"Will Google Devalue Local Citations?" My Short Answer

Hendrik Vos of Online Business Builders asked me a great question yesterday:

“I wonder how far off 100% is the probability that Google eventually ends up treating all these manufactured citations/ links in the same way they did manufactured backlinks to websites.”

The question came up because of the giant post on citations I did on the Whitespark blog the other day.   It’s come up before.  Mike Blumenthal wrote a post on this question last year, and hit the nail on the head.

But because citations have been on my mind – and on others’ minds, apparently – I just thought I’d share my off-the-cuff reply to Hendrik:

“I’d say there’s about a 5% chance that will happen.  I say that for many reasons – but just to rattle off a few:

“First of all, there’s nothing sneaky or below-board about listing one’s business on a directory of businesses.  It’s not an attempt to “game” Google, partly because there are very tangible reasons to list your business on various IYPs: you want users of those sites to be able to find you, and you want reviewers on sites other than Google to be able to review you.  As opposed to link exchanges and the like, where the links have no purpose other than to try to puff up one’s rankings.

“Second, Google needs the data that’s on the most-important sites (where you can get citations).  It relies on them in order to populate its results.  Without them, Google’s local-business data would be incomplete at best, or – more likely – an absolute train-wreck.

“Third, most businesses have citations that their owners didn’t even build: They grow naturally over time.  The citations profiles of those businesses are usually indistinguishable from those of businesses for which someone has been proactively working on citations.

“If it sounds like I’m absolutely certain Google will never treat citations differently, you might be wondering: “Where does the 5% come in?”  Well, Google is full of surprises :)”

Your thoughts?  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.

Local Citations / Business Directories for Specific Ethnicities and Identities (US)

Any business owner who’s tried to get visible to customers in local search has noticed the huge number and variety of citation sources out there (AKA places to list your business).

We all know that people who own businesses in America are of all different stripes – some who identify as a minority, some born in other countries, some multilingual, etc.  That’s one of the very best things about this country.

What most local business owners and local SEOs don’t know is that there’s also a variety of local-biz directories geared toward many of the different ethnicities and identities of people who’ve built businesses here.

These sites are important for two reasons: Because “local” business owners (1) want to attract the “right types” of customers and (2) need to gather as many local citations as possible in order to get visible to those customers in the local search results (mostly Google+Local and Bing).

I’ve rounded up a list of ethnicity-specific / identity-specific sites, some of which you may want to list your business on.

I didn’t know about these sites, partly because this topic gets zero attention – even in local-SEO circles.  But that doesn’t mean your customers don’t know about them and use them.  Plus, chances are good Google views them as high-quality citations, which could help your local rankings.

This post is for you if your services cater to people of a particular origin, or if you’re trying to find more customers who have a similar background to yours – and who might be looking for someone like you in the same way.

A couple of notes:

1. I’ve only included directories that are (a) free, (b) available to people in any city in America, and that (c) don’t require you to place a reciprocal link on your site.

2.  There’s no good way to categorize the sites, so I’ve simply listed them alphabetically.  Most of the site names are self-explanatory, but I’ve added little side-notes to the ones that might not be.

 

Sites:

AlbanianYellowPages.com

AmericanIndianBusiness.net (Native American)

AsianBizOnline.com

BizPronto.com (Latino)

BlackBusinessList.com

BlackDollar.org

BlackOwnedBiz.com

BlackPagesOnline.com

Chinese411.com

CopperPages.com (Indian & Southeast Asian)

DesiWebUSA.com (Indian)

DoJewish.org

FilAmBizPages.com (Filipino)

FilAmPages.com (Filipino)

GreekAmericanBiz.com

HispanicSMB.com

IndianVillage.com (Native American)

IndoUSListing.com (Indonesian)

IranianHotline.com

iZania.com (Black & African American)

Jewocity.com

LatinaMarketplace.com

Latin-Businesses-USA.com

LebaneseinAmerica.com

MakBiz.net (Macedonian)

