Nyagoslav Zhekov

Nyagoslav writes on local search ever since he entered the online marketing world. His favorite topics are problems with Google Places, local search statistics, and online maps spam. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, or at the Google and Your Business Forum.

Aug 122013
 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the difference between manual citation building and an automated service, such as Yext. The article sparked a discussion specifically around one of the main comparison points – what happens with the already created listings once one cancels or stops paying after particular period for the service. Here is what I wrote:

Yext’s subscription period is 1 year. After 1 year, unless one decides to continue subscribing, the listings are taken down or revert back to the stage they were in prior to the initial subscription. This is something I wrote about recently.

Most manual citation building services are one-time offers. This means that once the process of claiming/submitting/editing is finished, the listings will not disappear or revert back to how they were (incomplete, incorrect, unclaimed). Furthermore, ours, and other citation building services, allow for ongoing citation building, i.e. adding new citations every month for a period of a few months.

My observations at the time were incomplete and were practically based just on three main points – what was written in the Yahoo! Localworks FAQ (note: this is white-labeled Yext PowerListings), the (at least) tens of comments around the web about how listings disappeared or reverted back when one canceled with Yext, and things people have shared directly with me while discussing about Yext. Obviously, I realized that this was not a strong enough basis to support my statement, and that is why I started digging around for additional information.

First, Jeff Bridges sent me this interesting screenshot:

Yext Cancellation Warning

The sentence that is specifically curious is: “Your listings will be taken down on or after [date].” One could argue that by “listings” is meant “Yext listings”, or “listings coming from Yext”, but there is no clarification on that. In any case, if I was a small business owner going to cancel this service, I would leave with the impression that all of my listings will be removed.

A few days later, the guys at Yext were kind enough to shed some light on what happens after the cancellation. You could read the full article here. Apparently this article was dedicated to me:

 

In the very beginning of the article the author answers negatively a few questions that practically haven’t been asked, namely: “Does the business listing data get deleted by Yext at each publisher? Does Yext take down the Name, Address, Phone (NAP) from each of the sites and search engines? Does the business’s online presence disappear? Lastly, does Yext put the old data back that used to be wrong?” (*underscoring by me). It has to be very clear that the questions that are being asked are others. For instance, “After I cancel Yext, does the business listing data get deleted in any way at any publisher?” or “Is the old data reverted back in any way to as it was prior to using Yext?” As you would notice further below in my research, the answer to these questions is, if I could use Yext’s phraseology, “a resounding and emphatic YES”. And it is actually answered in the exposé of the article Christian Ward of Yext put together. Here is what he writes:

…because Yext no longer has this lock in place, Yext has no control over the listing directly at all, and the business listing data will now act as it normally would occur without Yext.

Further, when a PowerListing becomes inactive, the enhanced content (photos, menus, hours of operation, products, biographies, featured messages, and more) that was connected to the business listing ceases to be available.

The conclusion we could draw from this explanation is that not just Yext, but no one (including the business owner) has control over the listings after they are released by the “Lock” of Yext. This brings the question “Who controls the listings DURING the Yext PowerListings usage?” Or another one – “Why should I pay $500/year when in the end of the day, my control over my business’s listings will be stripped off?”

Just a side note, another interesting fact I discovered during my research is that in order to track clicks to website from the listings that were “locked” during the PowerListing process, Yext creates an odd redirect script that actually links to their own property, rather than linking to the business’s own website. The redirects look like this:

class=”url” href=”http://pl.yext.com/plclick?pid=p7L7pHc3HF&ids=1075027&continue=[insert-site]&target=website” onclick=”return tnr(‘http://pl.yext.com/plpixel?pid=p7L7pHc3HF&ids=&target=website&source=detailspage&action=click’,'http://pl.yext.com/plclick?pid=p7L7pHc3HF&ids=1075027&continue=[insert-site]&target=website’);”

What this means is that even if you wanted to gain some additional value from the links from your business listings, you couldn’t if you use Yext PowerListings.

And we finally come to the research I keep mentioning. A few weeks ago Spencer Belkofer contacted me to tell me that he previously purchased Yext PowerListings for his client – Dawson Family of Faith, but as he was dissatisfied with the results he was planning to cancel it. He had heard that I was looking for a potential case study of what happens after the cancellation and was kind enough to wait for me a few days so I could research and make a before-and-after comparison.

Background

Spencer signed his client up for PowerListings on June 24 after a Yext sales representative assured him that all listings will be taken care of, including duplicate listings (something I’ve previously written that Yext are not good at dealing with). The major issue was that Spencer’s client was changing its name – from Dawson Memorial Baptist Church to Dawson Family of Faith. They had been using the former name for years and therefore their online footprint was significant. Spencer considered Yext as a fast and easy way to get the problem solved. There were a few problems that made Spencer realize something was not as he was promised it was going to be:

1) According to Spencer, the church was listed on numerous places as “Synagogue, Jewish Temple, Buddhist Worship Temple, and Mosque”. He had to call “several times” before he got the answer that he had to “manually go through each site and create a list of the ones that had incorrect categorization”. He got frustrated and after another call they promised they were going to fix this issue.

2) Yext reps offered Spencer their new enhanced content service (apparently PowerListings+), which featured “staff, calendar, and menu pages appended to business profiles”. He agreed and they promised him it was going to be up in “2-3 days”. According to him, it took 2 weeks and very few of the listings ever displayed this content.

3) The real disappointment was with the inaccurate duplicate listings that didn’t get fixed. Spencer was told that he needed to go through each “publisher”, make a list of the duplicate listings he finds, and send them to Yext, so they could try to remove them. After a disgrunted support request, Spencer had to wait a week before following up as he didn’t get an answer or any help with this issue. After he was finally answered to, the Yext rep closed the case as solved, although “nothing has been solved” (Spencer’s words).

Actual Research and Methodology

I started my research on August 1st, and finished the preliminary stage (before the cancellation) on August 4th. The cancellation was completed on August 5th. I started the “After” research phase on August 6th, and completed it on August 9th. Note that all the research data is valid as per August 9th, 2013 and as we are going to be doing a manual citations clean-up, it is very possible that a lot of the raw data will be outdated soon.

The research methodology was the same which we use during our citation building, citations clean-up, and citations audit processes. It involves two parts – automatic and manual. During the automatic research part, I used a number of online software tools to find out all listings both on sites that are part of Yext’s network, and on other online properties. During the manual research part, I manually checked all the sites in Yext’s network that allow public checking via desktop.

Research Limitations

There are a few limitations that my research has and that have to be taken into account when reviewing the results:

1) I did not have full access to some of the web properties in Yext’s network, as these do not have publicly available desktop-based user interfaces. These include AirYell, Avantar, CoPilot, Cricket, MetroPCS, Navmii, White&YellowPages;

2) I do not have access to the state of the business listings of the business prior to the signing-up with Yext;

3) I had limited access to some online properties due to me not being physically within the US. I did use US IP addresses, but the limitation was still there. Some of the online properties that block or limit traffic from outside the US are Bing and Superpages.

