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, 2020 - 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?

  16 Responses to “Dawson Family of Faith and Learning the Hard Way”

Comments (16)
  1. Nyagoslov,

    I understand that @howard would be a bit defensive given that Yext is his baby. Had I known of your issue prior to you posting this I would have told you a quote I learned from a matchbook cover (hi value!) - “Never defend yourself, your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.”
    You have a reputation in Local search that was earned by doing. Yext is a sales company with a service to sell. I do not think you will be affected by his tweeting or chirping, your rep preceded the work on Dawson.
    As to clients not following through, that is the reason anyone in our world needs process. You need clear instructions to clients re responding, etc. With any project we handle for a client, there are deliverables on each side. If on a website build they do not approve the sitemap, there will be no comp, etc.
    Stop defending yourself, leave that to those of us who work in the industry and know your work. (BTW - I do not know Nyagoslov personally and we have had only one email communication in the last two years).

    • Thanks for your comment, Robert.

      This post is by no means with the sole purpose of defending myself. I was planning to post it long before those interactions with Howard Lerman, they just prompted me to do so. I had promised I would post a follow-up with the results of my clean-up and I hadn’t done it (because of the problems mentioned in the post), so I used the opportunity.

      I completely agree with you regarding process and deliverables. My process for citation clean-up was, I dare to say, well laid out, and it was extremely rare that problems of that sort occurred. Some part of the process was (and still is) heavily dependent on the involvement of the client, and in some cases clients did not want to cooperate. I made it clear it hurt only them. In this case, however, the problem was that the situation was public, and we had a pre-arranged agreement with the client that I would have their cooperation to get this whole process to a good end.

      I hope this clarifies the matter!

  2. Great post and I feel your pain, I have attempted several clean up jobs after clients cancelled their Yext contract and all though it is not easy I have been able to complete the process about 90 percent every time due to similar issues that you mention. The aggravating part about citation building; is that Yext seems to be acquiring many of the citation destinations and you can’t sign up unless you use their listing services.

    • There are a number of sites in Yext’s network that allow adding/updating of listings only via Yext. However, the importance of these from local SEO standpoint is minimal. For the ones that are more important, like Yahoo! Local, MapQuest, or Local.com, there are different workarounds :)

    • Surely YEXT is grabbing up all the inferior directories, and yes, you can’t do anything unless you work through them. Technically, this is prohibited under Google’s policies and clearly equates to “purchasing links”. This should be reported or checked into by someone. It just may force the hand of YEXT to stop deleting listings when a subscription is cancelled…

  3. Nyagoslov,

    That the original response from Howard was cc’d to Mike Bumenthal and David Mihm kind of cracked me up. Obviously some of the most respected names were asking the same question.

    When I first came back to internet marketing, I was catching up on all things SEO and the one thing being said was never give up total control of your listings to anyone, as they can walk away from you at anytime.

    So when Yext started this service I kind of wondered if it didn’t “smack” of the same thing, and thought time would tell. It has, and thanks for toughing it out.

    Gabriel - I agree with you that Yext seems to be acquiring exclusivity to site destinations. Frsutrating.

    Your Takeaways are spot on. First-hand lessons I have learned. The toughest is always the company email.

    Asking what I would do in this case, thinking about how I work, I would have done nothing differently. Your tenacity in attempting to do the best possible job despite lack of communication is commendable.

    I am happy for your move to Whitepsark. I have utmost respect for both you and Darren Shaw and wish you well.

    • Thanks for the kind comment, Holly.

      That Twitter conversation is actually quite long, and there are many accounts that are @-ed in it. Two of them are Mike Ramsey’s and David Mihm’s.

  4. Nyagoslov,

    I commend your integrity.

    Cleaning up messes seems to be the core work for those of us doing local seo. The frustrations are compounded by the fact that most clients do not understand the complexities of the mess. On one particular project I’m involved with another vendor had labeled the local optimization work as “low level of difficulty.” My head almost exploded. Of course, the perceived low level of difficulty is most often the cause of the messes.

    Keep up the good work, and best of luck at Whitespark.


    • Bill, I agree - the misconception of this being of minor value and/or of low difficulty is one of the main reasons for poor results. Underestimation in general is.

  5. Hi Nyagoslav,

    Good post again. Anyone who has worked on citation cleanup knows what happens when someone discontinues Yext. Dupes are a BIG issue.


  6. Keep up the good work and good effort, Nyag. I saw that set of interactions on twitter. It seemed to come out of the blue to me. Was there some subsequent yext activity with that smb?

    You have a big fan here. Just keep it up.

    • Thanks, Dave. I am not sure if there was subsequent Yext activity related to that business. I had access to the email I used for claiming of the listings, and there were 50+ marketing emails from different Yext reps sent to that email between August 2013 and January 2014.

  7. So I have a yext power listing that I paid for. I moved 5 months ago and am currently going through a clean up process of changing old address with new address for citations. I will be hiring a company to assist with this. Should I cancel my Yext account before doing the clean up and building? Is there any preemptive measures to take before canceling Yext? My business has suffered since the move should i just keep on with Yext to minimize any possible damage to citations on the networks if I cancell?

  8. how much duplicate citations hurt local seo ? How does it hurt it ? I have some duplicate items but did not know it counted for much .

  9. It seems claiming a listing on MerchantCircle is not free anymore.It now costs $9.91 per month

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