Oct 102013
 

Bing’s equivalent (and rival) of Google Places (+Local) – Bing Places, has finally been rolled out for countries other than the United States, a few years after its initial launch (as Bing Local Listing Center). The winners are Canada and the UK.

Up to now, there were different workarounds to get a business listings on Bing Maps for some countries outside the US (and I presume these ways would still work):

1) For Canada, the UK, Germany, and India: via Nokia’s Here PrimePlace

Check the explanations on this page. A couple of great step-by-step guides on how to set up these listings here and here.

2) For Canada only: via YellowPages.ca

Yellow Pages feeds Canadian business data directly to Bing (see here).

3) For the UK only: via 118 Information

Similarly to Yellow Pages in Canada, 118 Information feeds business information directly to Bing in Canada. You could add your listing using this form.

4) For Australia only: via YellowPages.com.au

If you go to (almost) any business listing on Bing Maps Australia, you could see in the upper right corner the following disclosure: “Data from: Yellow Pages®”.

5) In all countries where Factual is available: via Factual

Factual is a known data provider for Bing. Although it is unclear if Factual delivers business data to Bing for all the countries they have business data for, it is highly probable.

In any case, it is a great move and it could help businesses in Canada and the UK. For all the rest – the workarounds are always available.

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.

Jan 092013
 

One year ago I published a list of the best local SEO and local SEM articles of 2011. Ever since, one of my dreams has been to turn this into a regular practice. And here we are – in the beginning of 2013, and I managed to compile a list of the best local-search-related pieces of the past year. The list consists of approximately 200 articles divided into 8 categories (clicking on the category name will take you to the corresponding part of the list):

General Local-Search-Related
Onsite Local SEO
Offsite Local SEO
Google Places and Google+ Local
Local Citations and Citation Building
Reviews and Reputation Management for Local Search
Non-Google Local Search (Bing, Yelp, Apple, Nokia, Yahoo)
Mobile-Local

I also included a list of some of the articles I published this year that you might find read-worthy:

My Articles

This article library holds a ton of wealthy information shared by the most renowned specialists in the industry, including Mike Blumenthal, David Mihm, Phil Rozek, Chris Smith, Miriam Ellis, Andrew Shotland, and many others. Happy reading!

General Local-Search-Related

Local Search Ranking Factors, Volume 5 (David Mihm, Own Blog)

10 Commandments of Local Search & the LSO Prophets (Cody Baird, Milkmen)

Your Local SEO Checklist for 2012! (Miriam Ellis, Search Engine Guide)

Big List of Local SEO’s To Follow On Google+ Some Thoughts (Mike Ramsey, Nifty Marketing)

Interview with Local Marketing Experts Jake Puhl & Adam Zilko (Eric Covino, SEO Book)

Best Local Search Tools – 2012 (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Local Ranking Factors – Google Places Optimization (Bizible)

The Venice Shift from Local Pack to Blended Results (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Finders Are Now Seekers: How Local Has Changed the Game (Gregg Stewart, Clickz)

Local Search “Pros” Breaking the Hippocratic Oath (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Local SEO Tips from Darren Shaw of Whitespark (Eric Covino, SEO Book)

Essential Local Search Resources (Bryan Phelps, Whitespark)

Invisible Businesses In Google’s Local Search – The Problem No One Sees (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

The SMB Guide To Changing Business Names & SEO (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

The Long Tail of Local Search (Damian Rollison, Street Fight)

Deep Data and the Semantics of Local (Damian Rollison, Street Fight)

Who should care about Geo-Rankings and why? (Matt Roberts, Koozai)

How Can Local Search Better Serve Service-Oriented Businesses? (Damian Rollison, Street Fight)

Local Search Insights: What Are Consumers in Your Local Area Searching For? (Miranda Miller, Search Engine Watch)

50 Local SEO Lessons from 50 Clients (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

How Long Does Local-Search Visibility Take? (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation – A “New” Local Ranking Tactic? (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

The Rudiments Of Local SEO (Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog)

Memo to Google: Solve the Local Data Problem With Local Data (Damian Rollison, Street Fight)

Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

What Matt Cutts Says about Local Search (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

The Local Search Ecosystem in Canada (David Mihm, Own Blog)

Laying the Groundwork for a Local SEO Campaign (Eric Covino, SEO Book)

Local SEO as a Gateway Service (Eric Covino, SEO Book)

