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 222013
 

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

A. Issues with time frames for verification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. Issues with customer support.

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

- By using this form

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

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

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

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

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

2) Yahoo! Localworks

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Nov 082012
 

A couple of weeks ago Sergiu Draganus demoed to me a new tool that his team is building  – Local SERP Checker. What the tool does is basically displaying the first page results for particular keywords, simulating what users in specific cities would see if searching for those keywords. The tool provides both the “raw” list of ranking pages and an organized heat map (I am a fan of those) that shows pages from what domains rank across different locations:

Click to enlarge

The tool has the ability to display both organic and paid Geo-localized results for one or more keywords at a time. This provides the interesting opportunity to research and compare the difference between local intent keywords with and without Geo-modifier in the search query:

Click to enlarge

The tool can be used in a number of different ways for local SEO research purposes:

1. Discovering high ranking domains across different locations, which supplemented with further research of these high ranking domains could point to typical features and best practices that could be used in one’s own local SEO strategy.

2. Discovering local link prospects – indirect competitors, in the same niche but targeting different location could turn into valuable link prospects.

3. Local citations sources – I have previously discussed researching local citation sources and their relevance to a niche/location based on how they rank, and the Local SERP Checker tool can make this work much easier.

4. Competition analysis – as the tool provides the option to perform checks for a big number of keywords at the same time, this could help understand who the major local competitors are.

Some additional features include checking localized SERPs across countries, as well as simulating the localized rankings from the “viewpoint” of a mobile user.

Currently it is impossible to choose which cities one would like to choose to see the localized rankings for (the cities are predefined), but this is a feature that will be added during the next update (within 2 weeks, according to Sergiu). Other features that are on the way include keyword monitoring and alerts, keyword suggestion tool, integration with Google Maps, and advanced local link prospecting analysis reports.

The Local SERP Checker currently has a free version, as well as a number of paid plans.

Jul 032012
 

Probably the biggest relief in the daily life of a local SEO, who inevitably needs to go the citation building road, is the presence of a number of great tools. And what is even nicer is that most of them are available for free (or at least have free versions). I outline my 5 favourites together with a brief description of how each of them could be incorporated in the local citation building process.

GetListed.org Your LocalDashboard

Specifics: It immediately shows inconsistent business information across the following local directories and business data providers: Google+ Local, Bing Business Portal, Express Update, LocalEze, Yelp, foursquare, Yahoo! Local, Superpages, YP.com, Citysearch, HotFrog, Best of the Web. Information includes: name, address, phone number, and website accuracy, claim status of the listing, categories associated with the listing, photos associated with the listing. The tool has Canadian and British versions in beta, which cover respectfully Yelp.ca, YellowPages.ca, Brownbook, HotFrog.ca and Yelp.co.uk, Brownbook, HotFrog.co.uk.

Usage: Easy to make sure that the business information is consistent across the directories, covered by the tool.

Country Coverage: USA, Canada, UK

Price: Free

Additional Reading: How to Squeeze Maximum Google Places Love from GetListed.org Scans (by Phil Rozek), Manage Local Citation Sources Using GetListed.org (by Travis Loncar)

Yext Local Search Scorecard

Specifics: It does similar job to GetListed.org, but covers a wider range of websites, including (some of them duplicate with ones from GetListed.org and they are bolded): Yahoo! Local, foursquare, Yelp, WhitePages, MapQuest, Superpages, Citysearch, Yellowbook, Local.com, Patch, MerchantCircle, EZLocal, GetFave, LocalDatabase, ShowMeLocal, Topix, ZipLocal, CitySquares, LocalPages, MojoPages, Yellowise, YellowMoxie, Tupalo, Best of the Web, Yellowbot, Cliqsearch, Chamber of Commerce, USCity.net. Information includes:  name, address, and phone number accuracy, categories, website, description, photos, and special offer presence/absence.

