Feb 252014
 

A thought to self: “I value honesty highly. Probably higher than almost everything. Unfortunately, this virtue is rarity nowadays.”

A few months ago (August 2013), I wrote an article named “What Actually Happens When One Cancels Yext“. It was based on a case study I conducted about the consequences of canceling a Yext PowerListings subscription. In that article, I also promised that I would be following up with the results of a manual citations clean-up I would complete in order to fix the mess left after Yext (you could see the state of the citation profile of the business in the original article).

Fast-forwarding to January 2014. I am now part of Whitespark. Howard Lerman (CEO of Yext) mentions to Darren Shaw (Owner of Whitespark –> my employer)  that “Yext did a waaaay better job fixing listings than Nyagoslav”. A few days later Howard also decides to post publicly something that is, let’s call it, slightly exaggerated:

He also decides to comment on the blog post with the case study. Then I realized that it was about time (and the only way) for me to explain publicly what happened with the Dawson Family of Faith case study.

Chronology of Events

- Background:
Spencer Belkofer of Lumen Interactive contacted me in late July 2013 to ask me for help with cleaning up the mess left after he unsubscribed one of his clients – Dawson Family of Faith, from Yext PowerListings. Spencer was disturbed by the fact that the service was not what it promised to be, and after about a month, and numerous disappointments, he canceled the subscription.

- August 13:
I officially started work on the clean-up (again, you can see all the details about the mess that was left after Yext’s cancelation in my post from August).

- August 19:
Almost all the clean-up work has been finished. As some of the listings had been claimed manually by the church (or by Spencer), and some of the listings needed different sorts of verifications, I sent an email to Spencer to ask him for help with obtaining this information (note: unfortunately, I didn’t have direct contact with Dawson Family of Faith, and they probably didn’t even know I existed).

- August 24:
This is the last time I received an email from Spencer.

- August 26, 2013 – January 30, 2014:
Tens of attempts to get in touch with Spencer. This included numerous emails in October, November, December, and January, as well as phone calls from December onwards. Some of the phone calls included leaving messages through the phone assistant service he has. Additionally, my emails and phone messages after October, included assurances that I do NOT want to get paid for the service (although I spent overall 50+ hours working on the case) and I just want to finish up everything.

- February 8, 2014:
First successful attempt for direct communication!!! However, it was not completed by me. When I realized Spencer was probably avoiding me (for whatever reason), I asked Darren Shaw to try to contact him. Spencer claimed that he had replied to me a number of times, and that he would send me another email in which he would carbon copy Darren. This was more than 2 weeks ago and neither me nor Darren have received any email from Spencer.

The Actual Job

As I mentioned, almost all the work had been completed by 19 August (6 days after the start of work). You could see the report (with passwords removed) below (Excel file):

Citation Clean-up Report Dawson Family of Faith

General statistics on the completed work:

Total listings worked on: 150
Listings successfully worked on (listing updated, or duplicate removed): 93
Listings pending update: 25
Listings pending removal: 20
Listings awaiting help from client: 12

Here is what was the state of the citations immediately after Yext’s cancelation:

18 correct listings (none of them complete)
119 incorrect listings
25 duplicate listings
4 Yext “locked” listings

The main reasons why some listings are still pending are:

- Site is not managed by anyone (webmaster or site owner). For instance, Directority.com have the following in their footer: “(C) 2009-2012 DIRECTORITY.COM”.
- Site does not honour claims coming from generic email accounts (for instance, @gmail.com). An example in the report are the two not-removed duplicates on Bing.
- Technical issues with the site that do not allow for the normal claiming/updating process to be completed. In those cases, whenever possible, an email (or numerous emails) has been sent either directly via email, or through an online contact form, to request for updates. Such types of communication usually do not work for sites that have technical issues, because those sites usually fall into the first category above.

My Takeaways

I learned important “citation clean-up” lessons from this experience:

- Never rely on your client to provide you what they promised to provide you. It is possible they won’t. Before you start any work with them, insist that they provide you all the necessary information for you to get going.

- Insist for email under company’s domain. Many citations cannot be claimed/updated/removed if you do not possess such an email. Sites such as Bing and ShowMeLocal rarely honour duplicate removal requests coming from generic email accounts (@gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @hotmail.com).

- Make specific arrangements for how phone verification will be completed PRIOR to starting work on any project.

