The exchange of information on online portals and directories is best pictured as a game of “Chinese whispers”. Online portals and business directories such as the Yellow Pages, and rating portals such as Yelp or Foursquare, are closely connected on the Internet. If the wrong data is entered, the error spreads easily, even if the company does not actively publish its information on those pages.
Consistent, up-to-date company data in online directories, on the other hand, helps businesses achieve a high ranking in local search results. Each directory and portal entry equals a link, which means for the process of search engine optimisation: the more links, the higher the relevancy for the respective search engine.
This is why companies should strive to keep their local data and company information as consistent and up-to-date as possible. It is important to guard your business against the falsification of data.
Reasons for the manipulation of data in online directories
- Automatic data exchange – the “Chinese whispers” effect: Business directories and portals, social networks, map services, and apps use web crawling to exchange data. Due to the large number of different services and websites, it is not uncommon for data to be imported without being entered by the company itself.
- Data management – company data is primarily entered into directories by humans. Employees working with data must receive special training and work with great concentration. Staff changes can cause problems. Often, only a user with admin rights are authorised to edit information entered into online portals. If this user leaves the company, editing company entries can become a difficult task.
- Visitors of online portals – company information entered into online portals is occasionally freely editable. Especially on rating portals, it is not uncommon for visitors to be able to “complete” company information of their own accord. This function is often accessible even to unregistered users.
Are businesses helpless in the face of such online data manipulation? No. There are ways to counteract this.
Measures to counteract data manipulation
- Basic profile at Google My Business – this profile is the cornerstone of your website ranking in the Google local search. Without this profile, the website will not appear in the search results displayed on the superimposed map.
- Keep your data consistent, uniform, and updated – The NAP data (Name, Address, Phone number) should be identical and correct in all directories. Differences negatively impact your ranking in the local search results. Company entries should also be supplemented with additional content, e.g. photos or discount campaigns.
- Online Presence Management service provider – Once a company reaches a certain size and number of locations, updating and verifying company data in business directories, online portals, social networks, map services, and applications becomes a challenge in terms of resource planning. Online Presence Management service providers can be of great assistance. Their technologies enables these service providers to manage all their local company data in all directories and portals through one central platform. The dissemination of the data into directories is monitored actively.
- Targeted high-quality training for employees – if you decide against commissioning an Online Presence Management provider, you need to invest in training your staff and optimising your processes instead. Training about data handling does, admittedly, not sounds exciting, but it should be a given in companies with multiple branches. In addition, it is necessary to define a process to ensure the consistency of the company data in directories after the responsible employees leave the company.