Dumbest Terms and Concepts in Local SEO

You’re more likely to get the results you want out of your local SEO effort if you don’t waste time on steps that won’t help, if the work doesn’t drive you crazy and make you stop because it’s not what you expected, and if you don’t hire a company to do the wrong kind of work.

Some terms and concepts floating around the local SEO space make those tasks harder for you to do.

I’m not saying they’re myths or “scams,” or even that they’ve got no merit.  All I’m saying is those ideas might lead you down a rabbit hole unless you look at them differently.

In no particular order, here are the dumb terms and concepts that (in my experience) can make your local SEO effort a little less effective and a little more frustrating:

“SEO copywriting”

Refers to sucky writing that you’re not (too) embarrassed to have on your site, only because you think Google likes it.

I’m not saying you should ignore “keywords.”  I am saying you shouldn’t work with someone who thinks SEO is just a matter of weaving keywords into copy.  There’s effective writing, there’s weak writing, and there’s writing you weaken by making keywords go where keywords ain’t supposed to go.

“Review management”

Do you do the best job you can for customers?   Do you ask them for feedback, including in the form of online reviews?  Do you occasionally read your reviews, and write simple owner-responses where appropriate?  If so, then you’re “managing” your reviews just fine, and there’s nothing else to “manage.”

Pay a company for that and all they’ll do is send poorly timed, ham-handed emails to your customers, and write generic and unhelpful replies to reviews good and bad.

I understand that you might want to delegate some of the review-encouragement process.  That’s fine.  It’s smart to farm out certain pieces, if you can.

The mistake is to think of reviews as (1) unrelated to how you run your business, or as (2) just another chore you can hand off entirely.  You’ll get more and better reviews, and get more out of them, and probably avoid a reputation meltdown if you’re at least a little involved.  You’re in a good position (maybe the best position) to know who’s happy and who’s not, how and when to approach would-be reviewers, what to ask them to do, and how best to respond to an unhappy reviewer.

In time, someone in your organization could probably handle it all.  But you should have at least a hand in grooming that person as your “Reviews Czar.”

“Listings management”

Again, there’s little or nothing to manage.

Got your Google My Business page set up properly?  Good.  Log into the dashboard every now, deal with Google’s annoying messages, and return your attention to the hard work of local SEO.

How about your non-Google local listings (e.g. YellowPages)?  Yes, those are a lot of work to set up or to fix the first time.  You may even need to put in a few rounds of work.  Also, if you change any of your basic business info (name, address, phone #, or website URL) you’ll want to update your listings.

But to create listings and maybe update them if there’s a change in your basic info is not management.  Do you “manage” your driver’s license?

It’s smart to get help on the one-time work, or if you need to update your listings.  Just don’t pay for what happens between those milestones, because nothing happens then.  All you’ll do is pay a sinecure.

“Link building”

This term has been a piñata for some time, so I’ll just take a kiddie swing at it.  The trouble with the term “link building” is you’ll probably expect to exert control over every link you want: what domain it’s on, what URL it points to, what the anchor text reads, etc.  Most good links you can’t belch out on command like that.  If you try to hire someone who thinks that, it probably won’t end well.  There’s only so much a third party can do.

At least in my experience, the right understanding of links is:

  1. They take more work than you’d like.
  2. You can’t control them as much as you’d like.
  3. You need to engineer your activities so it’s likely you get a good link out of the deal, but so you won’t consider your efforts a total waste if you don’t.

“Price per citation”

As in, “We can build you 100 citations on local directories for $200 – which is $2 per listing, which is 50% better than what our $3-per-listing competitors offer.”

That’s the wrong way to measure it.

A citation is not a citation.  Some sites are much more important than others are, so some listings are more important to get right than others are.

What if you pay $100 less, but have to wait an extra 6 weeks for the company’s work to wrap up?

How much does it cost you to hire the lowest bidders, get sloppy work from them, and then have to pay someone else to do remedial work?