MinorityProfessionalNetwork.com

MuslimBusinessUSA.com

MuslimDir.com

NAOTW.biz (Native American)

RUList.com (Russian)

RussianImpact.com

SaigonNet.net (Vietnamese)

SupportBlackBusinesses.com

ThaiYellowPagesUSA.com

TurkishBiz.com

US4Arabs.com

Yasabe.com (Spanish speakers)

YaSas.com (Greek)

 

And a couple of good sites for US Armed Forces veterans:

VeteranOwnedBusiness.com

VeteransDirectory.com

(If you’re a vet or know one, check out my pro bono Visibility for Veterans program.)

 

By the way, you can find paid-membership sites if you do a search in Google along the lines of “[ethnicity] american chamber of commerce”.  There are also a ton of LinkedIn groups, which you can find if you type things like “[ethnicity] American business network”

If the list doesn’t have a directory geared toward a particular type of person, it’s either because I simply couldn’t find such a directory (possible) or because I didn’t think to look (not likely – I spend 2-3 hours combing the web).

In any case, I’m sure there are some great sites out there that I missed.  And I just know there must be a lot of non-US sites similar to the ones on the list (I’ve stumbled across a few so far).  I’d really appreciate any suggestions.

How many of the above sites apply to your business (or a client’s business)?  Any thoughts on how to make the list a little better?  Leave a comment!

IYP Ranking Factors: Getting Visible in Local-Biz Directories

IYPs – short for “Internet Yellow Pages” – get a bum rap.

Some of it is true:

Yes, they’re directories, not search engines.

Yes, some of them are mere flies on the windshield of Google.

Yes, we often harbor murderous fantasies when one of their sales representatives calls us on the phone.

It’s for all these reasons and others that most business owners pay little attention to these sites.

This makes sense on one level: these sites don’t have nearly as much “eyeball share” as Google does.

But it’s a mistake.  If you’re in a competitive local market, you’re going to want every edge you can get.

More specifically: you’ll want every promising eyeball you can get (not to sound creepy or anything).  On the whole, many people use IYP sites – partly because Google usually ranks them above or right below its own local search results.

That’s why you need to know basically how these third-party directory sites rank their business listings: as on Google, on these sites there are visible businesses and invisible ones.  You want yours to be in the first group.

These sites influence your Google+Local rankings, too, but that’s another story.

I recently spent a few hours trying to figure out what separates some businesses from others on 7 of the biggest IYP sites.  I’ve listed the sites in alphabetical order, with the ranking factors for each underneath.

Here are the ranking factors I’ve found for each site:

(Please note: these simply are my observations, based on a few hours of gumshoeing and several years of helping my clients with local search.)

 

1. Reviews (AKA “ratings”).  That’s it.  One ranking factor.

In terms of how CitySearch ranks businesses, there is a very clear pecking order:

-“Best of CitySearch” winners (if there are any in a particular local market).

-Then businesses that havereviews, ranked in descending order of “CitySearch score” and/or number of reviews (more on this in a second).

-Then businesses with no reviews.

A little more detail:

Businesses that win the “Best of CitySearch” award tend to have some reviews, but I’ve seen winners that have 1 or 2, which leads me to believe reviews may not even be a factor in winning.  My understanding always has been that there are judges – AKA “scouts” – who pick the winners, but I’ve always been unclear on the specifics (despite a couple of unanswered inquiries on my part).  Whatever the case, BoC winners get the top spots.

Slightly farther down the totem pole are all the businesses with reviews.  All of them rank above all the businesses without reviews.

How do all the businesses with reviews get sorted out?  Well, that leads us to “CitySearch score.”  It’s the equivalent of an “average rating” (like what you see on Google and Yelp).  100% is perfect.  75% may mean that 3 out of 4 customers gave you a positive rating – which they can do without actually having to string together a couple sentences in a review.

