There have been a lot of opinions expressed on the importance of Yext for local SEO (you can read Mike Blumenthal’s and David Mihm’s, for instance). However, I haven’t seen anyone tackling the more fundamental problems behind the platform. I will try to explain some of them in more detail. In this article, I will try to explain them in more details. But first, I should make a clear disclaimer - I do offer manual citation building service, which might be viewed as a “competing” service to the Yext’s core one (although I would argue on this matter, but that’s not the point). Nevertheless, everything I write is from as a neutral point of view as possible.
What does Yext offer?
Yext offers a service called “Power Listings”, which syndicates business information across a network of 40 local search platforms. These platforms include both Internet yellow pages types of sites, such as Yahoo Local, Superpages, Whitepages, Local.com, and social network and review types of sites, such as Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, and others. The service includes a neat dashboard, which monitors traffic to each of the listings, as well as reviews on them. However, the biggest advantage of Yext has always been the speed with which the information is being spread and/or rectified across the network.
What are the positives?
As I mentioned above, the speed with which the information is being synced is unique. For most of the sites it goes live practically instantly, and for almost all of the others it gets updated in a few hours. Additionally, the information that could be syndicated includes special offers, photos, and videos, and some of these elements are not available on a number of the local search sites, even for paying customers, i.e. the only way to get them to appear on one’s listing is via Yext. The statistics that the platform provides could also be valuable, especially when considering the service’s value.
What are the negatives?
The positives pretty much end with what I described above. Here is a list of some of the most significant negatives:
1) Service’s updates - Yext’s service is in an ever-going improvement, which by itself is great. New sites are regularly being added to the network. But what happens if you have purchased a package when the network consisted of only 12-13 platforms? As far as I understand, you are going to stay only with these for at least until your one year’s subscription ends. I understand that from Yext’s point of view that makes sense - they don’t have to pay a bulk sum of money to the newly added to the network sites, because of some old customers that would anyway not pay anymore (at least for a year) after their initial payment. However, it totally doesn’t make sense from the point of view of these customers. And if I were them, I was going to be unhappy with the service, too.
2) The network - while Yext’s network includes a number of the most important business directories, it also misses a few important ones. These include Yellowpages, Insiderpages, Kudzu, Manta, to name a few. Furthermore, the network’s size is very small compared to the overall number of local business directories out there. Whitespark‘s Local Citation Finder finds 245 citation sources per keyphrase on average. Of course, some of these are unusable, or not business directories, but even if 50% of them are, this would mean that in any given niche there are at least 100-120 business directories, where a business could get a listing from. Yext’s network covers 40, but this number is rather questionable. A couple of examples: 411.com and Switchboard.com which are advertised as platforms part of the service, actually get data directly from Whitepages and Superpages, respectfully, and there is no way for a business to get a listing on any of them directly. Furthermore, the service won’t work in the cases when one has an enhanced listing for their business on some of the most important websites: Yahoo, Yelp, Superpages, Citysearch, Local.com, Merchantcircle, Ziplocal, Tupalo.
3) NAP consistency - the main advantage of the service is that it rectifies the business information across Yext’s network, thus helping up the local search rankings (I have previously discussed the value of citations for local SEO). I have been “promoting” the Local Search Scorecard, an instant scanning service Yext offers for free, as a useful local SEO tool, too. But if we look deeper, we could see that there are fundamental problems with the Power Listings service and its helpfulness in terms of keeping one’s business NAP consistent. How the service works is:
- It scans all the network’s websites for the specified business information (name, address, phone number).
- It determines the best matching listings (if any) on each website and highlights them.
- It then syncs the data input via the dashboard on all these websites, updating the listings that previously have been determined as best matching, and “filling in” with new listings where it was unable to find matching ones.
