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!

How to Change Your CitySearch Business Categories without Breaking a Sweat

The categories you pick for your non-Google local listings also matter.  They influence your rankings within those sites, and seem to influence your Google Places rankings at least a little.

I’ve already nagged you to pay attention to your categories on Yelp, Apple Maps, and other sites.

But don’t forget about creaky old CitySearch.  It’s not a cool, up-and-coming site, but it still matters to your local visibility.  Start by making sure you’re listed under the right categories

The trouble is that the part of the site that business owners have to deal with has been half-broken for several years now.  Local SEOs have had to rely on the support staff for help with listings that need fixing.  Complicating matters is that if you email support you’ll get an auto-reply email that implies all you have to do on CitySearch is to square away your ExpressUpdate listing.

Maybe oddest of all is the fact that even if you’ve claimed your CitySearch listing you’ll have to call the support line (800-611-4827) if you want to change your categories.

The other day, fellow LocalSparker Gene Maryushenko and I were discussing a client’s case, and looking for every worthwhile tune-up we could make.  CitySearch had our client listed under the overly broad category of “Attorneys,” but we wanted to get it changed to the more-accurate “Criminal Defense Attorneys” category.

Turns out it was real easy, according to Gene:

Phil,

We discussed updating [client’s] category on CityGrid and you said you’d be interested in hearing how that phone call to support went.

As soon as I got off the Skype call with you, I gave them a call. Pressed option 2 for non-paying customer, pressed 2 to change listing info and got a rep on the line.

I told the rep I’m interested in changing the categories and he said sure, no problem. I asked to have the primary category set to Criminal Defense Attorneys and removed secondary. He said it should take 24-48 hours to process and that was it.

Call lasted less than a minute. I’m writing this the next day (10:22am my time) to let you know the change was processed.

Again, the CitySearch/CityGrid support-line number is (800) 611-4827.

I’m guessing this would work even on an unclaimed CitySearch listing, too.  Sometimes CitySearch can be buggy when you’re trying to claim or log into your listing.  Haven’t tried it on an unclaimed listing yet, though.

Any tips on dealing with CitySearch listings in general – especially the categories?

Any category-related tips on other sites?

Leave a comment!

Have Google Places Descriptors Been Grandfathered in?

It’s been exactly one week since the latest revision of the Google Places My Business Quality Guidelines.

Of all the changes, arguably the biggest change was that Google put the kibosh on “descriptors” – words that you could add to the name of your Places page.

Some people abused the short-lived provision, but many used descriptors wisely.  Now Google’s saying nobody can use them.

To what extent has Google enforced its new rule against descriptors?  Only partially, it seems.

Of the six clients of mine who are using descriptors, only one might have taken a hit.  He only started using a descriptor within the past couple of weeks, right before Google threw the wet towel on them.

The other five clients – two of whom have multiple locations and multiple Places pages with descriptors – are ranking as well as ever, as of this writing.

Sure, Google is full of surprises, many of them bad.  But what I have not seen is a crackdown like the Great Service Area Inquisition of 2012.

Should you use a descriptor now if you weren’t using one before?  No.

Should you remove the descriptor from your Google Places name if it doesn’t seem to be helping you in any way?  Yeah, probably.

Should you remove the descriptor even if it’s seemed to help your rankings?  I wouldn’t – at least not now.

I have a two-part theory:

  1. Even Google is unlikely in this case to punish businesses that followed the old rules for descriptors. (I assume you were following the spirit of the rules.)
  1. Google is even less likely to punish those businesses if they seem to be quality results – if searchers tend to click on them. As Darren and I have preached recently, searchers’ behavior seems to be a huge influence on rankings.

That’s just my guess, but it explains what I’ve seen so far.  It’s all subject to change, of course.  Google might crack down on descriptors in one way or another, or only go after the abusers, or do nothing.  Who knows?

What’s been your experience with Google Places descriptors recently?  What do you think Google will do – and why do you think that?  Leave a comment!

Latest Google Places Guideline Flip-Flop: Natural Extension of Pigeon Update?

As you may have read from Mike or Linda, Google just updated the “My Business” guidelines (again).

Among several rule-updates that will Google will probably enforce haphazardly or temporarily, here are the two updates that have stuck in my craw:

  1. The reversal of the “descriptors” rule. For years Google said you had to use your official business name as the name of your Google Places page.  Then in February they said you could add a keyword or city name or a similarly short “descriptor.”  Now they reversed that rule.
  1. You can only pick the most-specific category (or categories) for your page. For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer, you pick “Divorce Attorneys,” but not “Attorneys.”

I think this fits into the big-picture changes that Google’s “Pigeon” update represents.  Since July, Google has put even more emphasis on classic organic ranking factors – especially the quality of your links.