What are your takeaways? What would you do in this case?

Jan 062014
 

Some of my readers that have been following my blog for long time might have been expecting that around this time of the year I would post the “Best Articles of the Year” compilation (like I did in 2011 and 2012). Unfortunately, I will not. Instead, I am writing this official announcement for the closing of NGS Marketing.

I will start with the reasons and I will try to be as thorough as possible:

1. The business

My business has been growing well over the last two years. After I left OptiLocal, the first few months were difficult, but afterwards everything “skyrocketed”, I hired a few people to help me with the workload (full- or part-time), and in October I had 2 full-time and 3 part-time employees. Thus, one of the reasons is definitely not the lack of business or the lack of opportunities. However, there were two major problems that occurred, which I didn’t manage to predict:

- I had to start managing people (“human resources”, “management”), rather than do what I like (“SEO”)
- The majority of the work that was coming my way was of the kind that takes time, but the turnover is low (profit per actual working hour is very low)

My plan when I started my business was, like with many others in the industry, to offer lower rates in the beginning, and then gradually start increasing them when the leads volume increases. However, due to a possible reason I outline below, prospects of the kind that would be ready to spend considerable budgets on online marketing never started coming by. And while I haven’t had the opportunity to make a market research and discover why this has been so, I am positive it has something to do with me being located at the other side of the world. In fact, on average I have been missing 15 phone calls from potential clients per week, and have very rarely been able to schedule calls in proper times with clients that “just need to be closed”. This all due to the fact that the time difference between me and my “main market” (note: not by design) was 12 to 16 hours (depending on the time zone and the season – there is no daylight saving in Malaysia). This marked major problem #1.

My plan certainly included hiring people to help me with different tasks, but I had encountered problems with this aspect, too. SEO, in general, is not popular in Malaysia. In fact, online marketing as a whole is not popular, and is mostly associated with “spam”, “cheating Google”, “tricking Google” (most frequently used phrases when I mention I do SEO). After all, I live east of India, and west of The Philippines.

My Location vs. Spam

Thus, I had major problem finding people that would have any experience or knowledge related to SEO. I spent a few hundred dollars and as many hours in the search for suitable candidates, but in the end the options were scarce at best. It is not to be forgotten that besides the talent-finding problem, there were also lingual and cultural barriers. I live in Johor Bahru, the second largest city in Malaysia, but it has (un)fortunate geographical closeness with Singapore, and the majority of talent moves there, or in Kuala Lumpur, as a second option. Therefore, I didn’t have the chance to find someone who could take over the “executive” position for one of my two main “branches” of responsibilities – managing the business, or doing SEO. This marked major problem #2.

2. Personal satisfaction

While I planned that at some point in the future I had to hire people to help me with the workload, I didn’t want to become “manager”. I wanted to do as much hands-on work as possible and leave the management to someone else. Above, I already mentioned that the lack of talent (not just in SEO, but in almost every niche) restricted me from being able to hire a person that could take over this responsibility. Thus, gradually I started doing less hands-on work, and more distribution of tasks. And here came major problem #3 – dissatisfaction. I was trying to handle both management and as much hands-on work as possible on my own, which in times led to poor results.

3. Sustainability

I started realizing that my business was unsustainable. Everything depended largely on myself and if I was missing even for one day, the operations of my business would drastically slow down, or completely stop. This was largely my fault, because I like to be aware of everything and I like to distribute tasks based on my everyday observations on each member of my team. I do not like to rely on others, and it is hard for a person to earn my complete trust. I underestimated this flow in my character, and the results were devastating. In late September I got very sick and was unable to do any work for more than a week. At that time, everything related to my business was “frozen”. When I returned to work, I had about 40 overdue tasks ranging from undelivered reports to not-even-started work, more than 500 emails, and employees that were unable to help me, because I was generally handling all this by myself. Problem #4 – unsustainability of my business model.

