The High Cost of Thinking Your Local Search Visibility Is Free

https://www.flickr.com/photos/yxo/189594544/

The name’s a shameless rip-off of Wil Reynolds’s excellent presentation on “The High Cost of Free Traffic.”  One reason I’ve got no shame is that that describes the situation perfectly: Although technically your business’s visibility in Google Maps and the rest of local search is free, you run into trouble once you start treating it as you would other “free” stuff.

Business owners and their marketers often mess up and overlook enough things even when they pay $20 a click (as in AdWords) for their traffic.  Their strategies get even more ragged when they don’t have to pay for visibility in the local search results, and are confident they won’t need to any time soon.

“Free” gives you a sense of relief.  You don’t think much about how you use your water if all you have to do is dip your cup in the creek.  That’s fine as long as it’s not winter or there’s a cattle drive upstream.

What’s the “high cost” of free traffic (the one I named this post after)?  It’s not one specific high price you pay, but rather a long list of missed-opportunity costs.  They’re problems you’ll face, time you’ll waste, or wins you won’t seize.

They’re what happens when you assume “free” rankings and traffic are permanent, or unlimited, or guaranteed, or something you’re entitled to, or always easy to get more of, or always what you need more of.

Cost 1: Trying to farm out all parts of your local SEO strategy.

(Or, even worse, trying to farm out all of your marketing.)

Some parts of local SEO require a decision-maker’s personal involvement.  Doing what it takes to earn good links and reviews are two examples of that.  Though third parties can help to one degree or another, they can’t do it well and without any of your involvement.  “Your one-stop, turnkey solution” is a marketing ploy.  The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll get visible in the local search results, and have it actually result in more business, and have it last.

Cost 2: Seeing if you can “just get your site to rank” without putting in any real effort.

If your primitive strategy of microsites / keyword-stuffing / cheap links / lousy “city” pages doesn’t work you’ve wasted time and are back to the drawing board.  Even if you’re fortunate enough to have your bare-minimum effort bring you good rankings, you’ll be one non-pushover competitor or one Google test or update away from Search Engine Siberia.

Especially when it’s early in your local SEO effort, either you need to specialize and carve out a niche, or put in a little work to differentiate yourself, or do both.

Cost 3: Only worrying about the “easy SEO wins” at first.

Isn’t it great if you can meet your goals with a minimum of effort?  Sure.  Shouldn’t you try to do that?  Yeah, probably.  But what if your quick no-brainers yield no results?  Then it’s a question of when you start putting in the hard work, and how long it takes to pay off.  Fixing up your title tags, wiggling a few keywords into the cracks, and cleaning up your local listings will only get you so far.

How long should you wait to see if your quick wins did the trick?  2 months?  6 months?  A year?  Damned if I know.  I say you start digging the well before you’re thirsty.  Start on the ongoing activities while you’re still working on the one-time stuff.

Cost 4: Using a site/CMS that makes changes difficult or slow to make.

Your Squarespace or Wix or Joomla or GoDaddy site is probably fine to keep if you can structure it correctly, create a homepage that doesn’t suck, make it more or less conducive to conversions, and do other basics.  It doesn’t need to be perfect.  It’s better to get a rough site out there early, and improve it later.  The problem is what happens if you can’t improve it later.  Because you consider your local search traffic “free,” you don’t feel it’s urgent to get a site you can work with.  You’ll let it molder until traffic dries up or something really breaks, or both.

Cost 5: Hiring hacky writers.

If you had to pay $20 for each click, would you send visitors to pages that don’t make it clear what you do, or pages that make it apparent you’re “too busy” to put any effort into your site yourself, or pages that make you look like you can’t string two sentences together?  No?  Well, doing that with “free” traffic is even worse.  At least if you pay $20 (or much more) for a click, you might eventually learn that more traffic often isn’t the answer.

With bad writing you have the online-marketing equivalent of BO.

