Citysearch Local Rewards: the Newest Answer to Yelp’s Elite Squad

When I went to Citysearch today, I noticed a wee something on the homepage:

Citysearch has been in the reviews game for years.  But this is CS’s first attempt at creating a program akin to Yelp’s well-known “Elite Squad” and Google’s lesser-known knockoff, “Local Guides.”

CS’s twist is that die-hard reviewers get Amazon gift cards.

Here’s the full announcement:

Citysearch users want to know what businesses you like and why. They want to know what businesses to avoid. And we want to reward you when you take the time to provide your opinion, photos and more. We also want to provide you opportunities to earn rewards for supporting local businesses. The points you earn can be converted to an Amazon Gift Card at any time, once you’ve earned at least 1000 points. To start earning points all you need to do is create an account and verify your email address.

There are lots of ways to earn points.

  • Be the first person to review a business.
  • Be the first person to upload a photo for a business.
  • Write a review that is helpful.
  • “Send” a business to your friends.
  • Support a qualified business (COMING SOON).

Have you done the following before?

  • Review a business.
  • Vote a business “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”
  • Upload a photo.
  • Create a Guide.

It’s nice to see a general local directory get more serious about reviews, and not simply sit ringside while Yelp and Google slap at each other.

A few problems:

a) Not many people use CS.  Its troubles are well-documented.

b) It’s not as prominent in Google’s search results as it used to be.

c) It’s riddled with bogus reviews.

Also, the fact that Citysearch is offering Amazon gift cards for reviews may mean that people crank out thoughtless reviews just to score some of that Monopoly Money.  (Not that CS would be the only site with that problem.)

Still, CS has long been a site that I and others have recommended scaring up some reviews on, partly because those reviews get syndicated far and wide.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Local Rewards program takes off, and whether it brings somewhere Citysearch with it.

What do you think of the program?  Will this change your reviews strategy at all?  Leave a comment!

State of the Most-Important Local Search Sites (Mid-2013)

A lot has changed in the last few months in the world of local search.  All of it affects your efforts to get visible to local customers.

I’m not even talking about Google+ Local.  Like Oprah’s weight, Google is in a constant state of flux.  Phone support, the carousel, the return of review stars…it’s a roller coaster.

Rather, I’m talking about other sites and search engines.  They’ve been under the blade.  Some have emerged from the operating room with nice facelifts.  Others elicit a “Yeecch!”

If you run a “local” business in the US, you’ll need to deal with all of the below sites – either because they’re popular sites in their own right, or because they can affect your Google rankings .  Here’s what you need to know about how they’ve changed recently:

 

 

Yes, it’s now called “Bing Places.”  The recent changes have mostly been cosmetic, although there have been a few small improvements.  The thing that jarred me recently was that Bing required a client of mine to phone-verify a listing on which we wanted to change the phone number.  I don’t recall ever having to do that before.  Bing seems to have new rules for when you can verify by postcard versus by phone.  (Update: Thanks to always-sharp Nyagoslav Zhekov for the Bing intel in his comment at the bottom of this post.)

 

 

Some months ago (I’m not sure exactly when), Yahoo spruced up its listing-manager area a little bit.  Aside from that, Yahoo still is its clunky old self – and probably clunkier than ever.  But you still need to wrangle with Yahoo, so you’re visible to that sliver of that population that prefers it.

 

 

Revamped and renamed in June.  ExpressUpdate now requires business owners to claim their listings by phone personally.  Let’s say you added your business to the site a year ago (or had someone else do it), claimed your listing, and have been happy ever since.  Now let’s say you need to update one bit of info on your listing.  Your old login won’t work.  You have to look up your listing, claim it by phone, and wait for ExpressUpdate to approve you and give you new login info.  Then you can make changes.

 

 

You can’t add a free listing to LocalEze, as of April.  If you want to add your listing for the first time, you need to pay $300/year, find a reseller who can sign you up for less, or wait until LocalEze gets fed your business info from other sites.  If you already have a listing on LocalEze and you need to fix some of the info, you can make one round of edits per year for free.

 

 

Still an obstacle course (as I wrote a year ago).  If you want to add your listing for the first time, you can either email the CitySearch folks at myaccount@citygridmedia.com, or you’ll have to wait until the site is fed your listing from ExpressUpdate.  Once your listing is added – or if it’s already on the site – you’ll need to claim it by phone at https://signup.citygrid.com/cyb/find_business.

You’ll want to keep in mind that CitySearch’s parent company recently laid off two-thirds of its staff, and that any step in the whole process I just described might be slow as a result.

Honorable mention goes to Local.BOTW.org.  It’s not as important as the above sites, but it’s a good citation to have.  It’s no longer free.  (Maybe that will make it a really good citation to have, in the way David Mihm described 5 years ago.)

Instead of offering the free “JumpStart” listing, in June they started asking for a whole $1.99 per month, if you aren’t already listed on BOTW Local and want to add your listing.  Old listings have been grandfathered in.

Other important sites – Yelp, YP, SuperPages, etc. – are the same as they’ve always been.  No changes to report at the moment.

Anything you’d like to add about any of those sites?  Any questions?  Leave a comment.

How to Add a Free CitySearch Business Listing (Temporary Solution)

Update 4/11/13: If your business is already listed on CitySearch and you simply want to claim your listing so you can make edits to it, go to https://signup.citygrid.com/cyb/find_business.  If your business isn’t listed on CitySearch and you’re trying to add it, follow the below instructions.

 —

Adding a free business listing to CitySearch.com has always been a little tricky.

It hasn’t even always been possible to do so: the site has flip-flopped between offering free listings and not offering them.

The latest curveball is the disappearance of CitySearch’s old “Add a business” form.  It used to be buried a couple pages deep on the site, but – as I noticed a few weeks ago – the “submit” form now is completely gone.

No apparent way to list a business manually on CitySearch – other than maybe to wait a few months for InfoGroup to feed your info into the backend.

Bummer.  It’s one of those sites your business needs to be listed on if you want to rank well in the Google+Local search results.  Plus, especially given Google’s disastrous handling of Google+Local customer reviews recently and CitySearch’s huge role in the “local business reviews ecosystem,” it’s become a really good idea to try to get reviews on CitySearch.  For which you need a listing on CitySearch.

My clever workaround solution?  I poured myself a cold brew and resigned myself to being temporarily unable to build CitySearch listings for my newest clients.  I’d been on the choppy old wooden roller coaster at CitySearch Land before and just assumed there was nothing to be done about the bumpy ride.

But today Travis Van Slooten of TVS Internet Marketing kindly told me that there’s actually a way – albeit a somewhat clunky and inconvenient one.  His email explains:

They recently changed the format of their site and the “Add a Business” link broke and they are working on getting it back up. The problem is, the customer service rep I talked to said there was no time table as to when it will be fixed.

In the mean time, you can add a business for free by emailing them directly. Their email address is: myaccount@citygridmedia.com

All you have to give them is [your business name, address, and phone number] , web address, and category and they’ll add it manually for you. It takes them 3-5 days to create the listing and then 2 weeks before it’s searchable on their website.

To correct or delete duplicates, just send them an email at the same email address and they’ll fix everything for you. You don’t even have to have any listings claimed. You can just tell them, “I want to keep this listing so I can claim it but first make all these changes to it. Then for these other 2, please delete them.” Supposedly they’ll sort everything out for you.

If you already knew about this approach, I’m glad.  But if you’re anything like me, then the above solution comes as a bit of good news to you.

I’d love to hear about your recent experiences with CitySearch free listings – so please leave a comment if you’ve got any intel to share.