Are online business listings still valuable for your local SEO strategy?
2021 is a pivotal year for businesses that rely on their local points of sale to drive revenue.
Not only has Covid killed marketing budgets, it has also made it difficult for digital marketers to reach key marketing goals like increasing impressions, rankings and conversions.
I get the chance to interact with digital marketers frequently and one of the biggest questions being asked currently is: “What initiatives should we focus on that will help us generate the most ROI in terms of increased visibility and conversions in local search?”
The impact of foundational SEO projects like citation building have been called into question in recent years. Since 2019, the noise has gotten louder from experts claiming that building business profiles on an extended network of directories no longer has an impact on impressions, rankings or conversions on Google My Business profiles.
Those who know us will be aware that one of Uberall’s solutions is a business listings tool with API connections to over 100 directories and because we manage more than 1 million business locations worldwide, we thought it was time to test whether citation building was still relevant today and whether the ROI juice was worth the squeeze.
Key question: Is citation building across long-tail directories still valuable for a local SEO strategy?
Obviously we understand that as a business listings management provider, we have a natural bias towards showing the value of citation building with this report, but we also know that because we manage so many locations worldwide, we have one of the best and biggest data sets necessary to answer the question above.
In creating this analysis we reached out to notable SEO experts in the US & UK, and tried to be as unbiased as possible in letting the data speak for itself.
In our report we answer 3 key questions specifically:
- How does profile completeness impact visibility & conversions?
- Does an extended network of directories have an impact on visibility & conversions?
- How many online directories should a single location have a profile on in order to convert online search into offline sales?
1. How Does Profile Completeness Impact Visibility & Conversions
First, we looked at the impact profile completeness had on key search metrics. After analysing 115,000 locations in the UK, US, Germany & France, we segmented locations into two categories:
- Listings that were complete (all fields complete on the profile such as business name, address, phone number, website, images etc...)
- Listings that had one or more missing fields on their completed business profiles.
We then analysed the variations in visibility between locations that had complete citations on the platforms they were listed on against those locations that had missing fields. We found that those with complete citations increased visibility across the board vs those without complete profiles.
The biggest difference was the increase in direct search in the US and the impact on indirect or unbranded search in Europe:
Business locations with complete profiles in Europe had 90% more search visibility than those with incomplete profiles.
In the US, complete profiles meant that business locations were being found 58% more by users who were already looking for that specific local business to engage with when that location had a complete profile.
What about conversions?
Complete business profiles also had a much higher impact when it comes to converting customers. Business locations with complete information fields on their listings get much higher driving direction requests and website clicks in particular, than those business locations with missing data.
Without key pieces of business information such as an address, phone number or website it is harder for a user to get driving directions, make a phone call or click on the website.
It should also be a warning to businesses of the importance of having key local pieces of information included on all touchpoints that users are engaging – otherwise your business misses out on sales.
Verdict: Complete citations are still foundational for any local SEO strategy but based on our 2019 voice search study, only 4% of local business profiles had complete business information on Google, Bing & Yelp. This means that there’s still a lot of locations out there failing to put the basics of listings management into place.
2. Does an Extended Network of Directories Have an Impact on Visibility & Conversions?
Next we specifically segmented our data into locations that had business listings citations on Google My Business, Bing, Facebook & Apple Maps vs those locations that had profiles on these key directories but were also listed on an extended network of 5 or more directories.
Those listed on the increased 9+ pack of directories improved visibility by an average of 61 - 78% across all major search categories vs the locations that were only listed on the Big 4 - Google, Bing, Facebook & Apple Maps.
Those locations that had profiles on at least 9 directories vs those locations that had profiles on only the Big 4 again increased conversions on all key engagement metrics by an average of 21 - 59%.
These findings refute the arguments of some experts who claim that a business location only needs to be on GMB and perhaps one or two more directories.
Verdict: Citation building still works. While you still need to be mindful of the directories you list your business location on (some will be the same for every market and some of the extended network will be more important depending on your industry and geography), a citation building strategy is still necessary to maximise visibility and conversions in local search.
3. How Many Online Directories Should a Location Be On to Convert Online Search Into Offline Sales?
Is there such a thing as a ‘sweet spot’ in citation building where a business can maximise their conversion potential? We thought we would find out.
This time we only analysed the traditional major European markets – UK, Germany and France – to see at what point conversions were maximised.
By segmenting 80,000 locations from the UK, Germany and France into buckets based on the number of listings they had and analysing the average sum of month, we were able to establish that conversions peaked within the 30 - 39 directories category for both enterprise locations and SMB locations.
Note: There is no <10 locations for Enterprise because there were not enough locations with under 10 listings to make the data representative.
Verdict: Based on our analysis we found that conversions increased by an average of 300% for business locations that were on between 30 - 39 directories vs those that had profiles on under 10 directories. This makes it the strongest indicator yet of the value of an extended network of directories in converting consumers into customers.
If you liked the blog, you’ll love the report! Download the full Value of Listings Report today.