Nov 272013
 

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

Yahoo Localworks Pushed

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

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

MapQuest Yext Pushed

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 112013
 

Yahoo Small BusinessYahoo! Local seems to be going from bad to worse. When a few months ago owner verification was introduced to substitute the preceding moderated manual-only verification, I still had hope that things at Yahoo! Local are improving. Later on, when I realized that the turnaround times for the local listings to get verified, approved, updated are close to unacceptable, that hope started dying off. Today my hope is completely gone.

A few days ago Yahoo posted the following message in their Local Listings Help Topics center:

Currently the review time for Enhanced Listings is 3-5 business days and for Basic Listings the turn around time is between 8-10 weeks.

In other words, if you are not using their paid service, you might need to wait 2+ months for any sort of update. This, combined with the fact that Yahoo! Local’s verification postcards take between 4 weeks and never to arrive, means that if your local listing information is currently wrong, the chances are good that it will stay so for at least the next 3 months. Did I also mention that phone support, in any form, is not available to non-paying customers?

Having all this in mind, here is an interesting accidental case study I had the opportunity to be an active observer in:

I was recently working with a business with 300+ locations, helping them set their profiles on some of the main business directories, Yahoo! Local being among them. The turnaround time I reported above was relatively accurate in this case:
- 4-6 weeks for the postcards to arrive (if ever)
- Afterwards, 6-10 weeks for the moderators to approve the changes

The bad news come when the moderators decline the changes. Note that in the mentioned case all the information is checked and verified with the business management, and the structure of the submitted information is the same, i.e. between listing A and listing B, the only difference is the address and the phone number (and potentially the working hours). And there came the question – why some of the listings have been approved, and some were declined. The decline reasons included:

Reason 1. Please see the Local Listing Guidelines for more information. If a Marketing Dashboard is associated with this listing, it will be canceled. Paid Reputation Tracker Pro and/or Local Visibility Pro services for your Marketing Dashboard (if any) will also be canceled and a refund will not be provided.

Reason 2. 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.

Both of these were invalid reasons in any of the cases. However, as the turnaround time for re-verification and re-approval is 3 months, this means that it may take more than half a year in cases like these for the listings to (potentially) be approved and updated.

In my opinion, this is very bad even per Yahoo’s standards.

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).

Oct 092012
 

Duplicate listings can very easily turn into the plague of the online marketing of every local business. They not only often feature old or incorrect and misleading information, but could also potentially “transmit” this information to other sites, thus spreading it throughout the whole ecosystem and ultimately reaching Google’s local data cluster, which could be devastating for business’s local search rankings. Unfortunately, getting rid of such duplicates has proven to be more difficult than any other process related to local listings – adding, claiming, or editing them. Additionally, there is currently no automated service that deals with this problem, so manual clean-up is the only way to go.

Why removing duplicates is so difficult?

There are a few main reasons for this:

1) Making it easy for people and businesses to remove listings from a business directory could very easily backfire and cause the loss of data that has been paid for. Therefore, it is not of the websites’ own interest to offer such a service.

2) Many business directories lack the technology to solve complicated problems with business data and prefer to ignore them rather than invest into trying to fix them (Google itself is an example of a company that has been ignoring the importance and complexity of the problem for way too long).

3) While websites might lack the technology to solve the problem with duplicate listings, they might also lack the human resources to maintain the process via some sort of customer service.

These, together with the fact that many websites are left without (almost) any editorial backing make the process tedious and frustrating. I myself am dealing with it daily and I have a list of good practices for removing duplicate listings on a number of the most important business directories on the web and as I know many others share the same burden I am sharing a few tips here.

Which websites am I covering here and why?

I will definitely not cover the whole list of business directories (note: this article covers predominantly US business directories), but just the ones I consider to be of the highest importance and at the same time have a rather troublesome process of listings removal, plus the ones where I normally find the highest numbers of duplicate listings.

Yelp

The site is notorious for the problems it causes to businesses when they want to remove their listings, usually for the purpose of getting their negative reviews gone, too. In the majority of the cases the answer coming from Yelp is “No”. However, there is a mechanism to get this done in the cases when the listing is a duplicate. You simply have to go to the contact form and choose “Duplicate business listing” from the drop-down menu. After this you’d need to use the search option to locate the two listings – the original one you’d want to keep, and the duplicate one and select them. Normally these get solved within 1-2 weeks.

Citysearch

The site, while hosting one of the largest business databases, has no official system for getting duplicates removed. The fastest way to deal with the problem would be to send them an email at myaccount@citygridmedia.com. Unfortunately, answers are not regular and frequent, so it might take some time and a few attempts to get this done. Another way, which is unofficial and might take you to a sales agent rather than to the desired destination (hopefully a customer service rep or a tech), is to call the company’s phone number 800-611-4827.

Superpages

Similarly to Citysearch, Superpages does not have a system in place to get duplicate listings removed. The best way I’ve found to get this resolved is by calling the customer service phone number: 800-428-8722.

