Well, you probably know that search engines gather information about your business directly from the words on your website — but you may be surprised to learn your government and other industries also play a part in your online visibility.
Here is a (rare) list of inbound data sources by a search engine:
- Dun & Bradstreet
- US Federal Government
- State Governments
- SEC filings
- company websites
- online users making public (not verified) edits
- internet appliances (like Amazon Echo, Siri, and Google Home)
- and more…
As if that’s not scary enough — same goes for your bank, credit card company, mortgage company, car leasing company, utility companies (and more).
Clearly, the data about your business that search engines see and use to index and rank it comes from more than just your website.
Search engines use these off-website datasets as a way of matching your physical address, contact information, and type of business to your website and other datasets (like other search engines and directory listings). Hundreds of datasets like this all feed into their algorithm (search program) used to index and display your business when someone searches for the services or products you offer, as well as how to connect to you, or travel to your actual place of business (think OnStar, mobile phones & GPS).
If you want your business to have excellent visibility on search engines — you’ve got to have consistent data about your business where search engines can find it.
Sometimes — and more often than you might think, the information search engines have about your business differs from what you may use as your standard business information. This difference dilutes the information about your business that search engines use and ultimately impacts your online visibility and ranking.
Perhaps you at times use your cell number as the primary number instead of the business line (common with small businesses), or maybe you moved your business and never gave a thought to the online citations pointing to it? These little variations in data all add up to giant headaches down the road that impact how discoverable a business is when someone searches for them. With recent changes to search engine algorithms, these problems have become much more prevalent over the past eighteen months or so. And the older the business — the larger the data discrepancies.
“Branding consistency and accurate online citations of our college and its programs is very important to us”, says Leslie Peck, Marketing Director of Rhode Island’s New England Institute of Technology. “As a commuter college most of whose students commute, many of the same marketing elements that work for small businesses work for us as well, including the need to have people find us on their home computers, smartphones, or GPS. Our online data needs to be consistent.”
All this different information about your business floating around the world-wide-web is how you can end up with multiple business listings on search engines like Google, Bing or on directories like Yelp and Manta. If you’re a young company with business listings all over the internet but don’t recall making them yourself — now you know how they got there.
It is critical to find any incorrect or duplicate online business listings and go through the processes of having them corrected, merged, or deleted. Being vigilant in purifying your business listing data (also called citation data) increases your online visibility on search engines — especially for local businesses. It’s a complicated and time-consuming process –but it’s got to get done. If not addressed, search engines will multiply this error-ridden data, and your business could be pushed farther down the rankings.
Making sure this business data is consistent is recognized top website developers.
“We always make sure the business contact information we list on a website is consistent with both Google and Facebook” says Seedling Creative Jason Zagami “If it’s not, we advise them [client] on how to fix it” he adds.
For website designers — getting their clients’ sites discovered in search also means getting their own creative found in search — it’s a win-win.