CitySearch ranks businesses mostly by score, but also by number of ratings.

CitySearch usually ranks businesses with 90% above ones with 85%, which in turn outrank the ones at 72%, and so on.  You get the idea.

There are some exceptions to this: Occasionally a business with a 90% CitySearch score will outrank one with a 100%.  In these cases, the number of ratings also seems to be a factor: a business with 95% based on 60 ratings may outrank a business with 100% based on 20 ratings.

But businesses with a score of 50% or more always outrank the ones that have a score below 50%

When several businesses have 100% scores (which is common), it seems that the one with the highest number of reviews/ratings will be at the top.

Given that your local competitors probably don’t include many or any “Best of CitySearch” winners, and that businesses without any reviews rarely are contenders on the site, your #1 task is just to rack up a couple of reviews on the site.  (CitySearch reviews help you out on many other sites, too.)

 

1.  Paid results.  Businesses that pay get the top spots.  Everyone else dukes it out based on:

2.  Reviews.  InsiderPages is similar to CitySearch in this way.  All businesses with reviews outrank all the ones that don’t have any.

Here, too, the businesses are ranked based on the number of reviews they have and by order of average rating (e.g. 5-star average, 4-star average, etc.).  But unlike on CitySearch, here the number of reviews seems to carry a little more weight than how high the average star rating is.  It appears quantity matters a bit more than quality, in this regard.

 

1. Being “Verified by Manta.”  Once you create your Manta profile, they call you up to make sure your info is accurate.  I don’t recall ever having done this with my clients (maybe once or twice…don’t remember), but I believe it’s free.

2.  Business name.  If the name of your Manta listing includes a given search term or city name, you’ll probably rank highly for it.  But do NOT mess with your business name just to grab an extra edge: it may hurt the all-important consistency of your “NAP” info across the web.

By the way, there’s no such thing as a “Manta review,” so reviews aren’t even part of the equation here.  Probably all you can do to climb over a few competitors is owner-verify your Manta listing (again, with the caveat that I’m not 100% sure whether it’s free – not that it necessarily would be a bad use of a buck).

 

1.  Paid results.

2.  Business name.

3.  Reviews (?).  This is a bit unclear to me: although businesses with reviews generally seem to outrank ones that don’t, sometimes I’ll click on a listing with a star rating next to it and the actual listing page for the business won’t show any reviews (I have a theory about this, though).  I do know, though, that MerchantCircle is no stranger to the occasional shenanigan.  It’s definitely a good site to be on, and you’ll want to make sure your listing is complete and accurate.  I just don’t really know the extent to which MerchantCircle reviews help you on the site (or in your Google+Local rankings).

 

1. Paid results.  SuperPages seems to have a ton of businesses on-board with “sponsored listings” – to such an extent that the “basic” listings often are halfway down the page or lower.

2.  Business name.

3.  Categories.  SuperPages has an unusually wide range of categories you can list your business under, but you can’t specify any custom categories.  You can pick up to 5.  It’s really worth taking a few minutes to make sure you pick them wisely.  (One good practice is to check out which ones your competitors are using.)

4.  Reviews.  Relative to other sites, SuperPages doesn’t have an enormous amount of review activity – though certainly it would be smart to make sure you get a couple reviews on it.  In effect, this makes the other 3 main ranking factors I’ve identified a little more important.

 

I did a whole post on Yelp ranking factors, as you may have seen.  But here are the CliffsNotes on what seem to be the biggest ranking factors:

1.  Existence of reviews.

2.  Keyword-relevance of reviews

3.  Categories.

4.  Name of business.

5.  Number of reviews.

6.  Reviews by “Elite” members.

7.  Check-ins via smartphone.

8.  Quality of reviews.

(For more detail, check out the post.)

