Do You Really Need to Clean up That Local Citation?

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

Local SEOs excel at nitpicking, trading in superstitions, and billing for busywork.  Nowhere is that more true than when it’s time to clean up local citations.

You’ve got dozens (or hundreds) of local listings online, and not all of them have the correct business info.  You’ve heard it’s important to have correct and consistent info on those listings.

Do you have to take the time to fix all of them – or do you need to pay someone else to?

No.  Not all local listings matter.  Having the cleanest listings doesn’t mean you’ll outrank anyone or get any more customers.

The danger of going overboard on your listings is that you feel burned-out after doing a bunch of work that doesn’t matter, and don’t have the time or the energy or the will to do the steps that do matter.

When should you bother to correct or to remove a business listing on a given site?  If you answer yes to any of the following questions, go ahead and clean up the listing.  (Skip it if you can answer no to all of the following.)

1. Do you see the listing on the first page (or first couple of pages) of Google’s results when you search for your business by name?
If the incorrect or duplicate listing shows up prominently for a brand-name search, fix it or remove it.

2.  Do you see the site on the first page of Google’s results for a search term you want to rank for?
Maybe your incorrect YellowPages listing (for example) doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, but if YellowPages.com ranks for a local search term you care about, it’s worth bothering with your listing(s) there.

3.  Is it on InfoGroup, LocalEze, Acxiom, or Factual?
Google and other sites in the local-search ecosystem trust these four sites – known as “data aggregators” – as sources of accurate business info.  Make sure your listings there are accurate.

4.  Is it on a government site?
It’s likely that Google Maps and the data-aggregators (see point #3) trust the business info on government sites (e.g. State Secretary of State).  It may be a pain, but make sure your “official” record is accurate.

5.  Have you heard of the site?
If so, I’d fix it.  Unless it’s Yahoo.  Yahoo is for the birds.

6.  Do you have reviews on another listing on the site, or plan to ask for reviews on the site?
You don’t want customers to review the wrong listing.

7.  Has a customer ever seemed confused by info that’s on the listing?
Easily the best reason to fix or remove an incorrect listing.

8.  Is it clear that you can update the listing with relative ease, and for free?
If it’s controlled by Yext or otherwise requires you to pay to make any changes, I would say it’s not important to fix or to remove.

But let’s say it’s a free listing, and you can fix it or remove it easily if you want to.  Should you?  If it passes the other 7 tests I’ve described, I wouldn’t say you need to – at least not for citation-consistency purposes.  Do it if it’s just gnawing at you, and if fixing one won’t cause your OCD to flare up and compel you to fix 100 other rinky-dink listings.

Do you have a local listing you’re not sure whether to clean up?

Can you think of criteria for deciding when to bother with a listing vs. when to skip it?

Leave a comment!

Cancelled Moz Local: How Many Listings Still Stand?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rinses/4794547760/

Moz Local is a great tool.  I use it for a number of my clients, and often suggest it to others.  Having correct listings on the “local” sites that matter is a crucial one-time step if you want to improve your local rankings.

No tool is a silver bullet to create or fix all your listings.  Moz Local is no exception.  But it can save you some time and heartache, because typically it takes care of a handful of important listings that can be a pain for you to create or fix manually.

It’s just $99/year, so you’re probably not itching to cancel it.

But what if you do cancel, for whatever reason?

What happens to your listings?  Do they just go poof?

No, based what I’ve observed.  It seems any Moz Local-created listings stick around for at least 90 days, and probably much longer. (I’ll update this when I see how much longer.)

That’s the short answer.  If all you want to know is whether you need to scramble to work on your citations immediately after cancelling Moz Local, you’ve got your answer.  No need to read on.

Or, if you want more detail, in a minute you can read about the micro-study I did on this.

Some context

As you may know, Moz Local creates and fixes listings programmatically.  People aren’t doing it for you.  Moz Local has an API relationship with the local directories and other sites in its network, which is what allows it to publish or fix your listings on those sites for you, and in some cases to remove duplicate or incorrect listings that you don’t want.