4. Crime, economic, political and social problems in Malaysia

On the surface of it, living in Malaysia is great – equatorial climate, good food, ethnocutural diversity, relatively good development (overall wealth of the nation), average cost of living. You could hardly ask for more than this, could you? However, when you dive below the surface, you could discover the following deep problems:

- Crime – Malaysia currently ranks 9th in the “Crime Index by Country 2013” research by Numbeo (note – the index is based on people’s perception, not on official statistics). Johor Bahru (the city I live in) ranks 4th in the same research in the “by City” research. According to locals, crime rates have been increasing significantly in the past few years, which is partly, or fully, a consequence of the other problems I enlist below. My sister-in-law’s bag was snatched from her in front of my mother-in-law’s house when she was already within the auto-gate, i.e. she was inside the fenced yard. That was the day before my wedding, and while the whole family was gathered in my mother-in-law’s house. Snatch thieves are everywhere and as almost none of them is ever detected, they become bolder and more violent. Cases of babies/toddlers kidnapping appear in media weekly. Large problem #5.

- Economy and politics – Malaysia’s economy is in a downturn. Reasons are many, but the main one appears to be poor management of country’s abundant resources by the government. The ruling coalition (UMNO) has been in power for the past 55 years (ever since Malaysia’s Independence) and they have never lost a parliamentary election (Malaysia is a parliamentary non-hereditary monarchy). However, in order not to lose the ones in 2013, they allegedly imported large number of foreigners (mainly from Bangladesh), and there were rumors of them falsifying the results in some districts in order to gain more places in the current parliament. Let’s consider this problem #6.

- Society – Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, with the majority of the population being Malay, predominantly Muslim, hence the official religion in the country is Islam. About 25% of the population is of Chinese ethnicity, spread unevenly, and Chinese are usually the de facto majority in the main cities. About 10% are Indian, and the rest are different local ethnic groups from Northern Borneo. As the “M” in the ruling party’s name means “Malays”, it could be predicted that they would mostly be defending the rights of the Malay majority. A famous term used to describe this racial bias (which is generally not supported by the constitution of the country, but is evident in many controversial laws and government practices) is “Affirmative action“. This affirmative action constitutes of (but not limited to) the following (entirely based on my personal observations):

a) The enormous majority of government workers and police officers is of Malay origin, or is Muslim, so-called “Bumiputera” (because according to the Malaysian Constitution one is a Bumiputera “if one of the parents is Muslim Malay/Orang Asli as stated in Article 160 (2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus the child is considered as a Bumiputra”; thus, many Indian Muslims also manage to obtain Bumiputera status), leading to any kind of problems you could imagine it could lead to.

b) Bumiputera are given privileges when it comes to buying properties – special discounted rates, lots are reserved for them for particular period of time (these lots are usually the best ones in a condominium or in a housing area).

c) Bumiputera are given privileges when it comes to applying for public university admission. I am not entirely sure how the system works, but I have heard stories of Chinese or Indian not being admitted to public universities with 30+% higher overall scores than their (mainly) Malay counterparts that have been provided admission. Again, this leads to all sorts of problems you could think of, the most scary of which is the fact that very frequently nurses in hospitals might have been admitted with a 50% score in their high school diploma. Additionally, the majority of the scholarships are Bumiputera-only.

d) In order to apply for particular government project (think anything from infrastructural development to website development), a company needs to be Bumiputera-owner.

Read more about Bumiputera here, and take this as #7.

5. Why Not Bulgaria?

Some that know I am from Bulgaria might ask this, and the answer is relatively simple – because there, the situation is worse. Bulgarian socioeconomic problems are much deeper than the ones in Malaysia, and while in Malaysia it is mostly about racial issues (Hi, 21st century!), in Bulgaria it is about unresolved mentality-related problems left mostly from the 45-year Communist spell-into-oblivion. And these problems run from the prime minister (Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic) down to the executive mail-boy. In this sense, I would say the chances of Malaysia getting up and going back to the right way are higher than those of Bulgaria. Yes, Bulgaria is part of the European Union, but in many key economic areas it is tightly knotted in the cold and unloving hug of Mother Russia.

What I Chose and Why I Chose It

About three months ago, I made up my mind. We had discussed a number of times moving away with my wife, but at that point (immediately after my severe health issues) I was sure the move should be done as soon as possible. We needed to determine a proper action plan. Obviously, the best would have been if I have found a job that would have fit my exact desires and to do what I am (hopefully) good at – local SEO. We decided that our main targets would be Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – because of the high living standard, low language barrier, and the fact that SEO in general is not that popular in other areas of the world. You might have already noticed the notable omission of the US and the UK. We just believed these two were not exactly what we were looking for.

