Nov 272013
 

Just when I thought Yahoo! Local couldn’t get worse, they surprised me. A few days ago I noticed that the usual “Edit business details” link under the business information on a Yahoo! Local listing has been substituted by “Publish your Yahoo listing on 40 more top local directories” (check here what this means).

Yahoo Localworks Pushed

This practically means that Yahoo is ready to sacrifice the accuracy of their business information, and more specifically – the user-based and business-owner-based feedback part of the process of keeping the information accurate, for the sake of fast cash. For a comparison, imagine a case where you go to your/your client’s Google+ Local listing, click on Manage this page, and you are redirected to a paid solution similar to AdWords Express, instead of a page where you could edit the information and submit it for verification.

However, this “inevitability” sales strategy is neither unique, nor employed for the first time in the space. A few weeks ago MapQuest decided to move their whole local listings business management business to Yext, and if you tried to claim your listing, you would be redirected to Yext’s platform.

MapQuest Yext Pushed

For quite some time now similar thing has been happening with Local.com – when you click on “Claim Your Listing” you are taken to a page that gets you introduced to Yext.

Even longer ago, Whitepages (and their whole network) adopted this model, too. In Whitepages’ business listings help page the following is stated:

To Add, Edit or Remove a Business Listing:
Option 1: Contact Listing Provider (ExpressUpdate)
Option 2: Update all your listings with Yext PowerListings

Fortunately, there are workarounds (at least for now) for getting a listing to each of these business directories created or updated. As such workarounds tend to be abused (and subsequently stop working) if shared publicly, I would not share them here, but would be happy to do so if contacted personally.

Do you think these serious changes in the way business directories react on the changing environment in the space would affect small business owners positively or negatively?

Nov 042013
 

The business data interconnections among the players in the local search industry are as complicated as they could be. There are many layers of data and which one would be displayed to the front-end user might depend on the trustworthiness of the source, the completeness of the data, the recency of the data, or simply on how much you pay to the particular business directory. However, in some cases, the relations between data providers and “data displayers” are so tight that they could be called dominated, or one-provider networks. The power of the sole data provider in such networks might vary from “total domination” (i.e. no other player is allowed in any way within the network) to “pay-to-play” (i.e. it might be possible for someone else, including business owners, to infiltrate the network, but they would usually have to pay in some way to do so). But before going into actual examples, an explanation of why it is important to recognize and avoid, if possible, such networks.

Citation building and citation clean-up are naturally time-taking and frustrating tasks, but they could easily become even more so if one keeps stumbling on business listings that could not be updated in any way (this is especially painful if, for instance, you have moved to a new location and hordes of disgruntled clients keep going to the old one because there is your outdated information somewhere out there and you are unable to update it easily). It takes between 5 and 30 minutes for a person that has no experience to figure out how to create/edit/claim/remove a business listing from a business directory, depending on the user-friendliness of the site. However, on average, during my citation audits, I find 20+ business listings that are impossible to be updated, mostly because they are part of some closed business data exchange networks (or simply because they don’t have the technical sophistication or customer support to do so). If this was the first time I was seeing them and I didn’t know better, it would have been taking taking me additional 100 to 600 minutes to do something that would eventually lead to nothing each and every time. There are some easy ways to figure out which sites would be worth giving a try, and which ones would just lose one’s time, although in the majority of the cases you would just have to have gone through it the hard way to obtain the “knowledge”.

1. Local Corporation Network

One of the most prominent networks in the US is the one of Local Corporation (Local.com). Almost all of them have identical layout, which is relatively unique, and feature a footer that says:

“Copyright 2013 Local Corporation – US Patent Number 7,231,405. – Privacy Policy – Terms of ServiceSome data provided by Acxiom.”