That’s also why Moz doesn’t make any promises that your listings will stay up if you cancel Moz Local.  You could have created free listings on the sites in Moz’s network if you wanted to, but you opted to save yourself at least a couple hours of hassle and pay $99/year (a good call in most cases, in my opinion).  What you’re paying for mainly is Moz’s partnership with the various “local” sites.  Moz still has to pay them even if you cancel.  In effect, you’ve chosen to license your listings.

Long way of saying that if you cancel Moz Local, Moz will “release” control your listings.  At that point it’s up to each individual site what to do with your listing(s) in its directory.

I wanted to see how that actually plays out, so I did a little experiment.

The story behind the experiment

I don’t often have occasion to cancel a Moz Local subscription.  It’s only been around since March of 2014.  When I set it up for a client (not all of them), typically the client is with me for many months or for years.  Sometimes I set it up in my Moz account, or sometimes in theirs, depending on their preference.

Anyway, 3 months ago I did have the rare occasion to cancel Moz Local.  I’d set it up for a client in August of 2015.  We worked together for a couple of months, until he went on a long hunting trip that made it tough to do some steps that required teamwork.  (I suppose I could have done the aimless busywork that most SEO companies bill for, and continued to bill the guy until it cut into his ammo fund.)

His business hadn’t been online at all before we started working together.  The paint was still drying on his site.  As part of our broader work on local SEO, my helpers and I did some manual citation-building for him – on the sites that matter that Moz Local can’t reach.  That happened at the same time we set up Moz Local.  He didn’t have any listings on the sites in Moz Local’s network.  When they went up, they went up because of Moz Local.

My client still had 11 months left on his Moz Local subscription.  When renewal approached, I asked if he wanted to keep it around.  Never heard back.  So I took note of how many of his Moz Local-controlled listings were up and running before I cancelled, and then I cancelled.

The experiment

The cancellation was on July 24 of 2016.  Here, you can see my spreadsheet on the status of the Moz Local-controlled listings a few minutes before I cancelled:

Those listings were the same as they’d been 10 months before.  Didn’t lose any or gain any that Moz Local couldn’t create or update (e.g. Factual).

I checked the listings again on August 23, 30 days after I cancelled.  No difference.

Checked ‘em again on September 22, about a month ago.  Still there.

90 days after cancellation, on October 22 (a couple days ago) I checked them again.

 

The listings that were up when I cancelled are still up 3 months after I cancelled.

Conclusions

There were and still are a couple stragglers that never did get squared away, but my point is nothing has changed: The listings didn’t disappear.  You sign up for Moz Local to have it take care of listings on PITA sites like Acxiom, LocalEze, and CitySearch.  In this case, those listings went live without problems, and didn’t go up in smoke once I cancelled.

Now, this was a micro-study on only one case.  I’d say it was a telling case, because the business didn’t have any listings on Moz Local-controlled sites before we signed up.  We started with a clean slate: no duplicate listings, or existing listings that Moz Local had to fix.  Pretty clear before-and-after picture.

Just the same, I’ll keep an eye on what happens to the listings from here, and I’d like to see the results of a similar mini-experiment on a business in a different situation.  There are a few things I still don’t know:

  • Will the same listings still be up a year from now?
  • Did our manual citation-building (on sites not in Moz’s network) in any way make Moz Local-partnered sites more likely to keep listings around after cancellation?
  • If you use Moz Local to suppress duplicate listings, do those listings just pop up once you’ve cancelled? (I’m confident they would, and it’s just a question of when).
  • Will the correct listings remain up for a business that had “messy” listings (incorrect and duplicate listings) before signing up?

Moz Local’s very good FAQ gives some insights into those questions, and I have some theories, but it’s always good to see how things play out in the real world.