2013′s Top Local Search Ranking Factor: Honesty (Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog)

Local Search Dream Team – Tips, Tools & Predictions (Bryan Phelps, SEO.com)

The Venice Shift from Local Pack to Blended Results (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

The Zen Of Local SEO (Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog)

Insiders Guide To Selecting The Right Local SEO Tools (Myles Anderson, Search Engine Land)

Local SEO “Substitutions” (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Matchmaking Advice for Local SEOs and Business Owners (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

How Google May Identify Implicitly Local Queries (Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea)

How Business Names Might be Used by Google in Local Search Ranking Signals (Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea)

 

Onsite Local SEO

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update (Mike Ramsey, SEOmoz)

Local SEO: How Geotargeting Keywords Brought 333% More Revenue  (Adam Sutton, Marketing Sherpa)

The Local Search Plus Box (Nyagoslav Zhekov, Search Engine People)

Site audit: How can a local limousine service get found in dozens of cities? How can it stand out in the crowd? (Kathy Long, Own Blog)

The Hideous Site: An Allegory For Oddities In Local Search Results (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

The Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page (Mike Ramsey, Nifty Marketing)

The Ugly State of Google SERPs: Rich Snippet Abuse (Mike Wilton, Search News Central)

How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

5 Local Blogging Ideas to Supercharge Your Local Marketing (Jessy Troy, Search Engine People)

13 Semantic Markup Tips For 2013: A Local SEO Checklist (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

Can Blogging Be Your Secret Weapon For Local SEO? (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

Using the Home Page to Improve Local Search Rankings (Chris Smith, Web Marketing Today)

Why Local Blogging Works (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1) (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 2) (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

 

Offsite Local SEO

How to Use Driving Directions in Local Search SEO for Google Places (Ted Ives, Coconut Headphones)

Are Check-Ins A Local Ranking Factor? (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

5 Local Linkbuilding Ideas For The Post-Penguin/Panda Era (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

Culture Building: 8 Local Link Building Tactics Beyond Business Listings (Scott Dodge, Whitespark)

The Complete Guide to Link Building with Local Events (Kane Jamison, SEOmoz)

Link Building for Local Search (Julie Joyce, Search Engine Watch)

The PlaceRank Secret Behind Google’s Local Search Rankings (Chris Smith, Web Marketing Today)

5 Link Building Tactics to Improve Your Local Ranking (Matt Green, SEOmoz)

SEO: 7 Ways To Optimize For Local Rankings Via Images (Chris Smith, Web Marketing Today)

 

Google Places and Google+ Local

A Brief History of Google Places (David Mihm, Own Blog)

Best Google Places Troubleshooting Posts (2011 – Early 2012) (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Interview With Google Places Help Forum Top Contributors: Blumenthal And Zhekov (Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog)

How to Pimp Your Google Places Listing (Phil Rozek, Whitespark Blog)

My Illustrated Plea To The Google Places Help Forum Team (Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog)

13 Best-Practices for Picking Google Places Business Categories (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Why You May Need To Hide Your Google Places Address ASAP (Miriam Ellis, SEOmoz)

The Face of Google Places (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

5 Things You Should Not Do on Google Places (Nyagoslav Zhekov, Search Engine People)

The Google Places Purgatory and How to Get Out of It (Matthew Hunt, Small Business Online Coach)

Milestones in a Google Places Campaign That’s Working (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

12-Week Action Plan for Google Places Visibility (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

The Worst Kept “Secret” in Local Search: My Thoughts on the Impending Plus-Places Merge (David Mihm, Own Blog)

Google Places Description and More Details Section – Some News and Pro Opinions from the Field (Linda Buquet, Catalyst eMarketing)

Rankings on Google+ Local: Some Observations (David Mihm, Own Blog)

Google + Local: Q’s and some A’s (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Google+ Local – What Wasn’t in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Helping Or Hurting: The Debate Over Google+ Local (Jordan Kasteler, Search Engine Land)

Overcoming New Google Places Duplicate Listing Problems for Dentists, Doctors, Attorneys (Linda Buquet, Catalyst eMarketing)

Syncing Your Google Plus and +Local Pages: Plusses and Minuses (David Mihm, Own Blog)

The Suite Life of Google Plus Local Address Issues (Joseph Henson, Search Influence)

Why You May Need To Hide Your Google Places Address ASAP (Miriam Ellis, SEOmoz)

