Update: here’s an excellent, more-current list by Whitespark.
You might be thinking that this sounds a lot like my post titled “Can You Rank Well in Local Google without Revealing Your Street Address Anywhere?”
That’s because this is an unofficial “sequel” (for good reason, as you’ll see).
How about taking a few minutes to read that older post. Then come back here.
If you just buzzed through the first post because you’re hanging on my every word in this one – or if memory is your weapon of choice today – it’s time for a quick recap of the older post on “private citations”:
1. Some business owners want to rank well in Google’s local search results and beyond, but don’t want their street addresses to be easily findable online (most likely because they work from home). Maybe you have these privacy concerns, or know someone who does.
2. Unless your business is listed on a variety of online directories (AKA citation sources), you probably won’t rank well in the local search results. But you don’t want your address to be easily findable on those sites. Now you’re feeling stuck.
3. Turns out you’ll probably be able to rank well locally after all, because most of the important online directories actually do allow you to “hide” your street address – that is, to keep your address from showing up publicly on your business listing.
On the last point, notice that I said “most” of the important directories let you hide your street address. In that older post I did on “private citations,” I only looked at the sites that you see when you do a free GetListed.org scan of your business. At the time, those totaled 12 sites. A great start, sure.
But an effective citation-building effort – again, which is crucial to your rankings – takes more than listing your business on even those 12 sites.
That’s why I’ve looked at more sites and have learned even more about where privacy fits into local search.
I’ve looked at a total of 31 of the most-important sites for your business to be listed on, and I’ve seen which sites let you keep your address private.
The breakdown: which sites are (and are not) “private”
(You can also get the breakdown on Google Drive, or as a PDF or Excel doc. Just in case you want to see all the sites at a glance.)
AngiesList.com: yes. There is not a checkbox for this; the “address” field is optional, so you can simply choose not to specify your street address.
Bing Business Portal: yes.
BrownBook.net: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
City-Data.com: no. The rules specify that the site is “only for brick & mortar businesses.”
CitySearch.com: yes. (See my instructions for adding or claiming your CitySearch listing.)
CitySquares.com: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
DexKnows.com: maybe. If you’ve hidden your address on LocalEze and suppressed your ExpressUpdateUSA listing, your address most likely won’t show up on DexKnows.
ExpressUpdateUSA.com: no. AKA InfoGroup, this is one of three main “data-providers” – in other words, a really important site to be listed on. As I noted in my post from 2012, “you can’t simply ‘turn off’ the display of your address on your ExpressUpdate listing. But you can search for your listing on the site and request its deletion, OR you can call up Customer Service and ask them to suppress your listing.”
EZLocal.com: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
FourSquare.com: no. (Hiding your address would defeat the main purpose of being listed on FourSquare in the first place: getting customers to “check in” to your business on their phones.)
iBegin.com: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
JudysBook.com: maybe. If you pay the monthly fee to claim your listing, you may be able to leave off your street address. The other way to get your business listed on JudysBook is for a customer to find the hidden “submit” area and then to post a review of your business, although in this option the street address is required.
Kudzu.com: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
LocalEze.com: yes. (This is a major “data-provider” and an extremely important site to be listed on. See my recent post for more detail.)
Manta.com: yes. On one screen you’re made to provide a street address, but on the next screen you can check a “hide address” box.
MerchantCircle.com: yes. The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.
MyBusinessListingManager.com: yes. AKA Acxiom, this is a major “data-provider.
Nokia (here.com/primeplaces): yes. You have to specify your street, but you don’t have to specify your number.
YellowBot.com: yes. But only once you’ve claimed your listing. (See comment below from YellowBot co-founder Emad Fanous.)
YellowBook.com: maybe. You can only edit the address by calling 1-800-929-3556; they may allow you to hide the address if you ask.
A few takeaways
Takeaway 1. The biggest directories (e.g. Yelp, YP) usually let you hide your address. If you do nothing else, make sure you’re listed on these.
Takeaway 2. The smaller directories (e.g. BizWiki, DirectoryCentral) aren’t as likely to let you hide your address. Whether you want to add or keep a listing on these sites depends on which you’d rather have: a little extra “citations juice” or a little extra privacy.
Takeaway 3. Your biggest challenge in juggling citation-building and privacy is to determine how you want to handle your listings on two of the three “primary data-providers”: ExpressUpdateUSA.com and MyBusinessListingManager.com. The other main data-provider (LocalEze.com) lets you hide your address, so that one isn’t an issue. But the former two sites make you list your address, and they feed your business info to lots of other sites. You should be able to strike a good balance of local rankings and privacy if you’re listed on these non-private sites but make sure your address is private elsewhere. But if you’re really concerned about privacy, you’ll need to contact the people at ExpressUpdateUSA (AKA InfoGroup) and MyBusinessListingManager (AKA Acxiom) and ask them to suppress your listing. (I know the former allows you to do this, but I’m not sure about the latter.)
Arguably a good citation-building campaign involves your creating and managing even more than 31 listings. So does my list only get you only partway down the road?
