Why Are Local Listings So Poorly Supported?

We work with a lot of clients on their SEO and SEM projects.  While each one is different, and some have more of a local focus than others, they are all concerned about making sure their online presence is as clean and consistent as possible. For the entities that they control, this process generally involves a quick status audit and maybe a cleaning up of logos, descriptions or branding messages.

But, when it comes to the major local listing channels, unfortunately, it is a completely different story.  I don’t think we’ve worked with a client yet who didn’t experience some type of ongoing issue with a major local listing, such as Google or Yahoo. Most issues that we find for our clients should be really easy to resolve – an outdated phone number, old address etc.

And yet, getting these simple items corrected can be anywhere from extremely difficult to practically impossible. Why is this? I can’t tell you how hard it is to have to explain to a client why we are taking so long to get, what seems like a simple fix, completed. The bottom line is, I don’t have an answer that is much better than it seems like Google and Yahoo really don’t care if your local listing is incorrect. And what they hear is that Google and Yahoo don’t care if they hurt actual businesses.

Now I’m not saying that I think that Google or Yahoo – or any other local listing site for that matter – is out to deliberately hurt businesses. That would be absurd. But, in reality and in practice, they are doing just that. By not having proper, human-powered support for their local products, they are hurting businesses every day when searchers find incorrect information in their local results sets. Google has made improvements in their support for local listings lately, but it is still really hard to get things corrected in a timely manner.

Yahoo does not have a mechanism to even send an email to a support team to try to get help with an issue. They claim to have one, but I can’t for the life of me find it and I’ve been all over their help.yahoo.com area! When calling their Small Business Support line this week (after resorting to Twitter to even get that number), the recorded message said that their call volume was so high that they couldn’t take any calls. Seriously?!?

It seems like companies that want to list local information should take a little more responsibility in (a) trying to have as accurate information as possible and (b) making it easier for businesses to correct inaccuracies in their listings. An improperly mapped restaurant will lose business. An incorrect phone number will result in who knows how much lost revenue to any local business and the impression that the business is no longer in existence.

I realize we are talking about huge numbers of listings and that having a support mechanism for them is not a simple undertaking. But, to have these listings so prominently displayed in search results and not have an easy (or in the case of Yahoo any way) to have a person help fix serious issues, is really a problem.

Have you had issues with local listings? Share your story with us.

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