Damian Rollison, VP of product strategy at Brandify and columnist, wrote an excellent piece in StreetfightMag about “the evolution of listing management strategies”. He breaks down the development of listing management into three different phases, starting in the mid-2000s.
Phase 1 (2006-2010); the early days of listing management and SEO
Just like Dinosaurs were kings during the Jurassic period, Citations was the name of the game during the early days of listing management and SEO. This is during the same era as yellow pages was still a thing and used extensively. Having a strong and broad listing in as many places on the world wide web as possible, was the way to high indexing on SERP. And above all, search traffic was distributed among many search services and there was still no one who had a totally dominant position.
Google was still closed from outside direct influence and according to Damian Rollison “the recommended path to getting listed properly in local directories was to go through the data aggregators.”
Phase 2 (2010-2018); smartphones, local search and the kingdom of Google
With the release of the iPhone and smartphones as a cemented element in our everyday lives, the local search took a giant evolutionary step into its next phase.
Google began to slowly open up for active listing management, which eventually crystallized down to the launch of Google My Business 2014. At the same time, Google consumed more and more of the secondary directories and during this period became arguably the biggest and most dominant on its local search market.
So what happened to citations during this period? With Google My Business came the opportunity for companies to really start working with listings management. Social networking elevated massively and affected listings management with ratings, reviews, Q&A, etc. Something that requires a greater commitment from companies if they want to win against their competitors. It is also during this phase where citations begin to be phased out and replaced by channels as one of the bigger major impacts.
Rollison states that “developments opened up new channels for search, several of which existed not in a Google-centric universe but as alternative channels to Google. Take three examples: Facebook, Apple Maps, and Uber. All three are heavily used today to discover, engage with, look up, and/or access local businesses. None is reliant on Google.”
Phase 3 (2019 -); channels, dialogue and relevance
Old school citation building and listings management is today more of a fundamental basis to enable and ensure that you even will appear in search, but it doesn't really help you boost your ranking. Rollison argues that “the old concept of citation building has largely lost its relevance and that thinking of the local network as a system of channels — parallel, somewhat independent sources of consumer traffic — is a more appropriate paradigm for where we are now.”
But what makes you rank higher than your competitors?
The social part in which you build relationships with your customers through reviews, ratings, Q&As is getting more and more important. The narrative is no longer controlled by the brand, it is rather a transparent environment where customers can engage with each other and share customer experiences, reviews and insights.
Even though channels are the new big thing, Google is still extremely dominant and an obvious priority. Google’s algorithms are evolving and getting smarter, so in order to include your brand among relevant search results, you need to work smart with your content and engage with your customers on all levels.
Today, there are about 100 million people participating in Google's local guides program who contributes with content on Google. Local Guides are part of a global community of people who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places, and check facts on Google Maps.
So, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, as a company you must - in order to be ranked higher than your competitors - respond to all reviews, be active with pictures and have a high frequency in your work in GMB.
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