If you must get third-party help on your listings, pick the most-competent help, not the cheapest.  If the competent one is too expensive, then you probably need to do the work in-house, because the cheapo company will cost you even more in the end.

“Freshness of content”

Should your site get bigger and better every year?  Absolutely.  Should you update old content, and continually try to improve content you can make more in-depth and helpful (in what I call “content CPR”)?  I sure hope you do, because those steps can help you long-term.

But that’s not what most SEOs refer to when they say “you need fresh content.”  They’ll tell you to tweak the content on your pages – not to improve it, necessarily, but just to make it different.   Or they’ll tell you to churn out 9 blog posts every month – posts that not even mom will read.  I call it the “content hamster wheel.”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/3716273172/

To many SEOs, Google just likes a dusty workshop, and doesn’t care whether you actually created something in it.  That’s easier to sell clients on, and it’s easier to bill them for.

“Local content”

 Your pages need to be relevant to what you do for customers, and not just generic info about a city you serve.

Unless you’re a professional tour guide, nobody visits your site to read a Wikipedia-flavored history of the town.  Few people care that Frank Sinatra once went to the bathroom there.

Make it relevant to your customer, to your business/services, and to the location – in that order of importance.

What’s a term or concept in local SEO that you consider crazy, and why?

Was there one you think I was too harsh on?

Leave a comment!

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 YellowPages.com 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!

Local Business Directory Support-Team Email Addresses: How to Reach a Human When You Need Help

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For reasons that may or may not have to do with local SEO, you need to fix your online listings.  Maybe you want to fix 50, or just one.

All these sites all make you jump through hoops.  You’ve done everything they’ve asked you to.  You’ve filled out their forms to submit new listings as directed, and to make fixes as directed.  You’ve waited.

That process has probably worked for most of your listings, but you’ve got stragglers.  Either the form’s broken, or you get an error message no matter what you do, or the changes don’t stick, or it’s been 5 months and they still haven’t processed your listing.

It’s time to bother a human.  Someone who works at the site.

That’s only fair.  You may only have a free listing and not pay the site directly for a primo listing, but they can only make money from ads if they have a business directory big or good enough to get them traffic, which they boast about in order to sell the ads.  Your business info is part of their directory, and therefore part of their sales pitch.  They owe it to you to make basic fixes to your listing, if they don’t give you the means to do it yourself.

But most of these places don’t give you an easy way to reach someone who can help.  (Hey, time is money.)  So how do you reach someone?

I’ve compiled a list of support-team emails for various local directories, search engines, and data-aggregators.

Many of these addresses my helpers and I have used successfully.  Others are for sites we’ve never needed to contact by email.  All should reach someone who can help you, or who will refer you to someone in a neighboring cubicle who can.

Please email wisely:

  • Use a domain email if at all possible (yourname@yourcompanysite.com). Consider setting up one, if you don’t already use it for your citations.
  • Be polite. Maybe you hate the yellowpages-type company, but the support rep didn’t do anything to you (and can always find a way to decline your request if you’re nasty).
  • Make it clear exactly what you want, so they can oblige you without wasting your time or theirs on back-and-forth.
  • Make it clear you’ve tried everything else, including the normal channels.
  • Don’t email them 5 times in a day because they didn’t get back to you within the hour.
  • If for some reason they can’t say yes to your request, ask how you can get your listing fixed.
  • If you have 75 locations, first ask how you should go about getting those listings fixed en masse.
  • Don’t email them constantly. If you pee in the pool, we’ll all have to get out (but might want to throw you back in).

