You’ve been told at least a million times to claim your business online, but why? What’s so important about being listed on the Internet when State Farm commercials say it’s so laughably unreliable?
When forming a business, we’re still listing it in the newspaper, despite Pew Research data showing ever-declining circulation rates. This is great for completing the requirements, but to truly let the world know you’re open for business, it’s necessary to claim it online and receive these benefits.
1. It Builds Trust
Claiming your business online builds trust in the eyes of the general population. There was a time when the only way people knew what was available in the city around them was to look in the phone book delivered at their door once a year.
This costly practice has thankfully been replaced, and now it’s mapping programs and online service listings that we look to as a who’s who of local businesses.
2. It’s Great for SEO
When claiming your business on platforms like Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare, and Apple Maps, you’re listing all identifying information about the business, including a link to the company website. This means there are now at least four links on reputable websites directing relevant traffic to your site.
The more linkbacks your site has, the more it’s exposed to larger audiences of potential customers.
3. It Draws Locals
Like I mentioned before, people don’t have phone books and newspapers like they used to. These days people, especially younger generations, depend on their smartphones, GPS, and other Internet-enabled devices to locate practically everything.
Though street-level advertising, mailers, media promotions, and being involved in the community help raise local awareness, the first place people will look once they hear of you is online.
4. It Draws Tourists
A few years ago, I drove with a tech-addict friend across the country. His GPS was a crutch, and when we missed an exit on I10 for Starbucks, he had to reroute the GPS instead of just taking the next exit and backtracking a block. As much as I’d like to mock him, he’s indicative of the world we live in.
Listing your business on mapping programs may be the only way for out-of-towners to know you exist.
5. It Creates Opportunities
Every application your business is listed on allows for customer comments, tips, suggestions, and critiques. By claiming your business online, you’re opening yourself up for customer feedback that can improve your business.
Even negative comments are helpful as they you know what can be fixed, but positive comments from real customers are worth more than any marketing budget can buy.
6. It’s Free Marketing
In fact, everything about claiming your business online is a part of marketing. Filling out a few forms may be time-consuming and mundane, but at the end, you’ll have a brand with a logo pointing at your exact business location, visible from any computer, GPS, or mobile device. Not claiming your business is like leaving free money on the table.
7. It Stakes Your Claim
If you don’t claim your business online, someone else may. What’s to stop a competitor from claiming your business location to purposely drive your potential customers away?
Just like it’s necessary to trademark a logo or patent an invention, it’s also necessary to stake your claim online. Pretend you’re a goldminer who just hit the motherlode. It’s important to register your claim before others find out and take what’s yours.
8. It Prevents Misinformation
It’s not just competitors you have to worry about. If your business is in a brand-new location, it simply doesn’t exist, but odds are you’re taking over a business space that was previously occupied. Without claiming your business, people will still be seeing the old advertisements for the previous business.
Even after claiming your business, it’s necessary to keep the information updated. Changed hours? Moved to a new location? Got a new website? This should all be reflected in your business listing.
9. It Increases Brand Visibility
When I’m hungry and can’t decide what to eat, I open Google Maps and type either “food,” “restaurant,” “delivery,” or whatever specific type of food I’m in the mood for. When I do, I’m presented with a map of logos of every related business. It’s a very visual experience that’s even better than searching online, because there’s no limit to how many results are packed into a page.
10. It’s the Only Way People Know You Exist
If you’re not claiming your business online, your business doesn’t exist online. This is a huge potential revenue stream, and you’re not taking advantage. Once listed on these location service sites, your business is finally open for business to the general public.
Marketing experts push you to list your business online for a reason – it exposes your brand to everyone online, which, if you haven’t been paying attention, is pretty much everyone. If you don’t claim your business online, you’re missing out on potential revenue and someone else will take it.
Brian Penny is a contributor to the Connectivity blog.