Any major digital marketing authority will preach the importance of a uniform local search presence for local businesses. There is no shortage of posts emphasizing the need to either spend the immense amount of time to clean up local search directories, or to pay someone to do so for you — and you won’t find any contrasting opinions here.
So widely is the importance of local SEO taught, but rarely is it outlined, in plain terms, why it is important. “It’s integral to SEO!” Why? “It will help your rankings!” Why? “It’s good for Domain Authority!” Why? Since so much time (and often money) is involved in making sure that all directory listings are uniform across the World Wide Web, why do we obediently follow instructions without understanding the reasons behind them?
In an attempt to reconcile this, here are three similes to shed light on the why of maintaining local SEO.
Local SEO Is Like Voting in a Democracy
All too often we are told that local SEO is important for search rankings, followed by a jargon-y sentence full of words like “consistency,” “brand,” and “uniformity.” Anyone trying to understand how it actually affects rankings may be lost in the mix.
It helps to look at local search listings as voting in a democracy. Having authoritative directories linking to your site are votes for your business, which can help improve search rankings.
What can be confusing is the fact that even slight inconsistencies between directory listings can split these “votes.”
Say we have a business named Jeb’s Toy Shop located at 122 Main Street in Charlotte, North Carolina with the website of www.jebstoyshop.com. Here is how it looks across three separate listings:
|Jeb’s Toy Shop122 Main StreetCharlotte, North Carolina
|Jeb’s Toys and Games122 Main St.Charlotte, NC
|Jeb’s Toy Shop, Inc. 122 Main St Suite 43Charlotte, North Carolina
While the intention is to list or “vote” three times for this business, the inconsistencies void two of them.
It’s as if during the last presidential election, one voter wrote in “Barrack Obama,” another “B. Obama,” and another “Barry O.” Only one vote would get to count for President Obama. The intention is there, but they won’t be counted towards the right candidate unless they are written accurately.
Even worse, other online directories often populate their own sites with the listings of more authoritative websites, so these inconsistencies will be spread all around the internet if not caught and fixed. So, it is important to spend the time to clean up local listings in order to properly collect all your “votes.”
Local SEO is like Keeping Your Room Clean
Oftentimes people are shocked to hear how long it will take to clean up a business’s local SEO. How could it possibly take 30 hours to fix how the name and information of a company are listed online?
Consider neglected local listings to be like your messy childhood bedroom. Like cleaning up your room, the longer you’ve gone since the last cleaning, the more time and energy it will take to clean it. Fixing a couple local listings may not be a huge issue, just like picking up a few socks won’t take much time.
Unfortunately, most businesses have never attended to their local search presence, and that room with a few socks is more like a house on an episode of Hoarders. Years and years of inconsistencies, duplicates, and inaccurate information has led to one giant mess. What may have taken an hour 10 years ago, can now be a 6 month ordeal to fix.
So instead of looking at it as an expensive and timely project, consider it as making up for the years of tidying that was put off. Even a hoarder’s house started out spotless at some point.
Local SEO is Like a Bowl of Rice
Another hard aspect of local search for people to wrap their heads around is that there are no shortcuts. This is especially true if a business’s online listings have never been attended to, yet are still wondering why a clean-up is necessary.
It’s tempting to want to go in and fix just a few listings, rather than travel down the rabbit hole that is a local SEO clean-up. While listings on some sites, such as Google Plus, are certainly more authoritative, it is the work of the collective whole that can raise a website’s authority and increase rankings.
Attending to just a couple listings would be like eating just a few grains of rice. They are individually nourishing, but the impact is not felt until there is a much larger quantity of them.
Even further, inaccurate listings are like the rotten grains of rice that are not only harmful on their own, but also spread and detract from the rest.
So, while it is tempting to only fix a few of the more obvious issues, local SEO must be approached as an aggregate of many individuals.
Finally, if these three comparisons aren’t enough, consider your competitors. In online marketing, it is not just about what you are doing for your business, but what you are doing in relation to your competitors. To rank above your competitors you must be matching their online marketing efforts and then some. Not properly optimizing your local search listings leaves you vulnerable to be usurped in rankings. In the end, local SEO is an integral part of your marketing efforts, even if it has to be compared to abstract concepts to be understood.