How you should manage your business location data?


Balázs Gyöngyösi

9 min read

September 17, 2018

It happened about a year ago. After chilling and drinking on a Friday evening, I felt hungry and my favourite hamburger bar came to my mind. I just grabbed my phone, opened Google and … I found it! It was still open, so I set off to my accustomed place, starving. However, the hamburger bar was closed. It had not been closed for just 5 minutes, but for 2 hours.

Did Google lie to me? No, Google can only use what’s available. At the time of my search, it had not received any updated information for a long time. This is only one of many possible stories, highlighting the importance of maintaining location information. If you are responsible for just one physical, offline location, you should definitely read on!

So, locations?

Yes, locations. Physical stores or shops. I mean locations with an address, opening hours, ideally a phone number and dedicated email address. At best, external / internal photos as well as user feedback are available. Locations whose owners want to maximise the number of people who are able find them on the Internet. If I can find a nearby bag repair company with a quick search, I will ignore Uncle Joe from the next street who would be willing to fix the zip on my suitcase more skilfully at half the price.

Why is it so important? I have a website with all contact details.

Unfortunately, it is far from enough. Many users do not even visit a website, instead they use a search engine like that of Google or Facebook, wishing to get information as fast as possible. The volume of local searches (searches for nearby stores) is increasing year by year. According to a survey conducted this year, 69% of smartphone users use their device for some kind of shopping, 82%-of them carry out “near me” searches, while the majority of users click on no more than the first two search results. Another research shows that 76% of those who search for “near me” will visit the searched store within 1 day, and 28% of the visits result in purchase.

Based on the above, it is important to have location data available in search engines. The most important systems related to location management are described below.

Google My Business

In Google My Business (GMB), we can manage our location data which appear on Google’s platforms (e.g. search engine, Maps). For the past few months the Google My Business Agency Dashboard has been available also, where similarly to the Google Ads manager account, the locations of several clients can be managed from one account.

The question of how and where our location data should appear has more to do with search engine optimisation (SEO). In recent years, when updating algorithms, Google has mainly used the “local-first” approach. The stores in the vicinity of the people conducting the search are ranked above other results, while personal choices and preferences are considered as well. In addition to changes in the ranking algorithm, location-specific boxes, such as the knowledge graph, appear in the search engine:

The Knowledge Graph basically displays the data in the Google My Business system (e.g. address, opening hours, ratings) separately in case of a very specific search, for example, when the search term contains a brand name as well as a city.

Another box displaying locations is the Local Pack, which by default shows a group of 3 local business listings corresponding to the search:

Both boxes use data only from Google My Business. Below the data of the boxes, conventional organic results are also displayed.

If we invest in local search engine optimisation, we will be able to take advantage of the competitive edge arising from the afore mentioned boxes and our stores will be more visible during searches. However, only a smaller part of the local SEO is covered by website optimisation (e.g. local contents on the websites, contact details of stores, locally relevant backlinks). Moreover, website optimisation can be bypassed if we create a website for displaying basic data through My Business, free of charge. At the same time, it is more important that our Google My Business data be updated and organised:

  • All of your locations should be uploaded. Complete data accurately everywhere (e.g. opening hours, address, URL). If all the data about the location are available, do not omit anything if possible!
  • Upload your own (external and internal) photos of the location, and manage the photos uploaded by other users!
  • Select the most appropriate category.
  • Respond to feedback from the users (reviews).
  • Upload posts if possible (e.g. events, discounts, services).

You may find that the location you want to create already exists because another user has already created it. In this case, notify Google of your request and the fact that you are the owner, and verify your business. It might even have a negative effect on your business if you do not manage your own location data. Just remember the case of the hamburger bar or negative user feedback.

Facebook Places

Facebook Places is not a separate system, but a generic term used for places created on the social media site. In recent years, Facebook has made several developments with the purpose of becoming an influential participant in local marketing next to Google.

Among other things, it changed mobile location sites to enable businesses to contact their potential clients more easily. As a result, a location site can function as a real website, where users can make appointments, order a pizza or send a message to the business. The system of recommendations has changed as well. It is very conspicuous if recommendations by friends or family members are displayed on the Facebook page of a business. The events have been altered also: we receive a special notification if some of our friends are interested in events held nearby.

Perhaps the most striking change was that a new Facebook Local app was launched and added to the traditional application in November 2017. Basically, its primary goal is to fulfil the functions mentioned above.

By using Facebook Places, i.e. Facebook’s location sites, businesses can make sure that they appear in the relevant internal searches on the social media site. Due to the growing number of local searches, it is not enough today if a chain store has a traditional Facebook page with one address and a central phone number. It is not only easier for the users to find a certain local business, but special localised contents can also be shared on Facebook Places, while users can check in at these sites in their posts and there are more advertising opportunities as well. Ideally, the places can also be reached from the official Facebook page by clicking on the Local Pages tab.