No, because there are two “buts” that mean now you’ve probably got all the info you need to build citations effectively but privately:
1. Several of those 31 sites feed business info to other sites, which means that over time the number of citations your business has will grow naturally and without your needing to do anything. Meanwhile, to the extent you’ve made sure your address isn’t listed on those sites, it won’t get spread all over the web. Win-win.
2. If those 31 sites are the only ones you’ve listed your business on, then you’ve got a very good citations profile. But to take it from “very good” to excellent will probably involve digging deeper (probably with the Local Citation Finder) to find citations that Google places extra “trust” in: either directories that are specific to your industry, or specific to your city/region, or both. Because there’s an infinity of these industry- and location-specific sites, I’ll never be able to research which ones are “private” – at least before I’m using dentures and a walker. So I’ll leave it up to you: whether you’d rather be listed on “niche” sites that may or may not require you to list your address.
Still, I want to learn about the privacy levels of even more sites. That’s why this is an evergreen post: I’m going to update it as I learn about more sites.
What about non-US sites?
One obvious limitation of my current list is that I haven’t researched all that many non-US sites.
True: some of the sites (like Manta.com) are available outside the USA, or have a network of “sister” sites (like YP.com) in other countries.
And yes, if you download the list, you’ll notice that I’ve indicated which sites are “international.” That should help you if you’re located outside the US.
But…if you have some time to spare and want to go through Nyagoslav Zhekov’s two great posts on important non-US citation sources and want to let me know what you find, I’d more than appreciate it (and will cite you here :)).
Once again, here are the download options for the list of of “private” citations:
Got any questions or suggestions about juggling local rankings and privacy? Go ahead – leave a comment.
On YellowBot, you must provide your full address but, after going through verification, you can mark your street address hidden (city, state, zip only shown)
Thanks for stopping by, Emad! Great to get that kind of intel from the source. I’ll have to fix that…
OK, I just tried to do that and even spoke with Live Chat and they won’t do it.
If that’s the word straight from the horse’s mouth, then there’s not much you can do, as far as I know. However, Emad – who owns YellowBot and who commented above – would be in a better position to say what you should/can do.
matthew hunt says
Great topic Phil.
You can rank well without the address mentions on the web in GP… most of a citation power is tied to the phone # and DBA. Don’t get me wrong you still need an address that is located close to the core of the city you want to rank for. Proximity is important, but not mentions of the actual address on the web…. as long as you have phone & DBA… you can do it.
But the bigger question is.. why is any business trying to hide their address? Not a good business plan. No matter how small your business is, I suggest you get an address you can use. Even for SABs, they should have an address they don’t mind listing publicly.
Also keep in mind about future moving…. nothing worse then having to move addresses. Get one you can stand behind for years to come.
Its a trust thing too. I like dealing with businesses who won’t list their address.
I totally agree. It’s much better to have an address you’re comfortable using – and using in the long-term.
Sandy Allen says
Not wanting or needed a business address is actually quite common for some professions. While I have a studio, I know many professional photographers who are ‘on-location’ only – especially if they are wedding photographers. Our neighbor is a roofer who offices at home, but certainly does not conduct business there and does not want vendors or clients coming to his house.
Caterers, electricians, hair stylists, massage therapists, web programmers (my husband), and many other professions do business locally but do not have a public-facing address from which they do business. It seems to me that you are expecting a significant expense to maintain a legal and acceptable address (not a mailbox rental or virtual office address, which are both frowned upon by Google and even shadier than not listing anything at all).
There is a big difference between “not having an address” and wanting a public street address listed for your business. I certainly trust the mobile detailing team that takes care of my car and the lawn care guys who mow my lawn. If the only reason for them to come up with a street address (where they actually don’t do business, obviously) is for SEO, isn’t it the physical equivalent of keyword stuffing?
Thanks for stating this rather obvious fact. Many business types esp. coaches or personal trainers too (in home or at gym) dont’ ever see clients in their home. Why should we be forced to list it???!!! It’s like these digital giants don’t actually get that that online virtual freedom has changed the way business is done!
You’re welcome, Kala. But which sites let you hide your street address is anything but obvious. You don’t know whether a site lets you do it unless you’re listing your business there. Even then it’s usually an easy-to-miss checkbox.
But the good news is these places are getting wiser to the fact that a lot of legit businesses are run from people’s homes.
Matthew Newman says
Hey! It would be good to note that Bing does NOT allow the hiding of addresses anymore, as of a few months ago, so you may want to update that.
Thanks! But I just checked, and Bing Places does still allow you to hide your address. Maybe we’re looking in different places?
Any idea if there are any citations out there that can be gained without having a physical address altogether?
These are great resources for trying to hide an address, but what about if there’s not even an address to hide? Would love a follow up post on this!
Great article by the way
Good question, Jack. In the case you describe, local SEO wouldn’t be a viable option for the business. It wouldn’t be eligible for local listings. They require you to have an address on-file. That sort of business would need to focus on organic rankings (some of which are usually for “local” businesses, as I’m sure you know).
How about the address on the website? One SEO rule is to be consistent with the address. What is there to do with a working from home consultant for instance? Do you think not having the business address on the website can hurt? How to be consistent when privacy manners?
CitySquares street address is now required.
Charlie King says
So does a hidden address still count as a citation ?
As long as you have name phone and website
do you still need full NAP to get citation juice for Google?