Do You Really Need to Clean up That Local Citation?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donwest48/27214819893/

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

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trailimage/12826185203/

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!

My #1 Local Citations Tip: Do Another Round

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/chrisgold/6282077864/

A recent conversation with my LocalSpark amigos Darren and Nyagoslav got me to thinking:

Yes, there are dozens of things to remember do when working on your citations.  I offered 43 bits of advice in my giant post on citations from a year ago.

But you don’t want all the details – major and minor – to get in the way of one crucial step.  It’s perhaps the only practice that makes building or fixing your citations less daunting, and more likely to get completed.

It is:

Do at least one follow-up round of work on your citations.

Do it 30-90 days after the first occasion you work on them.

Better yet: do a third round of work a month or two after the second.

That’s it.  If you’re no stranger to citations, you probably know what follow-up work would involve.  But if you’d like a little more explanation, just read on.

 

Why do follow-up work on citations?

  • Because some of your listings or edits probably didn’t stick after the first attempt.
  • Because the remaining listings are probably on the tougher sites, which usually also means they’re the listings that Google really trusts.
  • Because you probably can (and always should) fill out more info on your current listings – like any fields labeled “Services,” “Description,” “Keywords,” and especially your categories.

  • Because you may stumble across more sites where you should list your business.

 

What to do, exactly?

You’re doing 5 main things:

1.  You’re checking the sites you’ve already submitted to, to make sure they published your info correctly.  To the extent they haven’t, you’re resubmitting your edits, or trying again to claim your listing, or whatever the situation seems to dictate.

2.  You’re checking on any listings that you tried to remove before, to make sure they’ve actually been removed.  If they haven’t been removed, make your request again.  You may also need to see where those sites are getting their (mis)information in the first place – if there’s an “upstream” problem.

3.  You’re bulking up any citations that only have your basic info.  Again, you’ll want to fill out as many fields as possible – especially the ones where you have the chance to describe your services in more detail.  Until very recently, Google would scrape those fields and put the relevant services MapMaker custom categories.  It’s likely they still use that info in some way.

4.  You’re taking another pass at finding more citation sources.

 

Fine, but how do you fix up the citations?

Read this superb post by Casey Meraz.

 

Which sites most need double-checking?

Yelp, YellowPages, ExpressUpdate, and Acxiom – for starters.  In my experience, those are the most stubborn sites.

 

Why doesn’t everyone do follow-up work?

Because it’s extra work.

Even if people know that there’s still work to be done, it’s never a priority.  If the rankings are bad and it’s because of messy citations, it’ll usually take months for the fixes to count for anything.  And disheveled citations sure as heck aren’t a priority when rankings and spirits are high.

Also, most citation “builders” won’t bother, because it’s easier to bill you for the first several-dozen easy sites than for the 5-10 toughies.  (Sure, the tough sites usually require owner-verification, but someone’s at least got to tell that to the business owner.)

 

It’s part of a bigger strategy

Local SEO usually takes time – months – to bear fruit.  You need to start working on it before you’re starving for visibility and phone calls.  As I’ve written, the slower you can take it, the better.

If you try to get all your citations perfect in a sitting or even within a week, you’ll probably end up frustrated.  But if you revisit them every now and then as part of your long-term push, they’ll get as close to “done” as you can get.

The nice thing is that the more rounds of work you put into your citations, usually the less there is to do each time.

What’s your #1 tip on citations?

#1 frustration?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Local Citation Cleanup Hack: Check BBB

This is one of the few posts I’ve done that’s probably more applicable if you’re a local SEO geek than if you’re a business owner.  But I hope it’s useful in either case.

As you probably know, having inconsistent NAP info floating around the Web can hurt your rankings (a lot).  You’ll need to correct those listings.  But first you need to find them.

That can be tricky if you’ve had different phone numbers, different addresses, different business names, and different websites.  For instance, you can’t always just Google the phone number and see all the listings you need to fix, because some of them might use other numbers.

Enter the Better Business Bureau.

Go to your BBB listing, if you have one.  (My favorite way is to type into Google “business name + BBB”.)

Then click on “View Additional Phone Numbers” and / or “View Additional Web Addresses.

 

You can’t copy and paste any phone numbers from the popup bubble, which is annoying.  You can just check the source code of the page and grab the phone numbers that way (if you find that easier than typing).

But wait – there’s more!  Scroll down the page.  You may see “Alternate Business Names” listed.

Checking the BBB page may tell you nothing you didn’t already know.  Or it may give you a list of past names, phone numbers, and website URLs that can help you unearth old citations that need fixing.

Either way, Gentle Reader, the real work has just begun.

