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!

Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jg_photo_art/5142967906/

Google is still in the early stages of injecting ads into the Google Maps 3-pack.  Google never met an ad it didn’t like, so the only question is when (not if) the map pack will become Times Square.

The thought of a pay-to-play local map scares the bejeezus out of many local business owners and local SEOs.

Will you lose your seat at the Local Feast to a big dumb corporation that can shovel more money into AdWords than you can?   Or, if helping people with local SEO is your business – and you don’t do PPC – will you be lying in chalk?

No and no.  Not if you apply a strategy (more on that in a second) that’s based on a few truths:

1. As long as there are local customers, local businesses, and the Web, there will always be local SEO. It’ll just continue to morph over time, as it always has.

2. Your “Google Maps” visibility has a huge amount of overlap with other areas of online marketing – particularly with your organic-search visibility (read: your links and content) and with how good you are at earning reviews on a variety of sites.

3. The local map is not the holy grail. Keep in mind that I make a living in large part by helping businesses get visible there, so I’m the last guy to say it’s not important.  But I’ve seen people dominate the local pack and not get any new business.  Also, Google can always mess it up (even more), lose the trust of searchers, and reduce the potential payoff.  If your one source of leads is your Google local-pack rankings, you are mooning a lion.

4. Local SEO is not just about rankings (duh). When you need something, do you automatically hire whomever ranks #1?  Neither do most people.  Local searchers are not a captive audience.  Most of them will dig until they find a business they trust.  Visibility in Google is only one part of becoming that business.

Fine, but what do you do if Google’s local map becomes prohibitively expensive, or worthless, or disappears entirely?  What’s left?  Is it Van Halen without David Lee Roth?

Local SEO wouldn’t be lessened, or even all that different.  If we write off the map results, your local SEO campaign becomes a combination of your work on the following:

  • Branded search results.  When people look up your business by name, can they immediately tell your site belongs to you and not to a sound-alike competitor?  Are they impressed by your customers’ reviews of you on all the review sites that show up on page 1 for your name?  Have you received any local press?  Are you listed on niche sites?

  • Organic visibility.  It’s usually the business with the best organic visibility that ends up ranking best on the local map.  Often, that comes down to strength of your links.  But you may also want to write blog posts on extremely specific topics in your industry or city, or create good “location” or “city” pages, or both.  Arguably even now you’re not necessarily better off if you rank well in the local pack but not in the organic results; they’re neck-and-neck.  But if the local pack becomes a total trash heap, your organic visibility pays off even more, because people will go back to looking there for all non-ads search results – just as they did before Google Places came onto the scene.
  • Barnacle SEO.  Getting your Yelp, Facebook, YouTube, or other non-company-website, non-Google online properties to rank for “local” keywords can help you haul in more leads, even when your other rankings aren’t so good.
  • Facebook.  It’s slowly waded about shin-deep into the local pond, but there’s no reason to think the shirt isn’t coming off.  It’s only getting more important, and there any many ways to use it to get more local customers.
  • Other local search engines: Apple Maps and Bing Places and Yahoo.
  • Local directories or review sites. Not the rinky-dink ones, but rather places like Yelp, Angie’s List, and maybe even nasty old YellowPages.
  • Industry-specific directories or review sites. Zillow, Avvo, HealthGrades, TripAdvisor, DealerRater, etc.  Those are the big names, but even small niches have directories, and you should pay attention to them.
  • Sites and apps not yet created. Local search in general has gotten bigger over the years, not smaller.  It’s become more of a part of everyone’s life, and will continue in that direction.

If Google’s local map results change significantly or go away, it’s not the beginning of the end, but maybe just the end of the beginning.

Now, I would be surprised if the local map ever becomes 100% pay-to-play, and I’m certain that it won’t change to that overnight.

But you still want a bunker plan.  That means you need to stock up the bunker with MREs and batteries and road flares and ninja throwing stars and whatever else before all hell breaks loose.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/13476480@N07/16671969110/

That’s why, even if the local map-pack remains free and a meritocracy at least in theory, I suggest you work on the things I just described no matter what.

What are some important non-Google-Maps aspects of local SEO?

What’s in your “bunker plan,” in case the local map gets too pay-to-play?

Leave a comment!

Do You Really Need a Facebook Page for Each Location of Your Business?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecastro/4936469618/

Last year a client of mine with multiple locations asked me whether she really needed to bother creating a Facebook page for each location.  She wanted to have just the mothership page, for her flagship location.  Simpler.  Less hassle.

Less benefit, too.

I suggested creating a Facebook page for all locations (which we did), and mothballed away my long answer for the next person who asked.

Then the question came up again on Google+.  I offered a chopped-down answer there, but figured it was time to release the director’s cut.

Here’s why you should have a Facebook page for every location of your business (or at least for the locations you care about):

1.  Customers want and expect to find a Facebook page for the location nearest them.

2.  Google is more likely to show the Facebook page for your nearest location when would-be customers people in that area search for you by name. People in NYC see your NYC page, people in New Jersey see your Jersey page, etc. – even if they type exactly the same thing into Google.  Google is pretty location-sensitive, and your strategy shouldn’t be any less so.

3.  It’s an excellent “barnacle SEO” opportunity.

4.  People don’t want to feel like they’re working with a satellite office, or with “corporate.”

5.  You’ll have a chance at ranking well in Facebook – which is important to the extent that would-be customers go there and actually use Facebook’s search box to find what they’re looking for. Most people don’t do that, but you want to be visible to the ones who do.

6.  It’s another place to get reviews, and a mighty important one at that. You don’t want only your “flagship” location to have Facebook reviews.

