Do You Really Need to Clean up That Local Citation?

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Local SEOs excel at nitpicking, trading in superstitions, and billing for busywork.  Nowhere is that more true than when it’s time to clean up local citations.

You’ve got dozens (or hundreds) of local listings online, and not all of them have the correct business info.  You’ve heard it’s important to have correct and consistent info on those listings.

Do you have to take the time to fix all of them – or do you need to pay someone else to?

No.  Not all local listings matter.  Having the cleanest listings doesn’t mean you’ll outrank anyone or get any more customers.

The danger of going overboard on your listings is that you feel burned-out after doing a bunch of work that doesn’t matter, and don’t have the time or the energy or the will to do the steps that do matter.

When should you bother to correct or to remove a business listing on a given site?  If you answer yes to any of the following questions, go ahead and clean up the listing.  (Skip it if you can answer no to all of the following.)

1. Do you see the listing on the first page (or first couple of pages) of Google’s results when you search for your business by name?
If the incorrect or duplicate listing shows up prominently for a brand-name search, fix it or remove it.

2.  Do you see the site on the first page of Google’s results for a search term you want to rank for?
Maybe your incorrect YellowPages listing (for example) doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, but if ranks for a local search term you care about, it’s worth bothering with your listing(s) there.

3.  Is it on InfoGroup, LocalEze, Acxiom, or Factual?
Google and other sites in the local-search ecosystem trust these four sites – known as “data aggregators” – as sources of accurate business info.  Make sure your listings there are accurate.

4.  Is it on a government site?
It’s likely that Google Maps and the data-aggregators (see point #3) trust the business info on government sites (e.g. State Secretary of State).  It may be a pain, but make sure your “official” record is accurate.

5.  Have you heard of the site?
If so, I’d fix it.  Unless it’s Yahoo.  Yahoo is for the birds.

6.  Do you have reviews on another listing on the site, or plan to ask for reviews on the site?
You don’t want customers to review the wrong listing.

7.  Has a customer ever seemed confused by info that’s on the listing?
Easily the best reason to fix or remove an incorrect listing.

8.  Is it clear that you can update the listing with relative ease, and for free?
If it’s controlled by Yext or otherwise requires you to pay to make any changes, I would say it’s not important to fix or to remove.

But let’s say it’s a free listing, and you can fix it or remove it easily if you want to.  Should you?  If it passes the other 7 tests I’ve described, I wouldn’t say you need to – at least not for citation-consistency purposes.  Do it if it’s just gnawing at you, and if fixing one won’t cause your OCD to flare up and compel you to fix 100 other rinky-dink listings.

Do you have a local listing you’re not sure whether to clean up?

Can you think of criteria for deciding when to bother with a listing vs. when to skip it?

Leave a comment!


  1. Hi Phil,

    I agree with the general concept, but I think you may have swung too far to the other end of the pendulum with the specifics.

    I don’t see a strong argument (or any argument really) as to why we should only do directories that show on page 1 of a SERP. Google obviously sees websites that are further down than page 1 of a SERP. And while I agree that it’s not worth doing 1.2 million directories, it’s important to do ones that we’ve consistently seen show up in near the top of SERPs for other businesses (ones that Google seems to trust).

    For example, there are only ~10 websites that can be on page 1 of a SERP. Bing and Apple will never be included in that, but are incredibly important (Bing gets a lot of traffic from being the default on IE). And by the time you throw in Yelp, (popular, powerful in SERPs, and can actual drive website traffic), MapQuest (name that people know and that some do use), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the company’s own website (there’s a good chance that the company website will take up more than one slot), you’re all of a sudden off of the first page, missing out on key data providers like Foursquare (which keeps making deals with tech companies to provide their mapping/place data), TomTom (GPS, and it feeds Apple Maps, etc), (where people actually visit), Dun & Bradstreet (which feeds data to a variety of places and is a trustworthy data-source), (which is the local data provider for various newspaper websites), (which Google puts a lot of trust into), (which is popular enough to care about – especially because Google can see the listings), (which Google and consumers place a lot of trust in), (which provides data for a variety of sites), Goodzer (which feeds data into, (which provides local data for popular news websites, like and, and industry directories that are constantly advertising on TV/radio and elsewhere (here’s looking at you, AngiesList, Thumbtack, Houzz,, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Zomato). And that’s not even including hyper-local directories that are on newspaper and TV websites (that don’t pull data from the sources mentioned above).

    I also don’t think that some businesses are taking advantage of things like service/product descriptions that places like LinkedIn and Manta offer. These are parts of the sites that allow businesses to provide more information about what they do to users and especially to Google. LinkedIn’s “Showcase” pages provide a quality URL (such as on a trustworthy site that can provide valuable, detailed content for both the user and Google.

    Like I said, I think this is a valuable post to remind us not to worry about optimizing too many directories. I just think it goes too far in the other direction.


    • Hey Justin,

      Thanks for the great comment. I agree with you, which is why I said that the reader needs to answer no to all the questions to deem a listing unworthy of cleanup.

      In the case of Apple, Bing, LinkedIn, you’d have a “yes” answer to question #5, at least.