Cost 6: Waiting too long to get serious about getting reviews.

You probably “just want to rank” first.  Once you have more customers, you’ll start encouraging reviews.  That’s backwards.  Good rankings without good reviews tend not to bring in much business.  On the other hand, good reviews will help you as soon as you start getting them, no matter how visible you are.  Go after them early.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/15016964@N02/5919180598/

Cost 7: Not replying to customers’ reviews, even when you don’t “have to.”

You probably don’t let negative reviews go unaddressed.  That’s usually wise.

What about the positive reviews?  Think of how hard you’ve worked to get however much visibility you’ve got, and to do a good enough job for customers that they wrote you those nice reviews.  Don’t you want that visibility and traffic to convert as many customers as possible, so you continue the upward spiral?  Sometimes replying to a positive review – even if only to say thanks – is a way to do that.  It shows you give a hoot, and that you still care about customers after they’ve paid you and reviewed you.

Cost 8: Assuming all your visitors saw your best reviews before visiting your site.

Given all the info Google shows IN the search results these days – especially when people search for your business by name – it’s smart to think of Google’s results as your second homepage.  To wow customers there with all your reviews is crucial, and you need to do it.  Those review sites sure are prominent.

But what if those people go even farther, and get to your site?  Those people are even deeper into your “conversion funnel,” and are this close to taking an action you want.  Don’t hold back now.   Even if they saw your “review stars” in the search results, they probably didn’t see reviews from specific customers.  If you had to pay for each click, you’d make sure your best reviews were front-and-center.  That’s smart even if you don’t pay for each click.

Splatter or sprinkle your reviews across your site.

Cost 9: Waiting too long to start earning links.

Yes, the one-time work on your site and on your listings is important.  You may see a bump from doing only that.  But sooner or later you’ll hit a plateau.  At that point you can’t just “optimize” your site more, or crank out more citations, and expect to get unstuck.  And don’t think an SEO person has some fancy maneuver for your site that will do it.  You’ll go round and round on tweaking or overhauling your site, to no effect.  7 SEO “experts” and many dollars later, you’ll realize you missed a big piece of the puzzle.  You could have spent a fraction of that time on effort on trying to earn good links, and you could have seen results sooner.  Slow process?  Sure, but not as slow as the alternatives.

Here are some relatively easy link ideas, just to get the juices flowing.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ifl/3877530270/

Cost 10: Fixating on ranking across your entire service area.

You want to rank in 25 more towns.  That’s a fine goal.  So you must be pretty visible in your town already, right?  If not, start there and branch out only when you’ve had some success.  Now, it may or not be possible to rank in all (or half) of the places you want to reach.  It depends on many factors, including whether you’re trying to rank in the local organic results (doable) or in the Maps results (less realistic).  I’m not even saying you should trim back your goals.  I’m saying only that you should do what it takes to build up a little visibility in the place where it’s most likely you can do so, before you try to go farther afield.

Cost 11: Creating lots of awful “city pages.”

If you won’t take the time to do them right, at least don’t spend too much time on doing them wrong.  Make 5 worthless pages rather than 50 worthless pages.  That way, you can return that much sooner to whatever you were doing that was so much more important than putting a little thought into your city pages, so that they might rank and convert.

Cost 12: Never using AdWords to learn about would-be customers or to sniff out markets.

Too many business owners think, “Why on earth should I pay for traffic when I can get it for free?”  Well, for one thing, because it’s the only practical way to sniff out people’s level of interest in specific services in specific cities/areas where you don’t rank.

Google Analytics only tells you about the traffic you already get, and nothing about the traffic you might be able to get.  Set up a quick-n’-dirty AdWords campaign, keep it on a short budgetary leash, let it run for a couple weeks, and mine the stuffing out of the “Dimensions” tab.  I know of no better way to research keywords, to get a sense of how well traffic converts for those keywords, and to find out exactly which cities/towns those searchers search from.