Usage: Use it as an addition to what GetListed.org provides. Some of the websites this tool covers do not allow for direct free listing, unless you submit it via Yext.

Country Coverage: USA

Price: Free

Additional Reading: Yext & Local SEO (by Mike Blumenthal), Yext – A Good Way to Make Your NAP Consistent (by me)

Whitespark Local Citation Finder

Specifics: Discovers all citations for the top local competitors and orders them based on the number of occurrences per local business directory. It can also search for specific business’s citations based on their name and phone number.

Usage: Find local-specific and industry-specific directories based on where similar businesses are listed. Discover old and incorrect citations for your business.

Country Coverage: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and 37 other countries (including Bulgaria!)

Price: Free version + monthly packages of $20, $30, $40, and $100

Additional Reading: Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder Review (by Eric Covino), Local SEO Tools: Whitespark Local Citation Finder (by me)

Bright Local Citation Tracker

Specifics: Similar to the Local Citation Finder, but it allows you to track new citations over time. Additionally, it shows you the most important citations based on their “Citation Value”, which is a factor Bright Local calculates based on the number of occurrences of the particular business directory across their whole database of local citation sources.

Usage: Same as Local Citation Finder, but the citations they show frequently differ, so using both is important when doing research on old business citations.

Country Coverage: USA, Canada, UK, Australia

Price: Free trial version + monthly packages of $19.99, $34.99, and $64.99

Additional Reading: CitationTracker Video

 

SweetIQ (GetMeListed.net)

Specifics: Its functionality is similar to the ones of the above two tools. It provides a list of present and potential citations based on your local competition.

Usage: We’ve discovered that the tool seems to return the largest amount of results compared to the other tools. Unfortunately, the results, especially for the old citations, are not very ordered, so it is relatively more time-taking to browse through the raw data.

Country Coverage: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland, India

Price: Currently in free beta

Additional Reading: Get Me Listed Tutorial Video

*Note: Our Citation Building Guide features more information, tips, and tactics on how to use those tools for your local citation building strategy.

Dec 122011
 

Update: 13 Dec 2011, 4PM EST: Howard Lerman (CEO of Yext) confirmed that an expansion in Europe and Australia is scheduled. However, according to him this would not happen before 2013.

Today Yext launched their new enhanced PowerListings product – “Turbo”.Yext PowerListings That made me think it would be a good idea to write a small review about Yext in general and how their tools and products could help you in your local search efforts.

Skipping the early company history of Yext, they started becoming a significant factor in online local advertising when they introduced their “Yext Tags” about a year ago. It was a product, very similar to Google Tags (which were discontinued earlier this year). The package included a special offer featured next to the name of the business on different local business directories such as Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Citysearch, Mapquest, Superpages, and others. Later on, after the demise of Google Tags, Yext started promoting their PowerListings, which was very different from the initial product. The paid service included a unified center, where one could manage their listings across different platforms – a good way for multilocation companies to make their NAP (name, address, phone number) consistent. However, it didn’t make a lot of sense for a small business with 1 or even a few locations to purchase it. One of the main reasons was that the websites network was too small (9 local directories overall, including Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Citysearch, Mapquest, Superpages, Whitepages, Local.com, Yellowbook, Yellowbot).

At the same time Yext had (and still has) a nice free product called “Local Search Scorecard“, which could produce a report looking like this:

Yext Local Search Scoreboard

And this is completely free!

However, now with the new “Turbo” PowerListings, the package adds 21 more local search directories. The full list includes Foursquare, MerchantCircle, EZlocal, GetFave, LocalDatabase, ShowMeLocal, Topic, ZipLocal, CitySquares, LocalPages, MojoPages, Yellowise, YellowMoxie, Tupalo, Avantar, BestOfTheWeb, Co-Pilot, Cricket, HopStop, MetroPCS, Navmii and Where To. Furthermore, the update time has apparently been reduced. These two features seem to make even the paid product very attractive for every small business. The whole package is currently valued at $499/year and according to Yext the offer expires on 14th of December.