Google Tackles Geographic (Map) Spam for Businesses (Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea)

Google Places Troubleshooting: Best Practice for Dealing with a Merged Listing (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Many Google Places Searches Are Showing an Increased Radius For Search Results (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Is Google’s New Requirement to Hide a Home Business Appropriate? (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Google Places Pages Are No More – But What has Changed? (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

What Should Your Business Listing Categories Be in MapMaker (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

MapMaker Bots and What They Do (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

5 Google Places Tests I’d Love to See (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

 

Local Citations and Citation Building

How to Squeeze Maximum Google Places Love from GetListed.org Scans (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

The Local Search Ecosystem in 2012 (David Mihm, Own Blog)

6 Tools SMBs Can Use to Update Digital Directory Listings (Stephanie Miles, Street Fight)

Citation Consistency: The Key to Local Search Rankings (Chris Suppa, Thunder SEO)

The Best Citation Sources by U.S. City (David Mihm & Darren Shaw, GetListed)

Best “Events” Sites for Local Search Citations, Links, and Visibility (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Local Citations: Another Signal Being Devalued by Google? (Mike Wilton, Search News Central)

Follow-up Study: The Best Citation Sources by Category (David Mihm & Darren Shaw, GetListed)

Can You Rank Well in Local Google without Revealing Your Street Address Anywhere? (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Will Citations Stop Being Effective for Local Optimization in the Future? (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

5 Ridiculously Sneaky Citations Most Small Business Never Think to Get! (Matthew Hunt, Small Business Online Coach)

Infographic: Citations – Time To Live (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

The Role of Directories in the New Local Ecosystem (Damian Rollison, Street Fight)

Local Search: Understanding ‘Citations’ to Improve Rankings (Chris Smith, Web Marketing Today)

My Thoughts on Where Yext Fits Into a Local Search Marketing Plan (David Mihm, Own Blog)

SBSM Mailbag: Does Google Normalize NAP Data? (Name, Address, Phone) (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

Catching Up with your Local Competitors & Automating Citation Discovery (John-Henry Scherck, Seer Interactive)

Yext & Local SEO (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Can a Citation Campaign Cause a Drop in Google Local Rankings? (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Local Citations / Business Directories for Specific Ethnicities and Identities (US) (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

 

Reviews and Reputation Management for Local Search

Cold Hard Numbers on How Third-Party Reviews Help Google Places Rankings (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

21 Ways to Get Customer Reviews: the Ultimate List (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Local Consumer Review Survey 2012 – Part 2 (Myles Anderson, Search Engine Land)

What Should You Tell A Client When Google Loses Their Reviews – A 4 Part Plan (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Google Places Reviews – Critically Broken or Chronically Ignored? (Linda Buquet, Catalyst eMarketing)

Cheat Codes for Google+Local Customer Reviews (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Google on Reviews: Asking for them is OK, Soliciting them is BAD (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Asking for Reviews (Post Google Apocalypse) (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

FAQ about Local-Business Reviews (on Google+Local and Third-Party Sites) (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

9 Questions To Assess Your Review Management Stress Levels (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Have You Been The Target Of A Google Places Hit Job? (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

The Local Business Reviews Ecosystem (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

 

Non-Google Local Search (Bing, Yelp, Apple, Nokia, Yahoo)

Yellow Pages Sites Beat Google In Local Data Accuracy Test (Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land)

5 “Local” Search Engines You Should Be Targeting (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

Bing Ties Yellow Pages Sites For Most Accurate Local Data (Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land)

IYP Ranking Factors: Getting Visible in Local-Biz Directories (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

10 Basic Bing Local Optimization Tips (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

Unofficial Apple Maps Frequently Asked Questions by Businesses (Andrew Shotland, Apple Maps Marketing)

How to Find Local Business Customers in Twitter (Kathy Long, Own Blog)

Yelp Ranking Factors (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

6 Things to Know About the Yelp-Bing Local Data Partnership (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

Local SEO Blocking and Tackling for Siri & Apple Maps (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

Is Google’s Australian Data Partner Spamming Places for $11 a Listing? (Mike Blumenthal, Own Blog)

 

Mobile-Local

The Rise Of Local Mobile Pay-Per-Call – 3 Tips For SMBs (Bill Dinan, Search Engine Land)

Why It’s Time For Local SMBs To Get On Board With Mobile (Stephanie Hobbs, Search Engine Land)