If you think of pay-per-click as a way to buy data (and not necessarily to get customers, at least at first) you probably couldn’t get anywhere else, you can put new vim and vigor into your local SEO effort.

Cost 13: Assuming that because your local visibility is “free” it’s also unlimited.

That may be the costliest cost of all, for many reasons.

You can always lose visibility.

You won’t have a monopoly while you have it.

Just because you got some visibility easily doesn’t mean you can get more with similar ease.

You don’t know who will become your competitor next.

Google likes to test just about all aspects of the search results.

Google likes to change policies in all areas of search.

Google likes to stuff the free search results with paid search results.

You don’t even own your local listings.  The only online thing you own is your site, and everything else is rented land.

It’s for those reasons and many others that you do not want to grow complacent.

Why do the signs at parks and nature reserves tell you not to feed the animals?

Because if you feed them and other people feed them, they’ll get conditioned to freebies, and not be as able to hunt and forage.  (Also, the tripe most people eat isn’t necessarily good for a growing critter.)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/84744710@N06/14766013011/

If you’re an animal, it’s fine to catch as catch can, but you probably want to be able to feed yourself if the hands with free food ever go away.  The same is true of business owners.  Don’t be a Central Park pigeon.

What’s a missed-opportunity cost I missed?

Any cautionary tales?

Leave a comment!

3rd Edition of Free Guide to Effective Local SEO

It’s been 3 years since I released the 2nd edition of my free guide to local SEO.

Much has changed in Google and in the rest of the local-search “ecosystem” since then.  Edition 2 still can help you, but it’s developed a casu marzu -like crust.

I’ve finally come out with the 3rd edition.  It’s the clearest guide to local-search success you can get.  It will help you whether you’re new to local SEO or have done it for years.

Whereas the 2nd edition was an evolution from the 1st (from 2011), the 3rd edition is a different beast.  Some differences:

  • It’s one page.  Down from 58 pages.  (There is also a page of notes – optional.)  It’s even easier to get through and to act on.  You’ll know right away where your local SEO effort is dragging.
  • I don’t make you slog through any detail you don’t need or want. The steps should be clear to you right on that single page, but I don’t know which steps you’ll need more vs. less help on.  That’s why I often refer to blog posts that provide detail on a specific step.  (I wrote 154 posts between the 2nd and 3rd editions.  You probably don’t want to read all of those.)
  • You get the resources my helpers and I use to help clients: my comprehensive site audit checklist, our citation-building worksheet, a list of doable link opportunities, and more.
  • My advice is 100% up-to-date. It takes into account Google updates like Pigeon (2014) and Possum (2016), the local citation sources that matter today, the review sites that matter today, and much more.
  • I plan to keep the free guide updated real-time. There may not be a 4th edition as such, but rather continual tune-ups to this edition, as local search continues to evolve.

Enough throat-clearing.  You can access the free guide right here:

(If you’re reading this on mobile, you’re probably wondering where my opt-in form is.  Long story.  Just scroll down and click the link in the footer.)

Let me know how you like it!

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!

Now You Can Fix Your Yahoo Local Listing without Paying for Yext

It appears that you can – once again – update your Yahoo Local listing for free, without having to sign up for Yext PowerListings.

Yahoo completely turned over listings-management duties to Yext last year.  Over the course of several years, Yahoo had gone from a viable (if second-fiddle) local search engine, to a broken one, to one that no longer even tried to offer correct or new results.  You’d only pay to correct your Yahoo listing if your NAP OCD caused you to lie awake at night, bug-eyed and sweating into your pillow.

But now there’s a workaround!

Because it’s near-impossible to find, clearly it’s there by design, rather than as a loophole that’s just asking to be glued shut.  Kenny Hodges of Scott Snyder Dump Truck Service emailed me this fresh intel, and explained how to do it:

Phil –

Due to what is most likely a lawsuit in the works, Yext has now added the option for us to just fix our Yahoo listings for free.

