Business Listings Trust Report 2021: How Do Consumers Use Business Directories?

Business Listings Trust Report 2021: How Do Consumers Use Business Directories?
Key Findings
  • 94% of consumers have used a business information site to find information about a local business in the last 12 months
  • The most commonly used sources of business information: 1) Google, 2) Facebook, 3) Yelp, 4) Instagram, 5) Siri
  • Finding incorrect information on a business listing would stop 63% of consumers from using that business
  • 85% of consumers found incorrect or incomplete information on a business listing in the last year
  • In the past 12 months, 81% of consumers visited a business that said online it was open, but that was actually closed due to the pandemic

Business listings have long been a core part of local SEO. From their early dominance of local search rankings to today, where appearing on the core business directories is considered table stakes—the very least a business needs to do to rank. 

But, while there is plenty of debate on how much Google uses business listings when deciding where to rank local businesses, it’s important to think about how much consumers are really using listings in their searches. 

We set out to uncover how consumers are really using business listings. To do this, we surveyed more than 1,000 US-based consumers to uncover their citation-related challenges and give local marketers the vital statistics they need to create a strategy for business listings in 2021. 

What do we mean by ‘business information sites’?

‘Business information sites’ include search engines such as Google and Bing, maps providers such as Waze and Google Maps, social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram, voice assistants such as Siri and Amazon Alexa, and online directories such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, and the Better Business Bureau.

Why do consumers use business listings?

Ensuring you have an accurate presence wherever potential customers are online can be a key step to winning new business. The Business Listings Trust Report finds that 94% of consumers used an online directory to find information about a new or previously used business in the last 12 months.

94% of consumers have used a business listing to find information about a local business

Respondents were able to choose multiple reasons they had used a business information site in the last year. 66% of consumers used business information sites to find new businesses, while 66% found information on businesses they were already aware of but hadn’t used. 

Many consumers will make a decision on a business far before visiting or getting in touch. Without a presence on the most important business listings sites, you may miss customers you never even knew about.  

But it’s important to remember that business listings aren’t only used by new customers, and can have a far-reaching impact beyond the first interaction. 48% of consumers use listings to find information on businesses they have used before. This could be double-checking an address, or phone number, or viewing more in-depth details, such as the products in stock, any safety measures, or deals that the business might have.

Google My Business, Bing, Yelp, and other big sites contain many different criteria to optimize and update, so keeping information up to date is essential to avoid confusing your loyal customers. 

Which business listing sites matter for local businesses? 

Survey respondents were given a list of more than 20 different business listings sites to choose from—including online directories, social media sites, and voice assistants, and asked which they recalled using in the previous 12 months. 

Unsurprisingly, the most commonly-used source of local business information is Google—with 89% of consumers using one of Google’s search functions at least once in the past 12 months, including Google Maps and the Local Finder.

Most commonly used sources of local business information

But, it’s important to go beyond the usage of core sites, and to think about the other outputs they may provide data for.

For example, we found that 11% of consumers used Waze, 15% used Google Home, and 18% Siri (which uses Google for its broad search results, and Apple Maps for local information). This means that a grand total of 91% of consumers used the Google search engine for local business information

While only 15% of consumers recalled using Bing to find out about a business in the last year, it also powers Microsoft’s voice search agent, Cortana, as well as Amazon Alexa. This means that 28% of consumers used Bing for local business information in the past 12 months—whether they knew it or not! 

Sites such as Yelp and Tripadvisor are well-known by consumers in search of restaurants or entertainment, but may not be as well used for other business types. 

The proportion of consumers that used business information sites in the last 12 months

Google (including Maps and Local Finder)89%
Facebook48%
Yelp32%
Instagram32%
Siri18%
Yahoo!18%
Twitter17%
Tripadvisor17%
Apple Maps17%
Amazon Alexa16%
Bing15%
Google Assistant15%
Mapquest12%
Better Business Bureau11%
Waze11%
Yellow Pages7%
Angi5%
Cortana4%
Foursquare3%
TomTom2%

While some of the named business listing sites weren’t used by many of the respondents in the last year, this isn’t to say you should write these off. If these are showing in the first few pages of Google for your key local search terms, or if your competitors are already represented on these, it would be worthwhile to secure your listing. In most cases, these won’t need to receive a lot of your time and attention once they’re live—merely tracking that these remain accurate over time. 