Cleanup Time for Your Google Places Page and Site

I’m always telling you what you should add to your Google Places page and your website in order to rank visibly to local customers.  But what about the stuff you shouldn’t include?  What should not be on your Places page or website?

As perhaps you’ve noticed by now, getting visible in Google is largely a process of communication.  You’re trying to tell Google certain facts about your business, in order to rank as highly as possible in your local market.  If you communicate clearly, you’re more likely to get what you’re after.

(Of course, Google won’t do everything you hope it will: if you stuff your Places page and website with 50 keywords that you want to get visible for, you’ll be disappointed.)

Is your local visibility smothered in virtual garbage?So what you need to do is eliminate mess from your “local presence.  You need to remove online clutter that can trip up Google and hurt your local rankings or (worse) earn your listing a suspension.  There’s a lot of garbage floating around Google Places and the rest of the Web, and it can hurt your local visibility to customers.

The good news is cleaning up is easy and quick.  It may be all that’s necessary (a) to resolve any suspensions by Google or (b) to give you the visibility boost you’ve been looking for, or both.

Here are the areas I suggest you pay attention to and clean up if need-be:

To remove from your Google Places page / account:

  • Remove duplicate Google Places listings (that is, multiple listings of the same business).  If any duplicates show up when you’re logged into your “Dashboard,” get Google to delete them.  Then go to Google and search for your business by name, in order to find any unverified duplicate listings that you may not have known about (and probably never created personally).  Try to get those removed, too (here’s an excellent post that might help with this).
  • Kill off any extra phone numbers on your Places page.  There should only be one number on your Places page—and it had better use a local area code.  Don’t include additional phone numbers anywhere on the page (fax numbers are OK).
  • Remove city/town names from the name of your Places page (unless they’re part of your real DBA) and from your “Categories” fields.  Google sees the inclusion of these as a spam tactic.  Obviously, many businesses get away with keyword-stuffing, but I’ve also seen a number of listings get suspended for it.
  • Scrub out any extra search terms (“keywords”) from your business name.  As with the location names, search terms are OK to include in the “Company/Organization” field of your listing Google if they’re actually part of your real business name.  Otherwise, you risk getting your listing pulled.

Keyword-stuffing in Google Places business name

  • Get rid of redundancies between your “Categories” and your “Description.”  If you select “Landscaping Design” as a business category, don’t call yourself a “landscaping design specialist” in your description, and vice versa.
  • Remove or edit “Additional Details” fields that contain keywords or location names that appear in the “Categories” or “Description” areas of your Places page.

To remove from your website

  • Remove all crawlable phone numbers OTHER THAN the one you use for your Places page.  For instance, if you have a line of text that contains a phone number that isn’t the one you list on your Places page, you’ll confuse Google.  The only way you can include additional phone numbers on your site without gumming up Google’s bots is to add them as images—not as normal, “readable” text on your site (you know text is readable if you can highlight, copy, and paste it).  Of course, even if you include additional phone numbers as images, you’ll want to think hard about whether their presence might confuse would-be customers.

Multiple crawlable phone numbers = bad for Google Places visibility

  • Shorten any parts of your title and description tags that are LONGER than 70 and 155 characters, respectively.  Make your title and description tags fit within those character lengths, or else customers won’t be shown the excess parts in the search results.  I haven’t seen evidence that excessively long meta tags harm Google Places rankings, but the name of the game is to attract customers.  Customers are less likely to visit your site—whether it appears in the organic or the “blended” Google Places search results—if they can’t even read your entire title / description tags.
  • Eliminate repetition in your title and description tags.  Don’t have your title tag read “Austin plumbing, Austin plumber, plumbing company Austin TX” and so forth.  It doesn’t help your rankings in the least, and it’s just gibberish in the eyes of potential customers.  This is particularly true of the title tag: Fewer people will visit your site or Places page (sometimes the title tag appears as your business name in the Google Places “7-pack”) if your title tag is keyword mush.

Messy title tags

Also, I suggest you check the major third-party sites (Yelp, SuperPages, InsiderPages, etc.) and data-providers (particularly InfoUSA) and try to remove any duplicate or inaccurate listings that these sites have for your business.  These usually contain inconsistent info about your business, which can really ding your Google ranking.  Depending on the specific site, trying to get these unwanted listings removed can be even more of a hassle than trying to wrangle with Google to get unwanted Places listings removed.  Still, it’s something you always have to be patrolling around for and trying to weed out.

Oh, and one last thing: the items I just mentioned largely don’t even deal with the human element—that is, making sure your Google Places listing or website doesn’t contain any “junk” that might repel would-be customers.  (For more on this, check out The 1st Annual Google Places Freak Show and my 10-Point Maintenance Routine for Your Local Visibility.)

Can you think of any other mess worth cleaning from your Places page or your site?  Leave a comment!