 

My Articles

Interview with Dan Austin, a Google Maps Spam Fighter

Thoughts on Bizible’s Local Ranking Factors

Changes in Local Search – Implications on Local SEO

The Real Meaning of the Google Places Statuses

8 Ways to Recognize Fake Google Reviews

Local Citation Building Study Part 1: Niche-Relevant Local Citation Sources

Google Plus Local Rankings – What Changed and What Will Change

Local Citation Building Study Part 2: What the Pros Think

Local Citation Building Study Part 3: Plenitude of the Business Data

Local Citation Building Study Part 4: Local Business Directories Around the World (Canada and the UK)

Google+ Local vs. Map Maker. Is Your Business Eligible?

Local Citation Building Tools

Google with the Most Accurate Business Database in the UK

The Two Types of Local Search and How Local SEO Should Reflect Them

Local Citation Sources for Australia, Germany, and New Zealand

Why Yext Might Not Be the Best Fit for Your Business

Overcoming Google Local Listing Mergers with Additional Citations

How to Remove Duplicate Listings from Different Business Directories

Learning Local SEO from the Ones That Do It Best

How Google Might Be Determining If A Local Citation Is Spammy or Not

Aug 282012
 

Last week I read a post on Search Engine Land that was discussing a study by Implied Intelligence. The study was related to business data accuracy, and was comparing a number of the biggest players in the UK market. As I felt the SEL article didn’t offer too much details, and I was very interested to learn more, I contacted Marc Brombert and he was kind enough to provide me with the complete research.

Which Sites Were Researched

The full list of sites that were researched includes: Foursquare, Thomsonlocal, Scoot/TouchLocal, Bing Local, DNB, ThePhoneBook, Yell, Google Maps, Yelp, 118.com, 192.com, HotFrog, Yahoo Local UK, Qype UK. The mentioned sites were chosen based on traffic and general industry prestige (see here for reference). It is also worth mentioning that:

1) These are all different types of websites. For instance, Yelp and Qype are rather review social networks, Foursquare is a check-in social network, Yell, Scoot/TouchLocal and Thomsonlocal are traditional IYPs, Google Maps, Bing Local, Yahoo Local are a kind of mixtures. Thus, it is to be expected that the business data accuracy would vary.

2) Many of these exchange data between each other, or get data from the same source. For instance, My118information.co.uk provides data to 118.com, 192.com, TouchLocal, Yahoo, Bing, and others (according to Sarah Shepherd, Head of Customer Service at the company). LocalDataCompany.com provides data to Google, Yell, Thomsonlocal, Touchlocal, Qype, 192.com, and others (according to their website). At the same time 192.com gets data by 118.com.

Methodology of the Research

Implied Intelligence researched “1,400 hand-checked records from a random UK geography.” The records were all extracted from the websites of the businesses themselves. Because of this most of the records were of small businesses, as only records with one address per homepage were chosen (which means that chains and franchises were largely excluded). The study looks into a few aspects of the data, going beyond simple data accuracy. These include: coverage (how many of the records were present), number of duplicates (determining if a listing is a duplicate of another listing was based on a robust match between the name, address, phone number and URL), accuracy (of the main business data), and richness (presence of additional details).

Findings

As stated in the title, it turns out that Google is the most accurate and detailed source of business data in the UK. However, before looking into the final details, I’d like to discuss the scoring per factor.

Where everyone seemed to fail was at the coverage test. Google was the only one to score over 50% (58.8%), followed by 192.com (49.1%). Both these companies’ databases receive data from a large number of places, and this could explain their advantage. The worst scoring, by a large margin, is Foursquare with just 6.9% of the records being present on their website. The reason is most probably the relative unpopularity of the social network in the UK (85.2% of the British have never used it, and just 3.1% use it frequently). It is interesting, however, that Yelp takes the second spot (in reversed order) with only 24.6% of the businesses researched being present on their website. This performance is significantly worse than the one the site shows in the US market – 63.2%.

The second factor researched was percentage of duplicate listings. “Winner” is ThePhoneBook with 20.8% duplicates, followed by HotFrog with 12.3%. Yahoo, which in the UK gets data from Infoserve, was found to have 0% duplicates, followed by Yelp (1.4%). Google is just third here with 2.5%. These percentages are generally much lower than what I would expect. Based on my previous researches, the duplicate percentage should be on average around the low double-digits.

