Who Provides Facebook’s Local-Business Data?

I’ve never created a Facebook page for Local Visibility System, LLC:

Sure, I created a Facebook page for myself about 10 years ago (and haven’t spent any time there in probably 7-8 years).  But I didn’t make one for the business, because I prefer my site and email list to be home base.  Call me crazy.

Some years ago I created listings on the basic sites.  Lest the shoemaker’s son go unshod, every now and then I do a quick check on my basic listings / citations.  As a true local SEO geek, I like to see which listings are new, which have changed, which have gone the way of tie-dye and free love, etc.

My first stop was (as always) Moz Local, where I noticed that seemingly new, threadbare Facebook page for the first time.

The first thing I noticed about the Facebook page was that it didn’t include the “LLC” at the end of my business name.  I always include the “LLC” in my business name (not that it matters for SEO purposes).  That tells me that Facebook is probably grabbing my business info from a place where I’m listed simply as “Local Visibility System.”

So I checked out the usual suspects.  Turns out I’m not on Acxiom or LocalEze.

Then I checked InfoGroup.  I’ve been listed there for a long time, but the name doesn’t match.

So what site caused Facebook to squirt out a business page for me?

The answer is…Factual.

It was a Moz Local scan that alerted me to the name-match in the first place.

If I was paying attention a couple months ago I might not have had to do any gumshoeing.  Turns out Factual announced (quietly) its local-data partnership with Facebook.

I know I didn’t have a business Facebook page before then, so it all makes sense now.

According to David Mihm’s Local Search Ecosystem graphic, it’s possible that other sources still feed Facebook directly.  But the Factual-Facebook partnership is so new that maybe it’s now exclusive.

Anyway, on a practical level, why should you care that Factual feeds business info to Facebook?

  1. It can help you clean up duplicate Facebook pages – which are a common burr in the saddle.
  1. If you’re having problems making changes to or removing a Facebook page, try to update Factual (manually, or through one of its trusted partners, or through their API if you’re a hardcore geek).
  1. If you do not want a Facebook page for your business, try to squash it at Factual.
  1. If you don’t want your address showing on your Facebook page, try to get the address concealed at Factual.
  1. In general, Factual may be more important than you’d think. (It’s long been a data-provider for Apple Maps, for instance.)

Any Facebook or Factual fiascos you’d like to share?

Do you know of any other little-known data-feeding relationships between sites?

Questions?

Leave a comment!

Business Categories Lists for Major Local Search Sites

Categories are the forgotten child of local SEO.

Though they don’t get much attention, categories do get respect: “Proper Category Associations” is the #1 “Foundational Ranking Factor” listed on 2013’s Local Search Ranking Factors study.  (I was one of the people who ranked them up there, and I’m glad other local-searchers agree.)

Picking as many relevant categories as you can is probably the easiest way to make progress on your Google+ Local, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and other rankings.

Choosing the right ones is sometimes easier said than done.  Google no longer allows “custom” categories.  That’s nice in a couple of ways: You can choose up to 10 categories, and it’s nice that it’s much harder now to get penalized by accidentally specifying a custom category that Google doesn’t consider kosher.

Still, the categories you want to pick are either on Google’s list or they aren’t.  Which may leave you feeling hamstrung if your business is specialized or “niche.”

Fortunately for us, the categories you can pick on other sites seem to help Google determine what type of business yours is – and what terms you should rank for.

They’re also a huge factor in your rankings on pretty much every other site worth being listed on.

The name of the game is to know your options for categories, on as many sites as possible.  Most of them don’t make it easy to browse all your options.  That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of category lists, so you can find the relevant ones easily.

Check out these lists and see if you’ve listed your business under the best categories possible:

Search engines

Google – Browse Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool

Bing Places – See my list of Bing business categories (new)

Apple Maps – Dig through this monstrous list put together by Andrew Shotland

Data-aggregators

ExpressUpdate – Pick from OSHA’s Standard Industrial Categories

LocalEze – See my post on LocalEze categories

Factual – Refer to this list when submitting your Factual listing

IYPs

Yelp – Dig through Yelp’s somewhat-buried list, or see my post on Yelp categories

InsiderPages – See this

AngiesList – Here you go

Those are just the category lists I’ve found so far or put together myself.  I’m sure you or I could easily find full lists of categories for rinky-dink sites that nobody’s ever heard of.  But there are a few category lists I’d still like to have.