This is interesting information that came about from a sales call from Yext.

My uncle received a sales call from Yext and he proceeded to berate them about the fact that they were ‘holding his business listings hostage’. After 15 mins on the phone with the sales person, he was told that there ​IS ​a way to fix his business listings for free. Although he was not given any specific information about how to do it, he thought he would try again for the 30th time. Upon going through the process, he found that it had changed. Lots of information now needs to be filled out prior to seeing your scan with the new format.

Now when you finally get to the pricing schedule, you will find ​a new link, which is
the solution to the Yext stranglehold on Yahoo business listings. You DO need to make a Yext PowerListings account, AND verify that account through email, and agree to the terms. Yext PowerListings claims that even though it’s a free account, you will be in full control of your claimed Yahoo Business page. Prior to claiming your business you will need to find the proper Yahoo business categories through another source as there is no dropdown or multiple choice or suggestions.

Here are the basic steps to get to the “fix it for free” button:

1. Search local.yahoo.com for your business.

2. Hover your mouse over your business on the left. The results on the right are what you’re looking for.

3. Click on “verify your listing,” right under the name of your business, where it asks “is this your business?”

4. Yahoo/Yext PowerListings will open, where it will send you to a “free business listing scan.”

5. What you need to do is go through the entire process as if your are purchasing one of their plans. At the end, after you have entered all your information, just under the “packages” in very small print, it will offer a “just fix Yahoo for free” link.

That is how we were able to fix our listing on Yahoo for free, without paying Yext.

Kenny

It sure is buried.  After you fill out Yext’s form – as though you’re signing up – you’ll see the link if you scroll down and squint:

(Here’s that URL: https://www.yext.com/pl/yahoo-claims/free-claim-checkout.html)

Then you’ll see this screen:

Now just “check out.”  At this point, you should be done for the moment, and your edits should be under review by some combination of Yahoo / Yext people.  I don’t yet know how long those take to process.

You’ll immediately get an email from Yext, but it doesn’t appear to require any action on your part if you only want to fix Yahoo.

Nyagoslav tells me that Yahoo requires phone-verification before your edits go live.  I’m guessing there’s a second email that prompts you to verify, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

Anyway, this is a good development.  I just wish the link wasn’t so buried.

Have you tried the free-fix on your Yahoo listing yet?  Run into any issues?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Monetizes the Description?

Justin Mosebach of YDOP has noticed a new paid offering in some of his multi-location clients’ Yelp dashboards: the ability to add a description with “Specialties, History, Meet the Owner/Manager, Business Recommendations.”

Whoa, whoa…hold on: haven’t those kinds of business descriptions been showing up for years now on free Yelp listings?  Yes.  But the prompt to “contact Yelp sales” to add one appears to be new, which suggests that Yelp might be phasing out free rich descriptions for new listings.  Existing descriptions will probably be grandfathered in and stay put, at least for a while.

A few notes from Justin, based on a few questions I asked him:

1. He first noticed this on Friday.

2. It’s not showing up in all clients’ dashboards.

3. He didn’t use Yelp’s bulk-upload feature here.

4. He found a loophole / workaround to get a rich description for a new listing up for free.  (Justin asked that I not post it and prompt Yelp to close the loophole.)

Are you seeing this offer?  If so, when did you first notice it?

Have you noticed any other changes in Yelp?

Leave a comment!

 

2nd Edition of Free 7-Step Guide to Local Search Visibility

Note – 10/31/16: I’ve released the 3rd edition. You can get it here. If you’re on my email list and didn’t get the link to the 3rd edition, email me.

About time, huh?

For roughly the past 18 months I’ve wanted to write a 2nd edition of my free guide.  Like everything else on this site, the guide is meant to be a resource for business owners with a DIY streak who want to get more visible to customers in the local search results.