No matter what, Moz Local (or any other tool) should be only a part of your strategy to get your local listings built and fixed.  You also need to work on other sites Moz Local doesn’t reach, as well as on “niche” citation sources.

Have you ever cancelled Moz Local?  If so, what happened to your listings?

Any cancellation-related questions I didn’t address?

Leave a comment!

Will Yelp Transplant Your Reviews?

Yelp reviews aren’t something you want to lose, if you can help it.  Under what circumstances can you get Yelp to move, transfer, or transplant your reviews from one business listing to another?

Darren Shaw and I were wondering about that the other day.  The answer wasn’t in Yelp’s FAQ (or anywhere else), either.  So I contacted Yelp to ask:

Can a business owner (or anyone else) request for Yelp reviews to be moved / transferred to another listing?  And if so, under what circumstances might Yelp be able to move the reviews?

The scenario I’m thinking of is if a business has two duplicate listings on Yelp and each one has 5 reviews.  It would be a shame to lose those 5 reviews, so can the business owner get the reviews on Listing A transferred to Listing B – if they’re truly for the same business and location?

-Phil

Stella from Yelp HQ replied:

If there happen to be duplicate listings of the same business, whether there are reviews on each listing or not, our team will merge the listings and all content will be combined. So, if there were 5 reviews in each listing before, once merged, the new, single listing would then have 10 reviews.

-Stella

So getting your reviews transferred sounds like a pretty hands-free process on the part of you, the business owner – if and when Yelp finds listings.  But I’ve seen duplicates and near-duplicates stick around on Yelp for a year-plus, so Yelp’s finding the rogue listings spontaneously might be a big “if.”

My suggestion: if your reviews are being spread thin by duplicate or near-duplicate listings, don’t just wait around for Yelp to discover and merge the listings.  Report those listings sooner rather than later.

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!

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

LocalEze Category List

Pick your LocalEze business category wiselyLocalEze is one of the most important sites to list your business on if you want to rank well in Google’s local search results.  I’d put it in the top 5.  It’s important because it feeds your business info to a ton of other influential third-party sites, which in turn influence your Google local rankings.

All you need on LocalEze is a free listing (though in some situations a paid listing isn’t a bad investment).

Meanwhile, picking the right categories to list your business under is a make-or-break step – both on your Google+Local (formerly Google Places) page and on major third-party sites like LocalEze.

Essentially, it’s your chance to tell Google what search terms you most want to be found for.  You don’t want to blow the opportunity.

But in order to select the right categories, you first have to find them on the list.  This is very easy to do on many major sites (like Yelp).

However, LocalEze has 1742 categories to choose from.  You’re required to choose one for your business – but no more than one.

They have an OK browse feature, but it can still take a while to find the right category, and it will take you forever if you first want to see all your options.  I’ve also found that the system can be very slow (it tends to “crunch” a lot).

That’s why I’ve rounded up all 1742 business categories in the LocalEze directory and put them into one easy-to-search list.

Kind of like Mike Blumenthal’s ultra-handy Google category tool, it’s meant to save you a few minutes of frustration and help make sure you pick out the right categories for your business where it really counts.

More specifically, the LocalEze category list is meant to remedy the following problems / nuisances:

  • You can only pick one category for your LocalEze listing (for reasons I don’t know).  You want to make sure it’s the single-most relevant.  It’s much easier to find the right one if you can see all your options at a glance.
  • If you’re not sure which category to pick, you need to be able to browse a list easily.  But isn’t not always quick or easy to browse through LocalEze interface.
  • If you manage listings for several locations – whether you’re a business owner or a local SEO – you’ll probably get tired of searching around for the right category every time you create a listing.

This post would get huge and bloated like 1970’s-era Elvis if I tried to stuff 1742 categories into it.  So – as you can see – I didn’t go that route.

You can view or download the LocalEze category list right now:

  PDF

  Excel

  Text

If you have any suggestions for how I can make the list more useful or just better in general, please leave a comment!