- Listing generalists (or aggregators) like Yext can only update what’s common across all sites. That forces you to forfeit channel growth because their features must conform to universal listing attributes like name, address, and phone number.
- We use the phrase “conformity effect” to describe this limitation. I’ll explain how it works, how it negatively impacts your listing performance, and how specialization helps your business grow as in the image above.
- Specialists focus on relevant, targeted channels, like Google Maps listings, to help you differentiate and grow. Specialists deliver measurable ROI that you can feel.
- One of our 37-location restaurant customers has been seeing double-digit growth on Google Maps for the past four years. Download the ungated case study.
Sometimes being everything to everyone serves no one
Listing generalists are also known as aggregators. These platforms let you push your brand’s data to numerous third-party publishers, including social media. It only makes sense that their tool should work across all of them.
Aggregators like Yext can make it easy to quickly manage commonalities across multiple platforms like Apple, Yelp, and Facebook by letting you simultaneously update your information with one important caveat: you are limited by what those sites all have in common.
The common denominators in the industry are known as NAP: Name, Address, and Phone Number.
Certain fields shared across directories can have nuances. Updating these fields can be difficult or next to impossible.
Let’s look at how Google and Apple handle two common data points for their listings: hours and website URLs.
Google vs. Apple: Hours
First, there can be a big difference between how sites like Google and Apple interpret and serve up your hours of operation. For a business like a restaurant in this example, that is a major opportunity to differentiate.
Google “Hours” takeaways
- Google might know you have a “happy hour” through your menu, website, or reviews, but adding More hours with specific times for your Happy hours does two things: (a) validates that you do have a happy hour (which you can also do on your attributes) and (b) confirms what time of day and day of the week you offer that service.
- It’s easier for your business to show up on search results for “Happy hours” during that time of day and day of the week when your More hours are clearly listed and organized on your profile.
Apple “Hours” takeaways
- Standard Hours allow you to say when you open and when you close, but there are no “more hours” like on Google.
- Special Hours allow you to label your business as Open during irregular hours or Closed when your business would normally be open, like on a national holiday.
- Both Google and Apple share this feature.
Google vs. Apple: Website URLs
Google “URLs” takeaways
- Multiple URLs are supported: Appointments, Bookings, Menu, Order Ahead, Reservations, etc.
- Set multiple URLs depending on your business’s primary category.
- Preferred links allow you to determine which link or integration Google will present first to customers.
Apple “URLs” takeaways
- You can only set one website URL.
- If you operate a restaurant or business that accepts orders online, you can’t set your preferences via the interface.
Because listing aggregators build products that are “everything to everyone,” their options become limited and force them to make difficult choices.
Hence the conformity effect, a psychological term that describes how people tend to copy group behaviors. In software development, it means you can’t build features to solve unique problems or take advantage of an opportunity present on one channel versus another.
Why? Because there are only so many threads that are the same between multiple platforms.
For example, universal updates require specific and limited steps. Any deviations will be dismissed. In other words, any unique features for your listing that could distinguish your business from others and drive growth will simply be ignored.
Too many businesses and agencies are missing out on the growth potential of Google Business Profile and Google Maps listings because they are trying to manage listings from an “all-in-one” dashboard that is not designed to accommodate unique features that drive growth.
Conformity makes it difficult to differentiate
Whether you’re a small business, enterprise, or marketing agency, knowing your listing is accurate across multiple websites is helpful. It’s also nice to save time by updating business hours in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately, that convenience has its share of drawbacks:
- Making good investment decisions is more difficult
Aggregator platforms are limited when it comes to knowing where your results are coming from. Google accounts for well over 90% of the search market, but it can seem like your traffic is coming from a variety of sources using an aggregator solution. That can cloud your judgment on where to invest your time and money.
- It becomes harder to make your listing “complete”
Certain categories, attributes, and other features like More hours are unique to Google Business Profile. If you only manage what is common across local directories, you miss the opportunity to differentiate and further organize your business information in a way that Google can access and make useful in their search results.
- You’re unable to use all the Google Posts features
Offers have more impact than “what’s new” posts. Since the attributes of offer posts are unique to Google Business Profiles, using an aggregator will limit your ability to use that post type because it won’t work on other channels like Facebook, Yelp, and Apple. Many aggregators also don’t allow you to use Google’s call to actions. That means Google won’t be able to measure the final engagements on your content. Remember: Engagement = Relevancy.
- Lack of ownership
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that with some aggregators like Yext, you don’t actually “own” your business profiles. You are essentially renting them. For example, Yext’s Apple API allows you to update your Apple listing without ever creating an Apple ID and Business Connect account. If you decide to cancel the service, you can only access your profiles using third-party API software. Your business should have complete ownership, redundancy, and security in place to control your business profiles on all platforms. Review your business on each directory so you don’t become handcuffed by a third-party platform.
“Failing to differentiate = leaving money on the table.”
The dark side of conformity: One size does not fit all
I hate to hold up someone’s failure and point it out as “what not to do.” I’m going to do it anyway, not because I want to gloat but because I want to show you an example of what the conformity effect actually looks like.
Have a look at this listing:
Venture X is an excellent co-working space. But because they use an aggregator to syndicate their content across multiple platforms, they miss the mark in letting people know how great they are in relevant and meaningful ways.
The updates to their Google Business Profile are clearly intended for social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
But your Google Business Profile and Google Maps listings are not social media!
- Using hashtags are a waste of text and space because hashtags are irrelevant and not clickable on listings.
- People using Google Maps are searching for nearby workspaces, not workplace best practices.
- What’s missing? Relevant and meaningful answers to “Can I get a free day pass?” “How much does it cost?” “Is there space available?”
When to choose a specialist
Short answer: Use a specialist when you’re looking to grow your business.
Generalist support will cut it if you’re simply managing your online presence to ensure your hours are up to date.
But if you want to grow and differentiate yourself from your competitors, you’ll need to think about your Google Business Profile as a completely separate marketing channel and treat it as such when building your marketing strategy.
There are no shortcuts. Cutting corners only leads to the conformity effect.
I’ve worked with many businesses and agencies to help them properly establish their priorities when it comes to local search. Google comes first and gets a custom strategy, which is closely mirrored to other directories natively or through an aggregator, but I would never recommend mirroring your Google strategy to match other directories.
How a specialist will help you grow on Google Maps Listings
In contrast to aggregator or generalist solutions, specialists focus on growing your impression share on Google Search and Google Maps through advanced business profile management and optimization. Specialists do this primarily by building strategies that drive increased engagement. Engagement is crucial since customer interaction is one of the most important signals of relevancy to Google.
Specifically, this means:
- Defending all aspects of your business profile information, including name.
- Automatically responding to reviews with more control via intelligent protocols.
- Scheduling and distributing posts across multiple listings at the right time with a relevant call to action for users.
You can have the best of both worlds
Generalist and specialist solutions aren’t strictly opponents.
You can invest in differentiating your Google Business Profile with a specialist like Map Labs while using an aggregator for the convenience of updating all your other platforms where the differences and opportunities are more similar to one another.
Both solutions can work better in tandem and provide you with more flexibility and value.
STARR Restaurants operates 37 locations ranging from casual eateries to fine dining establishments. STARR used a business listing aggregator service for three years but saw little improvement and limited results. After Map Labs took over their Google Maps channel, STARR has enjoyed double-digit growth for the past four years.