Just like in Google My Business, one of the most important functions is to ensure that the given business manages all of its own locations. On Facebook, it is more common that places and location sites are created by users who are not related to the stores (a location can be created in a few seconds by checking in with a photo). Moreover, Facebook can create locations even organically, based on third party data. If a given business does not have access to these sites, it cannot manage the posts and opinions on the location site or the official contact details of the business, which may affect the brand badly. In connection with the previous section, we should mention that feedback arriving from Facebook pages may appear in the knowledge graph next to Google search results. Just think about it: Instagram locations also come from Facebook’s database…

It is not easy at all to manage all Places created on Facebook. It is worth using a Business Manager to which we add our official Facebook page(s).

If it turns out (after a thorough research) that no Facebook Place of our business has been created (neither organically, nor by users), the entire process is much simpler. We can find the Business Locations option in the Business Manager menu. By selecting the appropriate Facebook page, we can simply create its locations.

In this case we create Facebook Places, which display the posts, profile picture and cover photo of our Facebook page by default, however, all other settings and content can be localised.

However, if we find several Facebook Places which are linked to our business and are not managed by us, there are different solutions:

  1. We may decide to create all our locations as described above. This way we will have full control over the locations we created, but our users will find duplicated content with several identical locations, which they do not tend to like. Furthermore, we should do our best to make Facebook delete the unofficial locations.
  2. According to another scenario, we have to request access to the page from Facebook, then import it as a location into our Business Manager. This process can take a few weeks or even months and it also involves phone calls. To make matters worse, the official Support of Facebook is not famous for its efficiency, and the system might have interesting anomalies, too.

The process of creating and importing locations is worth all the struggle, as we will have full control in the end, and we can also take advantage of the benefits of local marketing effectively on Facebook.

Advertising opportunities

Of course, the expansion of local marketing has been copied by advertising systems. The use of location extensions has been available in Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) for a long time. Data used by such extensions come from none other than Google My Business. By clicking on the extensions, users can find information about location data or, in the case of a mobile advertisement, may navigate directly to the location. By running local search ads, we can also appear on the Google Maps platform:

There are further developments available in a few countries, of course, in a limited form. For example, such developments include local inventory ads, where we can also use the inventory of certain stores, and users can select from the products of a specific store. Local service ads allow us to find a professional or a repairman more easily.

With the help of location reports, on the Google Ads platform, next to the ad types, we can see how many times users clicked on the call or navigate buttons during our campaigns. Moreover, the store visits, will be displayed in the accounts soon, as a conversion type. Since 2018, it has already been obvious that we can run effective campaigns by geotargeting even at local level.

As far as Facebook Ads are concerned, there is a dedicated campaign called Store visits, which uses Business Locations in Business Manager. The system optimises the advertisements to increase the number of users visiting these locations.

Furthermore, we can tailor our reach with location targeting using Reach campaign type. here we can use location-specific CTA buttons, as well (e.g. Trip Planning, Call Now, Send Message). Setting the Business Locations is also very important, because, due to store visits measurement, we can create target audiences from the users who have visited our stores recently, thus increasing our targeting variation options.

Apart from Google and Facebook, we should also mention Waze, which is one of the most popular navigation applications globally. Despite belonging to Google, it has its own advertising platform and exciting ad types:

Although the advertising interface is still a bit rudimentary, the reports show how many users navigated to the individual locations based on our advertisements. It is an excellent opportunity for small- and medium-sized enterprises, because for a required fee of merely USD2/day, valuable store visits can be achieved with Waze Ads.

In conclusion

In addition to the ones introduced above, there are several other options which can contribute to the success of local marketing, such as the Foursquare, Swarm apps or webpages like YELP and Bing, which have greater influence globally.

It is important to note that the basic data of the locations (including those in Google My Business, on Facebook or the website of the business) have to match exactly, as all systems take this into account. The more enterprises and businesses consider the information described above, the better user experience will be, and everyone will be able to tuck into their favourite hamburger on a Friday evening.

Mito is a full-service agency with a passion for clever things. The Performance division is specialised in improving digital performance and increasing sales with performance media, SEO, CRO and analytics solutions.
We are proud to have companies like Decathlon, Wizz Air, Cetelem Bank, Office Shoes and Tungsram among our strategic partners.

The author(s)

Digital Analytics Team Lead

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Emese Bódi

Mesi is searching for minds and souls, loves a good CV and to chat with new people. Go ahead and find out!

Apply now!


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