      A “yes” answer to #8 covers the rest. If you’ve answered no to the other 7 questions and the site requires you to pony up, it’s probably not worth it. If it’s free and easy to update and a little voice tells you to update, then go for it if you want to. My point is that once certain criteria are satisfied, further cleanup is a matter of preference.

      • Oh, I see. That makes sense! I guess I got confused by: “When should you bother to correct or to remove a business listing on a given site? When you can answer NO to all of the following questions”. I interpreted it as “if you can’t answer yes to ALL of these, then you should ignore the listing”.

        Thanks again for the post!

        • Heh. Yeah, I agree that it’s a little confusing. My 1st draft actually was the opposite: “If you answer ‘yes’ to all these questions you don’t need to bother with the listing.” I found that to be even clunkier, though.

          • I’m still a bit confused…

            Aren’t you trying to say that you can ignore a listing if you can answer no to all those questions?

            As it reads now, at least to me, you *should* bother to change or remove a listing if you can answer no to all those questions.

            “When should you bother to correct or to remove a business listing on a given site? When you can answer NO to all of the following questions”

            Also, this is hilariously hard to put into words 😛

          • Dang. Yeah, that was horribly worded on my part. Hey, why write clearly when you can make it into a fun riddle? 🙂

            You’ve got it exactly right. I rephrased my intro blurb. Thanks, Nick!

          • I helped!

    • How would one add/update/remove listings on I tend to skip this site based on difficulty, but I do have a list of support options. Anybody tried these and had success?,-115.0572608626417,11,0,0

      • Austin, sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. I’ve tried most of those methods you listed. If MapCreator is working, that can work. You can also try clicking on a listing on the regular (non-MapCreator) map and selecting “Report a map error”.

  2. Great article, Phil. One Google update that has made it easier/more obvious for me when I am starting out with citation clean up is the “Reviews From Web” in the brands knowledge graph. I find that one of the hardest things about link building is getting started and often that gives 2-3 places that I know Google and my customer base see as important.

  3. Phil, I think you are on the right track here. But I’m not so sure this applies to every situation just like most things Local SEO. I think what you are trying to say is that it’s okay to “ignore the bullshit listings” since they are total bullshit and likely impossible to claim/edit in the first place. I agree. But there are always those situations where we hope that “citation clean-up” will help improve rankings. What to do when nothing improves? [want to shoot self in head] How long do we wait to see if this helped? Citation cleanup and looking for 4 leaf clovers have a lot in common.

    • Jeffrey,

      I am saying (again) to ignore BS listings, but I’m also trying to define listings worth ignoring.

      Citation clean-up generally does not deliver a rankings boost. I hope you don’t expect it to. The only case when it consistently makes a difference is when the citations are a total wreck or pretty much non-existent, and the business already has other things going for it – particularly good organic rankings. Then cleanup can be a missing piece of the puzzle, if you will.

      • Hi Phil, it’s a very interesting conundrum and so vital because of the time-consuming and therefore costly nature of citation clean-ups. By the way, I thought your wording was very clear and unambiguous *provided* the reader read carefully!

        I know this is a specific case and therefore does not necessarily conflict with your statement that “Citation clean-up generally does not deliver a rankings boost” but it’s quite compelling because of the scale of the exercise and what surely must be a clear relationship between cause and effect.

        What do you think?

        • Andrew and Dan do great research, and I’m also a fan of that particular case-study, but I wouldn’t say it establishes once and for all that citation cleanup always helps. In my experience, it can deliver a clear boost when a business has the rest of its local SEO house more or less in order. Most big brands have strong link profiles and solid on-page SEO, but messy citations. When citations are the biggest or most-glaring problem, fixing them tends to help traffic/rankings. I alluded to this in my response to Jeffrey’s comment.

  4. avatar Dr. Bob Shor says

    Dr. Bob Shor
    Hi there, this is my first comment on this blog. Had a recent experience with yelp that might be of interest to everyone. Made a small change to one of my client’s business categories in the evening and his ranking jumped up 14 places to the first page on yelp’s organic listings by the next morning. Don’t think this was an accident, because the rank hadn’t changed for at least 6 months until I made what seemed like a minor change. Looks like yelp’s algorithm picks up certain changes pretty quickly. What do you think Phil?

  5. Great article, and it gives us a lot to think about but we should be careful not to swing too far in the opposite direction. It is important to work smart and I appreciate Justin’s comment – make sure to take full advantage of all the fields and descriptions available on the citations you do go after.

  6. Engaging discussion in the comments here, Phil. I wanted to mention (and hope it’s okay) that if people are having trouble managing Here listings, this is one of the new platforms Moz Local just announced that we push to. So, if you can’t achieve manual management of the listing, this option is available.

    My favorite of your points, Phil, is that if a customer ever expresses confusion about any of your listings, that is a big red flag to get in there and fix that data!

    • Hey Miriam,

      Mentioning Moz Local here is OK 🙂

      Once people have the ability to do a scan of their listings on the sites in Moz’s newly-expanded network (e.g. Here, TomTom, etc.), I think Moz’s new offering will be great.

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