Here are the support emails, from A to Z, for 21 sites you might be wrangling with:

Acxiom / MyBusinessListingManager email:
mblm@acxiom.com

Angie’s List emails:
angieslist@angieslist.com or memberservices@angieslist.com

Apple MapsConnect emails:
mapsconnect@apple.com or mapsconnect-business@apple.com

Bing Places email:
placesfeedback@microsoft.com

City-Data.com email:
errors@city-data.com

CitySearch / InsiderPages emails:
myaccount@citygridmedia.com or customerservice@citygrid.com

Cylex email:
info@cylex-usa.com

Factual email:
accounts@factual.com

Foursquare business email:
support@foursquare.com

InfoGroup / ExpressUpdate email:
contentfeedback@infogroup.com

LocalEze emails:
support@neustar.biz, support@localeze.com, or localezesupport@neustar.biz

Manta email:
help@manta.com

MapQuest email:
supportteam@mapquest.com

MerchantCircle emails :
toplevelsupport@merchantcircle.com or support@merchantcircle.com

ShowMeLocal email:
support@showmelocal.com

SuperPages & DexKnows email:
customerservice@supermedia.com

Yahoo Local email
listings-support@yahoo-inc.com
(If Yext won’t help you – and you’ve tried their free-fix method – you can email Yahoo.  We’ve had success in getting duplicates removed this way.)

Yellowbook emails:
team@hibubusiness.com or servicecenter@hibu.com

YellowBot email:
help@yellowbot.com

YellowPages emails:
ypcsupport@yp.com or customer.care@yp.com

Yelp Business email:
feedback@yelp.com

I don’t have a direct, non-phone-tree phone number for most of these (yet?).  If you also want non-email ways to contact some of these sites, here are a few great resources:

Be Where Your Customers Are with Local Business Listings – Max Minzer
(includes some phone numbers and extra detail)

Major Internet Business Directories – Mike Munter
(includes some phone numbers and extra detail)

Twitter Handles for Local Business Citation Sources – Bill Bean
(in case you want to try to get help via Twitter)

Thanks to Austin Lund for letting me know about some emails (see his comment).

Special thanks to Nyagoslav of Whitespark for telling me about a few emails I didn’t know about.  By the way, if the thought of fixing all your listings yourself makes you feel like Fred Sanford, consider hiring Whitespark to help clean up your citations.

Which sites have been helpful – or not helpful – when you’ve emailed them?

Any email addresses you’re still looking for?

Any emails I’m missing?

Leave a comment!

Niche Local Citations Don’t Get Enough Love

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People who know enough about local SEO to be dangerous don’t think twice about paying some poor soul to create 200 listings on glitzy big-name local-business directories like GoPickle, MyHuckleberry, and Sphinxaur.

They heard about these things called citations.

They heard citations matter to your local visibility.

They did basic work on 20-30 important listings, saw a little boost in visibility, and figured they’d squirt out 200 citations and really show ‘em.

It must seem puzzling when all those hours of work amount to nothing more than a monster spreadsheet of listings on local directories that nobody’s ever visited except to create a free listing.

One quickly hits a wall on citation-building.  Citations are but one piece of the local-rankings puzzle.  (I sure hope you also have a strategy for getting good links and reviews.)

But let’s say you want to wring the maximum benefit from citations, without going past the point of diminishing return.  Having more listings on generic sites isn’t better.  Having listings on relevant sites is better.  In other words, you want niche local citations for your business.

What’s a “niche” local citation?

By that, I mean you’ve got your business’s name, address, phone number, and (usually) website listed on a site that’s either (1) focused on your industry or (2) focused on your city or local area, or both.

Examples of industry-specific citation sources include HealthGrades, Avvo, TripAdvisor, and DealerRater – but those are only the big names.  There’s also at least one local-business directory for pretty much any field you can think of.  Local newspapers, local Chambers of Commerce, downtown business associations, and local directories for a specific city/town are the kinds of “local” niche citation sources I’m talking about.