The sites on my wish-list at the moment are CitySearch, YellowPages, Local.Yahoo.com, and Acxiom (MyBusinessListingManager.com).  Please let me know if you find or make a list of all the categories allowed on those sites!

How to Add Your Business to Factual

Why does Factual matter to your visibility in the local search results?  Because it feeds info on your business to a bunch of other important sites.

David Mihm recently made that fact pretty clear, in his update to the Local Search Ecosystem infographic:

Image source: http://moz.com/blog/2013-local-search-ecosystems

Apple Maps ace Andrew Shotland has also explained that Factual is a major source of business info (AKA data-supplier) for Apple Maps.

So that makes it official: Factual matters to your visibility in local search.

The good news is that, as of this writing, it’s easy to get listed there.  Here are a couple methods.

Update 10/1/13: You can also skip ahead to the comment kindly left by Bradley Geilfuss, the Senior Product Manager at Factual.

Method 1.  Send an email to datacontributions@factual.com.  Include your business info and ask (politely!) to be added

Darren Shaw described the process in a little more detail in a comment on the recent post I did on his blog.  Here’s what he said, in case you missed it:

Factual doesn’t have an “add your business” feature. To get your listing added, you email them and they’ll create a listing for you.

Before emailing them, I’d suggest first checking closely to see if you’re already listed by searching here: http://www.factual.com/data/t/places. If you are listed, you can login and additional details to the listing – look for the little “edit” tag on the right side of the map. It’s cool how they show you the sources of the listing data under the “Crosswalk” section.

If you’re not listed, look at all the other listings to see what fields they accept and make sure you include all the applicable fields when you email them.

When you’re sure you’re not already listed, and you have gathered all the information needed for your listing, email them at datacontributions@factual.com to request adding your business to their database.

Method 2.  Fill out the form at http://www.factual.com/contact.  Your request will end up at the same place.

By the way – just to get back to Darren’s point about how you should check first to see if you’re listed – here’s what you’ll see if you search for your business at http://www.factual.com/data/t/places and find that you’re already listed:

Here’s what your listing will look like:

I’ve submitted requests for a few clients who weren’t already listed on Factual, and if anything noteworthy or unusual happens, I’ll update this post.  Update 9/30/13: Based on what I’ve seen so far, it takes 5-7 days for Factual to approve and add a new listing, if you use either of the above methods.

Any experience with Factual so far?  Leave a comment.

Why the New Google Maps Isn’t a Big Deal for Local Search

You, new Google Maps, aren’t about to set the local-search world afire.

That’s right, I’m talking to you – with your deep pockets and slick looks.

New Google Maps

Any time the Google Goliath so much as scratches his nose, people notice.  Many among us have strong reactions (“Whooaa, did you just see that?”) – both positive and negative.  So in that sense, new Google Maps, you’re already important.

You’ve gotten attention, new Google Maps.  Some smart people have written insightful posts about you.

(A Tour of the New Google Maps [15 Screenshots])

(New Layout for Local Searches in Google)

(Is Google Local Changing the Metaphor For Local Ranking?)

(The New Google Maps: Shifting Search Terms)

But I don’t think you’re going to change the way people search for local businesses.  Nor do I think you’re going to change how business owners go about getting more visible to local customers.

I see a lot of far-off potential in you, but not much that’s splash-worthy now.

Why?

My dear new Google Maps, I hate to break it to you, but you face some hefty challenges:

  • You will struggle to get the average user excited.  The reason that will be tough is that, although you’ve made it clear how you’re different from your forefathers, you haven’t really explained how you’re better than the old Maps.  True, you’re better-looking.  But beyond that, the main thing you’re hanging your hat on is that you allow people to search for businesses by two new criteria: businesses recommended by “Top Reviewers” and by people in “Your circles.”  Which brings us to some of the next hurdles you’ll face.