 

Let’s start this one off with some great observations by my good buddy Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca:

I looked at some businesses ranking in yellowpages.ca a while back and it looked to me that the #1 thing was just to get a couple reviews. Any reviews. Most businesses didn’t have any reviews on the site, and the ones that did tended to rank. The trouble with yellowpages.ca is that they randomize the rankings on every page load. Refresh this a few times: http://www.yellowpages.ca/search/si/1/plumbers/Edmonton+AB

The items in blue are paid, and the items with pins are paid as well but a lower cost package. It looks pretty random.

I’m pretty sure that if you phone and talk to a sales rep at most directories, they’ll tell you exactly how the rankings are generated. Typically it’s paid level 1, paid level 2, paid level 3, then random non-paid with reviews possibly playing a role. They seem to randomize the various paid levels as well so that each business gets equal opportunity to rank #1 in their section.

 Just for the sake of comparing notes, here are the YP ranking factors I’ve noticed:

1. Paid results.  They’re everywhere.  The only randomized results – the ones Darren mentions (above) – seem to be the paid results.  The “basic,” free listings appear to rank the same way consistently – based on some of the ranking factors we’ve seen elsewhere.

2.  Business name.

3.  Categories.

4.  Reviews.  YP is an important site to your local-search efforts in a lot of ways – certainly if you’re in the US, but especially if you’re in another country.  Even if you don’t give a hoot about how visible you are on YP, I do recommend getting at least a few reviews there.

Even if some of specific factors I mentioned were news to you, the takeaway messages from all of this shouldn’t be news:

1.  Make dead-certain you’re listed on each of the above sites, spend a few minutes picking out the most-relevant categories you can for your listings, and try to get reviews on as many of the sites as you possibly can.

2.  Although many ad packages are a waste (or an outright scam), don’t necessarily dismiss them out of hand.  For instance, if there’s on IYP site where you have a ton of great reviews, getting more people to see that listing may pay off.

3.  Whenever there’s an often-ignored to-do item that can set you apart on one specific site (like verifying your Manta profile), do it.  Most of your competitors would rather kick back and shovel Pringles into their faces than take a few minutes to pick low-hanging fruit.

Do you have any thoughts on / experience with the sites I mentioned or with others?  Any advice or suggestions?  Leave a comment!

Cold Hard Numbers on How Third-Party Reviews Help Google Places Rankings

Customer reviews are crucial to your local rankings and overall success in Google Places, as you may know.  You need reviews that customers write directly on your Google Places page, and you need customer reviews on third-party sites like InsiderPages, CitySearch, etc.

We know that the first type of reviews—“Google reviews,” written directly on your Places page—have a strong influence on Google Places rankings.  That’s well-established, and I’ve seen it to be the case throughout the 3 years I’ve been specializing in Google Local.

"Just the facts, ma'am." - Sgt. Joe Friday (Dragnet)But what about reviews written on third-party sites?  Yeah, they’re important.  But what else do you know about third-party reviews and how they relate to your Google Places rankings?  Probably not much more or less than I did before I did a little fact-finding on the topic.

I took a “core sample” of 200 local markets and 1400 businesses in Google Places, in all different industries and cities in the US.

(Back in July of last year I did similar research, but that was on “Google reviews” and third-party reviews collectively.  This time I’m focusing on the third-party ones.)

Obviously this wasn’t exhaustive research—if it was, I’d be using my break from collecting data to  shop around for some glass eyeballs. However, I’ve got enough figures to answer some specific questions about how third-party reviews tie into first-page Google Places rankings.

 

“How many different third-party sites does a top-7 business have customer reviews on, on average?”

When you’re on a given Places page, how many distinct sites are shown as having reviews for that business?  For example:

How many sites are top-7 Google Places rankings typically reviewed on?

What I wanted to know is how the number of third-party review sites corresponds to Google Places rankings.  Here’s what I found:

Top-7 Places rankings typically have reviews on 1-2 third-party sites

Here are the naked numbers for the chart (that is, how many different third-party sites each ranking has customer reviews on):

A = 1.52

B = 1.46

C = 1.29

D = 1.06

E = 1.095

F = 0.99

G = 0.955

What do these numbers tell us?