Google is now telling you to provide less information about your business on your Places page – in your name and in your categories.  Google would rather sift through your site’s pages and links and draw its own conclusions about what your business offers, and rank you accordingly.

At least in theory, if you’re not trying to use your Google Places name and categories to maximum advantage, you’re trying to rank based on your ability to earn good links (read this) and reviews.  That, plus searchers’ behavior, is what Google seems to care about above all.

Enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.  Who knows if Google will enforce the new rules uniformly, or how it will affect who ranks and who doesn’t?  I predict continued chaos.

What’s my advice?  I think Greg Gifford nailed it.

What are your thoughts on the update?  Leave a comment!

Latest Local SEO Labyrinth: the New ExpressUpdateUSA

If you want your business to rank well in the local search results, it needs to be listed correctly on ExpressUpdate.com – AKA InfoGroup, formerly ExpressUpdateUSA.

You probably knew how important your ExpressUpdateUSA listing is.  (If you didn’t, read this and then come back here.)

But you might feel jarred by three extremely recent changes to the site and to the process of adding or fixing your listing:

Change 1.  The new layout.  It’s a little easier to find the area where you can check your listing.  Unfortunately, this is the only change that makes things simpler.

 

Change 2.  You now have to verify by phone if you want to claim and make changes to your listing.

Even if you already have a listing that you created and owner-verified by email and that InfoGroup published, you can’t simply log into your account to make changes.  You can’t simply click the big green “Login” button and enter your trusty login info.

You must phone-verify – before you can create an account, before you can log in, and before you can make any changes.

 

Change 3.  The area where you can add your listing for the first time (in case you’re not already listed) doesn’t seem to require verification – by phone or email.  If you search for your business (see point #1, above) and nothing comes up, scroll down and you’ll see the “Add a listing” option.

Or you can just go straight to http://www.expressupdate.com/place_submissions/new

By the way, when it comes time to pick out a category to list your business under, you might find InfoGroup’s category-picker to be slow and frustrating.

It’s easier if you go to OSHA’s Standard Industrial Category search tool and find the most-appropriate category for your business there, and enter that into the “Primary SIC” field.

Next steps

So what do you do now?  Depends whether you’re a complete do-it-yourselfer business owner or you’re having a friendly local-search pro help you out.

If you’re going it alone:

1.  Check up on your ExpressUpdate listing now.

2.  If your business is listed 100% correctly, you don’t need to do anything –  although it would be smart to take 2-3 minutes to claim your listing anyway.

3.  If your listing isn’t 100% accurate, make sure you’re by the phone so that you can claim and then correct your listing.  Do it now, or the incorrect info will come back to bite your local rankings in the rump.

4.  If your business isn’t listed at all, add it and follow whatever instructions you get.  Because InfoGroup’s policies just changed, I haven’t had the chance to confirm whether they’ll tell you exactly what to do, or whether you just have to check up on your listing again later and claim it by phone once it’s approved.  In any case, you will need to claim the listing personally, sooner or later.

How about if you’re working with a local SEO?  In that case, there’s only one difference: now ExpresssUpdate requires a little teamwork.

It used to be that your friendly local SEO-er only needed access to your business email address in order to do anything that needed to be done with your listing.

Now if your local-search consigliere says that you need to claim your listing in order to make changes to it, you two need to nail down a time when you’ll both be by the computer and you’ll be by the phone, ready to follow the instructions for verifying your listing.

By the way, if you need to, you can actually reach a human who can fog a mirror.

Final thoughts

If you run a business in the US, the changes at InfoGroup matter to your local rankings and visibility.  As a local SEO, I’m not wild about the changes, because they’re extra little hoops to jump through with my clients.

But I can totally see why InfoGroup made the changes: It’s harder for bad information to enter their system (which helps their new Data Axle offering).  Ultimately, that means the local search results in Google and elsewhere will be a little more accurate.  If your competitors are doing stuff that’s not kosher, life might get tougher for them.

I doubt that ExpressUpdate is moving to a freemium model, the way LocalEze did recently.  But who knows.  My advice is: square away your listing now, while it’s still free and relatively straightforward to do so.

7 Ways to Kill Your Local Search Rankings without Touching a Computer

There are a million online misadventures that can snuff out your business’s rankings in local search – in the Google+Local (AKA Google Places) search results and everywhere else.

Attempts to spam or deceive Google usually backfire.  You can also destroy your rankings through sheer laziness – like if you never update any of your business information or never bother to understand Google’s quality guidelines.

You may be aware of what online actions can hurt your local rankings.  Maybe you’ve learned the hard way.

But there also are offline ways you can kill your local rankings.  Simply not doing anything stupid or naughty in your local SEO campaign isn’t enough.  You can lose local visibility and local customers without ever touching your computer (or smartphone or iPad).  To be more precise, I can think of 7 ways:

 

Offline Way to Die Online #1:  Relocate, rename, or use a new phone number without updating your Google+Local page or other business listings to reflect the change(s).