It gets scary when looking at the data accuracy findings. The worst performing overall is once again ThePhoneBook, featuring a wrong phone number in 27.8% of the cases, and a wrong address in 2.9% of the cases. It is followed by HotFrog (25.9% and 2.5% respectively). The best two are Qype (19.2% and 1.7%) and Bing (20% and 1.6%). It is to be noted that according to the research DNB does not provide any business information, such as address, phone, and additional details, so most of their scores are either N/A or 0.

The survey looks into what percentage of the records have website URL associated with them. Google is the winner with 87.9%, followed by Yell with 79.7%, and Bing with 78.7%. A number of websites do not allow business websites to be added to listings, so their overall score is significantly lowered by this factor. These include: DNB, ThePhoneBook, 118.com, 192.com, and Qype.

The most inaccurate in terms of business website associated with a listing are Yelp (33.6%), Yahoo (33.3%), and Scoot (32.6%). Google is the best performer (from the ones that do allow business websites to be added to listings) with just 15.8% incorrect URLs.

The research also looks into the percentage of records with opening hours, and the percentage of records with additional information (including about-us information (taglines), payment options, free quotes, certifications, and others, but excluding reviews and check-ins). The unchallenged winner in both is Google with 28.3% and 97.9% respectively. There are again quite a number of directories that do not offer any additional information: Foursquare, DNB, ThePhoneBook, 118.com, 192.com, Yahoo.

Based on the factors discussed above (coverage score, duplicate score, phone error score, address error score, URL coverage score, URL accuracy score, hours score, and additional info score), the winner is Google Maps. Second place goes to HotFrog, and third place goes to Bing.

While I appreciate and respect the scoring system Implied Intelligence used, I believe some of the factors are not equal in terms of importance to other factors. These include URL coverage, URL accuracy, and business hours presence. I combined URL coverage, business hours coverage, and additional details presence into one factor, and completely excluded URL accuracy, and here is how the data accuracy rankings turned out:

1. Google Maps (=)

2. Bing Local (+1)

3. Thomsonlocal (+5)

4. Qype (+3)

5/6. HotFrog (-3/-4) and Yell (-1/-2)

7/8. Yelp (-1/-2) and Yahoo Local (+2/+3)

9. Scoot (-4)

10. 118.com (-1)

11. Foursquare (=)

12. 192.com (=)

13. DNB (+1)

14. The PhoneBook (-1)

Below is a graph that shows the difference in overall score when using Implied Intelligence’s scoring system and my scoring system:

 

Takeaways

Undoubtedly, Google is the winner in terms of complete and accurate UK businesses data. It is interesting that Bing, which does not have an automated system for businesses to list themselves or to edit their data (such as Business Portal in the US), performs very well (they do, however, have a request form for adding/updating a listing). From the viewpoint of local SEO, HotFrog and Yell seem to be important citation sources (I have discussed this previously) as they offer a big number of additional business information bits to be added (check here why this is important).

Mar 052012
 

Who would’ve guessed that while I was at SMX West (you can check out my presentation on solving problems with Google Places here), the search engines were not sleeping. They launched a few changes to their local search algorithms and display that might have great impact on how local SEO works.

Google, in their monthly Search Quality Highlights report announced two interesting improvements with direct effect on organic local search:

1. Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

2. Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.

While Google did not directly share what the consequences of each of these might be, or how the display of the search results might change, I’d like to share some personal thoughts on what could be the front end implications deriving from these updates.

On the updates

First, it is notable that these updates are already live, i.e. this was a retrospective announcement, not preparatory. This means that the changes could already be seen and they happened during the end of January and in February. However, analyzing just the information Google shared, we could draw out the following:

1. The “Venice” update might be re-worded as “the importance of the “main search results” as a ranking signal and as a SERP triggering signal in local “Universal” results has improved”. By “main search results” Google probably means the organic website results. By “Local Universal results” Google might mean what is more widely known in the local SEO world as “blended local search results”, i.e. mixture between Google Places and website results. Therefore, my interpretation of this announcement (without having any third-party information) would be: “The importance of the organic website results as a ranking signal and as a SERP triggering signal in blended local search results has improved.”

2. The “Improved local results” update is more obscure. In my opinion, the keywords here are “user’s city” and “local to the user”. It might mean that now Google treats the city-level user location in a new/updated way. Furthermore, it might also mean that they improved their semantic understanding for recognizing when a search has local intent. An improvement to the way Google determines when/if a page is relevant to a particular location is also possible.