I’m proud of the old one, and it helped many business owners.  Reading over it recently, I was surprised at how many of the basic principles still hold water.

It’s just that 2 1/2 years is a while.  Especially because any info about Google and the rest of “local” doesn’t exactly have the shelf life of a Slim Jim.

Anyway, after way too long – and enough typing to make my local chapter of the Typing Fingers Union go on a violent strike – the 2nd edition is done.

You can get the guide right now:

(I only ask for you to double-opt-in by email because I want to make sure you’re a real person, and because if you like the guide you’ll also like the free info I’ll send you in an occasional email.)

I’d love your feedback on it.

Enjoy!

RIP LocalEze Free Business Listings

Is your business listed on LocalEze.com?  I hope so: If you run a “local” business in the US, the site can indirectly help or hurt your local search rankings.

On a tight budget and want to list your business for free?  You’re out of luck.

As of just this month, LocalEze no longer allows businesses owners to add their listings to the site for free.

I’ve heard this from a couple of people now – including one of my clients and the guys from FireGang– which prompted me to go in and take a look for myself today.  I’ve come to the same conclusion.

Apparently, you can still claim your listing for free if it’s already listed on LocalEze (more on this in a minute).  It’s just that now you can’t add a listing (for free) that’s not already in the system.

I’m not wild about this change.

As I’ve written on several occasions, LocalEze is a very important site to list your business on if you want to rank well in the local search results – particularly in the Google+Local (AKA Google Places) results.  Being listed there and listed accurately is a huge step in making sure your citations are consistent.

I think the paid package is a good deal, but business owners shouldn’t have to fork over just to have basic control of their own business information.  Especially given how many other websites LocalEze feeds your business information to.

That’s what I know so far.  There are also some things I don’t know at this stage:

  • I’m wondering whether LocalEze will remain as important a data-provider, at least as far as Google’s local-search algorithm is concerned.  No doubt it will remain important, but the move toward pay-to-play ultimately may mean fewer businesses and less-fresh info in the database – which is the last thing Google (not to mention Apple Maps) needs at the moment.
  • If you’ve already got a claimed listing, can you only update it once annually (for free)?
  • Will (and should) LocalEze continue to appear in GetListed.org scans?
  • What will we be saying a year from now?

Anyway…

What should you do now?  At least one of four things:

  • Join me in pouring a fohty for the free listings.
  • If you’re listed on LocalEze and if you haven’t already claimed your listing, claim your listing while you still can do so for free.
  • If you’re not listed and you’re not on a particularly tight budget, consider adding your listing by forking over for the paid package ($297 / year).  You can also add and gain control of your listing if you’re on Yext (which I believe is $397 / year for a single-location “small” business).
  • If you’re not listed on LocalEze but you are on a restrictive budget, you can still get listed, but it’s going to take some work and patience.  You’ll have to list your business on pretty much all the other important directories (AKA “citation sources”).  LocalEze “trusts” some of these sites, and if your business is listed on the latter, it will probably be listed on the former after some months.  You’d have to list your business on these other third-party sites anyway if you’re serious about your local SEO.  The only difference is that now – if you have more patience than money at the moment – you may want to list your business on those sites first, rather than do LocalEze first and wait for it to feed your info to the other sites

Questions?  First-hand observations?  Not sure which plan of attack might be best in your situation?  Leave a comment!

New Tool for Customer Reviews: Whitespark’s Review Handout Generator

About a year ago, Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca and I had an idea:

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a free and easy way to make a single page of instructions that walks your customers through how to post a review on your Google+Local page?

Darren had created the superb Local Citation Finder.  He was the “local SEO tools guy.”

I had already created simple, easy-to-follow Google+Local review “handouts” for my clients and other business owners.  I was the “reviews guy.”

Darren had bought my Google review handout for a client and really liked it.  I’d used and benefited from the Local Citation Finder since the day it came out.