First of all, there is a correspondence between the Google Places ranking of a business and how many third-party sites it has customer reviews on.  Maybe you intuitively knew that already, but now you have some numbers.

The top-3 rankings have customer reviews on more sites than rankings #4-7 do.  The difference is even clearer between A-B and F-G: rankings A-B generally have reviews on 1-2 third-party sites, whereas the lower rankings tend to have reviews on just one third-party site.  That’s a ratio of 3:2.  Put another way, the businesses at the top of the Google Places “7-pack” typically have customer reviews on 50% more third-party sites than the businesses at the bottom of the 7-pack have.

The numbers also tell us that if your business is in the top-7 of Google Places, chances are you’ve got customer reviews on at least one third-party site—meaning a medium other than Google Places or Yelp.com (because Yelp reviews no longer show up on Google Places pages).

This helps affirm what I’ve told my clients for a long time, and what Mike Blumenthal has suggested for quite a while: that you can’t simply rely on the reviews that customers write on your Places page.  If you’re serious about getting a top-7 Google Places ranking, one good place to start is with asking  some of your customers to write you reviews on at least one third-party site (InsiderPages, SuperPages, YellowPages, CitySearch, or another).

 

“How many third-party reviews does a top-7 business have, on average?”

Here’s what I found:

Top-7 Places rankings usually have 5-8 reviews on third-party sites

And again, the plain numbers for how many third-party reviews each ranking has (on average), between all the third-party sites where customers have posted reviews:

A = 8.255

B = 8.335

C = 5.87

D = 4.71

E = 4.235

F = 5.515

G = 4.325

What does this tell us?

The top-2 rankings have significantly more reviews than rankings C-G (3-7).  Once again, we’re seeing a difference of 50-100% between the top of the “7-pack” and the rest of it.

Again, this doesn’t count Google Places reviews (which obviously aren’t “third-party”) or Yelp reviews (which Google Places no longer uses).

Most of all, we’ve got a couple more handy ballpark numbers that you can work into your customer-review strategy:

  • If you’d like to get into the Google Places top-7, you should probably try to get at least 5 customer to write reviews on at least one third-party site.
  • Or if you’re already in the local top-7 and trying to get to the very top, your strategy should include getting at least 30-100% more customer reviews on third-party sites than the other top-7 businesses have.  In terms of reviews, there’s a big gap between #1 and #7.

 

“So how should I change my reviews strategy?”

Time for a recap.  Use the following as rules-of-thumb as you move forward:

1.  Don’t just focus on Google Places reviews; ask customers to review you elsewhere, too

2.  There’s a correspondence between your ranking and how many third-party sites you’re reviews on.  You’ll probably need reviews on one such site in order to get into the top-7.  But the more different third-party sites your customers can review you on, the better

3.  There’s also a correspondence between your ranking and how many total third-party reviews you have.  Ranking in the top-2 will probably require that you get 30-100% more customer reviews than your page-one local competitors have.

4.  If you’re trying to get into the Google Places top-7, a good initial benchmark is to get at least 5 customer reviews on at least one third-party site (SuperPages, CitySearch, etc.

5.  If you want to climb higher in the Google Places 7-pack, shoot for a total of about 8 reviews on at least 2 different third-party sites

By the way, you can download my spreadsheet with all the data, in case you’d like to roll up your sleeves and handle some numbers.

Of course, I’d appreciate your weighing in—leave a comment!

Top UK Local-Business Directories (AKA Citation Sources)

You chaps and dames in the UK may drive on the wrong side of the road and confuse beer with cocoa (only one of which should be served warm!), but at least the challenge of getting a business visible in Google Places is the same across the pond as it is here in the States.