Results

You could download the raw data from here:

Listings Synced by Yext (Before Cancellation) (original report provided by Yext)

Listings Synced by Yext (Before Cancellation) (report amended by me)

Listings Not Synced by Yext, But in Yext’s Network

Listings Outside Yext’s Network (Before Cancellation)

Listings Synced by Yext (1 Day After Cancellation)

Listings Synced by Yext (5 Days After Cancellation)

A. Before the cancellation

Remarks:
- There are officially 47 web properties within Yext’s network;
- No listing has been synced for Bing; the following explanation was provided: “Bing has indicated to us that they cannot provide a PowerListing for this location because it is already controlled by another source.
- No listing has been synced for Facebook; the following explanation was provided: “Opted out
- No listing has been synced for GetFave; the following explanation was provided: “Processing
- No listing has been synced for Patch; the following explanation was provided: “Patch is not available in every geography and does not currently support your city. As a result, we are unable to provide you a PowerListing on their site.
- Instead of link to the CoPilot listing there was provided a link to the Google+ Local listing of the business, therefore CoPilot was excluded from the final results

After the sites with problems have been excluded, there are 42 listings on 42 web properties left that were synced by Yext. Of these, the following had some problems:

- The listing on 8coupon featured the category “professional services”
- The listing on Tupalo featured the category “Local Services”
- The listing on YaSaBe featured the category “Sports Clubs”

Of the 42 web properties only 35 were further researched due to the limitations mentioned above.

Within the Yext network there were discovered the following additional issues:

- 2 duplicate listings on Citysearch
- 2 duplicate listings on Factual
- 2 duplicate listings on MerchantCircle
- 1 duplicate listing on Bing
- 1 duplicate listing on ChamberofCommerce
- 1 duplicate listing on Citysquares
- 1 duplicate listing on GetFave
- 1 duplicate listing on ShowMeLocal
- 1 duplicate listing on Yelp
- 1 duplicate listing on Yellowbot
- 1 duplicate listing on MojoPages
- 1 correct listing and 1 duplicate on Facebook (not synced with Yext)
- 1 correct listing and 1 duplicate on GetFave (not synced with Yext)
- 1 correct duplicate and 1 incorrect duplicate on Local.com (there was a third listing, synced with Yext)

Overall, there were found 16 major issues (this number excludes the 2 correct unsynced listings on Facebook and GetFave, and the correct duplicate on Local.com).

Across the web, outside Yext’s network, the results were the following:

- 13 correct listings
- 115 incorrect listings
- 25 duplicate listings

Of the incorrect listings, there were only 3 that featured the correct business name.

B. After the cancellation

After the cancellation of Yext PowerListings no changes occurred across the web properties that are not part of Yext’s network.

The following changes occurred across the websites part of Yext’s network (42 web properties) within 5 days after the cancellation:

- 19 listings disappeared
- 4 listings reverted back to the old data
- 15 listings were stripped off the enhanced content
- 4 listings were still “locked” (Yext Synced)

Additionally, the correct duplicate on Local.com disappeared (or rather – all data was stripped off the listing, as the URL was still live).

All listings that were Yext Synced, were not owner-verified after the cancellation, i.e. they were not controlled by the business owner.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Obviously no definitive conclusion could be drawn from just one case study, but a few things seem to be clarified:

1) It is very possible that after one cancels their subscription with Yext some of their listings would disappear. This is not necessarily the fault of Yext, but it does happen.

2) It is also very possible that some information might get reverted back to its state prior to using Yext PowerListings.

3) Listings created or “locked” using Yext are not owner-verified and thus the business owner would not have control over them once Yext PowerListings is canceled (unless, of course, they go and claim them manually).

4) It is very possible that Yext might not get some incorrect listings fixed or removed, specifically in the cases where there is more than one listing per business per website.

5) Almost no listings outside the Yext network are directly or indirectly influenced, at least within 1 month after the Yext subscription started, by what has been done within Yext’s network alone.

Tomorrow (August 13), we will be starting a manual clean-up of all the listing for Dawson Family of Faith, which will proceed for 3 to 5 weeks. Once the process is completed, I will follow up with a report and a similar case study.

Aug 112013
 

Service-Area Business Google MapsGoogle just made some small, but important clarifications to their Quality Guidelines for local listings. The clarifications are related to some situations that weren’t previously covered, or were covered obscurely, by the guidelines.

The first clarification reads:

Do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Your business location should be staffed during its stated hours.

  • Exceptions to the above are self-serve businesses such as ATMs or video-rental kiosks. If adding these locations, you should include contact information for customers to get help.

We already knew that post office boxes, or virtual offices were not allowed to be placed as business locations on Google Maps, but I feel this rule comes mostly in relation with the ongoing confusion with service-area and especially home-based businesses. What is meant by this rule is that it is perfectly fine to display your business address, no matter what kind of business you are, as long as when you state, for instance, that your working hours are from 9 to 5, if someone decides to visit your “office” within this period, there would be a person to open the door and serve the customer. This clarification also sheds light on how important “community units” such as ATMs or video-rental kiosks should be displayed on Google Maps. Obviously these types of businesses cannot have on-site staff 24/7, and at the same time if they hide their business addresses from public display that wouldn’t make sense. Now Google states that as long as there is contact information where anyone could get served at any time (presumably), everything would be fine.

The second addition to the guidelines also comes to explain how Google would like to treat the service-area businesses, and specifically covers the ongoing topic of hide vs. display business address for SABs:

Businesses that operate in a service area should create one listing for the central office or location and designate service areas. If you wish to display your complete business address while setting your service area(s), your business location should be staffed and able to receive customers during its stated hours. Google will determine how best to display your business address based on your inputs as well as inputs from other sources.

This rule pretty much repeats the one above, but what is more interesting is the statement that Google (not the business owner) will determine the way a business address is displayed publicly. What might be meant by this is that even if you decide to display your address on Google Maps, if Google decides otherwise, or if Google finds that your address is hidden on other sources around the web, then the address might get hidden (and vice versa). This means that you must be very accurate in how you display (or not display) your business address not just on Google Maps, but also anywhere else across the web. It is to be noted that not all business directories allow for the address to be hidden. Here is a great list Phil Rozek compiled with business directories that have a hide-address feature.

Jul 252013
 

One of the most frequent questions I get (especially after this review on Yext) is how a manual citation building services, such as ours, compares with an automated listings distribution service, such as Yext. I will cover the comparison points one-by-one below.

1. Reach

Yext’s network currently consists of 42 platforms, and they have less public relationships with a few more. For instance, I have noticed that one of the most active “users” on Brownbook.net is “Yext”. It is to be noted that Yext offers its services only for US-based businesses (although some time ago Howard Lerman, CEO of Yext, mentioned to me that they were looking into expanding internationally in 2013).

A manual citation building service could potentially cover as many platforms as necessary. Some businesses might already be found on a number of sites, so these might also need to be excluded from the process. At the same time, the competition from industry to industry and from location to location varies greatly. For example, 40 citations might be more than enough for a pet groomer in Rancho Cuccamonga, CA, but even 100 might be completely insufficient for a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, CA. Additionally, a manual citation building service could potentially be offered to businesses anywhere in the world. We, for instance, offer it for the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Dubai.

2. Time

Most of the listings submitted through Yext get updated instantly. According to their tech specifications files, the following listings get updated slower:
- 411.com – 1-3 business days
- Citysearch – 2-24 hours
- HopStop – 2 minutes
- Local.com – 24 hours
- MapQuest – 30 minutes
- PhonePages – 1-3 business days
- Superpages – 1-4 business days
- Switchboard – 1-3 business days
- Topix – 24 hours
- Whitepages – 1-3 business days
- Yahoo! – 48-72 hours
- YellowPageCity – 24 hours
- Yelp – 1 hour

With the manual approach it really depends on the website. For instance, listings on sites such as CitySquares, EZLocal, GetFave, MojoPages, ShowMeLocal, Tupalo, are created/updated immediately. However, listings on sites such as Yahoo! Local might take more than a month to be set up or fixed. Additionally, as the service is manual, it might not be possible for your listings to be created in the same moment you submit your order. With our service, for instance, it takes 20-25 days to deliver the final report with all the completed work.

