Experts Blog

Pricing Pitfalls in Local Search Projects

By Mary Bowling on Oct 05, 2012 - 11:22 AM

The Monster That Ate the NAP

Quite often, Local SEOs are handed a bloody mess to clean up. It's not unusual to find a mess within a mess, a mess that has expanded across the Local universe at warp speed and/or a mess that has devoured the business' real NAP and spit out multiple imposters to take its place. None of these situations bodes well for the SEO who has not adequately researched a business' NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency before taking on a new client.

Real Life Case

small_business.jpgI'm currently trying to help an outfit that has used 5 different business names online. 3 of the names are significantly different. 2 are just minor variations. They have also used 6 different local phone numbers, including one with an area code in a neighboring state, and 2 call tracking numbers over which they have absolutely no control.

I did an audit for this business using our Web Site Audit Checklist and gave them a detailed, prioritized list of what they need to do and how to do it. Unfortunately, after a few short weeks, the in-house staffer charged with trying to update all of this information online threw up her hands in frustration. What at first seemed to the business as a simple matter of changing name and phone number information to match the authentic data became an overwhelming, often mind-numbing chore. Here's why...

Missing Logins

She didn't have logins to most of the places where the business was listed. I never ceased to be amazed at how often this happens even among large businesses with full time, in house marketing staff!

In Local Search, your logins are a valuable business commodity that is close to the core of what Mike Blumenthal refers to as digital equity. Without them, it is difficult at best and impossible at worst to update your information online.

All listings should be created and held in accounts that the business owner has complete control over. They need to be recorded in a meaningful way and safeguarded within the organization.

As an agency, setting up accounts in the proper way, taking care of the record keeping, openly sharing it with the business and then turning it over to the owner when your relationship with them ends, is undoubtedly the ethical path to travel.

Login Recovery Not Possible

In many cases, login recovery was not possible because she didn't know what email addresses had been used to create them and/or didn't have access to those email accounts. Many times, employees or former employees create business listings with the best of intentions. But often those listings are held in personal accounts or accounts that were not recorded or shared. In those cases, the business has no access to those email addresses to receive lost login information.

Sometimes the recovery email address is under the control of a former agency rather than the client, which also prevents the business from recovering lost login information. Some agencies actually do this on purpose to cause defectors as much pain as possible. Don't be one of them.

Updates Not Possible

For some directories, it's not possible to update or delete an existing listing. Instead, you must make the effort to create and verify an entirely new listing. This can be unexpectedly time consuming, especially when you want to add photos and details to make it as complete as possible. To find a comprehensive list of all the directories that we recommend updated and/or creating a new listing - check out our The Ultimate Local Search Directory & Citation List.

This also doesn't do anything to get the bad NAP information in the original listing out of the mix, but it does add one more instance of good information. It may also mean that your reviews on that site will be split between 2 or more listings, which doesn't provide a complete picture to searchers who only find and view one of them.

In some places, like CitySearch, there is no option given to update anything. So if you can't find an email address to send your request to, you're done. On some sites, you will find email addresses, but responses can vary immensely as does the wait time for the data to be updated.

Pricing Considerations

So you can see why it's critical to learn how much online NAP confusion the prospect is experiencing BEFORE you price a Local Search project. It's also important to pin the client down as to whether they wish you to correct the inconsistencies or if they are willing and able to commit to doing it themselves. Any agreement should spell this out. And if they choose to do it themselves, make it clear that it isn't optional, but is a necessary task for achieving good rankings in Local Search within the shortest amount of time.

If they choose to have you correct inconsistencies, don't sell yourself short. You'll be in the best situation if you can price it as actual time spent to do the work. It can be an amazingly time consuming process that can quickly suck up your profit margin if you don't price it right.

Remember G+ Local

You are also going to want to do your homework in regards to how their current listing stand within the chaos that is G+ Local. As we've detailed in our October Search Engine Update - To Merge or Not to Merge -That is THE Question in Local These Days, it can be a very sticky situation to get a company properly listed if they have inconsistencies in their NAP information or within their original Place Page.

A Great Upsell to Existing Clients

Remember! Google has also just released Business Photos and Virtual Tours to both mobile and desktop versions of Google Maps. This can be a must do for many businesses so be sure to bring it to the table as an upsell to your existing clients.