Pros & Cons of Local Search Sites
You probably are aware of local search sites like Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Local.com, Biznik, DexKnows, etc. How important are these local search engines? Well, it depends on the type of business you have. They can be very effective for small businesses and organizations with a local reach. Maybe not so effective, in some cases, for businesses with a national or international market.
If your business has been in operation for awhile, you’re probably already listed on many of these local search engines. They get their information from a variety of sources using automated processes. Sometimes the information is accurate, but often it’s out of date or incomplete. On the other hand, if your business is new, it probably won’t be listed at all What should you do?
If you find listings that are inaccurate or out of date, there’s really no choice: you must try to have them corrected. Unfortunately, this can be a painful and time consuming process for several reasons:
- It can be difficult or impossible to find out how to contact the search engine. You may have to invest a significant amount of time just to find the “door”
- Usually, you will have to create a login and sign up with each one. This is Step 1 in “claiming” your listing.
- You’ll have to keep track of all those logins and passwords
- Most search engines will try to get you to sign up for a paid listing, using a variety of techniques. Expect to receive a lot of phone calls directly to your business number, and a lot of email marketing messages to whatever address you give them
- Each search engine will have a different web interface that you’ll have to work with. There is no standardization whatsoever.
- Likewise, you’ll find that some will give you a lot of options– even for a free listing– while others will give you only a very basic listing
- Figure on spending at least an hour on each listing, due to the need to provide custom content that aligns with the particular site’s requirements. Expect this to increase by a factor of 2 or 3 if you run into problems.
- Don’t forget that you’ll need to come back and update your listing regularly as details change or you want to add new photos, etc. This can turn into a lot of work if you have 20 or 30 sites to refresh.
If you do opt for a paid listing, consider carefully what you’re getting for your money. If it’s a popular local search engine like Yahoo Local, a paid listing might be a very good investment. If it’s an obscure search site that doesn’t get much traffic, save your money unless it’s a specialized directory that your customers might be likely to consult.
What if you’re already listed and the listing looks OK? Do you need to do anything or can you just leave it as is?
Again, it depends. How valuable is that particular search site for your business? If it’s pretty important, you can often improve your listing by adding details that the pre-populated listing lacks. This will require you to “claim” the listing, as described earlier, and will probably subject you to an ongoing barrage of marketing messages.
One thing that you should especially be looking for is the presence of a link to your web site. Even if potential customers are not that likely to search for you on that particular search site, the “back links” to your own web site can help boost your position in organic search results on Bing and Google.
Some local search sites will give you a back link (allow you to post a link to your own web site in your listing) for free, while others will either charge you for that or require you to pay for an “enhanced” listing. If they charge you, don’t pay unless the site gets a lot of traffic. Back links from low quality, low traffic sites are not very effective in improving your organic search position.
There are some services like YEXT that will bundle listings on local search sites for a fee. You will have to carefully consider the value proposition before signing up with one of these. Based on our experience with YEXT, here are some of the pros:
- You typically have ONE web interface to work with instead of many. This makes administration much simpler, and buffers you from all of those marketing messages
- Services like YEXT can typically get your listing online or updated within a matter of hours or days, rather than weeks
- It may be less expensive to go with a service like YEXT rather than paying each site individually for an enhanced listing, but keep in mind that a YEXT listing is typically not as complete.
On the other hand, here are the cons:
- A YEXT bundle costs $400 or more, depending on the package selected
- In most cases you won’t get nearly as detailed a listing as you would be able to get if you registered directly with the search site– even for a free listing!
- Be prepared for a continuing onslaught of e-mail marketing messages from YEXT– even after you sign up with them!
- If you’re previously claimed your listing on of the search sites, YEXT will be unable to “manage” it until you “release” it. This happened to us with Yahoo Local– we had a paid enhanced listing with them and then we purchased a YEXT package. After we canceled our Yahoo package to release it, Yahoo put it in limbo and now YEXT can’t manage it and neither can we! This means we can’t correct out-of-date information in our Yahoo listing
One thing YEXT did for us was to quickly get us a presence on Yellow Pages and Local.com that would have taken much longer if we had to wait. On the other hand, those listings are very basic and don’t even include a back link to our web site that we could have gotten with a free listing by registering directly.
Based on our experience, I would recommend services like YEXT only for new businesses that need to establish a presence on many local search sites quickly. If you have a well established business, you are probably already listed and most likely already have a more detailed listing than YEXT would give you.