO. This way, they can entice more voice search users to patronize their products and services.
5. Gather Online Reviews and Testimonials
Many of the directories allow customers to rate or write a review. Positive feedback, of course, encourages the public to try the business. A negative review, on the other hand, is an opportunity for a company to resolve an issue and show how much they care, thereby creating a positive brand perception to attract more customers.
6. Most Local Business Citation Is Free
Most directories are free. Google My Business (now Google Business Profile), for example, allows a company to appear in various searches, including Maps and Local Pack Listings.
Image source: BrightLocal
As per one study, only 16 percent of searches are direct, in which users searched for a specific company. Meanwhile, 84 percent “discovered” a business. As the world’s most used search engine, keeping a Google Business Profile is a must for businesses – and like hundreds of directories, they are free.
7. Improve Customer Journeys and Experience
Customer journeys begin when they have a desire or a need. Engagements, meanwhile, start with “discovering” a brand. In some cases, they may already know about a brand, its products and its services, as is the case with famous brands.
In other cases, customers only learn about a product or service when needed.
As part of local search engine optimization services, local listing management helps companies reach customers. But, more importantly, by providing accurate contact information, customers can get in touch with a sales representative or visit the physical store.
Helping customers find a phone number, address and other information easily and quickly is a great way to improve online presence and the start of a great customer experience.
Elements of Listings Management
These elements are the information directories usually need and provide to their users. They must be not only current but also accurate too. Regardless if a company uses manual or automatic listings management, the listings must also be consistent across all platforms.
- Phone number
In some directory listings, companies may also submit the following information:
- Social media
- Messaging app/ID
If possible, companies must also provide other information, such as the following:
At the very least, companies must provide their NAP (name, address and phone). Depending on the platform, they must also provide other contact details. Doing so helps in increasing their findability.
Automated vs. Manual Listings Management
There are two ways to manage listings, from creating/claiming a listing to keeping it updated. First is doing it automatically using listing management software or a local citations service. The second is to do it manually. Both, of course, have their advantages and disadvantages.
Automated Listings Management
In the past, companies could automate the citation-building process using local software. Nowadays, most of them are subscription- and cloud-based online listings management services. Usually, companies only need to provide details to these platforms and let them submit to various directories with little to no further effort.
When choosing an automated listings management platform, some factors to consider are:
- Partner platforms
- Features and tools
Note that comparing only by price is not a good idea, as citation management platforms vary significantly from one another. For example, they need to know if the partner platforms suit their industry and target customer segments.
Another thing to consider is the “consequences” of canceling a subscription, such as the following:
- Disappearing Listings. Some companies may lose up to 60 percent of their listings after canceling a local citation service.
- Stripped Listings. three to four out of 10 may show partially or fully stripped details for remaining listings.
This glaring disadvantage is because the listing management company “owns” the listing. If a client stops their service, the listings revert to their previous state – incorrect, incomplete, or non-existent. Nonetheless, many companies still choose the automated process.
Advantages of Automatic Listings Management:
- Saves Time. Automated listings submission usually takes only days. So, this approach becomes more cost-effective as the number of listings increases.
- Easy Tracking. Checking the results of each submission is hassle-free, as reports are auto-generated. Usually, they also come with other details, such as performance metrics.
- Fewer to No Errors. With manual citation submissions, some mistakes may occur. But with automated listings management, the same information is pushed to various directories.
- Resolve Duplicates. Some organizations may have up to 10,000 duplicate business listings. Automated listings management can help resolve this issue in days, compared to weeks or months, if done manually.
- Multi-Location Businesses. Each state and country has location-specific directories, significantly increasing the number of directory listings. Automated listings management makes it possible to submit to as many platforms in a relatively short time.
- Integrated Dashboard. Automated listings management comes with one dashboard to do all functions. Besides submissions and updating, it also tracks and analyzes real-time performance metrics.
Manual Listings Management
A company has to do everything in manual listings management – from submitting to updating business citations. Not only that, but they also need to do it one at a time for each platform. Regarding costs, this approach is cheap as there are no payments made to a local citations service provider.
Due to time constraints, the three most significant disadvantages of manual listings management are:
- Inability to submit to a large number of directories.
- Failure to keep the business details updated if there are changes.
- No dashboard to control all functions and track and analyze performance.
While limited, manual listings management does have one significant advantage over automated solutions – the company owns all listings. So there is no risk of losing listings, as is the case with stopping the service of an automated listings management platform.
How To Choose Between Manual or Automated Listings Management
Both approaches – manual and automated – helps improve business reputation and search visibility. Consider these points when deciding on which method is better for your business:
Who Should Choose Automated Listings Management?
Companies that operate in different locations may choose this method to manage thousands of business citations. The same holds true if there is a need to update information or resolve duplicates.
Some companies may also want additional capabilities in managing their directory listings. In this case, the dashboard provided by an automated listings management agency would be a preferable solution. Apart from listings management, other features such as alerts, analytics, reports and review management can help a company improve business reputation.
Companies should also factor in the loss of listings in case of canceling a service. In this aspect, it would be best if the company could sustain a long-term subscription rather than approaching it as a one-time service. In other words, companies should not think of availing of automated service temporarily and canceling after the listings are up.
Who Should Choose Manual Listings Management?
Many startups and small companies have limited funds. For them, the cost of automated listings management is too much. But rather than not building citations, they can opt to do it manually.
As for companies that already use an automated citation management service, there is one good reason to go manual. That is to submit to directories not supported by the automated listing service they are using.
Making the Final Decision
The debate surrounding automated or manual listings management is primarily an issue of affordability: Companies with limited budget can choose to do it manually, while brands that have money to spend benefit more from investing in automated listings management. If you’re choosing to do it automatically, consider if it is for the short- or long-term. Remember that many directory listings may disappear once the service is stopped. Otherwise, it is the easiest way to get listed and increase search visibility.
For more questions on building business citations, improving reputation and other local search engine optimization services, call 866.325.0303 to contact our SEO specialists.