3. Personalization

Obviously Yext offers an automated service and the personalization with such services is normally put to the minimum. You can choose a package, but the websites that are included in it would be pre-determined. You can also choose which listing to be updated (only one per platform), but again – you can choose just from listings on sites that are part of Yext’s network.

A manual citation building service allows for much more personalization. This is crucial point with the current stage of online marketing. Both in terms of general exposure and SEO value the platforms vary significantly from niche to niche. An interesting study by GetListed and Whitespark showed some time ago how different the most important citation sources for different industries and cities were. One great disadvantage of the current version of Yext is that it doesn’t deal with duplicate listings, i.e. it is limited to one listing per website. This limitation could easily be overcome with using a manual citation building service. In our process, for instance, one of the most important tasks is checking for duplicate listings and removing them.

4. Completeness of the profiles

Yext has deep integration with most of the platforms in its network. That is why they are able to provide a lot of information to make each listing as complete as it is impossible to become unless one is a Yext subscriber. As I have previously written, completeness of profiles is an indirect ranking factor in local search, so this is an important point.

A manual citation building service can generally offer two types of profiles:
- Basic profiles
- Enhanced profiles
Basic profiles are the free business profiles that most business directory websites offer. Unfortunately, in many cases these basic profiles allow for much less information to be added to a listing than if these were paid enhanced profiles. Some manual citation building service providers (such as ourselves) have different types of relationships with some of these business directories and are able to provide enhanced profiles at no added cost. These enhanced profiles are very close to the profiles created via Yext.

5. Subscription period

Yext’s subscription period is 1 year. After 1 year, unless one decides to continue subscribing, the listings are taken down or revert back to the stage they were in prior to the initial subscription. This is something I wrote about recently.

Howard Lerman, CEO of Yext sent tweeted the following in regards with this comment:

 

I will be following up on this as there is obviously some discrepancy between what is being shared in the Yahoo! Localworks FAQ (which is white-labeled Yext, as already mentioned) vs. what Howard claims.

Most manual citation building services are one-time offers. This means that once the process of claiming/submitting/editing is finished, the listings will not disappear or revert back to how they were (incomplete, incorrect, unclaimed). Furthermore, ours, and other citation building services, allow for ongoing citation building, i.e. adding new citations every month for a period of a few months.

6. Total cost

The total cost for Yext’s main package is $499/year. Cheaper rates could be obtained from resellers. Yahoo! Local offers the same service, white-labeled as Yahoo! Localworks, at $89.95/quarter.

The rates for different manual citation building services differ. There are providers that offer citation building for as low as $1/citation, and as high as $5/citation. Generally, based on personal observations and experience, higher rates suggest higher quality. Our citation building service rates, for instance, are $50 set-up fee + $3/citation.

Both Yext and manual citation building have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one should be chosen highly depends on the situation and the needs.

Jul 222013
 

When Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo, many people (including me) believed that she might put serious effort into resurrecting the rather forgotten by the previous management(s) Yahoo! Local. And while there has definitely been some movement in that department, not many changes benefited the average user.

A. Issues with time frames for verification.

One of the first more notable changes was the introduction of “Marketing Dashboard“, together with a two-step verification process. And here is where the major confusion comes. There wasn’t (and there still isn’t) a clear explanation of how the verification process works. The feature was added all of a sudden and Yahoo! Local’s help files are, ironically, of no help. However, having to do this at least a few hundred times since its introduction, I figured out the process generally goes like this:

1) Claim an old listing or create a new one – you could do it either using a Yahoo account, or using a Facebook or Google account.

2) Choose the verification option – email (must be under business domain), phone, SMS, postcard
*Note: whenever possible do NOT choose postcard, because this might take up to 6-7 weeks.

3) Manual verification by Yahoo moderator – this is the only part of the process that has a corresponding help page, and according to that page the review process should take 20-25 days, although the following remark is made: “this time is subject to change and may take longer based on the volume of business listings pending review at any given time”. According to my experience, on average it takes about 2 for free listings.

4) In some cases the listing might get “Declined”, and the reason is usually “Mismatch”. The following explanation is normally provided: “Information provided in your business listing does not match information on your web site. For example, your business address, phone number, or both may not match. Please review your business information.” If you edit and re-submit the listing for verification, you would have to pass through the same cycle once again.

To sum it up – it might take up to 4 months (or even more if the listing is declined) for a free Yahoo! Local listing to get verified in the cases where only postcard verification is possible or 2 months (on average) if other verification options are available.

B. Issues with customer support.

There is a very visible phone number appearing all across the Yahoo!-Local-related subdomain – smallbusiness.yahoo.com. The phone number is 866-883-1043 (for the US only). Unfortunately, my numerous attempts to get a representative to help me (at least with guidance) were met with the straightforward answer “We do not offer phone support for free listing users.” I had, obviously, tried email support already. There are two ways to get to Yahoo! Local’s email support:

- By using this form

- By writing them directly at customersolutions-ysm@yahoo-inc.com

I found the second way to be more reliable, as in many cases I did not receive any answer using the form. It is to be noted, though, that the average response time is 5 working days, so you would need to be patient.

C. Other Yahoo! Local (and Yext) topics of interest.

1) Yahoo! Local for multi-location, national brands and franchises:

An interesting fact is that Yahoo do not offer business listings bulk upload, unless the business has more than 1,000 locations. Note that a workaround such as “one business x 300 locations + one business x 200 locations + one business x 500 locations” (for instance) is not acceptable. It must be ONE business with at least 1,000 locations. I recently worked with a few national companies that had between 150 and 600 locations and in these cases I found Yahoo’s rules rather incomprehensible.

2) Yahoo! Localworks

On June 17, Yahoo announced (rather quietly) Yahoo! Localworks – supposedly a new tool in the portfolio of Yahoo! Small Business. The tool was also mentioned in Yext’s blog as “a tool from Yahoo! Small Business.” The introductory cost for the tool is $29.99 per month (until September 30, 2013), billed quarterly at $89.97. What the tool does is publishing business listing information to “over 40 directories.”  Does it sound familiar? If not yet, then it would become if you perform a free scan via the Yahoo! Localworks page (lower right-hand corner of the page) and see which the platforms included in the package are. Yes, this is more than obviously white-labeled Yext Powerlistings, which I have previously written about. However, the rate offered by Yahoo is significantly lower than the original retail rate Yext offers – $41.58 per month, billed anually at $499. So if you are considering purchasing Yext Powerlistings, you might want to do it via Yahoo! Localworks.

Additionally, what caught my attention was the last question and answer in the FAQ section of the Yahoo! Localworks Features & Pricing page:

What happens to my directory listings if I cancel Yahoo! Localworks?

Cancellation of Yahoo! Localworks will result in the removal of all new directory listings and listings updates created when you purchased Yahoo! Localworks. If you previously had a basic listing on any of the target directories, your listing should revert to the original basic listing.
(*underscoring by me)

This (in)directly answers the question that I am frequently being asked in regards with Yext Powerlistings – “If I cancel my annual subscription with Yext, will my listings disappear/revert back to how they were prior to me paying Yext?” (Yes, they most probably will).