Anyway, local SEOs don’t talk about niche citations enough.  I’ve got a few theories as to why that is:

  • It takes research to find niche citation opportunities, and every client’s situation is a little different. That’s more work than using the exact-same list for every single client.
  • You may need to know something about the client’s industry – or learn more about it – to find places worth being listed on.
  • There aren’t as many niche citation opportunities as there are general local directories. You can’t promise to build 100+ listings, because there are probably about 10 good ones, and even fewer if the business itself is in a specialized field.
  • Some niche listings are paid. Those are harder to justify baking into your pricing, or to browbeat your client into paying for.
  • SEOs can’t spout the “This directory has a monthly reach of 7 million!” nonsense when they try to explain the value of their work. You get a good niche citation on a site with relatively fewer users, but more of them are users and not stumblers.
  • It may never even occur to some SEOs to do anything beyond what other SEOs talk about. It often becomes a color-by-numbers deal.
  • SEOs would have to explain the value of niche citations more than they would, say, an impressive-sounding but fluffed-up list of 100-200 sites.

Why you shouldn’t overlook niche local citations

Simply being listed on a niche site may help your local rankings to a degree, but how much it helps is anyone’s guess.  Rather, I’d say the main benefits of getting niche citations are:

  • They tend to rank well in Google for specific search terms – as opposed to terms that tire-kickers and other not-yet-serious customers might type in.
  • They’re more likely to offer a “follow” link (i.e. one that Google “counts”), especially if they are paid directories. (No, links from those sites won’t land you in Google’s doghouse, if they’re relevant to your field and if they’re not your only way to get links.)
  • There’s a better chance they’ll yield an additional trickle of leads, to the extent the sites cater to a specific audience.

How can you find good niche citations?

Some resources:

Brightlocal’s Best Niche Citation Sites for 41 Business Categories

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (or just have them build the niche citations)

My list of review sites

My list of citation sources (by the way, I need to prune this list)

Also, you can always just type in some of the search terms you’re trying to rank for, see what sites come up on the first couple pages of search results, and see how many of those sites you can list yourself on.

Are there any benefits of niche citations I forgot to mention?

Do you find them using different methods?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Which Local Citation Sources Offer Follow Links?

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Pretty much every local listing you create for your business lets you include a link to your website, so that it’s easy for visitors to learn more about you.  But most of those are nofollow links  – meaning Google’s not supposed to “count” them for or against your rankings.

Still, some sites don’t slap a “nofollow” attribute on their links.

I (with the help of my assistant, Danielle) have put together a list of the local-business and industry-specific directories where the links to your site technically count, to one degree or another.  We scoured my Definitive Citations List, plus a few additional sites.

As you might guess, some of these sites are more notable than others.  Some are prominent directories in a niche (e.g. WeddingWire), some represent a cause (e.g. GoGreenWebDirectory.com), and others might just be on your citation checklist anyway (e.g. Brownbook).  But other sites are pretty mediocre and no-name.

Why should you know about – or bother with – a list that includes some mediocre sites with mediocre links?

  • Mediocre “follow” links have their place in the world. In the early stages of a local SEO effort, they’re signs of life that Google might observe.  They might help you rank for the one obscure search term that gets you the one customer who helps keeps you in business for long enough that you can do RCS.
  • Again, some of the sites are pretty prominent, and you may want to get listed on them for non-SEO reasons.
  • In case for whatever reason you don’t want listings on local directories that offer follow links, you’ll want to know what those sites are.
  • Maybe you’re just a curious cat, like me.

This post hits on a sticky topic, so I’m going to make you read even more preamble before I get to the actual list:

  1. Don’t rely on any one type of link or one strategy to get links.
  1. Don’t expect these “follow” links to make a huge difference by themselves.
  1. Do realize that most of the links you’ll want to earn over time will take hard work.
  1. Do use your best judgment.

austin-powers-behave

Anyway, here are the general local-business directory sites that include a follow link when you create a listing:

2FindLocal.com

6QubeDirectory.com

Bizyhood.com

BrownBook.net

CBSYellowPages.com

Cylex (on request – see Imi’s comment)

DirectoryCentral.com

DiscoverOurTown.com

EventCrazy.com

GoGreenWebDirectory.com

IndependentWeStand.org

Infignos.com

Kudzu.com (sometimes)

Lacartes.com

LocalPages.com

Opendi.us

PegasusDirectory.com

SmartGuy.com

SocialRaves.com

TicketBud.com

USBDN.com

WherezIt.com

YellowOne.com

YelloYello.com

(Note that TicketBud.com and EventCrazy.com are sites you can publicize events on.  Now that can be a good way to earn links.)

