From Phone Books to Google

I am Juliette, and I have OCD

I take consolation in the fact that Google is far more extreme in its OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) than I am. It’s why we’re simpatico.

From Phone Books to Google

Phone books also had OCD. They organized information by industry, then alphabetically within each category. As consumers, when the car broke down, we didn’t sit in front of the TV or listen to the radio until the ad for the mechanic came on. We went to the phone book.

As businesses, even when we didn’t have an ad in the phone book, we had a listing (remember that word). It was our Name, Address, Phone, or NAP (remember that acronym). Even if it wasn’t a line item on our phone bills, we paid for that listing. That was when few people worked from home, and landlines were the norm.

As consumers, we didn’t use the first entry in the category in the phone book. We knew that, even in the larger categories, we could see every business in that category within a few pages. As businesses, we knew we were in a limited pool of competitors.

Consumers flipped through a limited number of pages in the phone book. Online, consumers rarely go past the first page of search results.

Our businesses used to also be in many other print directories. Chamber guides, organization lists, alumni rosters, church directories, and more. We still are, they’ve just moved online – and been joined by thousands of others. They’re referred to as listings and/or directories.

Map books also had a form of OCD, or organizing of information, and they have also moved online. They are today’s Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and they’re also based on NAP, with an emphasis on ‘A.’ There are hundreds of GPS systems, such as TomTom and Garmin. There are a number of them for fleets and apps, as well as every single car manufacturer that has its own GPS. Google’s algorithm (OCD) looks at every single GPS; they’re a form of listings.

Google has exponentially more information than all phone books and print directories and GPS systems and libraries and publications and data banks and so on combined, so Google has to organize its information differently. Google’s extreme OCD is based on algorithms, with some algorithms having stronger signals. Categories are important to Google, but not nearly as important as NAP.

Google’s OCD requires our information, and especially our NAP, to be exactly the same across all those listings, directories, GPS, everything. If an address is “Avenue” on Mapquest and “Ave” on MerchantCircle, or if we have our local phone number on eLocal and our 800 number on AmericanTowns, Google sees them as separate businesses. We end up competing against ourselves! With hundreds (thousands) of listings, we could be competing against ourselves dozens (hundreds) of times.

How does Google react when our NAPs are inconsistent? Think about what happens when something becomes out-of-order or out-of-routine for someone with OCD. Meltdown. Granted, Google is not going to melt down, but it’s worse. Google will ignore our business, and/or send us to the corner where our customers will never find us.

There are Challenges

We need to appease Google’s OCD. We need to get our NAPs consistent across every listing and directory and GPS and anything else that our businesses are on. There are three things working against us:

  1. Timing. Some directories and listings sites update infrequently, as infrequently as annually (can you say phone book?). So even if we give them the correct information, it might take time for them to implement it.
  2. Abandoned listings. Some listings sites and directories were created and then abandoned. Our information is never going to be updated, even if we can find each one. Google will always be looking at that incorrect listing as a competitor.
  3. New listings. For example, Alignable is a new-ish business referral network online. A business invites you, you fill out a profile, and connect with other businesses. I was invited, started filling on the profile and realized, “It’s another listings site!” Google will find it, and Google will use it to compare our identities across the Internet. Google will use it even if (when?) it becomes a ghost town.

No one’s listings are 100% consistent, and never will be. We fix the things we can.

Help is Available

Of course we expect online to be “free.” But that’s never been the case when it comes to promoting our businesses anywhere. There is no “free” marketing, even online.

It’s a thankless and arduous task finding all of our listings, much less updating them. That’s why we need automation with an algorithm that understands Google. Fortunately, there are a number of automated listings services, and some are better match to Google’s OCD than others. At a minimum, all will “push” correct information out to a limited number of sites for an annual fee.

If you need “justification” for investing in listings, consider it a modern-day cost of doing business, just like web hosting, password services, and online security, among others. We can also look at listings fees as the fees that we used to pay the phone book (we usually come out ahead, especially if we’ve ever advertised in the phone books).

I will walk you through your options. Contact me.