So…our idea was that the Whitespark crew would build a free tool that instantly creates “how to write a review” handouts based on my tried-and-true design.

That tool is finally here.  Darren unveiled it in his SearchFest presentation today, and I’m unveiling it here now.

You can use it whether you’re a business owner or a local SEO.  You can use it whether you manage one business location or 100.

Go ahead – try the new review-handout generator at:

http://www.whitespark.ca/review-handout-generator

By the way, in case you’re wondering, there are only three differences between the documents you can make with the new Whitespark tool and the custom-made review handouts I’ve long offered on this site:

(1)  I can easily add custom features to your handout (e.g. QR code, extra graphics, annotations, etc.).

(2)  It’s easy for me to embed links in the PDF for you, so that if you email the doc to your customers, they can just click the steps to complete them.

(3)  I offer review handouts for other sites.

How do you like the Google+Local review-handout generator?  Any questions or suggestions?

How about a great big “Thanks, Darren!”

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.

InfoGroup Category List

Your InfoGroup listing matters - and so do the business categories you choose for itThere are two business listings you absolutely can’t screw up if you want to get visible in Google’s local search results: The first one is your Google+Local listing (duh).  The other is your InfoGroup listing.

InfoGroup – AKA InfoUSA – automatically feeds your business info to sites all over the local search ecosystem.  If your InfoGroup listing has info that’s inaccurate or that differs significantly from what’s on other sites, the chances are excellent your local rankings will be lousy.

The data InfoGroup has on your business also gets piped right into Google.   Ever wonder what causes duplicate Google listings to show up?  Or how a business can have a local listing on Google even though the owner never created a listing?   That’s usually because of InfoGroup.

The bottom line is you need to take two steps with your InfoGroup listing:

1.  Make sure it exists and that your vital info (name, address, phone number) is correct.  Do this at ExpressUpdateUSA.com (which is a site specifically meant for building / managing your listing).  Create your listing if it’s not already there.  If it’s in the system, claim it and make any necessary tweaks.

2.  Beef up your listing with as much relevant additional info on your business / services as you possibly can.  This additional info matters to your local rankings.  This includes the “description” and “services” fields you’re allowed to fill out – and that are easily to fill out.  But most importantly it means you have to pick out relevant categories to list your business under.  The categories can be a little trickier.  That’s what this post is for.

As I’ve commented before, picking the right business categories is crucial not only to your rankings but to the range of local search terms you’re visible for.  This is true of the categories you pick for your Google listing, and of the categories you pick for your third-party listings – of which InfoGroup is arguably the most important of all.

Everything I recently wrote about categories on LocalEze is also true of InfoGroup: you have literally thousands of categories to choose from, but they’re not easily searchable and sometimes aren’t called what you think they’d be called.  With InfoGroup it’s hard to know if you’ve even found the most relevant ones.

Many of the categories aren’t even relevant to “local” businesses.  They have categories for bologna makers and yurt manufacturers alike.  If you’re an alpaca farmer, they’ve got you covered.  Wholesale zipper seller?  Yup.  Uranium dealer?  No problem.

That’s why I’ve put all 9,854 InfoGroup business categories into one list.  The benefit of this is you can search it using CTRL+F or Command+F, or even browse it if you must.  You could find the right categories using InfoGroup’s search feature, but it will take you a bit longer.

Plus, you can even edit or process the categories list if you use the Excel or .txt versions – if you wanted to get all fancy.

But all you really need to do is find the 5 most-accurate categories for your business – or at least however many are relevant to your business and what you offer.  Add those categories when you create or edit your InfoGroup listing.

By the way, I highly recommend you use CTRL+F to search the list, at least to narrow down your options at first.  I hope you were planning to anyway.  I suppose you could read through the list from top to bottom, but your head may explode and you’ll have eyeball prints on your laptop screen.

Happy category-hunting!

View or download the InfoGroup category list:

  PDF

  Excel

  Text