May 222013
 

In my daily citation building work I encounter a lot of different cases. Sometimes, the business I work with has absolutely no online presence other than a 1-page website. In other cases, the business is found literally everywhere – from Google and Yahoo, through Facebook and Twitter, to smallestrandombusinessdirectory.net. Most of the cases are, of course, somewhere in the middle. In some of them (rather rarely) the client kept neat record of where they enlisted their business and what usernames and passwords they used. In the majority though, clients have set up tens of accounts by themselves and never bothered to track their progress. If they made sure all their business information was correct, and they planned to keep it that way forever, everything would have be fine. But as we do not live in a perfect world, it is specifically the clients that had to, for any reason, change their business name, or business address, that didn’t keep a record of their accounts. In such cases, it would really save you a lot of time and could solve a lot of problems if you knew which listings were already claimed, and which were not.

Here is a little background on why this is important:

There are hundreds of business directory websites on the web. Most of them get their business information through four main means:

- Buy it from business data vendors
- Scrape it (often without permission) from other websites
- Get it directly from a “mother” site, whose network they are part of
- Receive it directly from the business owner, or a business representative

The last scenario is the one which is, surprisingly or not, valid most rarely. However, if someone has already claimed a listing, enormous part of the business directories will not only disallow anyone else to claim that listing, but they would also refuse to amend or delete that listing. The same sites usually allow for account and/or password retrieval, so the only problem left is for you to recognize these claimed listings. Due to my experience, the average time it takes for a relatively experienced person to create an account on a business directory and to get to the point where the site says “Sorry, this listing is already claimed” is about 7-8 minutes. Imagine that your client (or yourself, if you are the business owner) has 50 listings that they (you) created and/or claimed. Knowing that these were already claimed before you attempt to reclaim them would save you 6-7 hours of unnecessary work.

One last thing that has to be mentioned before we proceed – it is not always possible to be 100% sure if a listing is already claimed, not all websites have clear marking for it and in these cases you will have to rely on “secondary” signs.

Note: information that might reveal which the businesses used in the examples are has been darkened.

Yelp

Unclaimed Yelp Listing

There are two signs that can positively show that a Yelp listing is not claimed. The first, more visible one, is the “Is this your business” box, which includes a “Claim This Business” button. The second sign is the “Work Here? Unlock This Business Page” link in the main business information box. If these two items are missing, it means that the listing has already been “unlocked” (claimed) by someone. In the place of the “Is this your business” box, there is usually an “About This Business” box, which features information “Provided by business” (as Yelp labels it).

Superpages

Unclaimed Superpages Listing

An unclaimed Superpages listing has one very specific distinction from a claimed one – “Are You the Business Owner” box with a “Claim My Listing” button. If this box is missing – the listing has already been claimed. It is to be noted, however, that sometimes even if a listing is claimed, this box doesn’t disappear. That is why, for further security, take a note of the “Business Details” section. If there is just very scarce information there, then the listing is almost surely unclaimed.

Show Me Local

Unclaimed Show Me Local Listing

If the button “claim this listing” is available on the listing – it is unclaimed. If the button is missing – it is claimed.

Mojopages

Unclaimed Mojopages Listing

Mojopages is of the sites that I like to call “False Friends”. There is the link “Is this your business?”, whose presence should supposedly lead to the conclusion that the listing hasn’t been claimed, but unfortunately it is not so. The above listing is indeed an unclaimed one, but the below one is a claimed one, and as you could notice, the same link is present in the upper right corner:

Claimed Mojopages Listing

I purposefully chose a claimed listing that features very little additional details to showcase what are the main differences. The one that could 100% tell you when a Mojopages listing is claimed is the presence of a “Slogan” (under the main business information, in grey letters). Mojopages oddly requires that a slogan is added when a listing is being claimed. If some additional details, untypical for unclaimed listings are present, such as link to the business website, tags, more than 1-2 categories, this could serve as an additional signal that the listing is already claimed.

Merchant Circle

Unclaimed Merchant Circle Listing

It’s easy with Merchant Circle – as long as the “Claim Your Business” red button is visible, the listing is unclaimed. In all other cases, the listing is claimed.

MapQuest

Unclaimed MapQuest Listing

Similarly to Merchant Circle – when “Claim this Business” is available – the listing is unclaimed. When this has changed to “Verified Listing” – the listing has already been claimed.

Local.com

Unclaimed Local.com Listing

Local.com is another false friend. The screenshot above is one of an unclaimed listing, the screenshot below is of a claimed listing.

Claimed Local.com Listing

The differences are minor. Both listings have the “Claim My Listing” and “Claim This Page” buttons. However, the unclaimed listing has a link next to the top that reads “Enhance your listing”. This text in the claimed listing is “Sign in to update your listing”.

GetFave

Unclaimed GetFave Listing

GetFave can also be considered a false friend. The screenshot above is of an unclaimed listing. However, you could clearly see the watermark saying “Verified”. The same watermark appears in the claimed listings, too:

Claimed GetFave Listing

There is one major difference. The claimed listings always feature the name of the “claimant” at the bottom. The text goes like “Managed on Fave by [Name]“. The equivalent text in the unclaimed listings is “Manage this Business”. Additionally, unclaimed listings (almost) never include information such as “The Hype”, year established, slogan, website, working hours.

Foursquare

One of the most difficult to be recognized is Foursquare. The site is a true “false friend”. Both claimed and unclaimed listings include the “Claim it now” link at the bottom right side:

Unclaimed Foursquare Listing

Claimed Foursquare Listing

The first listing is unclaimed and the second is claimed. The only way to be 100% sure if a listing is claimed is if it includes a “Special”. However, in many cases the claimed listings do not include such. The good news is that reclaiming a listing through a different account is relatively easy. The site requires phone verification, but that is valid even for the listings that haven’t been claimed previously.

EZLocal

Unclaimed EZLocal Listing

An unclaimed EZLocal listing has a “Claim listing” button in the middle. If it was claimed, the button was going to be substituted by an “EZ VERIFIED” badge:

Claimed EZLocal Listing

Additionally, an unclaimed listing very often cites the source of the information. In this example, the source is Citysearch. Unclaimed listings almost never feature any detailed information about the business, such as hours of operation, email, payment types accepted, or images.

CitySquares

Unclaimed CitySquares Listing

Recognizing an unclaimed CitySquares listing is relatively easy. It features an “Is This Your Business” box in the upper right corner that contains a “Claim and edit [business name] for free” link. There is also a box underneath that provides more information on what next steps a potential business representative should take to claim the page. In a claimed listing these items are removed.

Citysearch

Unclaimed Citysearch Listing

It is relatively easy to recognize an unclaimed Citysearch listing. It has an “OWN THIS BUSINESS? UNLOCK THIS PAGE” link at the upper right corner. This link is removed from the claimed listings.

Instead of a Conclusion

Next week I will add information about more of the top business directories as a second part of this post.

May 162013
 

As previously noted by Mike Blumenthal, Google effectively closed their Places support forums in all languages other than English. Obviously this situation is not perfect for users around the world, so since yesterday Google started offering email support for Places/+Local issues for users in the following languages:

And apparently the ones in Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) are still under construction.

I haven’t tested those myself yet, so I currently have no information on how much the response time is.