When we look into what happened during the time frame covered by the announcement, we could notice a few events that match relatively accurately the above descriptions.

In the end of January, Google started decreasing the Google Places results for many queries (first noticed by Mike Blumenthal). Now for the majority of the local searches, 3-packs or 4-packs of Places listings results are returned. This seems to be a result of the “Venice” update, as now the “main search results” prevail.

Google Places 3-Pack

In the beginning of February, Google seemingly “increased the radius” within which the local Google Places search results might be located (again, first noticed by Mike Blumenthal). This means that Google might have “loosened” the ranking factor “Distance” for search queries implying search within a city (“keyword+city” search queries for example). This seems to be a result of the “improved local search” update.

Increased Radius Google Local Search

What do these updates mean from a local SEO perspective?

The “Venice” update would not be liked by the ones that rely mostly on Google Places as a online marketing tool. The reduction of the listings that show up in the local SERP means that it is now more difficult to show up on first page with your Google Places listing. I constantly hear in the last few weeks that the Google Places pack now shows up lower in the SERP overall, i.e. there are many organic web results above it. For me personally this is a good change, as Google Places is a way too unreliable product to be taking up the biggest part of the local SERP and the click-throughs. Focusing on improving your website (more on- than off-) is now more important than it has ever been since the introduction of Google local. Furthermore, rich snippets for authorship and reviews started showing up which could only increase the CTR for the ones smart enough to implement them.

The “improved local results” update is exactly what it says – the local search results are now better than before. For a very long period of time it was impossible for a plumber, whose office is his home, living 10 miles away from the center of Dallas to rank high for a search term such as “plumbing contractor Dallas”. Many such small business owners were forced to abuse the system and look for some rather devious solutions to that problem. Google Maps was literally spammed with listings using virtual addresses or outright fake ones. Now, Google provides the opportunity for the businesses that were up to now in a disadvantageous position to fight for the top spots. This is a great improvement on the search engine’s side and something we’ve all been asking for. Implications on local SEO? Now if you cannot rank your/your client’s website/Google Places listing on first page it will be entirely (in most of the cases) your fault, and not the fault of Google’s very distance-sensitive local search algorithm. If previously “Distance” was the dominant factor in city-level local search, now “Prominence” prevails – a factor which is much more difficult to be abused.

Bing?

Bing has also been active on the local search front. They introduced a new layout for the local SERPs, and it seems very similar to the blended local search Google launched in October 2010 (present until now with slight moderation). Some of the interesting changes include “merging” between the website and the Bing Business Portal profile of a business. The local pack might now show up in the middle of the page, or to at least be over-ranked by organic web results. This implies that Bing now might also rely more heavily on some traditional organic SEO ranking factors in their local search algorithm.

Bing Local Blended Search

Images 1 and 2 courtesy of Mike Blumenthal. Image 3 courtesy of Bright Local.

Jan 022012
 

If you read this blog regularly, you should know it’s all about local SEO and local SEM. If you don’t, well, now you know. During the year we went through literally hundreds, or even thousands, of local search marketing related articles and we learned a lot from them. We also tried to share some of our knowledge via our blog and we hope we contributed to the local search community with our tips and ideas.

We gathered all the articles that dazzled us during the year and created a compilation of about 100 pieces, divided into 12 categories:

General Local SEO & Local SEM

Onsite Local SEO

Link Building for Local SEO

Content Strategies for Local SEO

Google Places

Citations for Local SEO

Reviews for Local SEO & SEM

Bing Business Portal

Tracking and Monitoring of Local SEO

Local Search Statistics

Local Paid Search

Our Local SEO Articles

While we are trying to always be on top of everything local, we might have missed something out. If it’s so, we would be happy to hear about it in the comments below.