At BrightLocal, we recommend appearing on the business listing sites that potential customers are really using—whether that’s the big directories such as Google My Business, smaller local listings that are important in your local area, or niche-specific listings that competitors are dominating. 

Which sites do consumers expect to hold accurate information?

It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of faith in the accuracy of information across the different types of business information sites. 

Consumers are most likely to trust the information on the business’s own website, followed by their social media sites and online directories. Information gathered from voice assistants is a lot less likely to be trusted. 

The sources consumer most expect to hold accurate information on a local business - 1) Business website, 2) Social media, 3) Online directories, 4) Voice assistants

Sadly, it can be pretty easy for inaccuracies and errors to sneak into business listings. Moving location, changing phone number, or even incorrect updates from the public can all lead to confusing information that holds customers back from getting in touch. Our Citation Builder team is committed to improving the perception of accuracy in online directories—one listing at a time! 

Services exist to help you keep track of your citations so that you can simply spot any Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) inconsistencies that could be damaging, such as our very own Citation Tracker.

How business listings cause consumer confusion

Trust is a vital component in any business relationship, and it’s well-known that mixed messages may impact a customer’s perception of you.

Even so, the majority of consumers we polled have spotted incorrect, incomplete, or conflicting information across a businesses’ listings—mighty confusing!

85% of consumers found incorrect or incomplete information on a business listing in the last year. In addition, 77% saw conflicting information on a business across different online directories

How errors in business listings confuse consumers

In the last year, 75% of consumers contacted or visited a business but it didn’t offer the product or service that it said it did online. With services such as Pointy from Google making it possible to add up-to-date product availability information, the proportion of consumers being frustrated by outdated stock information may see a drop over the next few years.

If customers frequently appear to ask you for products you no longer hold, it would be worth asking for the source they found that said you had this in stock, and making sure that it gets updated. While it’s always good to get visitors to the store, it’s not a great customer experience if they feel misled or as if they’ve had a wasted journey. 

Why does accurate information matter?

The benefits of accurate citations aren’t just about helping prospective customers find you. Inaccuracies in the listings you do have can have a negative effect—with 63% of consumers saying that finding incorrect information would actively stop them from choosing your business

Finding incorrect information on a business listing would stop 63% of consumers from using a business

Misinformation can be damaging trust in the reliability of a brand. This could be something as serious as an outdated address or mistyped phone number stopping a customer from reaching you, or errors in your opening hours or services offered that cause confusion. 

Audit your business listings by checking the accuracy of your key contact information one by one. Inaccuracies and inconsistencies could be confusing, so this process should be performed regularly in case the sites or their visitors change your business information without your knowledge. 

Only 8% of consumers said they definitely wouldn’t be stopped from using a business due to incorrect listings. Is ignoring accuracy really worth the risk? 

Which business listing errors affect consumer trust? 

In our survey, we listed some of the most common inaccuracies we see in businesses’ listings (incorrect or inconsistent NAP information, errors in opening hours and email addresses, and outdated or poor-quality photos) and sought to find out how these impact trust in businesses.

The business listings errors that impact trust

Consumers are most likely to lose trust in businesses if the phone number (66%) or address (60%) is wrong or inconsistent across listings.

Having incorrect contact details can have far worse consequences than a mistake in the name or photos. You wouldn’t want a consumer to believe they have been ignored or misled if they couldn’t reach the business. 

Problems with photos are less likely to negatively affect consumers, with 45% of consumers saying that poor-quality or outdated photos would damage their trust.

The impact of an incorrect address

We can all agree that an incorrect address could have a negative impact on potential customers—whether a business has moved location and not updated the data, mistyped a zip code, or even had its address nefariously updated. For businesses with a physical presence, inaccuracies in addresses could lead to a lot of unhappy people arriving on the wrong doorstep.

The actions consumers would take if an incorrect address online affected their search

Luckily, for the majority of businesses, a lost customer wouldn’t automatically equal a lost sale. 42% would call the business if the contact details were wrong online, while 20% would look elsewhere online to check the address.

But, 39% would either jump ship to an alternative business or give up their search entirely

Of course, it’s likely that this abandonment level will differ drastically depending on the type of business. If a coffee shop is located in a different area, it may be likely a consumer would be more likely to hop to a different café, while a more niche or specialist service may warrant a further leg of the journey. 