May 132013
 

Probably most of the regular readers of my blog have noticed that I am unusually inactive recently. With only 1 post since 27 February, this is by far the worst period for me in terms of writing productivity. The reasons for this are complex, but I want to stress on one in particular that is so significant that it is practically affecting my entire business – the Internet.

My wife and me moved to a new condo about 6 months ago. Although I have office space that I rent monthly, I go there very occasionally for meetings and training with my team, and there isn’t even constant Internet access there. In 99% of the time I work from home, so the move meant that I also moved my office. Unfortunately, it became clear very soon (a few days before the move) that it might be a problem to find a good quality Internet provider that covers the condo. Don’t get me wrong – the building is well within the boundaries of the second largest city in Malaysia – Johor Bahru, and is in probably the fastest developing regions of the city. In Malaysia, the telecommunications business is almost entirely monopolized by the national telecommunications company – Telekom Malaysia (TM). They provide the highest quality broadband Internet, and are practically the only provider of fiber-optic Internet (the other major Internet provider uses TM’s infrastructure to offer their fiber-optic Internet service). Unfortunately, at the time of our move, TM was not covering the condo (although they covered almost every other building in the neighborhood). I asked a few different representatives if they know about any plans for the condo to be covered. All replied negatively. There were only two options left – P1 and Yes. I had heard equally bad things about both, but as P1 had a 1-week charge-free test period, I tried them first. The Internet quality was awful and the speed was very far from the promised. I requested for cancellation within the 1-week period, when it turned out that: 1) it was not really completely charge-free, and 2) it was not really one week, but more like 3 working days. However, I managed to somehow cancel my subscription and was left with only one option – Yes.

Yes has relatively positive reputation when it comes to mobile Internet, but they don’t seem to be that good at providing home online access. Additionally, the minimum contract option was 2 years. I had a lot of doubts since the beginning, but I had no choice – I signed the contract and was promised (max) 20Mbps speed with maximum data usage per month… 10GB. This was the biggest data plan they offer and the cost was RM168 per month (~US$55). Obviously, the data was not enough for me, although I was trying to save from everything – no YouTube watching, no matches watching online, no excessive browsing. I was forced to purchase add-ons called “superboosters”, with the biggest add-on being 3.6GB at RM55 (~US$18). On average, I had to purchase 2 such add-ons per month, which means that I was paying ~US$90 per month for 17GB of home Internet data per month at a maximum speed of 20Mbps. The average speed I was able to get was around 8-9MbpS. Doesn’t sound like the best deal, huh? On top of it all, I was unable to do online calls, because the Internet was apparently not up for it and it was going down practically every 30 seconds while I was talking using Skype. This practically ruined my consultation business. Additionally, I was unable to pick the phone (my US phone number is attached to Skype) for many potential clients, so my overall business drastically decreased.

There was hope, though. TM started offering their service for our condo about 1 week (!!!) after I subscribed to Yes. Of course I started trying to cancel my contract with Yes as soon as I learned about this, but there was one tiny problem – the cancellation clause in the contract stated that the penalty fee was equal to the fees for the whole withstanding period of the contract. This meant that I had to pay RM3,500+ in order to cancel (~US$1150). I made about 150 to 200 complaint calls to Yes, almost always demanding to talk with a manager, and I managed to get one only on 2 occasions. The second one was my success – the manager agreed to make a deal with me and I had to pay “just” RM 600 for the cancellation (~US200). This happened 5 months after my first complaint. Overall cost for my calls was about RM200. As the cancellation was not confirmed until the last moment, I had to wait for the final approval before I contacted TM. When I finally did, I sorrowfully learned that the waiting period for TM’s Internet to be installed is 1 week. Of course Yes switched off my Internet access immediately after the cancellation was confirmed, so for 1 week I had no Internet access.

1 week later, I finally had good quality Internet after almost half a year of struggle. Everything was perfectly fine (even suspiciously perfectly fine, I’d say) for about half a month until just two weeks ago. My Internet started switching off and switching on without any obvious reason. I started digging for information and discovered that per government order the Internet should have been cut off for people that read politically-related content – this was related to the general elections in Malaysia that took place on May 5. As a person coming from Bulgaria, a country where democracy is nothing more than a textbook term, this was not a major surprise for me. However, what really amazed me and was the final drop to making me write this article was what happened last Wednesday (May 8).

I was working as normal in the nice morning when suddenly the Internet went off. I was thinking it was again something related to the above mentioned issue, but when the Internet never came back for more than an hour I understood something was wrong. All my attempts to restore the connection were also in vain. I called TM and after attempting to fix the problem distantly, their technician came on Thursday afternoon. He performed a few checks and stated that the problem was not with TM, but with the building’s wiring. I called the building maintenance and the guy responsible for the wiring came to check what was wrong. In the meantime the TM technician was gone. After double-checking, the building maintenance rep said there was no problem with the wiring. After a few more calls to TM and to the building management where everyone was pushing the blame to the other, they decided to leave it for Friday as their working day was over. Unfortunately, on Friday my wife and me had a scheduled trip to Kuala Lumpur, because we had to verify some legal documents (legal matters are hard when the two countries have (almost) no diplomatic relationships). When we were back on Sunday, the issue was still there. Obviously, nobody worked on a Sunday, and that is when we come to today (Monday, May 13). Another TM technician came in the morning and came to the same conclusion – the problem didn’t lie with TM. I called the maintenance guy and made them both go to the building manager. He made them double-check each part of the telecommunication infrastructure of the building and after 3 hours – they finally fixed the problem! My Internet was back and everything was as it used to be. I had enormous pile of work to finish, including a lot of overdue tasks. Half an hour later, when I was just getting started, it happened again – the Internet went down and the model was back to the dreaded stage where it was showing “no DSL connection.” Right now I am waiting for the TM technician to come back.

P.S. If you wonder how I wrote this article – I used my mobile 3G data, which gives me an average broadband speed of 500Kbps.

Apr 262013
 

Google has been the subject of antitrust investigations in Europe for some time now. The reason has been allegations from competitors about some anti-competitive practices of Google, especially related to vertical search. While a similar case has been settled in Google’s favor by the FTC in the US, the European Commission, claiming that Google’s market share in Europe is much more significant, has “pushed” the company to change their search results for some specialized verticals. The verticals included are Google Shopping, Google Places, Google Hotel Finder, Google News, Google Finance, Google Flights, Google Maps, as well as all future verticals that Google would roll out. Google finally came out with a proposal on Thursday. For me, naturally, the most interesting part of the proposal is the one related to local search results. Google offered the following format of the local search results on desktops:

Google's Local Search Europe

Click to enlarge


And here is the proposed format of the local search results on mobile devices:
Google Local Search on Mobile

Click to enlarge


The changes for the desktop SERP are:
- The inclusion of acknowledgement about the fact that the Google Places results represent Google’s own product
- The inclusion of links to three other “relevant providers”
- The moving of the map to the top of the Google Places results
The changes for the mobile SERP are:
- The inclusion of a “Google Places Search” and “Other sites” links above the map

To both SERPs will be added a frame that would signify the Google Places search results.