7.  Want to use Moz Local? For verification and anti-spam purposes, it requires you to have a Facebook page or a Google My Business page for each location you want to load into Moz Local.  Now, the tool isn’t always good at verifying you by looking at your Google page (for instance, you’ll run into problems if your address is hidden).  That’s when your Facebook page may come in handy.  Belt and suspenders.

8.  It’s a good local citation.

9.  Even you don’t create a Facebook page for a given location, one might be auto-generated for you anyway. If Factual gets it meathooks on your local-business data, it will feed that data to Facebook, which will pump out an “unofficial” page.  You may or may not want that page, which may or may not even have the correct info on your business.

10.  Wouldn’t you want the option of posting content that’s specific to one local market or the other? Rather than generic piffle that everybody’s supposed to like but that nobody really likes.

11.  You don’t even have to spend time being active on all your Facebook pages (or any of them, for that matter). It’s nice if you do, but not essential.  The page just needs to exist, if only for the people who expect to find it, and as a vessel for reviews.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/evenkolder/16555476280/

 

12.  It’s quick and easy to create each page. Don’t do it if you have a good reason that I didn’t address, but don’t skip it out of laziness.

13.  You can always set up “Locations,” if you want what Facebook used to call a parent-child structure between your “main” page and your pages for specific locations. Here’s a great guide on Facebook “Locations” from Sweet IQ.

Can you think of reasons I didn’t mention?

Any arguments against creating a Facebook page for each location?

Leave a comment!

Niche Local Citations Don’t Get Enough Love

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

People who know enough about local SEO to be dangerous don’t think twice about paying some poor soul to create 200 listings on glitzy big-name local-business directories like GoPickle, MyHuckleberry, and Sphinxaur.

They heard about these things called citations.

They heard citations matter to your local visibility.

They did basic work on 20-30 important listings, saw a little boost in visibility, and figured they’d squirt out 200 citations and really show ‘em.

It must seem puzzling when all those hours of work amount to nothing more than a monster spreadsheet of listings on local directories that nobody’s ever visited except to create a free listing.

One quickly hits a wall on citation-building.  Citations are but one piece of the local-rankings puzzle.  (I sure hope you also have a strategy for getting good links and reviews.)

But let’s say you want to wring the maximum benefit from citations, without going past the point of diminishing return.  Having more listings on generic sites isn’t better.  Having listings on relevant sites is better.  In other words, you want niche local citations for your business.

What’s a “niche” local citation?

By that, I mean you’ve got your business’s name, address, phone number, and (usually) website listed on a site that’s either (1) focused on your industry or (2) focused on your city or local area, or both.

Examples of industry-specific citation sources include HealthGrades, Avvo, TripAdvisor, and DealerRater – but those are only the big names.  There’s also at least one local-business directory for pretty much any field you can think of.  Local newspapers, local Chambers of Commerce, downtown business associations, and local directories for a specific city/town are the kinds of “local” niche citation sources I’m talking about.

Anyway, local SEOs don’t talk about niche citations enough.  I’ve got a few theories as to why that is:

  • It takes research to find niche citation opportunities, and every client’s situation is a little different. That’s more work than using the exact-same list for every single client.
  • You may need to know something about the client’s industry – or learn more about it – to find places worth being listed on.
  • There aren’t as many niche citation opportunities as there are general local directories. You can’t promise to build 100+ listings, because there are probably about 10 good ones, and even fewer if the business itself is in a specialized field.
  • Some niche listings are paid. Those are harder to justify baking into your pricing, or to browbeat your client into paying for.
  • SEOs can’t spout the “This directory has a monthly reach of 7 million!” nonsense when they try to explain the value of their work. You get a good niche citation on a site with relatively fewer users, but more of them are users and not stumblers.
  • It may never even occur to some SEOs to do anything beyond what other SEOs talk about. It often becomes a color-by-numbers deal.
  • SEOs would have to explain the value of niche citations more than they would, say, an impressive-sounding but fluffed-up list of 100-200 sites.

Why you shouldn’t overlook niche local citations

Simply being listed on a niche site may help your local rankings to a degree, but how much it helps is anyone’s guess.  Rather, I’d say the main benefits of getting niche citations are:

  • They tend to rank well in Google for specific search terms – as opposed to terms that tire-kickers and other not-yet-serious customers might type in.
  • They’re more likely to offer a “follow” link (i.e. one that Google “counts”), especially if they are paid directories. (No, links from those sites won’t land you in Google’s doghouse, if they’re relevant to your field and if they’re not your only way to get links.)
  • There’s a better chance they’ll yield an additional trickle of leads, to the extent the sites cater to a specific audience.

How can you find good niche citations?

Some resources:

Brightlocal’s Best Niche Citation Sites for 41 Business Categories

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (or just have them build the niche citations)

My list of review sites

My list of citation sources (by the way, I need to prune this list)

Also, you can always just type in some of the search terms you’re trying to rank for, see what sites come up on the first couple pages of search results, and see how many of those sites you can list yourself on.

Are there any benefits of niche citations I forgot to mention?

Do you find them using different methods?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Yahoo Local Review Stars No Longer Show in the SERPs

As a local search engine, Yahoo has long been the equivalent of an ’80s hair metal band, still squeaking along decades after its heyday.

For the last few years, its only real boon to your local visibility was that it still ranked well in Google for brand-name searches.  Even if your Yahoo listing only reflected your Yelp reviews, at least it gave you “review stars” in the search results, which can help impress would-be customers.

In theory, Yahoo was a place where you’d still want to get at least a couple reviews from customers.

No mas.

Now the only reason to get reviews on Yahoo is to impress the five people in your area who use it as their favorite local search engine.

What do you think?  Do Yahoo Local reviews have redeeming qualities I missed?  (If so, I’ll eat my hat.)  Leave a comment!