OK, fine, so maybe even the Google Places / local-search-visibility puzzle is different in the UK from how it is here.  That is, you need to list your business on different third-party sites in order to get maximum local visibility (which isn’t news to you).

The first step, of course, is to know what those third-party sites are.

Enough of me mates have asked me to cough up my list of UK local-search citation sources.  It’s about bloody time I do so.

Here’s the full monty:

(extra-important sites in bold)

 

118Information.co.uk

AgentLocal.co.uk

ApprovedBusiness.co.uk

BizWiki.co.uk

Britaine.co.uk

BTLinks.com

BusinessNetwork.co.uk

City-Listings.co.uk

City-Visitor.com

CityLocal.co.uk

CompaniesintheUK.co.uk

Cylex-UK.co.uk

FreeBD.co.uk

FreeIndex.co.uk

Fyple.co.uk

GoMy.co.uk

HotFrog.co.uk

It2.biz

Local.TrueKnowledge.com

LocalDataCompany.com

LocalDataSearch.com

LocalMole.co.uk

LocalLife.co.uk

LocaTrade.com

Manta.com

MarketLocation.com

MiQuando.com

MisterWhat.co.uk

MySheriff.co.uk

Opendi.co.uk

Qype.co.uk

Recommendedin.co.uk

Scoot.co.uk

SmileLocal.com

TheBestof.co.uk

TheDirectTree.com

TheDiscDirectory.co.uk

ThomsonLocal.com

Tipped.co.uk

TouchLocal.com

UFindUs.com

UK.Uhuw.com

UK.WowCity.com

UK-Local-Search.co.uk

UK-Locate.co.uk

UKSmallBusinessDirectory.co.uk

Wampit.com

WheresBest.co.uk

WhoseView.co.uk

Yalwa.co.uk

Yell.com

Yelp.co.uk

Zettai.net

 

Now comes the fun part: listing your business on all the above sites.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed, links to the “Add business” pages are on the right, so at least you don’t have to hunt around for them.

I’ve added all of the sites to my Definitive List of Local Search Citations as well—where they mingle with their Yank counterparts.

Last but not least, credit goes to David Mihm for listing a number of these sites in a great blog post he did a few years ago on top UK citation sources.

I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few, so please leave a comment if you have any sites to suggest.

Cheers!

9 Secrets for Easier and Faster Local Citation Gathering

You already know citation-gathering is crucial to your local ranking in Google Places, and you know at least the basics of how to get citations for your business.  That’s not the problem.

Dreading citation-gathering?The problem is that getting dozens of citations is about as enjoyable as getting a colonoscopy.  You want it to be over with as quickly as possible, so that you can get back to running your business and enjoying life.

Here are some secrets for polishing off citations more quickly and easily:

1.  Keep a master spreadsheet that contains all your login info for every third-party site you list your business on.  It should contain all your usernames, your passwords, the email addresses that you used to sign up with the various sites, and any other info that you may need to log in with like (“secret answers”).  I like to use Excel for this.

The spreadsheet won’t take long to create, but it will save you from a world of pain if you have to log in and change your business info on these sites, change your passwords, or forget your passwords.

Obviously, you can organize the info in the spreadsheet however you’d like.  It doesn’t need to be pretty.  But if it helps, here’s an example of the type of spreadsheet I’ve used.

2.  Have a “status” and a “next step” column in your spreadsheet.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of where your listing stands on each site and what you have left to do in terms of getting your business listed, verified, etc.  In cases where you’re not able to get your listing completely squared away at once, jot down whether your listing is actually up on a given site, and (if it’s not) any next steps you’ll have to take in order to get your business listed.

3.  Include your business name, address, and phone number in the spreadsheet.  Having your “NAP” easily accessible in the spreadsheet helps you in two ways.  First, all you have to do is copy and paste the info into any fields that you have to fill out.  Second, you avoid typos because you’re not having to type.  Use the same formatting that you see on your Google Places page.