Before moving to how Google will be determining which sites would be considered as “relevant providers”, here are my thoughts on how this might affect the local search results:

First, if I were the complainers, I was going to be very dissatisfied with Google’s proposal. The changes are obviously made in a way that would satisfy the minimum possible requirement. The visibility of the links to the third-party sites is (purposefully) lowered by the fact that they are under the map (in the desktop SERP) and in smaller font (in the mobile SERP). Additionally, in the mobile SERP, the user should click one more time to reach the third-party search results, as compared to Google’s native ones. Second, it seems like the new layout (map within the results and frame around the Places results) would actually boost the visibility of Google’s properties even more than the current one does. Anyone can submit their feedback and observations via email at COMP-GOOGLE-CASES@ec.europa.eu under reference number AT.39.740 – Google . The feedback can be written in any of the EU official languages (which includes Bulgarian!). The deadline is 1 month from publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (which means 25 May 2013). Countries that would be affected by the change include all the members of the EEA (EU + Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), as well as all future members (most probably Croatia will join the group even before the implementations go live).

Google also gives a detailed explanation of how the third-party sites will be picked. Here are some outlines:

- The sites might be less then three, based on how many would qualify as per Google’s requirements
- There will be a tool which sites could use to apply to become a potential pick for these “Vertical Sites Pools”
- Criteria for a site to be included in a vertical sites pool include the presence of search functionality, be limited to a small number of content categories (generalist search sites won’t be considered eligible), be within the first 100,000 sites in terms of traffic per Alexa, acceptable quality of user experience, and others
- The sites that have the highest “Web Search Rank” (i.e. the rank of the site for the generic search results for the query in question) will be preferred for display
- Google could remove sites from the pool if they are found to violate a significant number of requirements

Theoretically, this means that same business directory websites that have been ranking for local search queries up to now will be the one to be picked (if they apply and are accepted). If I were them, and if the layout stayed the same as it is proposed by Google, I’d actually rather not apply if that would mean losing my organic result on first page (that might include things such as review snippets, meta description, sitelinks, and others). It would just decrease my real estate without giving me much additional visibility.

What are your takeaways? Do you think the new layout of Google’s search results would benefit their competitors or do you think they are still pretty self-serving?

Feb 272013
 

Since I wrote my first (and only, up to now) e-book (Citation Building Guide) about 3 months ago I’ve been having a lot of requests for additions and I’ve been receiving questions related to topics that for one reason or another are not covered in the current version of the e-book. That is why I decided to prepare a “second edition” of a sort. This second edition is scheduled to be issued on 18 March.

What will change and what will be added

Besides some changes to the structure of the content, there will be the following additions and updates:

1. Information about citation building in countries other than the United States – I have rightly been blamed that the guide focuses too much on the case of the US. And I agree. That is why there will be many improvements that could be beneficial to Internet marketers and regular businesses from the following countries:

- Canada
- United Kingdom
- Australia
- New Zealand
- Germany

2. Extended coverage of the data aggregators and Google’s trusted data providers – both in the US, and in the other countries mentioned above.

3. Case studies – diving deeper into specific complicated cases and the ways my team and I untangled them.

4. Updated “List of Business Directories for the US” and newly added “List of Business Directories for Canada”. The updated one would include both more business directories, and more information about why particular directories are excluded from the list. Note that both these lists include the direct URLs to the submission page of each website.

5. More “Phone Verification Guides”, including Google (universal), Yelp (universal), Bing (US), Nokia (US), LocalEze (US), Citysearch (US), Yellowbot (US), Yellowee (US), iBegin (US, Canada), YellowPages.ca (Canada), WebLocal (Canada).

6. Updated “Fixing and Reporting Duplicate Listings”, including more than 30 of the most important business directories.

How the price will change

The price will be increased, unfortunately. However, the good news is that if you purchase the guide by 17 March, 11:59PM (Eastern Standard Time) it will be at its current price (US$30) and you will enjoy free updates forever. I am planning to be updating it and adding more information to it at least twice a year (and even more often, in case some major changes occur). But the good news don’t end here. If you purchase the guide and send request for additions that haven’t been covered yet by 3 March, 11:59PM (EST), I will include them in the updated version.

Who should get the guide

The Citation Building Guide is suitable for the following groups:

- Internet marketing (and especially inbound marketing) agencies and specialists – the guide could help you in developing an organized system to deal with tedious tasks such as citations research, competitive citation analysis, and brute ones such as citation submission and citation building; it could also help you in training new staff to complete such tasks;

- Small and medium businesses – if you have a website and a Google Local listing, and you are wondering where to start from in order to make them more visible and to potentially monetize them, the e-book will guide you through the process;

- Franchises and chains targeting locally multiple areas – organizing the workflow and determining task priority are two of the most difficult problems for companies with many locations that try to make all of them visible and at the same time keep their brand image consistent; these are the problems the guide could help solving.

And besides all mentioned, you would have my personal assistance available in case you have troubles of any sort with the guide or its content.

You could read more about it and purchase it here.

Feb 262013
 

This is an article I have been planning for very, very long time. Although there are a few great lists of local SEO specialists I frequently refer to (David Mihm’s, Mike Ramsey’s, Matthew Hunt’s), there is no single resource which gives more insights into who the people behind the names and the websites actually are. In fact, this is a problem not just with local SEO in particular, but with the online marketing industry as a whole. On the one side are the customers, for whom it is often very difficult to determine which SEO to choose. Traditionally, the cornerstones have been testimonials, recommendations from friends, and general awareness of the reputation of the service provider. But in a business where the “seller” and the “buyer” could be as far from each other as tens of thousands of miles (in my case for example), these traditional guides could sometimes be insufficient. And that is why these people staying on the other side – the local SEO specialists/consultants/providers/ninjas/gourmands, might need some additional “trust push” in order to gain authority and trustworthiness. So here it is: my collection of aspiring local SEOs!

But first, a few notes:

1) This list is in reverse alphabetical order. Why? Because every other list is in old-school alphabetical order, and I’ve always felt a bit discriminated against (there are not really that many other last names that start with Z…).

2) I reached out to all the guys and gals mentioned below, and I got replies from many of them. However, for different reasons some did not get back to me with more information, so I did not include them in the article. Despite this I list them at the bottom, because I believe they are an important part of the local SEO world.

3) For everything to be as fair and square as possible, I decided to use the old “click to see” drop-down trick. Otherwise, it would have been very possible that 99% of the people would have given up before reaching even the middle of the page.

4) As most of the featured specialists are Americans and for accuracy purposes I will use the word “football” to describe the American variation of the sport, and the word “soccer” – for the European one.

And now – happy reading!

Mike Wilton »

Mike says that it was music that dragged him into the world of local search. His first website was focused on local bands, events, and restaurants. He was so passionate about SEO that later on he left his job at Disney to pursue a career at Advanced Access – an Internet marketing company specialized in real estate website design and marketing. It was then that he really started diving deeper into local SEO, experimenting with Google Places, microformats and Geo-data. When he eventually left the company, he used his knowledge to develop a new strategy for the clients of Plastic Surgery Studios, an Internet marketing company focused on medical practices. Currently Mike is the manager of the firm’s Internet Marketing department.

Mike is happily married and a father of two. Besides local SEO, he has passion for gothic culture and Halloween.

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Aaron Weiche »

Aaron built his first webpage in 1997 and he says he has never looked back since. His real passion sparkled a little later, though, when Yahoo’s directory and DMOZ were the major names in SEO. He became more involved in local SEO around 2006, when he began noticing the tremendous impact it had on small and locally focused businesses. More recently, Aaron has been enjoying his time participating in and presenting at the Local University series, together with a big group of other renowned local search specialists.