The three main problems here - first, it is possible that Yext’s scanning will not find the correct listing (happens often when the same business has two offices in the same city, or when a business has been using the same phone number for more than one of their locations); second, it is possible that Yext’s scanning will not find any listing, although there is one (happens if NAP is very inconsistent); third, it is possible that there are duplicates, and as Yext finds only one listing per website, these won’t be taken care of (happens almost in every single case). What this all means is that the chances for Yext to not clear up your NAP completely, or to actually screw your other location’s NAP, are pretty high. I haven’t made a large scale research on this matter, but according to my observations there are at least a few wrong or correct duplicates for a business in at least 80% of the cases. The sites with most duplicate listings (not just from Yext’s network, but overall) are Merchant Circle, Citysquares, EZLocal, MojoPages, ZipLocal, which are in fact all part of the network. Additionally, at least in one of every 5 or 6 searches via the Local Search Scorecard, Yext finds at least one listing which is either for another business, or for another location of the same business. Last but not least, in almost every search, Yext’s tool doesn’t find at least one listing on one website, where it actually exists.
4) The overall price - the rate is $500 per year. It is advertised as “per month” rate, but it is billed per year. Personally, I believe for what Yext offers the price is rather steep. Here is a sum up of why I think so:
- Yext basically offers a service, which syndicates business data across 40 platforms.
- 3 platforms actually are part of a network of other platforms, and by themselves do not carry almost any value.
- 8 platforms are not compatible with Yext when the business is already advertising on them.
- Yext doesn’t remove duplicates.
- Yext sometimes syndicates data where there is an already existing listing for a business, thus creating a duplicate.
- Yext sometimes updates a wrong listing, thus potentially screwing up the business data for another location.
- Here is one I haven’t mentioned yet: the listings coming from Yext are not owner-verified (in almost all cases), and as the incoming data is standardized, sometimes the listings produced by Yext are not fully completed (here is why it is important for the listings to be as complete as possible).
I do not say Yext is bad. On the contrary, it has many positives, as I pointed out above. It could be very useful and time-saving for businesses with thousands of locations, where manual citations work is simply impossible. It could also be useful for businesses that have higher profit per sale (real estate agencies, insurance agencies, law firms, car dealers) that have opened a new location and want a fast local search boost. However, I don’t think it’s really useful in the cases when:
- You are a small business, with not too high profit per sale, or not too large marketing budget;
- You are a business of any size that has already taken care of their online presence (i.e. your business data is relatively consistent across the board);
- You are a business of any size with significant business data inconsistency problems (very often the case with most of the professional and health related businesses);
- You want a local SEO push, and you are looking for ways to stand above the competition (in these cases, normally the competitor(s) will already have listings on most of the websites included in Yext’s network, so if your only citation building tactic is paying for Power Listings, then this might very well not be the right solution for you).
Time for discussion - have you used Yext? What was your case and has Yext’s service helped?
Howard Lerman, CEO of Yext, contacted me with his POV, and as I always appreciate companies caring about their reputation + sharing as many views as possible, I post his thoughts below:
“I usually enjoy reading your posts and comments as you tend to get the detailed facts actually right.
Unfortunately, your article post Yext today does not meet the Zhekov high standard I have come to expect from you!
Specifically, in your “What are the negatives / 3) NAP Consistency” section, you’ve missed a major, key step in the Yext process. We don’t use the same matches from our scan as the official match to sync with. Rather, upon purchasing our product, we first suggest matches and unless it is an exact match, a business quickly walks through a process for each listing where they have the chance to confirm a match OR re-search on the partners index until they find the listing they’d like to match to. If the listings not there, we add it.
The ability to pick which listing on each site you’d like to sync with Yext is a very powerful feature – no other solution has anything even close to this capability.
I think the entire nature of your article (including the headline) is unfair without this criticism. Your remaining criticisms are that we don’t have enough sites and that we’re too expensive. We’re always adding more sites and stay tuned in that regard. That leaves expense. How much does an average LocalSEO charge per hour? How much junk is there in the market that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars? For a business investing in internet advertising, Yext is very reasonably priced.”
*Note: Our Citation Building Guide features more information, tips, and tactics on how to do local citation building.