Now for some industry-specific sites that offer a follow link.  Even if you ignore the first list (above), there’s a strong case to be made for these because many of them are (1) review sites and (2) have some visibility in Google. (FYI, some of these may be paid listings.)

AutoMD.com

AWDP.org

BailBond.com

CyberAtty.com

DealerRater.com

DoctorOogle.com

Frommers.com

GetMowed.com

HomeStars.com

Justia.com

LocalGranite.com

LuxuriousLandscapes.com

MenuPages.com

MyZipPlumbers.com

OpenTable.com

Sortfolio.com

SportsTavern.com

TheBestDesigns.com

TherapyNext.com

WeddingWire.com

Zagat.com

Other sites that offer follow links are “powered by Yext” – meaning probably the only way you can get a listing there and a link is to use Yext.  These sites include eLocal, Switchboard, Topix, WhitePages, Yellowise, and others.  As Dan Leibson has noted, there may be some value in those listings / links as well.  I didn’t include those.

Local Chambers of Commerce tend to offer follow links, too.

Great discussion here, by the way.

Do you know of any sites I missed?  Any that I should definitely remove?  (I’d love to keep this list up-to-date.)

To what extent do you agree with me that “mediocre links have their place in the world,” in the sense that they can help you get the ball rolling?

Other local-citation-link-related words of wisdom?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Thanks to Tony Wang, Michael Doran, and Kathy Long for contributing to the list with their helpful comments, below.

Groupon Gets (More) Serious about Local Listings: How to Get Listed without Offering a Groupon or Being Pitched

Groupon, long infamous for its daily deals, has let non-deal-offering businesses get listed for about a year now.

But Groupon’s “Merchant Pages” sounded like a real hassle to claim, and you’d have to run a gauntlet of advertising pitches that only a GoDaddy customer could bear.

Apparently it’s less painful now because Groupon is getting its [BLEEP] together, according to some intel that Corey Barnett of Cleverly Engaged Marketing sent me the other day.

It sounds like Groupon has finally got used to honoring requests for free listings, and realizes that many times it’s SEOs and other marketers calling on behalf of their clients to add a listing.  As a result, apparently now it takes less than 45 minutes, they don’t require owner-verification, and don’t pitch you on ads or to start offering a Groupon deal.

You just have to spend a few minutes on the phone talking with a live rep, who notes down your info and presumably later makes sure it’s not bogus.

Corey described the process:

I found out when I was working on a local campaign for a client of mine and noticed all of a sudden they had a Groupon merchant page for all their locations, without even doing a Groupon. Then I compared it to my other clients and same thing, I knew these clients had never done a Groupon and yet they had Groupon merchant pages.

Also, I’ve been watching this for some time and have emailed Groupon’s team if they would roll this out to all businesses. They told me they would, but never gave me a date.

Once you click on “claim a page,” you should get a phone call from a rep and can email them updates and changes. If your client isn’t listed yet, you can also email their support team and they will create a page for you.

When I claimed my client’s page, a rep contacted me and told me I needed to email him changes, a description that can be added, the website link can be updated, photos and more can be added…. He told me they literally just rolled this out late last week.

Here’s his contact info if you have questions:

Rohan Sinha
Product Specialist
600 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60654
Desk: 312-459-5160

Here is what a page looks like that I have claimed and filled out; notice the description and photos:

https://www.groupon.com/biz/lubbock/mcwhorters

Corey was told that this newer, easier process is part of a larger effort on Groupon’s part to list more businesses:

[Rohan] confirmed that the data on Groupon’s site is being rolled out in batches being pulled from public sources and data aggregators (wouldn’t disclose which) and has been doing this for only the last 2 months. Groupon has not yet announced the change publicly, because it is still in beta mode. They haven’t added all businesses in the U.S. but that is their goal to offer a free merchant page for every business.