Aaron has been happily married for 10 years, and is the lucky father of 3 daughters. In his spare time, he loves playing sports and supporting the University of Nebraska football team.

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Larry Sullivan »

Larry has been working with small businesses for more than 10 years, but it was only 5-6 years ago when he spotted local search’s great potential and employed it in his SMB marketing strategies. He says that local is now just one piece of the puzzle and it should be used together with mobile and social tactics.

Besides local search, Larry enjoys mobile gaming and runs two websites dedicated to mobile apps – DroidReviewCentral.com and iReviewCentral.com. He is also an avid fan of the New York Mets and the Knicks.

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Andrew Shotland »

Andrew’s first serious contact with the online world was back in 1994 when he helped launch Showtime Networks’ first website. Soon after that, he managed to help put together the first live chat from a Mike Tyson fight he was hired by NBC and participated in the creation of the first network of local TV station sites, called NBC-IN. In the early 2000s, he met Stu MacFarlane with whom he started InsiderPages, a local-social reviews website. That was when his SEO skills improved as he succeeded in increasing the traffic from 30,000 unique visitors/month to 4 million. After the company was sold to CitySearch in 2006, he went on to become a private consultant; his first client was the head of product at LATimes.com.

Andrew says this about his occupation: “being an SEO is like being a golf pro at a party full of amateur golfers. Everyone you talk to wants a tip for how to improve their swing.” His current hobby is “working on perfecting a recipe for the first shelf-stable, meat-juice-based gourmet hot sauce.”

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Darren Shaw »

Darren doesn’t have the background of a typical geeky web developer. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and decided to spend his time working at a local restaurant. Later on, he changed his mind and went back to high school and eventually got his university degree in anthropology (major) and computer science (minor). During his university years (circa 1996) he developed his first website. It was not until the early 2000s, though, that he became truly passionate about SEO, as he helped his sister promote her e-commerce website (which Darren himself built). He started diving deeper into local search after 2008, and a little later the Local Citation Finder was born.

Darren is happily married and his daughter occupies a lot of his free time. In his spare he likes to do local search the raccoon way.

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Will Scott »

Will was first hooked up with the Internet and its infinite possibilities by one of his professors while majoring in architecture in Tulane University. He built his first website back in the dark ages of 1994. He claims it was not until 1999 that he abused his first search engine (read: got into SEO). Soon after Will got in close touch with local search for the first time. In 2002, way before Google thought of monopolizing “local”, the company he was working at ventured into building and promoting online Yellow Pages. At first it was easy and it was simply pursuing long-tail keywords (ones that included city name), Will claims, but the real challenge came when Google and the others decided to change the rules and started prioritizing their own products.

Will is the CEO of Search Influence and that is what occupies most of his time. He loves beer, and that is probably why one of his favorite quotes is “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

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Jim Rudnick »

Jim sold his first Internet marketing firm in 1999 when he turned 50 (note: at that time I still hadn’t heard of the Internet, and I had barely seen a PC on TV once or twice). He now handles just about 10 clients personally, just to “keep his hand in.”

He is currently mostly dedicated to his hobbies, primarily wine tasting, and Jim says that if he were 30 years younger and if he’d won the lottery, he would have bought a winery in Napa, CA. He also loves skiing, which he has been practicing for over 55 years. Mr. Rudnick has written 2 books, and is currently working on a 3rd. He enjoys all things “local”, and has been president of the Hamilton Local Chamber of Commerce.

But above all, he is a happy father of 3 and grandfather of 2.

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Phil Rozek »

Phil’s first encounter with online marketing was in 2006 when, while still in college (Japanese Language and Literature major at Boston University), he began helping his father manage AdWords campaigns. He built his first website later the same year. Phil gradually grew more and more curious about why “some businesses were on the map and some weren’t.” His explorations were briefly summarized in his first-ever article on local search marketing, which appeared in a local newspaper in the summer of 2008. He likes getting to know his clients more personally and exchanging gifts with them or having long phone conversations, completely unrelated to local search are not uncommon.

While at his PC, Phil likes listening to jazz, Soul, metal, alternative, and the occasional bagpipe tune. When not working, he spends his best hours with his fiancée, Stefanie, and their 4-year-old cat, Peanut. His hobbies include running, camping, gardening, reading, and collecting coins. As these seem to be features typical of a clean-cut guy, it might come as a surprise that at one time Phil had shoulder-length hair and a Civil-War-caliber beard.

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Yam Regev »

Just 7 years ago Yam was working on his family’s farm in a small village in northern Israel. That was when he moved to Tel Aviv and established the online marketing department of a large locksmith corporation. His team of local SEO consultants grew quickly and after only 3 years it consisted of 25 members. In 2010, Yam left the company and started partnering with different SMBs, helping them strengthen their online presence. His latest venture is called kidEbook – a start-up company specialized in creating smart kids apps. Yam enjoys being where things are happening, close to the end user. He says that “you can take the farmer out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the farmer.”

Yam is a happy father of his newborn daughter.

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Mike Ramsey »

Mike’s first steps into the Internet marketing world were during his college years. For a class project he had to launch a website – HugeIdahoPotatoes.com, and monetize it. Around 2007, already out of college, and having his own clients, Mike started digging into local SEO as he noticed the potential positives it could bring to his customers.

Mike has a lovely wife and is a father of two (and one on the way). His hobbies include theater and guitar playing. Mike was Idaho State Drama champion a few times and has participated in a lot of plays. He currently plays in a bluegrass band that travels to different countries and performs at local folk festivals together with his wife’s folk dance team.

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David Oremland »

Dave has been involved in SMB operations since the early 1980′s. His first local-search-related activity came during the 1990′s when he had to compile databases of small businesses information as part of his job of releasing commercial space to this kind of companies. He first recognized the importance of local search for SMBs in the early 2000′s. As his company didn’t manage to find anyone who was knowledgeable enough about local SEO, he took on these duties and has been working on them ever since.

His hobbies include watching sports, dining out, and cooking.

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David Mihm »

David has been inclined to art and design since grad school, where he studied architecture. This naturally led him to using his skills and interest in the online world. His first contact with local was in 2005, when he started helping his clients with claiming their online business listings. What attracted him most was the opportunity to help boost a small business without significant amount of time and investment by the business owner (something, he acknowledges, that is less relevant nowadays).

David has great passion for golf. He is a big fan of The World’s Great Links Courses: his favorites are Portrush, Portstewart, County Down, Ballybunion, Carne, Royal Aberdeen, Nairn, Cruden Bay, Ballyneal, and Old Macdonald and Bandon Dunes. He has combined his two hobbies – architecture and golf, into a website where he shares his accumulated thoughts: EpicGolf.com. In addition to these, David is very much into craft beer (especially Northwest IPA’s and Pale Ales) and craft-roasted coffee.

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Matt McGee »

Matt built his first website in 1995. It was (and still is) dedicated to U2, and since then it has received awards and recognition from the likes of Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. His jump into online marketing came a little later, though. It happened around 1999/2000 when one of his clients was struggling to sell through their website. Matt bought a listing at Yahoo Directory and eventually this saved the client’s business. The move to local search came naturally as the search engines started pushing into that market. Matt spotted this early on as one of his very first posts suggests.

Matt’s most time-consuming hobby is managing his U2 site. Besides this he likes spending time reading, taking photos, and being with his wife and kids.

