If you are a local business, ignoring the internet can be a death sentence. With the rise of mobile phone usage, and the reliance of GPS systems, many people are using location based services to find local businesses. If your company is not listed in the local search results, you are overlooking a large pool of potential customers. However, it is not enough to simply “claim your business”, given the increase of social media features built into local business listings.
Social media is becoming a part of our every day lives. Even if you do not participate in social media channels, the effects of social media interaction can play a large role in what you see online. For example, in Google Places a business can be listed with their address, a brief description of their products or services, links to photos, Google Maps, and customer reviews. There is also a section where visitors can “Report a problem” with the listing and one of the options is to report “This place is permanently closed.” If there are enough visitors reporting the business is closed, the business is flagged as “reportedly closed”. Pending a review by Google, the listing may be changed to “permanently closed.” How much of an impact can this be on your business if, even for a few days, your business is incorrectly labeled as “reportedly closed”?
It is naÃ¯ve to think Google Places will list every active business or flag all of the closed businesses accurately. The system is not perfect, but it allows for social media interaction and that’s what attracts many people to provide their feedback. There is undoubtedly room for mischief with the system if one of your competitors decides to take an unethical approach. Google does not divulge how many people must report a problem like “This place is permanently closed.” before it updates the listing to “reportedly closed”. But is it worth the risk to your bottom line to ignore Google Places when so many people are using the internet to find local businesses? As part of your overall business strategy, you need to ensure you are monitoring your business listings after they are initially set up.