A Minnesota law that went into effect on August 1 targets marketers who use deceptive locally targeted directory listings and paid search ads. With local business searches on home computers and mobile devices on the rise, marketers should take note of this effort to improve the accuracy of the information offered to online consumers.
The law aims to ban online directory and paid search scams where out-of-state businesses market themselves as local companies, reports Minnesota newspaper the Crookston Times. Officials became aware of this deceptive practice after florists and locksmiths in the state realized neighborhood customers’ orders were coming from third party sites. The newspaper explains that the offending advertisers would claim to be based in Minnesota, offering shoppers state addresses and telephone numbers. They generated profits by overcharging consumers for products, then transferring the orders to actual Minnesota businesses.
Misrepresentation of geographic location is at the heart of the new law. While it seems Minnesota officials do not aim to prohibit businesses from serving as the middlemen between consumers and local shops, the legislation demonstrates intolerance of indicating that a company is based somewhere other than its actual location. The state law looks to protect both in-state businesses that could lose patrons because of this practice and consumers looking for local products.
The push for accurate information in local ads is something marketers in Minnesota and across the country should consider. As local searches grow, business listing management and local paid search monitoring may become a national trend.
This could be good news for marketers who produce truthful business directory listings and local search campaigns, as these channels are increasingly effective in reaching nearby consumers. According to Yellow Pages Association, home computer business directory local searches reached 444 million in March 2010, and mobile directory searches reached 17.3 million, demonstrating gains over last year.