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Jackson Lo »

Jackson got enthusiastic about SEO through a friend of his, and started practicing it in 2009. Together they developed a small business (KayLo Marketing) whose primary aim was to help local businesses in the Ottawa region expand their reach through local business marketing. What Jackson liked about online marketing was the continuous stream of new content and perspectives, as well as the opportunity to engage with bright and passionate marketers.

Currently Jackson works as a Web Marketing Analytics / SEO Manager at AdJump Media and Menu.ca. In his spare time he likes doing strength training and playing volleyball. His favorite hobbies are photography and traveling.

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Matthew Hunt »

Matt’s earlier life career as a theater artist didn’t portend his later involvement in online marketing. However, in 2007, when his first son was born, he had to settle down and work a regular job, so he started selling POS Terminals. He felt his door-to-door sales strategy was not optimal and seeking a solution, he soon discovered the power of the Internet. He got his first website and started advertising via AdWords, which provided a significant boost to his sales.

Matt started educating himself on how to do all of this by himself, and over the next 3 years he spent over $100,000 on learning materials and expert guidance. Along the way, he used his knowledge to build a network of merchant account sites, which has been highly successful to date. In 2009, he decided to completely devote himself to online marketing for small businesses and after successfully helping a number of his friends double and even triple their businesses, he established his own company – Small Business Online Coach. Currently the company has more than 15 employees and Matt’s team has worked with more than 150 clients.

Matt spends most of his spare time with his family, especially, exploring the world with his 3 boys (ages 5, 3, and 1).

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Steve Hatcher »

Steve got into local search in late 2006 while he was building website for his brother in law’s landscaping business. He had had general experience with affiliate marketing and SEO for about a year prior to that. Although his first attempts with SEO were rather unsuccessful, using his knowledge and observations, he brought quick results to his brother in law’s website. At that time, Google still hadn’t started showing Maps results in the local search SERPs, so it was mostly about targeting organic rankings for location-specific queries.

Prior to diving into SEO, Steve was a forest fire-fighter in British Columbia, as well as a surfer in Nova Scotia. His current passion is wine and he has even started growing his own grapes.

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Miriam Ellis »

Miriam has been working with her husband on building and optimizing websites since the early 2000′s. Her favorite part of the process is web design and copywriting. Around 2006, she started noticing “local” trickle into the search results and this, paired with reading Mike Blumenthal’s blog (see below) pushed her into getting more involved in local search. What she enjoys most in local SEO is the opportunity to learn about unique local communities throughout North America, as well as developing and “copywriting for civic enhancement.”

When not online, Miriam loves doing organic farming and communicating with nature. Her hobbies include reading, playing chess, studying foreign and ancient languages, sewing, cooking, painting and playing the piano. She strongly believes that a lively, never-ending pursuit of education enables her to bring a bright and creative mind to client projects.

Linda Buquet »

Linda started her first SEO company (InfiniteHits.com) back in 2000. A few years later her current venture – Catalyst eMarketing, was born. She has been doing various types of Internet marketing, including national SEO, ever since. Linda went into local search around 3 years ago and it became her true passion. As a Google Places Top Contributor she spends a significant amount of time in the Google and Your Business forum, as well as in her own forum – Local Search Community Forum.

Linda is a workaholic, so her life is all around local search and helping people succeed online.

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Mary Bowling »

Mary and her husband sold their auto repair business in 2000. Mary didn’t enjoy the life of a retiree, so she started working at a ski and bike shop. After a few years, when this job got boring, she got another one at a local agency, which specialized in promoting bed and breakfasts, boutique inns, hotels and vacation rentals. Her new duties forced her to understand how to rank websites for local search, back in 2003 when this activity didn’t even have an established name.

Mary enjoys skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in the winter, and rafting in Colorado and Utah in the summer. During the rest of the year she bikes, camps, and hikes in the desert and the mountains. A good prerequisite for her hobbies is the place where she lives – Glenwood Springs, Colorado. She moved there more than 30 years ago just for a temporary job and never left.

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Michael Borgelt »

Before starting his own SEO & Local Search marketing company Michael’s passions were basketball & computers – granted a very weird combination. Born and raised in Minnesota, Michael played basketball from grade school through college. At the same time, Michael’s intellectual thirst led him to technology where he completed a computer science degree at University of St. Thomas. After college Michael worked for a small online company as a computer programmer and as an SEO analyst. This is where Michael got his first taste of online marketing experience. He also continued his passion for basketball through a career as a college basketball referee in his free time.

It was during this period that Michael started his own internet marketing company. After the NBA experience he realized that refereeing was not the career he wanted to follow, so he put his drive and focus into his own company – 51 Blocks. In 2010, he began to notice the shift to local search and the importance Geo-targeted results were going to play in search behavior in the coming years.

Michael has built a number of tools with his computer programming background; these tools help to identify issues with local rankings. He provides these tools free of charge on his site.

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Mike Blumenthal »

Mike says he has been in local search since birth, with the only differences that back then he didn’t have his current beard, and it was not called local search. He worked at the family businesses since he was 8, and at 28 he started a computer sales division, before they closed the retail shop in 2001. At that time the business had over 50 employees and 3 locations. However, Mike and his brother kept the web design and hosting division open as they built their own content management system and proceeded to build websites for local companies. That is when it became clear to him that if these businesses wanted to be found online, they had to be indexed and ranked on Google and Yahoo. At that time, Mike’s own business had to advertise on 8-9 yellow pages directories in order to cover their target area. In 2004, when Google Local was first introduced, Mike literally threw the books away and focused on online advertising. In 2006, when Google Local became part of Google Maps, and its importance increased even further, Mike started looking for authoritative specialists (such as Greg Sterling, Matt McGee, Bill Slawski and David Mihm) to discuss the related issues with, and that is when he started his notorious blog on local search. What pushed him was the fact that no one seemed to be covering the questions he had. Mike’s hobby turned into a new career, and now he is widely known as “Professor Maps”.

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Mike Belasco »

Mike got involved in online marketing a long time ago, when he was learning how to build a website for his mother’s business. At that time he was using Prodigy dial-up Internet connection. He decided to jump into local search after he attended an SES conference where local SEO was broadly discussed. He was so interested at the time that he covered the conference on his blog and the article received a lot of attention.

Mike enjoys fishing, playing golf, and watching football in his spare time.

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Dev Basu »

Dev got into the “Make Money Online” niche around 2006. Back then he was promoting products from Commission Junction. However, he soon realized that ranking high for mainstream products was hard, so he switched to other networks such as ClickBank and Neverblue. Dev’s online marketing experience hasn’t always been bright and he has had a lot of “expensive lessons” over the course of his career; for example he once lost $1,500 in 10 days on PPC. However, he is positive that these were invaluable in helping him to become a better marketer. In 2008, he jumped into local search. He was fascinated by the ease with which one could rank above the organic search results, as well as the great opportunity that existed for businesses targeting local prospects.

Dev is fluent in English, French, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. In his leisure time he likes playing folksy songs on his acoustic guitar, or watching action-crime movies.

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Other local SEO specialists I reached out to:

Gregg Stewart
Aleyda Solis
Chris “Silver” Smith
Ed Reese
Ash Nallawalla
Michael Mire
Adam Dorfman
Don Campbell
Martijn Beijk
Myles Anderson

Other local SEO specialists, I didn’t reach out to, without whom this article would be incomplete:

Adam Steele
Travis Van Slooten
Colan Nielsen
Joy Hawkins

Special thanks to Ken Fagan for serving as the editor of the article.