4.  Have a document that contains a long description and a short description of your business.  Some sites only give you a tiny blurb with which to describe your business or services, and others insist that you give them a bigger and beefier description.  I’ve found that one description should be 150 characters long (including spaces), and the other should be at least 300 characters long.  Because most sites ask you for a description, you’ll save time by having yours handy, rather than having to retype anything or hunt around for a version that you’ve already listed on another site.

5.  Have Google Autofill installed on your browser toolbar (if it’s not already).  It can save you time and typing.  Of course, you’ll still want to double-check all the fields to make sure everything’s been filled in correctly.

6.  Know exactly where to login to add your local business listing.  This sounds like a “duh” suggestion, but some sites are very unclear as to where you should log in to add your business: it’s NOT always from the homepage, nor can you always easily get there from the homepage.  When it comes time to add your local listing to the following sites, make sure you start at these pages (rather than at the homepage):

mybusinesslistingmanager.com (Acxiom)

company.angieslist.com (AngiesList.com)

citysearch.com/profile/add_business (CitySearch)

expressupdateusa.com (InfoUSA)

listings.mapquest.com (MapQuest)

business.yellowbook360.com (YellowBook)

By the way, if you’re really on top of your game, you’ll add these login/submit pages to your spreadsheet.

7.  Double-check your info religiously, right after you initially submit/complete each business listing.  Ideally, log out and log back into your profile on each site, to make sure all your info is there and that it’s all correct.  Do this ASAP, so that no incorrect info can spread to other sites (which often share data with each other).

8.  Keep any photos you’ll be uploading in an easy-to-find subdirectory on your computer, like Desktop.  Pretty much every site will have a “Browse” button that you’ll need to click on and use to navigate to the area of your computer where you store the pictures of your business.  It’s faster to upload your pictures you don’t have to rummage through half a dozen nested folders or subdirectory just to find them.

Take your time with citations - no need to do them all at once.9.  Personal suggestion: don’t try to do all the citations one sitting.  It’s easier to mess them up, and it’s even easier to get totally sick of citation-building and slow down to a crawl.  You can take your time: it takes weeks for your business info to get processed on each site and to result in citations that give your business a boost in Google Places.

Addendum:

I also suggest you use the Local Citation Finder to help find citations.

Obviously, I’ve been talking about how to save time on whatever citations you know you’re going to collect, and finding citation sources in the first place is a whole separate subject.  I’ll probably do a separate blog post on the best citation-hunting techniques.

Still, the Local Citation Finder can save you a ton time and hassle, so it belongs on this list.

Got any personal tricks for easier / quicker / more pain-free local citations?  Leave a comment!

The 2011 Google Places Slangbook

The 2011 Google Places SlangbookFine, so maybe it’s not yet a book of Google Places slang.  But “book” just sounds better than “compendium.”

Whatever you want to call it, I’ve written it for two purposes:

Purpose 1: To show that we Google Places visibility specialists aren’t just a bunch of geeks: We have our own culture—even our own language!  I’d like to take you on a cross-cultural adventure, to allow you to bask in the richness of another language, and…eh, who am I kidding.  The real point of it is:

Purpose 2: To clarify what these terms mean.  Some Google Placers (should that be a new slang term?) use this specialized slang more than others do.  Maybe you’ve checked some of their blogs, articles, or videos.  Much of it is excellent stuff, but the slang can occasionally hold you up—especially if you don’t spend all day grappling with Google Places and its nomenclature.

In other words, I’d like to help make all the stuff that’s written by and for Google Places obsessives a little easier for you to digest and apply to your business, so that you can get more visible to local customers.

Some of these terms are pretty new (circa 2010-2011), whereas others have been around for a while.

By the way, this is NOT a glossary.  I’m not going to define terms like “canonicalize.”  You can look up technical jargon easily enough.  I’m just dealing with the stuff that’s somewhat harder to look up.

