As we venture forward into the information age, things are moving faster by the day. No business can afford to be left behind, especially for easily preventable reasons. Like it or not, the Internet is here to stay, and your business is already a part of it, whether you’re aware of it or not. You need to make sure that you are taking control of your digital presence and controlling the narrative. But how?

There are many ways to take control of one’s online presence. At Horton Group, we make it our business to stay on the cutting edge, but today we’d like to take a moment to talk about something far more basic: citations and listings.

What Are Citations & Listings?

When you hear the terms “citations” and “listings” thrown around in a marketing capacity, it might feel vague. These terms are basically just a way to talk about mentions of your business’s name (and address) on the Internet. Yes, the whole Internet. The Internet is mind-bogglingly huge, but we in the marketing world have tools to control the information that is on it. Failure to do so can hurt businesses from all sectors, industries, and walks of life. What sort of mentions are we referring to here?

One obvious example is an online entry in the yellow pages. Whether you have signed up to on the yellow pages or not, they likely have a listing for you. You might as well make sure that the information is correct!

Other examples of citations could range from other, less popular online directories (of which there are many), to listings on the website of your local chamber of commerce. Remember that, even if there is no actual URL included in these entries, these listings still affect your business, for better or for worse. You need to make sure it’s for the better.

Why Is Informational Congruency Important?

Working towards “Informational Congruency” is marketing lingo that means you are ensuring that all the information about your business is correct, and without discrepancy.

Common informational discrepancies include letter capitalization, confusing LLC for Inc, putting periods between the letters of names that are an acronym (or not), updating addresses… the list goes on. The devil is in the details!

Spending significant time on things like this might seem silly, but small issues like these can seriously muddle your digital identity, thereby hurting your business. There are nearly infinite ways for your information to be incongruent, and that means that setting the record straight is not a simple task. However, it is a task that you must undertake nevertheless.

As a business owner, there should be absolutely no ambiguity about who you are, where you are located, what you do, and what you stand for. Don’t let potential customer slip through your fingers; send a clear message!

The Risks Of Getting It Wrong

This is the part of the article where we tell you what can go wrong if you fail to act—to strike fear into you heart!

Well, informational congruence might not be THAT dramatic, but it is a central part of what are considered to be the “best practices” for businesses operating in the digital age. And, within those best practices, citations and listings are perhaps best grouped under the category of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

How does SEO work? To keep this as brief as possible, search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use complex algorithms to crawl the web and create an index of everything they find. The contents (websites) of this index are then ranked according to how they scored with the search algorithm.

Informational congruency across all the various directories and miscellaneous mentions of your business help you play into Google’s search algorithms. This information is going to be used to double check your identity, so make sure you get your ducks in a row, lest you be labeled an imposter or a spammer. You need to make it clear to Google (and to the world) that your business is completely legitimate. Failure to do so will send your SEO into a nosedive.

Most people never go past the first page of Google search results, so SEO is extremely important. However, sloppy citations and listings hurts you in much more concrete ways that a vague (but still very important) algorithmic disagreement. Google is made popular by REAL PEOPLE, like you and me.

Each one of those real people is a potential customer for you business. If you want to earn their business, you need to put your best foot forward, because Google isn’t the only one making judgements about your business, real people are too.

Don’t mislead them. Don’t sketch them out. Don’t make them work hard to learn about your business. The easier you make the journey that they go through as consumer, the higher your revenue will be. That’s what informational congruency is all about, and it all starts with things as simple as citations and listings.