WARNING! Are Your Local Listings Turning Off Prospective Clients and Patients?

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Good News!  Barbara, a client of yours, just recommended your practice to Kate, a friend at work. Kate trusts Barbara, but nevertheless decides to find your practice on the Web before giving you a call.

Searching in Google, Kate calls up a page-full of results, mostly from local directories that list your business. She randomly clicks on SuperPages.com to see what is there about you.

Turns out, your old office number and address are listed. What’s not there is your logo, pictures of your practice and any sort of video. Your business hours are also absent. Finally, the listing indicates, it was never “claimed” by you, a sign to her that you might not even be in business, anymore!

One more time…

Kate is turned off, but hopeful, since she trusts her friend, Barbara, implicitly.  Back on the results page, she randomly selects Yelp to see your listing. Alas, same deal – your listing contains old, inaccurate contact information, no logo, no photos or any pertinent facts about your practice. Plus, there’s a bad review from five years ago, posted by one of your more “difficult” clients.

Kate decides to ask someone else at the office for a recommendation. Unfortunately, you’re now out of the running for her business.

The crucial nature of local directory listings

The Web is chock-full of local directories: Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, and Google+ Local, to name a few. Your practice is probably listed in most of them.  How?

These directories purchase data from telephone exchanges and other sources to populate their listings. They then try to up-sell businesses on “premium” listings and/or advertising space.

Often, the information they capture about a business is old or inaccurate, so prospects like our Kate will likely become non-prospects when they encounter a sub-par listing.

But wait, there’s more – Father Google is watching!

Beside’s Kate’s disappointment, there’s another good reason to fear old listings. When Google ranks your website in its “organic” and “local” search engines, one of the major factors is the consistency and accuracy of your listings in these many local directories. If the data in one listing are old and inconsistent with the data in other listings, chances are, Google will send you down the list. This could affect the perceived “health” of your website and prevent more people from finding you.

How could this have been prevented?

You’ll never know how inaccurate your local listings are until you look for yourself! Fire up your computer, click on the link to your favorite browser (Google is a great start) and type your practice name, or your name, in the search bar. Click on each of the directories that comes up, and note the information that’s given about your business, the amount of information that’s listed, and whether or not you ever claimed the listing.

If you see inconsistencies and blank spaces, it’s time to get to work. Follow directions for each directory you find, starting on Page 1 of the search results, and complete this information. Make sure it’s consistent! We advise preparing a worksheet, beforehand, to help keep everything the same in each directory.

The major directories, like Google and Bing, also want to verify that you are a real business. They will prompt you to request a postcard be sent to your office. That postcard will contain a verification PIN you can use to claim your business. It’s an awkward process, but well worth the trouble, as it may affect your search engine ranking.

Get help if you need it with Local SEO

If this exercise seems too tedious and time consuming, you may want to hire a professional listing service to help you out. Some of them, like RatingWell.com, do provide a free local SEO report or a free local listing analysis.

Price and quality vary, but hiring a professional will no doubt yield better results which could boost your bottom line.

Whatever you decide to do, please do not ignore your local listings – with a little bit of work, they can improve your business and your online reputation.

Author: Clifford Yurman

Clifford Yurman is the principal behind ConsumerReviewService.com. Cliff is a creative and business professional skilled across a broad spectrum of communications disciplines including marketing, web design, producing and directing, podcasting, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing and Strategy. He is president of Media Consulting Services. Through MCS, Cliff has provided SEO services to professional practices and small businesses, and written and produced major video and interactive projects for such clients as Pfizer, BASF-Pharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AIG, KPMG, American Express, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and other global enterprises. Cliff completed an MBA in Finance and Marketing at Columbia Business School in New York where he received the Distinguished Service Award upon graduation. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In his last staff position before starting his own agency, Cliff served as Director, Corporate Development for News America Publishing, Inc. (Rupert Murdoch’s holding company). Reporting to the Vice Chairman, he managed communications and business functions including mergers and acquisitions analysis, industry analysis, and corporate communications. At CBS Corporation, Cliff was Financial Manager for the CBS Television Stations Division and CBS Records Division (now Sony Music); Editor, Standards and Practices for the CBS Television Network; and Writer/Story Editor for WCBS-TV/New York. Cliff began his career in advertising, first as Senior Media Planner at Lintas Advertising for such clients as Citigroup, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Tropicana and Mennen. He later moved to Bates Advertising, serving as Account Executive on the Panasonic Consumer Electronics business. Cliff is a member of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau

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