That squares with what I’ve found.  I’ve seen a couple of clients listed on there who I know for a fact haven’t offered a Groupon.  Must’ve gotten picked up from some other online source.

Some things you can add to your Groupon page now for free (through your support rep:

  • Any edits to your business details.
  • Images (under 1 MB) you’d like added to your page.
  • A short, accurate description of your business.
  • Any current specials you’re offering, such as happy hour or half-price items.

The only downside is that it seems you don’t get a “follow” link anymore just for showing up – as Dan Leibson described in his post from last year (which I mentioned earlier).  I guess it was the Groupon equivalent of apology flowers.

Have you tried getting listed on Groupon?  What do you think of the process?

Have you seen your listing on there, even if you haven’t added it or offered a deal?

Leave a comment!

Best Search Operators for Digging up Duplicate Local Citations

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To claim your seat at the Local Feast, your citations need to be more or less correct.  But you can’t fix those listings if you can’t find them.

Tools are unreliable.  Even the excellent Moz Local should just be a first sweep in your search for all the listings you need to fix.

Meanwhile, searching in the sites can be slow going.  You usually have to search several times to see find all the listings you want to find.

Let Google help you.  Use search operators to dig up duplicates faster.

Search operators won’t work on every site you need to deal with (more detail on this in a minute).  But they’ll save you time and frustration – partly because they do work on many of the packrat sites where the duplicate listings pile up.

Here are the best search operators I know of for uncovering duplicate listings:

 

Google

site:plus.google.com name of business “about”

site:plus.google.com (###) ###-#### “about”

You’ll probably find any Google Places duplicates with Michael Cottam’s duplicate-finder tool, but it’s worth popping in those two operators just to be sure.

(Yes, I know we don’t call Google Places a “local citation” source, as the title of the post would suggest, but that was the first title that popped into my head.)

 

Yelp

site:yelp.com/biz name of business

Hat tip to Nyagoslav for the Yelp operator, which he mentioned in a discussion on Google+.

 

Facebook

site:facebook.com (###) ###-####

site:facebook.com (###) ###-#### “reviews” -m. -m2

Try the 2nd one if the 1st one gives you more results than you’d like to sift through.  (That might happen if your business name isn’t too unusual.)

 

YellowPages

site:yellowpages.com (###) ###-#### intitle:”business name

site:yellowpages.com intitle:”business nametwo-letter state abbreviation

CitySearch

site:citysearch.com “name of business” two-letter state abbreviation

site:citysearch.com intitle:”name of businesstwo-letter state abbreviation

As with Facebook, try the 2nd one if the 1st one returns too many results.  Also, for the 2nd one you may want to try a couple common variations of the business name.

SuperPages

site:superpages.com (###) ###-####  intitle:”business name

Better Business Bureau

site:bbb.org (###) ###-#### “business review in” two-letter state abbreviation

site:bbb.org name of business “business review in”

Angie’s List

site:angieslist.com (###) ###-####

 

A few notes

  1. Swap out only the underlined parts with your business info or your client’s.
  1. Keep the quotation marks exactly where they are.
  1. By “two-letter state abbreviation” I mean “MA” for Massachusetts, “NY, for New York, and so on. Hope that was obvious, but it’s an important point.  Without the state name you may unearth a bunch of listings for your namesake business 2 time zones away.

Where search operators don’t (seem to) work

https://www.flickr.com/photos/compujeramey/80010576

Remember how I mentioned search operators don’t work on all the sites that you’ll need to deal with?  Well, here are the bad kids:

Apple Maps

Bing Places

ExpressUpdate.com

Factual

FourSquare

LocalEze

MyBusinessListingManager.com (Acxiom)

Some of those sites (like Bing and LocalEze) appear not to let Google index their listings.  Listings on other sites (like Factual) seem to be indexed, but impossible to find with search operators.  At least you now have a short list of sites you know you’ll have to stick a whole arm into.