At that time, I was hoping that I would be able to find some job, related to SEO (not necessarily local). The opportunities were probably better to try as an in-house SEO for some major company, rather than look for a marketing agency employment. The bigger the company, the higher the chances they would be willing to go through the hassle of hiring a foreigner. Thus, without even having the vaguest hope that I would be finding a job related to *local* search, I dropped a fast email to Darren Shaw explaining him that I am looking for opportunities, as he was one of my longest “local search” buddies, and I knew he has contacts with a lot of people that are frequently on the look for a lot of things. We set up a call to discuss about it and he offered me to join Whitespark and move to Canada. Such an offer was a no-brainer for me as this was practically what I had been secretly hoping for:
- Job, very similar to/same as the one I have been working and loving
- Living in a peaceful, ordered, safe, and unfathomable country full of picturesque sights (eh!)
- Working together with someone I know and trust, and I know is reliable

In fact, I could hardly think of a place I would like to work at more than at Whitespark.

So here we are in the beginning of January and my first day as a Whitesparker! (I will have to consult with Darren if “Whitesparker” is the correct expression). You could read more about the move in the official announcement.

Miscellaneous

As Whitespark offer very similar services to the ones I have been offering, I recommend to all the people that have been considering working with me to go on and contact Whitespark. The following contact options are available:

US Phone: (855) 406-6050
Canada Phone: (877) 336-3505
Email: support@whitespark.ca

Here are the links to the service pages:
Local SEO
Citation Building
Web Development
Citation Audit and Cleanup (Coming later this week!)

Ngsmarketing.com will stay online for the time being and everyone would be able to access my Citation Building Guide through it, as well as all the articles. However, from now on I will be posting on the Whitespark Blog, so I encourage all the subscribers to NGSMarketing’s blog to jump over.

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?

Aug 212013
 

A few days ago ICANN approved 95 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Among these were the first ever city-name TLDs – .hamburg and .cologne. I initially read about this in an article by Dennis Tippe (in German), which made me think seriously about the implications these TLDs could potentially have on local SEO.

It is well-known that one of the main ways for search engines to determine the relevancy of particular website to particular country is by looking at the TLD. For instance, it is relatively certain that the domain joeshairsalon.ca is owned by a Canadian person/business and most probably caters to Canadian audience. Here is an interesting video of what Matt Cutts says about TLDs and how they help Google understand the relevancy of the domain to particular language or region:

Here is another video answer by Matt Cutts on how Google would be treating the new TLDs:

Additionally, Google themselves have been applying for a number of TLDs and one of the main reasons (in their own words) is improving user experience.

Therefore, it is fair to think that Geo-TLDs, and specifically city-name TLDs might have major effect on a site’s rankings in future. Why in future? Because as Matt says in the second video above, Google will have to first learn how to treat these TLDs, which might take some time.

An interesting check in the current application status database of new gTLDs of ICANN shows that there are a number of other city-name TLDs pending approval, such as:

.nyc
.miami
.london
.melbourne
.sydney
.berlin
.hamburg
.wien
.zuerich
.stockholm
.paris
.amsterdam
.madrid
and others.

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. Yahoo! Local offers the same service, white-labeled as Yahoo! Localworks, at $89.95/quarter.

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

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

Jul 222013
 

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

A. Issues with time frames for verification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. Issues with customer support.

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

- By using this form

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

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

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

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

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

2) Yahoo! Localworks

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

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

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

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

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

May 222013
 

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

Here is a little background on why this is important:

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

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

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

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

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

Yelp

Unclaimed Yelp Listing

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

Superpages

Unclaimed Superpages Listing

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

Show Me Local

Unclaimed Show Me Local Listing

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

Mojopages

Unclaimed Mojopages Listing

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

Claimed Mojopages Listing

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

Merchant Circle

Unclaimed Merchant Circle Listing

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

MapQuest

Unclaimed MapQuest Listing

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

Local.com

Unclaimed Local.com Listing

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

Claimed Local.com Listing

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

GetFave

Unclaimed GetFave Listing

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

Claimed GetFave Listing

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

Foursquare

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

Unclaimed Foursquare Listing

Claimed Foursquare Listing

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

EZLocal

Unclaimed EZLocal Listing

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

Claimed EZLocal Listing

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

CitySquares

Unclaimed CitySquares Listing

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

Citysearch

Unclaimed Citysearch Listing

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

Instead of a Conclusion

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