By “update” I mean you must do two things: (1) update all your business listings with the new info, and (2) scour the web for listings (AKA citations) that list your old info.  (By the way, doing a free GetListed.org scan can be a huge help when you get to this step.)

If you fail to do the above, you may be OK…for a little while.  After some months a major third-party data source (most likely InfoGroup) will catch wind of the change and create new listings for your business with the new info.

This will cause your business to have inconsistent info spread all over the web – which itself is a rankings-killer – and may cause Google to create unwanted and inaccurate Google+Local pages for your business (another rankings-killer).

 

Offline Way to Die Online #2:  Get a phony address, like a PO box, UPS box, or virtual office.  Eventually your fake-o address will enter the local-search “ecosystem” (in the way I described above) and you’ll end up with inconsistent business info all over the web, penalties from Google, or both.

(It’s likely that the only reason you’d want a phony address in the first place is so you can try to game Google – so it’s likely your rankings won’t die as a result of your offline actions alone.  More likely, you’ll try to update your business listing(s) with the fake address and end up getting flagged by a competitor or good citizen.)

 

Offline Way to Die Online #3:  Mistreat your customers and get slammed with bad reviews.  This probably won’t have a direct effect on your rankings unless you have dozens or hundreds of scathing reviews, BUT it may affect your rankings indirectly.

For instance, nobody knows for sure whether click-through rate (i.e. the percentage of people who see your business listed in Google and click on it) is a factor that Google takes into account when sorting out the local rankings.  But Google does “know” a bunch of user-engagement stats.  If people simply don’t click on your listing because they see a 10/30 average Google rating, or if nobody clicks your link from (say) your Yelp listing because you have a 1-star average, Google may very well take your rankings down a peg.

Bad service = bad reviews = fewer clicks = low rankings / fewer customers

Also, although “social signals” like Facebook shares, tweets, and Google +1s don’t seem to affect your local rankings much or at all as of this writing, they most likely will become a stronger ranking factor in the future.  If potential customers are scared off by bad reviews, you’ve got fewer opportunities to get social shares.

Most of all, at the end of the day, it’s about getting people to pick up the phone.  You can’t do that very well if nobody clicks on your Google+Local page or website because your reviews reek.

By the way, you get bonus idiot points if you get hammered with bad reviews but don’t write thoughtful “replies from the owner.”  Yes, you can do this: Google+Local and Yelp (and probably other sites that aren’t coming to mind now) let you respond to reviews.  It’s easy to write a reply and takes you maybe 90 seconds.  It’s even easier never to check up on the sites where you’re listed or  simply to live in ignorant bliss, oblivious to the public criticism.

 

Offline Way to Die Online #4:  Hire and fire an unethical SEO.  He or she has access to your Google+Local page or other listings (and maybe even your website), and may do something nefarious or simply not hand over your command codes when you need them.

 

Offline Way to Die Online #5:  Let your domain name or hosting expire (thanks to Chris Silver Smith for this one).  True, technically you don’t need a website to rank in the Google+Local or other search results.  But if you don’t have one, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, because many local-search ranking factors depend on your website.  If you’re in a competitive local market, forget it: Without a site you’ll fare about as well as Lance Armstrong in a polygraph test.

 

Offline Way to Die Online #6:  Never grow your site.  No, I’m not talking about updating the copyright at the bottom of your website so that it no longer reads “© 2002.”  I’m talking about keeping a “static” website to which you rarely or never add useful, non-promotional info that might cause a potential customer to think “Hey, that was handy!”  A static website is a lost opportunity.

Google knows when a website is an online paperweight, and may very well reflect that fact in your rankings.  Worse, if your site is devoid of fresh, helpful info, nobody will link to you, share your site, or give you a juicy unstructured citation or review – all of which are factors that otherwise could boost your rankings.

If you’re going to rank well, your site needs to show signs of life.

 

Offline Way to Die Online #7:  Never check your Google+Local page and other listings.  They say a watched pot never boils.  The corollary is that an unwatched pot can eventually boil over or boil until there’s no water left.

Things will happen to your online local presence, whether you know it or not – and probably not all of those things will be good.  Sometimes you’ll need to fix or remove inaccurate info on your listings, respond to reviews, or double-check your Google+Local page or website is compliant with the Google update du jour.

But you can’t fix problems if you never know about them.

By the way, there’s no offline way to fix most of the above problems.  The solutions involve getting with the times, getting on the computer (or tablet), getting a little bit of local SEO know-how (as you’re doing now!), and getting your hands a little dirty.  That will help you become or stay visible to local customers, and it will help keep the phone ringing.

Any other offline “ways to die” you can think of?  Any questions or general suggestions?  Leave a comment!