Also, those search operators will work on many other sites where you can and possibly should have citations.  I listed only the most-important sites, because you may have other things you’d like to accomplish today.  But you can check out my list of citations if you’d like to use search operators to sniff out duplicates on other sites.

By the way, here’s my bread-and-butter search operator, which works pretty reliably from site to site:

site:nameoflocaldirectory.com (###) ###-####

(Of course, you’ll want to try it with every phone number that the business has used.)

 

More resources

Google Search Operators – Google Guide

NAP Hunter Lite – Local SEO Guide

Top Local Citation Sources by Country – Nyagoslav Zhekov

Advanced Local Citation Audit & Clean Up: Achieve Consistent Data & Higher Rankings – Casey Meraz

Local Citation Audit Tip: Use the New Sitelinks Search Box – me

Local Citation Cleanup Hack: Check BBB – me

Do you know of any reliable search operators I didn’t mention?  (I’d love to keep adding to the list.)

Any hacks for quickly finding listings on those tough sites (e.g. ExpressUpdate)?

Leave a comment!

BBB Accreditation: Boring But Bumps Your Local SEO

I may be unpopular for saying this….

But here goes:

You should consider getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau.  It can help your local visibility (if you’re in the US or Canada).

Mind you, I am no fanboy.  There are a few valid reasons to skip the BBB:

  • Money (although it’s only a few hundred bucks a year).
  • Time (you do have to apply).
  • Maybe you think the BBB just peddles junk.

 

But I can think of 8 reasons your local rankings and reputation can benefit from BBB-accreditation:

1.  You get a great link. (Yes, it’s a “follow” link.)

 2.  It’s one of a few straightforward ways (that I can think of) to get good links to subpages on your site – pages other than your homepage. That’s especially useful if you’re multi-location business and use “location” pages as the landing page for your Google Places pages.  In my experience, it’s better to use the homepage as your landing page, but if you can get some good links to those “location” pages they may fare just as well in the rankings.

3.  Some segment of the population does care what the BBB says about local businesses.

4.  Ranks well for brand-name searches.

 5.  Even ranks well some broad searches.  Great for barnacle SEO.

6.  Customers can write reviews on your BBB page. I encourage you to encourage them.

7.  It’s a nice “trust symbol” to put on your site.

 8.  It’s a good citation.

I may not have made you like the BBB more, but it’s a practical way to help your local visibility a little.  Close your eyes and think of England.

What if you decide to skip it?  No big deal.  Just make sure you get other good links.

What’s been your experience with the BBB?

Know of any alternatives that help in some of the practical ways I described?

Leave a comment!

Local Citation Audit Tip: Use the New Sitelinks Search Box

One benefit of Google’s new sitelinks search box: it can help you save time on finding messy local citations.

See what I mean?

Just type in the name of the site and search for your listing(s) from within Google’s results.  It’s the equivalent of doing a site:yoursite.com search.  (For more on what exactly you should do in a citation audit, read Casey Meraz’s dynamite post.)

Like my BBB tip, it’s just a potential time-saver.  As Nyagoslav pointed out when I mentioned this to him, this won’t uncover all the listings you might need to find on a given site.  No single method can, and some listings don’t even get indexed.

Not every local-business directory site you need to check has the sitelinks search box (yet?), though.  The main data-aggregators – ExpressUpdate, LocalEze, Acxiom – don’t have it.  So those sites are still a PITA, and you’ll still have to go to those sites to check your listings.

Still, most of the big sites – like Yelp, CitySearch, and YP – already have the sitelinks search box.  So do at least some of the bigger industry-specific sites, like HealthGrades and Avvo.

I expect the sitelinks search box will get even handier over time, as more sites latch onto it.  Unless Google does with it what it often does with features that have lots of potential.

 

Know of any sitelinks search box hacks for auditing citations?  Do you find it easier?  Leave a comment!