Welcome to BrightLocal’s 2018 Local Citations Trust Report
The building of local citations is a keystone in local search visibility. When your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are mentioned online in directories, business listings, and other websites, you can be sure of increased discoverability and awareness. However, due to human and program error, mistakes and inaccuracies can slip in and provide a very different experience than intended.
We set out to explore the extent to which consumers notice and value consistently correct details when searching for local businesses, and to find out whether local businesses need to make ensuring accuracy and consistency a priority. To do this, we asked a panel of consumers a series of questions around online listings and local citations.While we know from experience that there are plenty of businesses out there with incorrect contact details online, we had no idea quite how much this was negatively affecting consumers.
We were shocked at how many consumers have seen incorrect details online—and how many of them had been personally inconvenienced as a result. It’s no wonder that 93% of our panel say they get frustrated by incorrect information in directories.
Too many businesses risk losing customers they didn’t even know wanted to buy from them. These lost opportunities could mean the difference between a sale and a fail – and in the eyes of consumers, businesses only have themselves to blame.
- When searching for a business online, which issues would make you lose trust in a business?
- Which situations have you experienced in the last 12 months?
- When online directories/listings display incorrect information for a local business, who is more at fault?
- When planning to visit a business for the first time, which of the following are you most likely to do?
- If you couldn’t find the location of a local business because the address was incorrect online, what would you do?
- “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.” – Do you agree with this statement?
- “Finding incorrect information in online directories frustrates me.” – Do you agree with this statement?
Local Citations Trust Report 2018
Q1. When searching for a business online, which issues would make you lose trust in a business?
(Respondents were able to select multiple responses)
- 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business names online
- 70% lose trust if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details online
- Only 10% of consumers wouldn’t lose trust in a local business because of incorrect or outdated information online
- Poor quality or out-of-date photos make 50% of consumers lose faith in a local business
- Incorrect opening hours online damage the business trust of 51% of consumers
Incorrect names, addresses, and phone numbers (NAP) found online negatively impact consumers’ opinions of local businesses.
But it’s not just NAP that damages the trust of consumers who are searching online for a local supplier. More than half of consumers told us that discovering incorrect opening hours would lower their trust of a business. If you’re a local business owner, check and double check where your opening times appear online to make sure no one wastes their time—particularly around public holidays where timings may differ.Poor quality and out-of-date photos are also frowned upon by consumers. Back in 2014, we polled 4,000 people to find out how images on local websites affected their trust of a business.
We found that having images on business websites inspires trust in consumers—and the data from this survey certainly backs up this assertion.
Regularly updating your website with high quality, recently taken photos can help show customers (and search engines!) that you’re an active business. While you can’t always control which images will show in search results, Google allows verified businesses to upload their own photos to Google My Business.
Q2. Which situations have you experienced in the last 12 months?
Age Group Split: Which situations have you experienced in the last 12 months?
(Respondents were able to select multiple responses)
- In the last 12 months, 71% of consumers had a negative experience because of incorrect local business information found online
- 30% saw incorrect or incomplete information on online listings
- 36% of consumers called a wrong number for a local business in the last year
- 24% arrived at a business too early or late because opening hours were incorrect online
- 22% visited the wrong location for a business because the online address was incorrect
We were surprised with the huge proportion of consumers who had a negative experience in the last year due finding incorrect listing information online. As shown in Q1, incorrect local citations have a negative impact on consumer trust. This is likely to be exacerbated by the frustrating situations consumers have recently found themselves in because of inaccurate business listings.
It’s clear, that local businesses with incorrect or inaccurate citations need to take action now to avoid losing the trust of their customers.
When looking at this data split by age groupings, we found those in the 55+ age bracket were the least likely to have had a negative experience with a business due to incorrect local citations online.
This could be for a number of reasons. For example, they may be more likely to have chosen suppliers already in mind. It’s also possible that they’re more used to looking to offline sources for contact details. Potentially, they’re less likely to rely on the internet for business information.
A whopping 33% of 18-34 year olds went to the wrong location for a business in the last year because of incorrect details found online. A further 36% arrived too early or late due to incorrect hours displayed online. In Q5 we’ll cover the impact of visiting an incorrect location in more depth.
Q3. When online directories/listings display incorrect information for a local business, who is more at fault?
- Consumers are more likely to blame local businesses for incorrect listings (31%) than the directories themselves (18%)
It’s interesting to see that the onus for correct listings lies with local businesses, according to most consumers.
Errors mean that consumers are less likely to have faith in the information a business displays online. While directories are the holders of the information, it’s the businesses that will be held accountable if this data isn’t accurate.
To check if your website has consistent local citations across listing sites, sign up for a 14-day free trial now.
Q4. When planning to visit a business for the first time, which of the following are you most likely to do?
Age Group Split: When planning to visit a business for the first time, which of the following are you most likely to do?
- 90% of consumers look for details of a business before visiting it for the first time
- Consumers are most likely to look up local businesses before starting their journey (54%)
- 24% call a local business before going to visit it
Throughout the study, a key theme emerged around the continued importance of phone calls for local businesses.