Here are some examples of such websites:

http://businessdirectory.aspentimes.com

http://localdirectory.azcentral.com

http://yellowpages.azstarnet.com

http://local.billingsgazette.com

http://directory.broomfieldenterprise.com

http://directory.brushnewstribune.com

http://www.commercialappeal.com/

http://dailycamera.com/

http://daily-journal.com/

http://local.edmondsun.com

http://directory.eptrail.com

http://directory.fortmorgantimes.com

http://yellowpages.gazette.com

http://directory.gjsentinel.com

http://yellowpages.heraldextra.com

http://info.kndo.com

http://directory.journal-advocate.com

http://king5.com/

http://kmov.com/

http://yellowpages.kob.com

http://yellowpages.lajuntatribunedemocrat.com

http://local.mywebtimes.com

http://local.pantagraph.com

http://local.qconline.com/

http://localdirectory.madison.com/

http://local.meridianstar.com

http://directory.newsday.com

http://local.newsfirst5.com

http://directory.nh.com

http://yp.ocregister.com

http://local.pantagraph.com/

http://local.post-gazette.com/

http://qctimes.com/

http://businessdirectory.reporterherald.com

http://yellowpages.santafenewmexican.com

http://www.searchpeopledirectory.com

http://yellowpages.staradvertiser.com

http://localbusiness.starnewsonline.com

http://yellowpages.state-journal.com

http://local.stltoday.com

http://yellowpages.thedenverchannel.com

http://localbizsearch.timescall.com

http://local.times-news.com

http://local.trib.com

http://businessdirectory.vaildaily.com

http://local.vcstar.com

http://yellowpages.washingtonpost.com

http://yellowpages.examiner.net/

http://yellowpages.register-mail.com/

http://yellowpages.rrstar.com

http://ziphip.com

There is no way to update a listing directly on any of these. The only way is to do that via advertise.local.com. Once the information on local.com is updated, it takes between 1 day and a week for it to populate across the network.

2. MojoPages Network

Another network is the one of MojoPages. The sites that are part of it are easily distinguishable by the title “Powered by MojoPages” which is normally found on their homepages. Here are a few examples:

http://linktown.wvec.com/

http://mojo.myfoxchicago.com/

http://mojo.myfoxphilly.com/

http://yellowpages.ny1.com/

Like with Local.com’s network, there is no way to directly update these listings.

3. Acxiom Network

Acxiom, one of the three “old school” major business data providers in the US, is responsible for business data distribution across a large portion of the whole ecosystem. However, usually this data is mixed with other, and it is relatively rare that what Acxiom provides is displayed publicly. This is not the case for a small network of websites, which could easily be distinguished by the footer logo saying “DATA by ACXIOM”. Here are some examples:

http://www.allpages.com/

http://local.brainerddispatch.com/

http://www.courierpress.com/

http://local.dailypress.com/

http://local.herald-review.com/

http://local.onlineathens.com/

http://directory.pe.com

http://local.seattlepi.com

http://local.sfgate.com/

http://local.thebostonchannel.com

Again, as with Local.com and Mojopages, there is no way to update the listings directly.

4. Whitepages Inc Network

This is a small network that consists of just the following properties:

http://www.whitepages.com

http://www.switchboard.com

http://www.411.com

The only way to add or update a listing in this network is via ExpressUpdate (free, in the majority of the cases), or via Yext (not free).

To be continued…

Oct 272013
 

On Friday, Imprezzio Marketing reported that they are seeing “shrunk” Google+ Local search results in the organic local search results pages. At first I thought that might have been just a design change Google implements in an attempt to diminish even further the prominence of the +Local listings. However, when I looked into a number of search results, I realized this might not be the case, and what actually happened seems more like an across-the-board reversal to the old “7-pack” or “pure” local SERPs. For the ones that do not remember (or have never heard of) what these are, here is some history:

- Until September/October 2010, there was only one type of search results – “pure”. The rankings within the business listings search results in the organic SERPs were heavily influenced by factors such as completeness of the Google Local listing, number of citations, number of reviews, and (almost) not influenced by website-related factors.

- In October 2010, Google made significant change to their local search algorithm (or rolled out a brand-new, separate algorithm) and thus, two types of local SERPs started appearing – “blended” and “pure”. The blended SERP, in contrast with the pure one, was mainly influenced by factors such as website on-site optimization, and general authority of the corresponding company website.