In alphabetical order:

3-pack:  When people type in a local search term and see 3 local businesses listed on the first page of Google Places, they’re seeing the “3-pack” local results.  You typically see this in less-competitive markets, where there aren’t a ton of businesses competing with each other in the same local market.  But they could become more common in the future: As I wrote back in June, Google seems to have tested 3-pack local search results on at least one occasion.

7-pack:  That coveted list of 7 local businesses on the first page of Google Places.  It’s where you want your business to rank and be seen when local customers type what you offer into Google.

10-pack:  As you probably recall, you typically used to see 10 local businesses when you’d type in a local search term.  But in April of 2010, Google chopped it down to just 7 local businesses that rank on the first page of local results.  (That’s also when Google Places started being called “Google Places,” and no longer “Google Local Business Center.”)

Algo:  Short for “algorithm.”  As you probably know, this just refers to the giant, messy orgy of factors that Google weighs when determining how your business (and others) will rank.

Centroid:  I know it sounds like something you take for an upset stomach, but it actually means the geographical center of a city or town, as defined by Google.  How close your business is to your city’s “centroid” affects your ranking: all other things being equal, a business that’s located closer to downtown generally holds a ranking advantage over others.  Some people used to think that the “centroid” was the location of the downtown USPS post office, but this wasn’t and isn’t true.  Where’s the “centroid” of your city?  To find out, type the name of your city into Google, click on the “Maps” tab at the top of the page, and zoom in: the “A” map pin marks what Google sees as the geographical center of your town.

The city "centroid"

Google Love:  When the owner of a business / Google Places page sweeps Lady Algo off her feet by following her official guidelines, being a responsible category-picker, a sensitive citation-gatherer, a charming conversationalist, and someone who enjoys long walks on the beach.  Said business owner is then invited upstairs—up to a higher local ranking, that is.

IYP:  Short for “Internet Yellow Pages.” Any local-business directory sites, like Yelp, AngiesList, SuperPages, CitySearch, etc.

NAP:  Stands for “Name, Address, Phone”—which itself isn’t particularly clear.  It usually refers to the practice of including the name of your business, your business address, and your business phone number at the bottom of each page of your website.  This info should appear as crawlable text (not as an image!) at the bottom of your webpages exactly as it appears on your Google Places listing—and with the same formatting.  Even more info about NAP here.

One-box (also written “1-box”):  Any time you type in a local search term or search for a specific business by name and see only ONE local-business result on the first page of Google, you’re looking at a “one-box.”  It contains a website OR Google Places search-result for that business, the red Google Places map pin, links to the Places page, usually at least one photo that the business owner uploaded, and sometimes sitelinks.  It also used to contain a little map, but I haven’t seen this recently.  It’s excellent if your business shows up as a one-box when you type in a local-search term (rather than search for your business by name), but this isn’t likely to happen if you’re in a competitive local market.

The "one-box" local search result in Google Places

Places Purgatory:  When your Google Places listing supposedly is active, and should be highly visible in the search results, but instead is NOT—and for no apparent reason.  You don’t know what (if anything) you’re doing wrong, and the Google Gods have not descended to tell you how you must change your ways.  Mike Blumenthal describes Places Purgatory excellently.

Snippets:  Before July 21 of 2011, Google would grab little excerpts of reviews and other info from third-party sites (see “IYPs,” above) and display them prominently on your Places page.  The purpose of this was to supplement whatever info a business owner put on his or her own Places page with a bunch of info culled from other sites.  Google has since removed these because of the whole antitrust case that’s been brewing.

 

I must have forgotten some terms.  Which ones am I missing?

Leave a comment and hit me with your best slang suggestions (and even your definitions, if you’re feeling generous).  If I like your slang, I’ll update this post to include it.  Just don’t bother telling me technical jargon: I know it, and anyone who doesn’t can easily look it up.

By the way, if you’ve coined any Google Places-related terms, do let me know.  Maybe this slangbook is where they’ll catch fire…