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Business Listing Errors Erode Trust
In a 2013 poll of more than 350 small business owners, Constant Contact found that most small business owners (85%) understood the importance of being found on major search engines, mobile device applications, and directory sites but close to half (49%) had seen errors in their listings and not bothered to update them.
A year later Search Engine Watch shared the results of a related study performed by Placeable. The Placeable study showed 73% respondents lost trust or confidence in a brand or business when their online listings were incorrect.
“Brands that fail to ensure the accuracy of search engine location data run the risk of not only missing out on new customers, but jeopardizing their relationships with existing customers as well.”
That is a problem for many time and resource-strapped small business owners because there are hundreds of local business directories across the United States that could potentially need updating. The good news is local data aggregators can help.
What Are Local Data Aggregators?
Local data aggregators are large consumer and business data gathering companies that source, clean up, and distribute individual and business name, address, and phone number (NAP) data to publishers, marketers, and location-based service providers like search engines, review, and social media sites. If you get a direct mail solicitation, a phone call from a telemarketer, an e-mail or check-in offer, or targeted online advertisement, there is a good chance the company behind it got information about you from a local data aggregator.Search engines, mobile application developers, and local directory sites all get data from the local data aggregators. The data aggregators are trusted sources of name, address, and phone number (NAP) data for every unique consumer and business in the United States.
What Do Local Data Aggregators Have To Do With Local Search?
I don’t know a business owner that does not want to rank at the top of Google search results.
There are three ways to do it:
- You can pay for an advertised spot at the top or bottom of search engine result pages (SERPs) using Google’s advertising platform also known as Sponsored Search Results, Adwords, and Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
- You can employ local SEO tactics to become eligible to appear in local (map) results for certain queries with local intent. Examples include “dry cleaners near Drexel University”, “dry cleaners 19104”, or just plain “dry cleaners” if the searcher is using a computer with an IP address in a ZIP code close to Drexel University (19104). Not every query will return local search results.
- Or you can earn your way to the top of organic search results for everything else.
Google’s ranking algorithm is a closely held secret and no one outside of that company knows exactly how it works. There is a general consensus among SEOs however, that the proximity of a business to the point of search and lots of high-quality local citations (mentions of a business by name and address or name and phone number) are key ingredients (among others) to gaining visibility on maps.
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to acquire high-quality citations is to employ the services of local data aggregators individually, or by way of citation building service.
Who Are The Local Data Aggregators?
There are four data aggregators in the United States:
- Acxiom (www.acxiom.com);
- Factual (www.factual.com);
- Infogroup (www.expressupdate.com); and
- Localeze (www.neustarlocaleze.biz).
A fifth company, Foursquare (foursquare.com) is not a “traditional” data aggregator but should be treated as one if you’re planning on building citations. Foursquare sends location data to Pinterest and a number of other local search apps.
You can access the data aggregators directly using any of the links above or via a citation building service like Yext, Moz, Bright Local, Advice Local, and Whitespark.
Neustar Localeze is the only aggregator that currently charges a fee for you to submit your business, the others are free. Citation building services are not free, but offer advantages that (in my mind) are worth paying for.
NOTE: In May 2019, Acxiom quietly announced it would be retiring its directory services at the end of the year. While concerning at first glance, it is likely this will have little impact on business listing data distribution and may, in fact, help simplify an already overly complex local search ecosystem. As it stands today, there is significant overlap in terms of which data aggregators feed which directories. HotFrog, for example, is fed by both Acxiom and Neustar Localeze, Superpages by both Acxiom and Infogroup, and Yellowbook by all three. Removing Acxiom from the equation will not leave a gap. As to the sites that currently only subscribe to Acxiom, they will likely negotiate a subscription with one of the other aggregators to remain whole. We will have to keep our eye on it.
Why Use a Citation Building Service?
Why pay for a citation building service when you can go directly to most of the data aggregators and not have to pay?
There are three advantages to using a citation building service:
- They streamline and simplify access to the local data aggregators.
- They help identify NAP errors and inconsistencies so you have an opportunity to fix them before your data gets distributed.
- They capture and distribute additional data that can help increase click-thru and conversion rates.
Citation building services give you a single pathway to all the local data aggregators. You enter your data once; it gets validated, standardized and reformatted, and then distributed to all the local data aggregators.
If duplicates, gaps, inconsistencies, or errors are found, they are highlighted so you have an opportunity to fix them. If your business has a change of name, address, or phone number, it’s much easier to update.
Local data aggregators get their data from a wide variety of sources. They do a decent job identifying duplicates, errors, and inconsistencies but often not good enough. The better citation building services highlight these potential problems and give you an opportunity to fix them before your data goes to the local data aggregators and gets propagated throughout the entire local search ecosystem.
Data consistency and accuracy are one of the keys to local search success. Search engines do not use employer identification numbers (EINs) to differentiate one business from another. They use the business name and address or name and phone number data to tell one business from another. If your NAP data is inconsistent, outdated, or inaccurate, you will not get credit for all your citations and you will lower your ranking potential. All things being equal, the more (and more consistent and accurate) citations you have coming in from reputable sources, the higher you will rank.
Citation building services also give you the opportunity to supply supplemental data – things like a business description, tagline, your website address, images, hours of operation, accepted payment types, and social media links. This data also gets channeled to local data aggregators and any downstream local business directories that accept it. This data can enrich and differentiate your business listing in a crowded marketplace. That can translate into increased click-thru rates and visits to your place of business or website.
Local Data Aggregators Are But One Piece of the Local Search Puzzle
Local data aggregators feed business name, address, and phone number data to hundreds of local directories across the United States. While useful, you’re still better off using one of the local citation building services to add and maintain your data as they streamline and simplify the process for less cost.
You can compare the different citation building services here.