Time to Make Dirty Data Placeable

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The December 2012 Cost of Bad Location Data Report from Yext shared that 43% of business listings are wrong and 14% are just plain missing. As a result, US businesses lose over $10B in sales every year. Each and every day, people look for places on Google Maps and are directed to the wrong location. This poor user experience translates into lost revenue for stores

Local search marketing for location-based advertisers drives people from online to the physical store, but the process of optimizing for local search is not simple. There are many key influencers that impact the performance of location-based brands in local search, especially when you consider web, mobile and social to all be part of the equation. Not only do consumers sit at a desk and conduct local searches, they do it on mobile devices. They do it within social networks like Facebook or on Foursquare. Local search is conducted directly on maps and through locators. IYP’s are a channel for local search as well. The value of these channels to a consumer may be directly attributed to the accuracy of the information provided to them. If a consumer is able to find what they are looking for, or get where they are looking to go, then the local search marketing effort was successful. Unfortunately, all too often the experience goes utterly wrong and consumers don’t get the information they’re looking for, or they end up following directions on their mobile device to the wrong place. Bad location information is having a profoundly negative impact on location-based advertising and on the consumer experience.

Advertiser location data is “dirty.” Dirty in the sense that is prone to error.  The larger the advertiser the more errors that seem to exist. This is a widespread, recognized issue by digital media advertisers, agencies and vendors.  Erroneous location information is preventing millions of dollars worth of marketing initiatives from becoming successful. Inaccurate information, at the advertiser level, cascades down and hampers the success of many aspects of local digital advertising. If they are provided with bad data at the get-go, directory listings can’t be correct; Google Places can’t be correct; local landing pages can’t be correct; and maps, directions and mobile experiences can’t be correct. If the advertiser’s data is dirty, everything else is dramatically handicapped.

While everyone seems to know this, nobody is solving for it.

Directory listing services specialize in creating continuity between the data that an advertiser provides and the downstream ecosystem. However, they don’t take responsibility for the quality of the information that the advertiser provides in the first place. Google accepts content from advertisers and creates continuity on Places/+/Local/Maps. But how much of the provided data is wrong? The reason why someone drives to the wrong location using a Google map is not because Google got it wrong. The reason is that the advertiser fed the wrong information to Google initially. This is neither Google’s fault, nor Google’s responsibility.

Garbage in, garbage out.

The current solution to the problem is a manual one. It’s individualized on the advertiser level. Each advertiser has its information stored in a proprietary way. It may be maintained in multiple places, by multiple people and governed by multiple policies. Advertisers are certain to have different circumstantial issues with data from each other. Who is going to touch that? Few are. But if a vendor has an existing relationship with an advertiser that is dependent upon accessing and using location information, the data had better be accurate. For this reason, some agencies have hired consultants to dive in and help advertisers unscramble their problems. Unfortunately, this isn’t largely effective.  The cost to address the problem is proving to be significant. The process is laborious and the timelines are too long. Not to mention after fixing the data, advertisers need to keep it clean on an ongoing basis.

What does it mean to truly unlock and enable an advertiser’s location data for use in local marketing? What do you have to do to it? What does it have to look like? How do you have to be able to work with it on an ongoing basis? How do others have to be able to work with it?

Advertisers need their location data to be placeable:: it needs to be accurate, accessible and usable.

Advertisers with placeable data are location-based brands that maintain the most comprehensive and current location information. Their data is scrubbed and normalized and can be integrated internally or externally with technology. Placeable data improves advertising results and the local consumer experience. It enhances the optimization of directories, local pages, search engine maps, locators, social networks, search engines listings and has the capacity to enhance the value of digital media technologies such as ad servers, PPC and email marketing.

Optimization of directory listings can achieve a much higher level of data continuity across the ecosystem with placeable data. Local search engine results improve, map plot error rates plummet and user experience in the real world improves. SEO performance of local landing pages soars with placeable information on the page as well.

Media technology vendors can help their customers realize the potential of their solutions with placeable data that is easy to manipulate, manage and expand. Data aggregators and directory listing managers can deliver more successful results by obtaining placeable data from their customers. The Band of Four (Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yelp) can compel advertisers to use placeable data and reduce the error rate of business location information and the overall absence rate of information online.

Using local search to drive consumers into the store requires thoughtful orchestration of all aspects of the digital media. And location-based advertisers that are actively engaging across channels dramatically improve their results when their data is placeable.

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