Local SEO Directories and Gyro Sandwiches

For the second installment of the Portent Local Series, I’ll go over why and how directories affect local search visibility and where business owners should focus their time and energy.

Local search is like a gyro sandwich: it’s delicious when it works, but the process and criteria for the result can be mysterious. What exactly is the spinning mass that guy is shaving slices from? Is this pita gluten-free? How old is this tzatziki sauce?

Gyro Sandwich Meat

Like the myriad meat products in a gyro sandwich, directories are one of the primary ingredients that influence local search results.

The Major Search Engines

At the core of local search is your company’s listing on each of the major search engines’ local platform: Google+ Local, Bing Business Portal, and Yahoo! Local. It’s essential to claim and verify these listings in order to ensure your brand and business details are complete and accurate.

Business owners, however, will be the first to say it’s not always that easy. Making changes to your listing can be a long and frustrating process—especially if your business has more than one location.

You can do this through the local dashboard but, for Google, another option is Map Maker. Google allows users to update information about places they know through Map Maker, and updates are reviewed and approved. You can also see the history of changes to the listing. This could be a faster way to correct information if your local listings are in bad shape.

My Gyros Seattle in Google Map Maker

 Local Directories

If the end goal is visibility in the major search engine results, it follows that you could claim your listing and be done. But that’s not the case. Believe it or not, search engines can’t do it all themselves.

Third party data providers and local directories inform the search engines. The major search engines use this external data to confirm whether your business’ information matches what’s in their own index. If there’s a discrepancy, you could be in a world of hurt. I mean like bad lamb meat hurt.

Data Providers

It’s important, therefore, to ensure the signals from every local directory and data provider are correct and consistent. With thousands of local directories and search engines, however, where do you start? There are a small group of data providers that power the most and most influential services:

Other sites that feed the major search engines include Yellow Pages, Superpages, Citysearch, and Yelp. There are, of course, hundreds of other local directories that, even if they aren’t direct data providers, are still crawled by the major search engines. Your information should be accurate there too.

The deeper you dig, the messier it gets. Here in Seattle, for example, we have KING5.com, a local news website. The site has a business directory named LinkTown, which is powered by MojoPages—a national business directory. MojoPages, in turn, gets their data from Yellowbook and Localeze. So, the listing on LinkTown could potentially be influenced by 3 separate sources.

It’s great if they’re in concert, but what if your business moves and you need to change your address? You edit your MojoPages listing to correct the LinkTown profile, but MojoPages is getting conflicting data about your business from other sources, which also sends search engines mixed signals.

Knowing the source of the data can help you keep your listings accurate across the entire web. If you need to alter your business details, start with the major data providers first, then work your way down to the smaller directories and search engines. I recommend tracking the sites and dates you submit changes in order to keep everything organized, as it will often take weeks for changes to take effect and be indexed.

Citations and Niche Directories

In addition to third party data, search engines use the citations in their index as a ranking factor. Citations are mentions of the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of a business across the web.

Depending on your vertical, there are plenty of niche directories to get citations. Whether you’re a plumber or a lawyer, there’s a directory for that. If you own a Greek restaurant, for example, you’ll want to be listed in sites like Urbanspoon and Yelp.

In general, the more citations your business has across the web, the more confidence the search engines have that the information is accurate. Unlike links, however, the difference in value between one site and another isn’t necessarily quantifiable. Should you shell out for a premium listing on a dubious directory like www.bestnumberonedentistlinks.com (a fake example, by the way) just to get another citation? Probably not. Search engines won’t trust it as much as a well-established and authoritative site like the Better Business Bureau or Best of the Web. Use the same discretion you would for being associated any website.

Local SEO: It’s a Headache (and Probably Some Heartburn)

Maintaining your business listings can require a lot of time and energy. The most important thing is to keep your information consistent. The good news is that relatively few business owners have even claimed their listing.

Complete listings on search engines and relevant local directories are only one component of local SEO, but it’ll help put your business far ahead of the competition. Stay tuned for more in the Portent Local Series on other vital areas of local SEO.

Have any questions about local directories? Let us know in the comments and we’ll answer them in our Local SEO Q&A blog post on October 2nd!

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  1. Love the focus on local search- as it’s becoming more and more important!
    You’re right in the fact that many business owners don’t even claim your listings.
    What are your thoughts on the Google + Local pages transition?

    1. Courtney,
      Re: the Google+ Local transition… breathe deep, cause you’ll have to (had to) hold your breath for a while. Some business categories have transitioned, others haven’t. Some businesses have, others haven’t. No one a Google seems to be able to influence the process. It will just happen when it happens. If you haven’t turned blue before that.

      1. Thanks for the comment, Courtney! Thanks to Jim, too–I completely agree. It’s a headache for businesses to have to update two separate pages–Google+ Local (Places) and Google+ Business–even if you migrated over your “Places” content. It’s changed before, and it’ll change again. For now, Google+ Local is where you want to focus your effort.

  2. As you say, consistency is the key. I have had more than a few headaches trying to sort out inconsistent NAP data, particularly when the business has moved and half of the data is to the old address and half to the new.
    On a different note I once asked the guy in the kebab shop what type of meat was on the spinning shaft, his response was “a spicy meat”. That’s that cleared up then.

    1. We have an answer! Thanks, Shaun.
      Yes, moving can cause a lot of problems–especially for businesses with multiple locations. A different person might have verified each separate listing, and that can be really hairy to sort out. That’s where a good, old-fashioned spreadsheet comes in handy.

  3. Directories, even the “good” ones, definitely cause indigestion. First, they have to verify at some point with a phone call, which always comes across as a telemarketing call by somebody overseas; it’s dumb luck if that call is successful. Second, they send all the contact info to a sales team, which can start an aggressive campaign for “premium” listings; to me, a violation of why the info was supplied. We really ought to be pushing back!

    1. I agree, Janet. I’ve had to endure more than a few sales pitches for a “featured” listing. For general directories, I could be convinced of the value for a premium listings, depending on the site, but for local directories I’m just trying to get the NAP complete and consistent.
      The incessant “special offer” emails get old too, but I suppose that’s what filters are for :). Good luck!

  4. Great article Nick, I know that Google + local is a fantastic way to focus your energy. It has been difficult with the new transitions but we are trying to adjust more smoothly as you stated, these rules will change over time and we always need to be up on those new adjustments. Thank you for this fantastic information.

  5. Very entertaining article! The one good thing about directories is that they are what they say they are. A way to get your website listed on the Internet and a technique to send a few spiders in.
    Thanks for your post and keep up the good work!

  6. Hi Nick
    I’m based in Inverness, Scotland. Localeze, Acxiom and Express Update don’t offer the option for European business to list their address/contact data. Are there any similar services catering for European businesses?

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