Yahoo! Local

Yahoo’s mechanism is pretty clear when it comes to listing removal (unlike the mechanism for getting a listing verified). You have to go to the Local Listing Removal Request Form, choose “Business Moved” from the drop-down menu, and fill in the form.  Then it usually takes about 2-4 weeks for the listings to be taken down.

MapQuest

The process is again rather simple (once you discover where to start, of course): simply go to the Report an Issue page, tick “Business Listing/Location Issue” and describe the problem in the box at the bottom.

LocalEze

To get a listing “closed” you’d first need to verify your ownership over it. After you are done with that, you’d need to go to the “Manage Listings” dashboard and under “More Actions”, click on “Close Listing”:

Yellowbot

This one is a bit more complicated. You’d need to locate the duplicate listing and click on “Help us make it right” at the bottom of the page (note that you’d first need to register to the website, because you will be practically sending a user edit). On the next page, scroll to the bottom and click on “Submit corrections” and a window will be prompted asking if you are the business owner. Answer with a “No”. At the next page choose “Duplicate” from the drop-down and in “Reason for change” box fill in the URL to the original, correct listing.

MerchantCircle

This is my “favorite” in terms of number of duplicate listings. This is one of the reasons why I was so amazed to see it topping this research by Yext. The mechanism for removing those is, however, relatively easy. You have to go to the Remove a Business Listing, search for the duplicate(s), and after this simply mark them and send them for deletion. All this seems fine, but unfortunately, according to my experience the site is very slow at taking action on these reports and at the same time they are virtually unreachable via phone or email.

HotFrog

The mechanism for removing a listing is very well outlined in the FAQ of the site, so I will just cite it here:

“If you do want to leave though, login and click on ‘My account’ once you’ve logged into the dashboard. From there click on ‘Remove your free profile’ and follow the instructions.”

Therefore, you’d need to first have the listing claimed before being able to delete it.

EZLocal

The site does not have a system in place for removing duplicates, but calling customer service at 877-416-2378 and looking for Denise has proven to be a very nice and easy way to solve one’s problems.

Ones I haven’t Discovered Solution for

Besides these there are a couple of more websites, which often feature incorrect duplicate listings – Citysquares.com and GetFave.com. Unfortunately, my attempts to find a solution to this problem have always failed up to now. It appears that the easiest way to get this issue fixed is by simply editing the duplicate(s), including the correct information in each of them.

Have you had problems with removing a listing from some of these websites, or from other ones? Have you solved them in some more effective ways?

*Note: Our Citation Building Guide features more information, tips, and tactics on how to deal with duplicate listings and data consistency.

Aug 282012
 

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

Which Sites Were Researched

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

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

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

Methodology of the Research

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

Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Google Maps (=)

2. Bing Local (+1)

3. Thomsonlocal (+5)

4. Qype (+3)

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

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

9. Scoot (-4)

10. 118.com (-1)

11. Foursquare (=)

12. 192.com (=)

13. DNB (+1)

14. The PhoneBook (-1)

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

 

Takeaways

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

Aug 062012
 

While Google is gradually cleaning the mess with Plus Local (a step-by-step guide on how to help them in this endeavor by Mike Blumenthal here, and an official one here – I prefer Mike’s guide), Yahoo is adding new features to its Yahoo! Local Listings product. I noticed the last week that when you submit a new listing to Yahoo! Local, or when you claim an already existing one, you are now prompted to verify your ownership:

The email verification is a good and convenient option, which neither Google, nor Bing currently provide.

What does this addition mean? First, it should generally take much shorter time for a listing to be verified and published (in case you choose any other option than the postal mail one). Previously, the process was being completed manually by Yahoo’s moderators and in some cases this was taking well over a month. Apparently, the moderators’ job will now be eased, and most probably some of them will be relocated and/or discarded.

In addition to these changes, the overall layout of Yahoo! Local’s business dashboard has been improved. The enhanced listings ads are now much more prominent than before and getting a preview like the one below is part of the listing creation process:

I have always recommended the enhanced listings. They are a no-brainer at less than $10 per month (previously there were further discount offers, too), although they do not really help in the Yahoo’s local search rankings.

I feel like these improvements have something to do with Marissa Mayer (ex-Vice President of Local at Google) becoming CEO of Yahoo.

Jan 022012
 

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

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

General Local SEO & Local SEM

Onsite Local SEO

Link Building for Local SEO

Content Strategies for Local SEO

Google Places

Citations for Local SEO

Reviews for Local SEO & SEM

Bing Business Portal

Tracking and Monitoring of Local SEO

Local Search Statistics

Local Paid Search

Our Local SEO Articles

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

General Local SEO & Local SEM

Local Search Ranking Factors (David Mihm)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Search Explained (Alan See, Networking Exchange Blog)

Onsite Local SEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link Building for Local SEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Strategies for Local SEO

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

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

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

Google Places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citations for Local SEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews for Local SEO & SEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bing Business Portal

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

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

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

Tracking and Monitoring of Local SEO

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

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

Local Search Statistics

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

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

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

Young Men Lead Location-Based Service Adoption (eMarketer)

Why Your Business Listings Are Probably Wrong! (Yext)

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

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

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

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

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