Here is an interview with Yext’s CEO Howard Lerman explaining the offer in more detail:

 

Aug 162011
 

Tools are making the lives of many local SEO specialists easier. I have decided to start a new series of articles dedicated to the tools of local search optimization. The one I’m going to start with is the Local Citation Finder from Whitespark. Here are the main reasons why:

- citations are a vital part of local SEO
- the Whitespark tool provides the most comprehensive and user-friendly citation building system I’ve seen
- after the July 2011 UI update on Google Places, the “More about this place” section was hidden which resulted into many other tools not working properly
- the Whitespark Local Citation Finder provides great opportunity for both checking one’s own citations and the ones of the main competitors

What is the Local Citation Finder and how it works

As its name suggests it discovers the online citations of other local competitors. Specifically these competitors whose Google Places pages rank on first page for the chosen keywords. After you sign up (literally takes 30 seconds) you will see the following screen:

Local Citation Finder Homepage

Click to enlarge

The list of countries available currently includes United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Chile, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey (Bulgaria and Romania were just included!).

After you choose the country, state/province, city and keyword, the tool will automatically generate your final search phrase using the keyword+city from the upper two blanks. After you are ready and press the search button, the following screen would appear:

Local Citation Finder Citation Search

Click to enlarge

Using the paid service

As you can see there is an option to “Go Pro”, i.e. to use the paid version of the tool. I personally use it for some time now and I am very satisfied with the results. The following screen explains the basic difference between the free and the paid service:

Local Citation Finder Pricing

Click to enlarge

The free service could be sufficient for small business owners, who don’t really need to do a lot of research on the competition and who are not involved full-time into local SEO. 3 keyword searches per day and top 30 citations would be completely enough. However, a business that has multiple locations in different cities, or local SEO specialist, who has numerous clients, the free service would not be sufficient. Depending on the number of listings that the particular person manages, there are three options of paid service. The most valuable features of the “pro” tool are:

- organizing searches into projects, good for different locations or clients
- the results are ready in a few minutes
- ability to see all the citations of all the competitors, which is very important when in a high competition market
- the tool automatically mark the citations that you already have
- ability see the citations of each one of the top 7 competitors separately
- ability to see the SEOmoz Domain Authority and Majestic SEO ACRank of each citation site, thus being able to determine which ones are valuable to be listed on – my favorite feature (for those who don’t know what Domain Authority or ACRank is, check here and here).

The results page for pro users

Local Citation Finder Results

Click to enlarge

You can order the results according to the number of occurrences (i.e. number of competitors that have this citation), AC Rank or Domain Authority. I’d suggest that you start with the directories with the highest number of occurrences and when you get down start checking the quality of these citation sources. Usually citations with DA lower than 10 are almost useless.

Regarding the competitor analysis, there are two ways to check on their citations:

1) By clicking on “View sources” next to their phone number – this way you can check the citations of each competitor separately

2) By clicking on the + sign next to the citation source URL – if you do that a table with the competitors that are listed on the particular website will show up

More features coming up

There are more features that are going to be released in the near future, including:

- Automatically Categorized Results – results organized into free directories, paid directories, blogs, etc.
- Consistency Check – automatically check all your existing citations to ensure the business Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are consistent on all sites.
- Weekly Reports – Receive a report once a week telling you which new citations are now appearing, and which ones have fallen out of Google’s index, for yourself, and for your competitors.
- More Sources – new query types to find local citations sources like blogs, newspapers, magazines, and local websites.

Darren (the creator of the tool) said that these will go live in the next 2-3 weeks, so I suggest that all head over and sign up.

For the geeky ones there is already a public API, which one could use for their own tools.

The Local Citation Finder provides practically anything one could need in terms of local citations, competitor analysis vis-à-vis citations, and citation building. The cool thing is that once you sign up the price stays the same even though the tool evolves.