General Local SEO & Local SEM

Local Search Ranking Factors (David Mihm)

Google Local Search Ranking Keys: Relevance, Prominence & Distance (Chris Smith, SEM Clubhouse)

Dissecting Local SEO Via Competitive Analysis (Mike Belasco, Darren Shaw, Mary Bowling, SEOmoz)

4 Tips For Success With Seasonal, Local SEO (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

Social-Local-Mobile Tactics Drive Retail Success (Paul Bruemmer, Search Engine Land)

How To Boost In-Store Traffic & Sales By Optimizing Your Digital Storefront For Local SEO (Paul Bruemmer, Search Engine Land)

Nifty Hard Core Local SEO Tactics From SMX Advanced (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

How to Divide up Your Time for Maximum Local Visibility in Google Places (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Keeping Control of your Local SEO Assets (Steve Hatcher, Search Engine People)

Local Search Ranking Factors? Sadly, They’re Not Actual Industry Practices (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

Google Places Algorithm Change – New Proximity Lockout Algo Can Cause Major Ranking Drop (Linda Buquet, Catalyst eMarketing)

Google Places – Cracking the Proximity Lockout Algo (Gav Heppinstall, Crunch Web Design)

10 Local Search Tools I Simply Can’t Live Without (Mike Ramsey, Search Engine Journal)

Local Search Explained (Alan See, Networking Exchange Blog)

Onsite Local SEO

What NOT To Do On Local Business Websites (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

A Guide To Geocoding Images For Local SEO (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

10 Image Optimization Tips For Local SEO (Chris Smith, Bruce Clay)

Using Semantic Markup To Strengthen Your Local SEO Efforts (Mike Wilton, Search Engine People)

Local Search O-Pack and the Art of Title Tags (Mike Ramsey, Search Engine Journal)

SEO Checklist for Local Small Business Websites (Rae Hoffman-Dolan, Sugarrae)

Link Building for Local SEO

5 Geo-specific Link Building Tips (Kaila Strong, Vertical Measures)

10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

3 More Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links (Chris Smith, SEM Clubhouse)

12 Tips For Using Press Releases In Local Online Marketing (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

How To Rank Nationally With Local Links (Ross Hudgens, Search Engine Land)

5 Sources of Links for Local Businesses (Geoff Kenyon, Search Engine Journal)

4 Link Building Strategies for “Too Busy for Link Building” Local Businesses (Brent Carnduff, Search Engine Journal)

Content Strategies for Local SEO

Blogging as a Content Strategy for Local SEO? – You’re Doing it Wrong! (Steve Hatcher, Axemedia)

Local Content Definition: What Makes Material Of Local Signficance? (Mirriam Ellis, Copy Local)

Google Insights for Researching Local Search Keywords (Tommy Redmond, Webbed Marketing)

Google Places

A Brief History of Features in Google Local, Maps and Places (slideshow) (Mike Blumenthal)

Google Places Basics: Listing a New Business – A Timeline for Launch (Mike Blumenthal)

8 Tips to Maximize Your Branded Presence in the Google Local Search Results (Mike Blumenthal)

Google Offers Up a Step by Step Guide to Deal with “We do currently do not support this location” (Mike Blumenthal)

The Untold Story of 2011: Google’s Significant Investments in a Google Places Support Structure (Mike Blumenthal)

9 Common Ways To Bork Your Local Rankings In Google (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)

A Little Light Reading On Google Maps Ranking Factors (Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide)

Closed, Says Google, but Shops’ Signs Say Open (David Segal, The New York Times)

Do Google Places Listings Really Matter? (Steve Hatcher, Axemedia)

An Inside Look At How I Chose 1 Local Tire Shop Out Of The 7-Pack (Mirriam Ellis, Solas Web Design)

7-pack vs Blended Local Results – Split Testing? (Darren Shaw, Whitespark)

Google Places Cross Optimization Case Study (Bhawna Sharma, Milestone Internet Marketing)

Google Places Help – Verification Problems and Tips for Consultants (Linda Buquet, Catalyst eMarketing)

 Las Vegas Hotels: 7 Pack Place Page Review (Michael Dorausch)

Battle Las Vegas: Disappearing Hotels in Local Search (Michael Dorausch)

Hotels Lose against Google Local: Centroid Battle for Las Vegas (Michael Dorausch)

Google’s New Sentiment Phrase Snippets for Google Places (Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea)

Citations for Local SEO

Top 50 Citation Sources For UK & US Local Businesses (Myles Anderson, Search Engine Land)

9 Secrets for Easier and Faster Local Citation Gathering (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Top UK Local-Business Directories (AKA Citation Sources) (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

No Punctuation In Localeze And No Field Definitions In Bing Local (Mirriam Ellis, Solas Web Design)

Take Care with UK Local – A Data Flaw in Directory Sources (Nichola Scott, Search Engine Watch)

Google Places Citations: 5 More Tactics to Earn Links for Your Local Business (Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz)

