This is a guest post by Rob Walling. He runs popular long tail keyword tool HitTail and he wrote the book on small software startups. In his spare time, he co-hosts one of the leading podcasts for bootstrapped startups, called Startups for the Rest of Us.
More about Rob Walling | @robwalling
Do you want to rank your business at the top of local search results?
Or are you tired of finding inaccurate information about your business on the net?
The solution lies in citation building - listing your business information across directories. It's one of the special ingredients for local SEO.
But HOLD ON a second - if you go about it the wrong way, you'll waste valuable time. That's why understanding data aggregators (the key players of directories) will help you streamline the process.
Attack these players and you'll take control of your business information on the web.
Why is Citation Building so Important?
When optimizing your business information for local search results, it's crucial to get your NAP (name, address, phone number) listed on several directories. That's because Google focuses on these 3 components when it comes to your business:
1. Your geographical location
2. Customer reviews
3. Citations - Your NAP listed on directories
If you're serious about your local marketing online, you need to build citations. Local businesses are learning how to get ranked on search engines--don't get left in the dust of your competitors.
Be Aware - The Chaotic Mess of Your Business Information
Your contact info might ALREADY be listed on several directories with inaccurate information. Search engines like to pull information from all sorts of places across the web.
Have you changed your phone number since you've been in business? You might have an old phone number on one directory, and a new phone number on another. It's chaotic. Especially since inconsistent information HURTS your rankings.
I often see businesses with inaccurate information. Several listings with a different address, phone number, and slight difference with the DBA (Do Business As) name.... yet, it's the same business. Those business owners LOSE potential custom-ers because their phone number is out of date.
Where do You Stand?
Use this nifty free tool to figure out which citations you need to claim (You can also find inconsistent information and detect any duplicates on the web):
Start Building Your Citations
Building your citations simply means inputting your NAP (name, address, phone number) and other business information on as many sources as possible.
It's similar to link building, but instead, it ranks your Google Plus page... which is great for local search. Local search results show your business information, includ-ing reviews and location, on the first page of Google.
That's why citation building is vital for your local business. So, start listing your business info on Yelp, Yellowpages.com, and a few other directories.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Let's face it. There are HUNDREDS of directories you can list your business' information on.
Now imagine this: You decide to set up a Yelp account for your local business. So you log into Yelp ("Great! Time to get my name out there!"). You go through the prompts to verify your information, write in a description, upload some pic-tures...and all of a sudden an HOUR passes.
You think, "Am I done now?"
Absolutely not. Google wants to see your name and contact info EVERYWHERE else to build trust and relevancy. So that means you need to set up many accounts across the net.
Can You Delegate this Daunting Task?
You might overpay someone, without taking full advantage of the local search eco-system (more on that soon). OR you'll get your business' contact info in a sticky mess.
Think twice before you hire a Fiverr guy for a quick boost. If they build citations too quickly, or submit inconsistent info, your rankings will suffer--and you can get pe-nalized.
But if you hire a big company, you might be forced to pay for an unnecessary monthly subscription. You only need to submit your business information ONCE. There is no need for a "maintenance fee".
For example, egumball.com charges $279.00 a month to optimize your Google Places and Maps. They state "monthly directory updates", but really, you pay for a brand and dedicated customer service. Not to discredit Egumball... they help customers who don't understand optimization. But for someone educated on the subject like yourself, it's a costly way to build citations.
So How do I Save Time Without Breaking the Bank?
Unless you have extra money to spend AND have done your homework, delegation is an unfavorable option... but you don't want to waste hundreds of hours with hun-dreds of directories.
Is citation building a hopeless endeavor?
Quite the opposite - once you understand the local search ecosystem and how search engines pull their data, you'll know where to focus your citation building efforts.
The infamous 80/20 rule applies here.
Focus on just a handful of data websites, and yield most of the results - while other business owners labor away and waste VALUABLE time.
The Local Search Ecosystem
As you can see below, the local ecosystem is a tangled web. But with the right strategy, you can slice through it like Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot... and crown yourself king of the directories (just keep your ego in check!)
Attack the key players: Google, Yahoo, and Bing pull their information from vari-ous sources across the web. When it comes to citations, know the big players - aka data aggregators.
What are data aggregators?
The main data aggregators "drip down" information to directories. They play an important role in the cycle of the ecosystem by sending fresh feeds to the search engines every few months.
Think of these big players as the puppet masters of the local search ecosystem. If your business info is incorrect in any of these major providers, that info could over-ride the database of major search engines. Inconsistent information hurts your rankings. Remember, the search engines want to establish trust and relevancy!
So who are the key players.
The Big Four
Look at the local search ecosystem graph again, and notice the Big Four: Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar Localeze, and Factual.
(Keep in mind; this graphic is for the United States. For other countries check out: https://moz.com/blog/2013-local-search-ecosystems)
Who Do They Power?
If you're serious about your local marketing, I recommend you focus on all four ma-jor data aggregators. You'll cover a broader range.
But if you want to cut down your time and focus on just one or two aggregators, then prioritize your efforts based on the directories you want to target.
Here's a breakdown of the main data aggregators and who uses them:
Localeze: Uses local listings with geo-coded tags for latitude and longitude.
• Yahoo Local
• Bing Local
• Best of the Web Local
Infogroup: Ensures the accuracy of their listings by personally calling the business.
• Google Maps
• Bing Local
• Yahoo Local
• AOL Local
Acxiom: Licensed business data updated weekly.
Factual: The up-and-comer in the group that's one of the major suppliers for Google Maps and Apple Maps.
Take Control of Your Business Information
Don't lose control of your business information on the web. YOUR name is on the line.
So rather than hire the wrong person or company to build citations for your business, take control and build them yourself.
You can start by inputting your business info into the following sites:
• Infogroup: http://www.expressupdate.com/search
• Neurstar Localeze: https://www.neustarlocaleze.biz/directory/index.aspx
• Acxiom: https://www.myacxiom.com/
• Factual: http://www.factual.com/
If you really want to save time, Moz provides a very affordable rate to submit your information across all of the main data aggregators:
Use the knowledge of the local ecosystem to your advantage and focus on the key players.
What directories have been helpful with your business?