Niche Local Citations Don’t Get Enough Love

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/14230076900/

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!

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

https://www.flickr.com/photos/digislides/6066906966/

You may know about Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature, which allows you to see whether specific customers (or other people) have joined Yelp.  This is a great way to encourage customers to write you a review, in a non-pushy way.

You may even know there’s a way to look up customers en masse.  You can connect Yelp to Facebook…

…or you can connect Yelp to your email account…

…and it will show you all your contacts who have Yelp accounts.

But you might run into problems, especially if you go the Facebook route:

Problem 1: You’ll have a bunch of non-customers among your email contacts or Facebook “friends.”  You don’t want reviews from them, and you don’t want to burn up a bunch of time on vetting your list.

Problem 2: Yelp will only give you a way to contact them in Yelp – in a message you can send customers if you add them as a friend – when you may prefer to send them an email.

Problem 3: You might want to be organized about how you contact Yelper-customers: you may want their full names next to their email addresses, next to some notes on their jobs, next to date you sent your first email or added them as a friend, etc.

It may sound like a pain, but working off a list of your customers’ email addresses is the only way (that I know of) to look up a long list of customers.

I recently vetted a list of 2500+ customers for one of my clients.  What could have taken me or someone else 10 hours ended up taking only a little over an hour, with some fancy footwork.

I suggest using my bulk-lookup approach if you’ve got more than about 100 customers on your list.  With fewer than that, it’s quicker just to customers’ email addresses one at a time

A couple other people have written about this – there’s a mediocre Wikihow post here and a decent post here – but they leave out some crucial details that may mean the difference between wasting time and saving time.

Eduard de Boer of Whitespark (and a key part of the LocalSpark service I offer jointly with Whitespark) also has an effective, somewhat different method that involves Yahoo mail instead of Gmail.

But Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews, you say.  You don’t want to run afoul of their rules, you say.  Well, to that I reply:

  • Yelp’s “don’t ask” rule is stupid.
  • Yelp doesn’t filter reviews you asked for; it filters reviews based primarily on how many reviews someone’s written. Yelp doesn’t trust reviewers who’ve written no or just a couple reviews.
  • What you choose to do with the info you gather is up to you. Maybe none of your customers is an active Yelper, or maybe they’re all grumps who never give a business more than 3 stars.  But if you’ve identified some solid Yelpers, you can ask them point-blank for a Yelp review, or give them a nudge, or just say you’d love a review somewhere, or not ask at all.  Your call.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of the steps to do a clean and efficient bulk “Find Friends” lookup:

Step 1: Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

Step 2: Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

Step 3: Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

Step 4: Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

Step 5: Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Step 6: Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Step 7: Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Still not 100% clear on the steps?  Here’s much more detail:

Step 1:

Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

The first names should be in column A, the last names in column B, and the emails in column C.

Again, make sure to save it as a .csv.

On the off-chance you’ve got more than 4200 contacts you should break up your list into two CSV files.  Yelp can process up to about 4200 contacts, but chokes if you try more than that at once.

Don’t have your customers’ email addresses?  Unless you’re Starbucks and don’t even know their names, not having those emails is madness.  Come back when you’re serious about marketing.

Step 2:

Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

It needs to be a dedicated Gmail address so that you don’t run non-customers through Yelp’s “Find Friends” lookup.  I’m sure your college roommate and Aunt Ruth would be glad to put in a good word for you on Yelp, but that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Step 3:

Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

First click the “Gmail” tab in the upper-left, then “Contacts,” then “Import.”  Then select “CSV or vCard file.”

If asked, choose to import from “old” Google Contacts.

Click “Import Contacts” (on the left).  Upload the CSV file you created in step 1, so Gmail imports that list of customers.

Once the import is done, stay logged into this Gmail account.

Step 4:

Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

It needs to be a personal Yelp account, not a business account (the kind you create at biz.yelp.com), because there is no “Find Friends” feature in a business account.

If you’re doing this on behalf of someone else (e.g. a client or employer) it’s fine to use your personal account, because you don’t need to contact any customers through Yelp, or even actually add them as friends.  All you need to do is identify who the active Yelpers are, so you can match them to names and emails on your spreadsheet.

But if you do want to “friend” them – as your initial way to contact them or as a friendly follow-up – you’ll probably want to set up a separate personal Yelp account and use that here.


Step 5:

Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Make sure you’re still logged into the Gmail account you created in step 2.

Once you click the option for Gmail, just wait a minute.  As I mentioned, Yelp will be able to process a list of roughly 4200.  If you’ve got more than 4200 contacts, make sure you’ve split it up into two or more CSV lists, as I described in step 1.  Compete steps 6-7 for the first list, and hold off on processing the other(s) until later.


Step 6:

Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Why only pay attention to people who’ve written more than 5 reviews?  Because Yelp usually filters reviews written by people who’ve written no reviews or just a couple.  I’ve found that Yelp starts “trusting” reviewers more after about 5-10 reviews.

Anyway, what I’d do is add another column to your spreadsheet – one with the number of reviews each customer has written.  Put “13” next to Nick, and “675” next to Jim and Suzanne, and so forth.  Again, I wouldn’t bother with any people who’d written fewer than 5 reviews.

So no your spreadsheet should look like this:


Step 7:

Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Only now can you can decide exactly what to do with those contacts.  What I’d do is prune the list a little.  That means you:

  • Cross off anyone you think had a mediocre-to-poor experience with you. (If you haven’t done so already, you should probably contact them to see what you can do to make things better.)
  • Read at least some of your customers’ reviews of other businesses. Cross off any clearly grumpy reviewers.  Don’t contact people who seem stingy with stars or who gripe too much about minutiae.
  • Contact people who already reviewed you on Yelp, but whose reviews got filtered. Thank them, and ask them to consider posting a review (maybe the same one) somewhere else.

(By the way, if you had more than 4200 contacts and had to break up the list into more than one CSV file, now you’ll want to process the remaining contacts. First log into the Gmail account you created specifically for friend-finding, and delete all the contacts you just processed in Yelp.  Then import into Gmail another batch of them (up to 4200) and repeat steps 4-7.)

Your list is probably pretty short by now – which is good, because it’s payday.  Here’s where I’d send each active Yelper on your list a quick email, in which you ask for a review.

If you’re going to be a goody two-shoes about it, you don’t need to ask specifically for a Yelp review; if you just ask these customers for a review somewhere, it’s likely they’ll pick Yelp by default.

Keep the email short, but as personalized as possible.  Try to allude to the specific job you did: “I hope you’re enjoying your new ___” or “It was a pleasure helping you to ___ your ___” or whatever seems appropriate

If you want, include a link to your “Review Us” page.

Congrats.  You’ve smelted tons of ore into gold, and you’ll probably get some nice Yelp reviews out of the deal (especially if you apply my basic strategy and troubleshooting tips).

Any first-hand experience with finding and contacting “friends” on Yelp?  What were your results in terms of reviews?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Best Search Operators for Digging up Duplicate Local Citations

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rocketlass/42689311

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!

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!