- In January/February 2012, Google rolled out yet another major change to their algorithm(s) and the pure local SERPs disappeared almost completely. Thus, only blended SERPs were visible. That is, apparently, until last Friday (25 October 2013).

Here is a great visual overview of the differences between the two types of local SERP.

What makes me think this shift means returning back to “pure” SERPs, i.e. what is the evidence? Here are some:

1. I found many cases in which Google listings with no website associated with them rank high. Here are a couple of examples:
Woodbridge locksmith
plumber Rancho Cucamonga
Note: if the website associated with the listing is shown as “plus.google.com”, it means there is NO website associated with the listing.
If the SERPs were blended, this was almost impossible to happen, unless the competition was extremely low (i.e. there were no Google listings that have a website associated with them).

2. There are instances in which both the Google+ Local listing, and the corresponding landing page rank on first page in the organic search results. Here is an example:
personal injury attorney Seattle – notice the two results for deanstandishperkins.com
This can only happen if the SERP is NOT blended.

3. The “shrunk” size of the results themselves – I remember of only one instance when the Google+ Local listings search results have been displayed in smaller font, and this was when they were “pure”.

4. And I believe this is the strongest proof of all – ALL local search results I checked feature the business name from the Google+ Local listing. In the “blended” search results, the title of some search result changes to the title tag (or part of the title tag) of the corresponding website landing page.

Overall, if this change is kept this way, I would strongly suggest you look at citation building as an option, if you haven’t yet.

Oct 152013
 

The guys at Bright Local recently did an interesting survey. They invited 15 local search professionals, some of whom thought leaders in the industry (full list on the survey page), as well as myself. The questions revolved around local citations and citation building, and covered some more frequently asked questions about the best practices in this matter. While all results in graph form could be seen in the article Myles Anderson of Bright Local dedicated to the survey, I would just outline some of the intriguing findings:

- Citations are critical to local search rankings (check here for further reference) according to almost 70% of the respondents. None of them thinks citations are not important.

- Citations are rising in importance according to 44% of the respondents, while only 6% (which practically means 1 person; did they misclick?) think they are getting less important.

- Quality is more important than quantity of citations for 62% of the respondents, while less than 20% think it is the other way round. This opinion is further supported by the fact that 56% of the surveyed believe that a mix of updating existing citations and creating new ones is the best recipe for success, with another 38% agreeing that updating existing is more important than creating new citations.

- It is interesting to be noted that the opinions on which “type” of citation sources (national, niche, or local business directories) are most important, are mixed. 32% think national business directories are on top, while 25% place niche/industry-specific ones as priority. Local directories get 18%, while 25% believe all types are equally important.

- Building citations over time, rather than blast them out is a priority for 53% of the respondents, while 6% (again the same one from above?) believe one should “build as many as you can now”.

- Two very frequently asked questions also get their (relative) answer: according to 50% of the surveyed, having the business address perfectly formatted everywhere is important, but not critical (see here for reference); and according to approximately 60% – it is not important to add different description to each listing, and another 26% said it is important only for high value directories.

- According to 56% of the respondents “richness” of citations is very important, with only 12% thinking it is not important (this time the 6% person seems to have company). I have discussed previously about the “plenitude” of business data and its effect on the quality of particular citation.

Unfortunately, during the survey there was no option to add comments (or at least I missed it), so here are comments I would have added under some of the questions:

- For the question “What is more important – quantity or quality of citations?” I would have answered that although quality is crucial, if you do not have sufficient quantity of citations, quality won’t suffice. In many cases people set their profiles up on Yelp, Yellowpages, Yahoo! Local, and even Bing and Nokia, stuff them with as much information as they allow, and expect the job is done. Unfortunately, with citations, quantity is also an important factor, at least yet.

- For the question “Which type of sites are most valuable for citations?” – all of them are important, but they are important in different ways. National directories would help in setting up a strong basis without which any citation building campaign would be unstable, while niche/local directories could add unique value and one could gain edge over the competition.