How to Research Local Citations After Google Removed them from Places (Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz)

The Ultimate List of Local Citation Sites (Mike Wilton, Search News Central)

Reviews for Local SEO & SEM

Testimonials as Reviews – A View from the Field (Mike Blumenthal)

5 Tips for Responding (or Not) to “Fake” Reviews (Mike Blumenthal)

The Growth of Reviews In Google Places (aka Hotpot) (Mike Blumenthal)

Changes in Google Places and Reviews – What Does it Mean for the SMB? (Mike Blumenthal)

Review Management: 7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews (Mike Blumenthal)

An Imagined Conversation with Google about Reviews, 29Prime & Sock Puppets (Mike Blumenthal)

5 Tips For Responding To Negative Customer Reviews Online (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

5 Tips To Get More Online Customer Reviews (Andrew Shotland, Search Engine Land)

Negative Reviews in Local Search: A Survival Guide for Businesses (Eric Edge, Search Engine Watch)

The Local Reviews Ecosystem — Threats and Opportunities Abound (Andrew Shotland, BIA Kelsey)

Google, Yelp and Why Review Counts are Meaningless (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

The 3 Pillars of Local Search Reviews (Mike Ramsey, Search Engine Journal)

Bing Business Portal

Bing Rolls Out Integrated Marketing Approach to Their Local Business Portal (Mike Blumenthal)

5 Reasons Search Marketers Shouldn’t Discount Bing (Jon Schepke, Search Engine Watch)

Complete Guide to Bing’s New Local Business Portal (Matt McGee, Small Business SEM)

Tracking and Monitoring of Local SEO

Tracking Offline Conversions for Local SEO (Eric Covino, SEO Book)

Tracking Traffic from Google Places in Google Analytics (Rebecca Lehmann, SEOmoz)

Local Search Statistics

30% of all Restaurant Queries on Google Are Mobile (Mike Blumenthal)

Eye-Tracking Google SERPs – 5 Tales of Pizza (Dr. Pete, SEOmoz)

Search Engines Top Local News Sites for Community Information (eMarketer)

Young Men Lead Location-Based Service Adoption (eMarketer)

Why Your Business Listings Are Probably Wrong! (Yext)

Research Shows Which Google Places Listings Get More Clicks (Research by Mediative)

How Users Search For Local Businesses + 5 Tips To Optimize Local Listings (Myles Anderson, Search Engine Land)

Harnessing The Power Of Online Customer Reviews For Local Business Growth (Myles Anderson, Search Engine Land)

The Numbers and Facts on Google Places Reviews (Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Search Secures Recognition as Local Business Info Provider (Rob Young, Search Engine Watch)

 

Apr 112011
 

Today Bing launched its version of Google Places. It is called Bing Business Portal (BBP) and is still in its Beta version stage. However, it could be a tough challenge for Google as Bing Challenges Google PlacesGoogle Places have experienced a lot of bugs lately and had problems with lost reviews, data, the analytics tool got stuck and all the listings got pending, etc. The claiming of business listing on Bing will be similar to the one for Google – by phone or by postal mail, as they will provide the business owners with a verification PIN. The time for changes to occur should be between 48 and 72 hours. For newly created listings it will take within 7-10 days after the listings is verified.

Similar to the Google Offers, there will be Bing Deals. There is no limit to how many deals a business owner could post per day, and the new ones will be occurring within 48 hours. Owners will be able to post the deals on the established Facebook site. Furthermore, some deals will be highlighted daily on the “Deals” section of the mobile version of Bing Business Portal. The criteria will be the following:

  • Deals need to be at least 50% off of the retail value of the goods/services offered
  • The minimum dollar amount of the retail value of the goods/services should be $20 or more
  • Only threeactive deals per merchant location can be provided at a given time
  • Deals offered should have an expiration of three days or less from the day they appear on the daily deals page
  • Repeat deals cannot be offered until 15 days after the deal has expired.
  • Deals need to be created by 6PM Pacific time in order to make it to the daily deals page for the next dayQR Code for Bing Business Portal

Bing will also implement the already abandoned practice on Google Places to put QR codes in the business listing. The QR code will lead to the business’ Bing Business Portal mobile site.

Google will definitely be challenged, especially if Bing manages to come up with good Customer Service, which lacks in the case of Google Places and if it keeps it as bug-free as possible. Time will show.