While the majority of people research a business’s location before setting out, a surprising 24% of consumers prefer to call the business first. This behavior was even more prevalent amongst those aged 55+ (30%).
The 55+ age group was also the least likely of the groups to look up the address on the way or drive to the business and look around. This could be correlated with fewer over 55s owning smartphones, as these consumers could be less likely to find addresses while on the move.
Those in the other age groups may be more willing to head out to look for a local business’s location, and course-correct if they find themselves lost (although this is a small proportion of the overall respondents). But with more and more digital natives becoming full-time consumers, this could be a trend that grows in the future. Only time will tell.
Q5. If you couldn’t find the location of a local business because the address was incorrect online, what would you do?
Age Group Split: If you couldn’t find the location of a local business because the address was incorrect online, what would you do?
Gender Split: If you couldn’t find the location of a local business because the address was incorrect online, what would you do?
- 40% would give up looking for a local business that they couldn’t find because the address was wrong online
- 30% of consumers would go to a competitor if they couldn’t locate a business because of incorrect information found online
- 43% would call a business if the address found online was incorrect
When viewed alongside the 22% of consumers who visited an incorrect business location in the last year because of incorrect details online, there’s evidence to suggest that many businesses are losing out on customers they didn’t even know about.
Again, we were surprised at how many consumers rely on calls to find local businesses. If a consumer gets lost because of seeing the wrong address online, they’re highly likely to want to find the phone number to self-correct.
It’s important that local businesses continue to keep phone lines manned and active to suit this demand. Or, if they’re unable to take calls, they should set a voicemail message with clear address, directions, and ways to get in contact with if the caller has more in-depth questions.
It’s important to understand who your customers are, as certain demographics may be likely to interact with your business in different ways. Consumers aged 55+ are significantly more likely to call businesses that they couldn’t find.
Likewise, the female respondents in our study were far more likely to call the business than their male counterparts. Male consumers were more likely to abandon their search for the business.
Q6. “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.” – Do you agree with this statement?
Age Group Split: “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.”
Gender Split: “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.”
- 68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories
- 73% of 35-54 year olds would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories
- Men are more likely to stop using a local business due to incorrect information than women
It’s clear from this data that having incorrect information about your business visible in your local citations could be having a serious impact on your potential audience’s likelihood to visit or call you.
18-54 years olds are more likely to give up on a business if they see incorrect local citations, so it seems that the older age group in our study are more likely to be forgiving of local businesses’ mistakes online. Those aged 35-54 are most likely to be deterred.
Men are also significantly more likely to give up on a business because of online inconsistencies; 78%, compared to 62% of women.
Q7. “Finding incorrect information in online directories frustrates me.”
- 93% of consumers are frustrated by incorrect information in online directories
Nearly everyone finds incorrect information in online directories frustrating. As we’ve seen above, the blame for incorrect local citations tends to lie with the business. These errors can be reason enough to deter potential customers, and sometimes even send them into the arms of competitors.
Businesses need to take action now if they are to maximize their chances of getting customers through the door and ready to buy. It’s not enough to make sure contact details are correct on the business website, as anyone researching their choice of local business using an online directory could still fall foul of incorrect info.
There is still demand for consumers to buy locally, but if businesses aren’t able to provide a customer experience that parallels the ease of buying that big online businesses offer, they risk losing out.
The Local Citations Trust Report is based on a representative sample of 1,025 US-based consumers. It was conducted in March 2018 with an expert consumer panel. When analyzing some results, we removed a small number of respondents who were unsure or undecided on their opinions.
We also looked into how trends differed based on the ages (18-34, 35-54, 55+) or genders of respondents, and included the most interesting findings. If there were any further questions you’d like to see demographic splits for, please get in touch.
If you have any questions about the report or you’d like to speak with a member of the BrightLocal team about its findings, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Publishers are welcome to use charts and data, crediting BrightLocal and linking to this report’s URL.
For more information on local citations, see:
- What Are Local SEO Citations and Why Are They Important for Local Search Success?
- Top 50 Local Citation Sites for USA, UK, Canada & Australia
- Citation Sites With DoFollow & NoFollow Links
- Top Local Citations by Business Category
- SEO Citations Study: How Many Citations Do You Need to Compete? [Interactive industry report]
Why are local citations important?
The consistency of contact details online is important for two main reasons: local SEO and customer experience.
1. Local SEO
In local SEO, citations are online references to a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). Google and other search engines take these into consideration when assessing the local authority of business websites. Inconsistencies and errors have the potential to harm your local SEO rankings, so it’s vital to keep NAP consistent across all online listing sites.
2. Customer experience
Incorrect contact details online can confuse or deter potential customers before they even make contact with a business. With so many businesses to choose from, it’s important that it’s as straightforward as possible for customers to call or find a business near them. If they can’t get hold of a business with ease, there’s always another supplier waiting in the wings.