- For the question “Is it more important to update existing wrong citations or build new correct citations?” – it very much depends on the situation. If you are starting with a brand-new business, getting new citations would be the only thing you would need to do, whereas if you work with an established 7-8+ years old business, especially if they have moved offices, used different phone numbers, or re-branded in the past, working on the already existing citations (which should be already too many) should be the (almost) only thing on one’s mind.

What do you think about the survey results? Are you more on the 6% responder side, or on the 50%+ side?

Sep 042013
 

I was recently invited by Myles Anderson to participate in “Enhanced Local Citation Building” – a webinar organized by InsideLocal (a cooperation between Bright Local and Local Search Forum). The webinar’s main topic will obviously be citation building, and the sub-topics will include:

- Why citations are so important to local search

- Enhanced optimization of local citations

- Researching & managing citation campaigns

My focus will be holistic citation building strategy – from the research process, through the actual implementation, to ongoing monitoring.
The webinar will be held on September 11, at 2pm EST (11am PST).  If you are interested in joining it, you could register via this form. You could also send questions that will be tacked during the Q&A session via the form here.

Citation Building Webinar

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.

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. For instance, SEOmoz paid subscribers can get Yext PowerListings for as low as $75/year. 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.

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.

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 072013
 

During my discussions with Ken Fagan an interesting question occurred: “How does one determine what business directory is a good citation source?” The obvious and shortest answer would be “Based on its quality.” But yet again – how do you determine the quality? What are the factors that could show you if one citation source is better than another? Here is a summary of what I think (the factors are not in particular order):

1. Number of the top ranking direct competitors having listings coming from the citation source.

There are numerous ways to discover what citations your competitors have and you can do this either manually, or use some local SEO tool(s). The best covered countries are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.

2. Number of businesses from the same business line or the same locale being listed on the particular citation source.

I did a small-scale research on the topic some time ago, after which Darren Shaw and David Mihm did two larger-scale ones (by city and by category). Unfortunately, all these researches present data for the United States only.

3. General popularity of the site.

While this is hard to determine (sometimes even for Google), one way to look into the problem would be to see how often particular business directory is mentioned in high quality lists. I did a research on the subject some time ago.

4. History of containing structured business information.

If the website’s primary purpose is to store business information then what Google would be expecting to find while crawling it would be business information. This way the chances that the mention of your business would be picked up as a “citation” by the search engine would be higher.

5. Size of the business database.

While such information might be hard to find in some cases, the major business data providers do share it publicly. Bigger business database might mean both more complete overall business data, and higher trust points in Google’s “eyes”. One approach to solving this problem would be to look into how many of the website’s pages are indexed in the search engines. EZ Local have done a relevant research (for US directory sites only).

6. Distribution network.

Or how many other websites the business data is shared with. A large network would mean that listing your business on the main directory would result in it eventually showing up on hundreds of web properties. David Mihm has been doing incredible job sharing insights into these networks in the United States and Canada (for now).

7. Time for a citation to be picked up by Google.

There is little information on this subject in general, and Google is not really keen on sharing any. David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal have done an incredible research on this subject in the US context.

8. Overall web traffic to the directory.

Reliable and accurate data on this subject is hard to find. Andrew Shotland, using data from Compete, compiled a list based on the traffic to different US business directories.

9. Domain authority of the website.

Higher domain authority would be a another signal that particular website is reliable and has a good history in the search engines. Tools, such as Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder and Bright Local’s Citation Tracker measure this authority based on third-party data and own research work.

10. Availability of claiming and editing process.

Many business directories do not have automated (or any) processes in place for claiming or editing already existing listings. This is a potential prerequisite for lower quality business data, and such websites usually do not have (almost) any editorial staff.

11. Number of business information bits that could be added to a listing.

This is a factor that Google reportedly takes into account when determining the value and trustworthiness of a citation. It also makes sense from content richness point of view, because if the website allows for more business information to be added, it means that the chances for unique content on the page to be shared are higher.

Conclusion

Going back to the beginning of the article – my discussion with Ken was related to researching business directories in France (in case you missed it, I shared such researches for Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany) and the difficulty in determining which ones would be most important and most worth it. Following the points outlined above, and with a decent amount of research, this problem could be solved for practically every market in the world.