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:
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:
— Howard Lerman (@howard) August 5, 2020
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.
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.
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.
You could download the raw data from here:
A. Before the cancellation
- 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.