  • Most people don’t socialize much with your big brother, Google+, nor do their friends.  Yes, Google+ is slowly gaining traction, but it’s got a long way to go before the average person (1) uses Google Plus and (2) has more people in her circles than her 5 geekiest friends.  Unless and until your big bro Google+ gets more popular at school, the “personalized” results for most users will be thin at best, and nonexistent more often than not.  Most people who search by “Your circles” will come up dry enough times that they stop bothering and revert back to the search habits that they feel work best for them.

  • Many users won’t be signed into their Google accounts even if they have one.  See, there’s been this little issue called PRISM here in the US, and Google hasn’t had a spotless track record of respecting people’s privacy.  So a good chunk of the population won’t even have the option of searching by circles, because they won’t be signed-in.  To those people your claim to fame won’t matter one bit.
  • There aren’t a lot of “Top Reviewers,” and Google isn’t doing an effective job of encouraging people to write reviews (rather than simply to read others’).  Google’s certainly trying, even going so far as to violate its own rules by offering swag to people who dash off a review.  But that’s just adding a drop to a one-eighth-full bucket.  Google could learn a lot from how Yelp gets people to write reviews profusely and with passion – as though somebody took away their OCD meds.  Google hasn’t made “Top Reviews” feel like revered village elders, the way Yelp has done for its “Elite Squad.”  Unless and until that changes, there won’t be many Top Reviewers, so the “search by Top reviewers” feature won’t be useful for as many local searches as it could be.
  • You’re making people click more, not less.  Yes, yes, I know that’s a First World problem if there ever was one.  But you’re the one who’s trying to make people’s lives more convenient, and I’m here to tell you you’re not quite there yet.  What do I mean by “too many clicks”?  I mean that if people just want to see a handful of non-personalized, perhaps un-reviewed local results at a glance, you’re making them click the “Go to list of top results” link before they can see the tried-and-true list of results they know and love.

 

  • You can only hope to work as well as your daddy, Google Maps, Sr., did.  In the four years I’ve been working in “local,” I’ve concluded that people generally like the search results Google shows (and if you don’t believe me, just ask Bing).  I’ve also concluded that most users dislike Google’s local results only to the extent that there are spammy or irrelevant results in there – in other words, businesses that really shouldn’t rank well.  Google Maps, Jr., you won’t be any better than your dad unless you can do a better job of cleaning out the junk.
  • You’re not going to change local SEO, significantly or at all.  Some of us have harped on the importance of reviews all along, and are quite good at helping our clients earn them.  The new emphasis on reviews is good news for us and for our clients.  What about the need for business owners to get “+1s” from customers and get customers into in their circles?  Well, not every business can do that until every business can have an “upgraded” Google+ Local page – wouldn’t you agree?  Success in a local-search campaign may look different – possibly no more “A-G” rankings, for one thing – but the steps to success will remain basically the same.

What do I think your future holds, young Maps?

You’ll be somewhat popular.  In some ways, you already are.

But your older brother, Google+, has to become really popular before you can hope to.  You’re not going to be the thing that prompts more people to sign up for Google+ – but that’s precisely the thing that needs to happen if you’re to live up to your potential.

You can’t get cocky and do things like pimp out the local search results with ads or try to make people enjoy a “user experience” that they just don’t like.

If regular people grow frustrated by their searching experience with you, you’ll be in trouble – and your Google family name probably won’t get you out of it.  Apple Maps will mature and improve significantly, even if it takes a couple years or more.  The Cupertino contingent will be breathing down your neck sooner or later.

Also, one reason Bing is so much smaller than Google is that a lot of people (including me) simply like Google’s results better.  But if that changes, so might our searching habits.

Google will hedge its bets on you.  At least for the time being, in your current state, you won’t be the only way for users to find local businesses on Google.

Please don’t take my strong opinions personally, new Google Maps.  I actually kind of like you.  But I’m just one user of many, and it’s too early to say how much you’ll need to change before you can make anyone’s life a little easier.

If I’m wrong about any of what I said, you can rub it in my face later.

But, like a fresh college grad, you simply aren’t going to “change the world” – at least not for a while.