Back in 2018, we ran the Local Citations Trust Report, and asked this same question. Interestingly, consumer behavior has seen some changes between the two surveys. Consumers are now far less likely to completely abandon their search. Instead, they are a little more likely to look for an alternative business nearby (online or physically), check the address elsewhere online. This could suggest a trend towards consumers being more likely to research local businesses on the move. 

The trouble with opening hours

Most online directories have plenty of features that stretch beyond the NAP—with opening hours being particularly useful. 

We found that 93% of consumers used a business information site to see opening hours in the last 12 months, making this absolutely crucial for businesses to get right. 

The importance of accurate opening hours in business listings

Unfortunately, all too often opening hours can have issues. In the last year, 76% of consumers arrived at a business too early or late because its opening hours were wrong online.

Hours can vary by location or change over the holidays, and it’s important for potential customers to feel that they can trust the accuracy of your information—or risk waiting, red-faced, outside a closed business.

Business owners—please, check your opening hours ahead of the next holiday!

Missed connections

The biggest problem with failing to keep business listings accurate are the high-intent customers that have every intention of contacting a business, but aren’t able to due to incorrect name, address, phone number, and website information (NAPW). 

The impact of NAPW errors on consumers

Whether that’s trying and failing to click through to a linked website, contacting a business through its listing or social media channels but not hearing back, or calling or visiting the wrong location because of incorrect information, it’s bound to cause upset among potential customers. 

Make sure it’s as simple as possible for potential customers to get in touch—and if you change your phone number, website, or address, update this as soon as it changes!

Also, make sure you have someone monitoring social media channels, email inboxes, and the phone so you don’t miss customers that want to buy from you. 

The impact of Covid-19 on business listings

Our survey respondents were asked questions about a range of situations in the previous 12 months. However, let’s remember, the previous 12 months have been far from normal. 

How Covid-19 impacted business listings

In the same way that the pandemic impacted how consumers interact with reviews, for many consumers, business listings were incredibly useful for peace of mind over the past year. 

74% of consumers surveyed looked at a business’s listings to see if there were Covid-19 measures in place—with many of the bigger online directories developing options that outlined additional Covid-19 measures.

For many consumers, business listings will have played a part in understanding which businesses were still operating during the pandemic.

However, it seems that not every affected business thought to update their listings before closing their doors. 81% of consumers visited a business that said online it was open, but that was actually closed due to the pandemic

In summary

Being able to trust that the information available online is accurate can go a long way in helping consumers feel ready to trust—and use—a local business. 

Yet, the majority of consumers having faced a frustrating experience, such as visiting a closed business or calling a dead number, as a result of inaccurate information in business listings.

With business information sites such a common way to discover local businesses today, failing to keep this information up to date and correct could put off a significant proportion of potential customers. But, it appears too many local businesses aren’t making accuracy a priority—despite the relatively low amount of time and effort required to track business listings and build citations on the sites that your customers visit. 

Local businesses, and marketers with local business clients, should make it their mission to make every source of information positive and useful. Starting with the most commonly-used sources of information (e.g. Google My Business, Facebook, Bing, etc.), ensure that all information is completely up-to-date—including NAP, contact details, photos, and opening hours.

While other sources, that aren’t as frequently used by your consumers, won’t need to be checked and changed as often, it’s important to check that these don’t hold incorrect information that could be diverting high-intent customers. 

While the pandemic has highlighted a need to keep information updated as it changes, the accuracy of information should always be critical. 

Methodology

The Business Listings Trust Report explores how consumers are interacting with business listings in their search for a local business.

The statistics and findings are focused on interactions with business information sites. These include search engines such as Google and Bing, maps providers such as Waze and Google Maps, social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram, voice assistants such as Siri and Amazon Alexa, and online directories such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, and the Better Business Bureau. 

Based on the views of a sample of 1,141 US-based consumers, the survey was conducted in August 2021 using Survey Monkey’s consumer panel. The sample is representative of age and gender demographic breakdowns in the USA.

Publishers are welcome to use the charts and data, crediting BrightLocal and link to this URL. If you have any questions about the report, please get in touch with BrightLocal’s content team, or leave a comment below. 

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About the author
Rosie manages BrightLocal's delivery of research and survey pieces. She heads up data-driven content such as regular polls, webinars and whitepapers, including the Local Consumer Review Survey.

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