The “BCS” for Local Search Engine Optimization

MIHMORANDUM NO. 103 | June 30th, 2008Reader Comments (37)

A Look at Why InfoUSA, SuperPages, Acxiom, Localeze, Yelp and InsiderPages Are So Important in Local Search

Frequent readers know that for five months a year, I have college basketball on the brain. But while the hardwood is vacant, I happily fix my gaze upon the college gridiron for a few months.

For you non sports fans, college football features a confusing ranking system known as the “Bowl Championship Series.” Here’s a CliffsNotes version of that system:

  • Writers, coaches, and the computers all weigh at 33%, creating a ranking of the top teams in the country.
  • Five bowls are designated as “BCS” and each pays out a ridiculous sum of money to the conferences and 10 teams who are represented in them.
  • The traditional powerhouse conferences in NCAA football — the SEC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10 — are known as “BCS” leagues because the champion of each automatically earns a berth in the BCS Bowl system.
  • There are four “at-large” positions available to teams from smaller conferences (Boise State being the most notable at-large by virtue of its win over Oklahoma in 2007.), but these tend to be filled by some combination of runners-up in the power leagues, too.
  • (Side note: Why college football doesn’t just do away with the BCS and just have a selection committee is beyond my comprehension.)

My assertion with this article is that the college football BCS serves as a great analogy for Local Search–only in this case BCS stands for “Best Citation Sources.” For those unfamiliar with my use of the word ‘Citation’ as it pertains to Local Search, please check out my initial post on Citations from last month.

Let me explain why I think the Best Citation Source analogy is so appropriate:

  • It doesn’t always work out to each factor having 33% influence, but Local Business Listing information, On-Page SEO Criteria, and Off-Page SEO Criteria are the three main contributors in the Local Search algorithms. Kind of like the coaches, writers, and computers in the football BCS.
  • As with the BCS bowl system, there are 10 sites selected for inclusion in the Google Local 10-pack.
  • The top 10 Local results all pay out ridiculous amounts of traffic (and hopefully profit if you’ve got a good website!).
  • The sites that are referenced by the “Best Citation Sources” have a disproportionate chance of making it into the 10-pack ahead of those who are not cited by those sources.

So who makes up the BCS of the Local Search world, and why are they so important?

Here’s my take, anyway, in no particular order. Would love to hear all of your faves in the comments :)

1) InfoUSA – InfoUSA is basically the original YellowPages data provider, and IMHO should be the starting point for any Local online business. Why? Lots and lots of what I would call “crappy” directory-style websites have purchased data from InfoUSA and published it online (and some good ones, too, like Yahoo Local and CitySearch). Just do a Google search for “business data provided by infoUSA” (in quotes) and add your city name at the end, and you will see what I mean. (Like this.) Listings in these kinds of directories that have scraped InfoUSA data often count as citations. Additionally, a large percentage of Local Business Listings will also show a citation from “daplus.us,” usually as the very last in the list. DaPlus is a subsidiary of infoUSA, according to their website. Here’s where to submit your business to InfoUSA »

2) Superpages.com – One of my clients recently moved offices, staying in the same city but a few blocks away to a more prominent space. I actually hadn’t done any Local optimization for them in quite a while, so I had to create a brand new listing for them in Superpages. In less than 10 days it was showing up as a “Web Page” citation in their Google Local Business Listing. That kind of speed leads me to believe that Google is spidering Superpages.com quite frequently. Superpages results also show up for incredibly uncompetitive searches. Signing up is free, quick, and painless. Here’s where to submit your business to Superpages »

3) Acxiom - See InfoUSA. Again, lots of crappy directories, in this case even more than from InfoUSA, have bought their data set from Acxiom. Look at this search. And again, lots of those directories show up as citations. The problem is, with Acxiom, there’s no way to submit your business. I’ll buy a beer for, and happily link to the website of, the first person who can lay out for us how to submit to Acxiom’s data set online! :)

4) Localeze – Localeze is an interesting case. I believe they inked a distribution deal with Yahoo awhile back (though now I can’t seem to find that reference), and I know they signed one with ShopLocal.com recently, and (this is a biggie) they appear to be the main content provider that has seeded Marchex’s entire OpenList network. Check out this search. The Marchex network itself shows up with increasing frequency as citation material, and would be reason enough to submit to Localeze, even without any other distribution deals going forward. Basically, while I see InfoUSA and Acxiom as vestigial players from the print world who will eventually become obsolete, Localeze is the evolving organ that is poised to be a MAJOR player. So even though Localeze might not carry as much weight now, I encourage businesses to sign up with them for future success. Here’s how to submit your business to Localeze »

5) Yelp – As with SuperPages, the updated address for my own Yelp listing showed up in Google Local within 10 days of me changing it. I’m also seeing a lot of my clients’ competitors getting cited via Yelp…Google seems to be spidering it like CRAZY these days (maybe because they know they’ve got one of the best and most up-to-date Local data sets, at least on the West Coast?). Submitting your business to Yelp is difficult, but do a search for your business in your town, and if you don’t show up, look for the button at the bottom right side of the main content area that says “Add Business.”

6) InsiderPages – I’m a BIG fan of this website & I don’t think it gets nearly enough buzz in the SEO community. The ‘Web Pages’ tab for my own site shows a limited number of citations (I just updated with my new address in Portland last month), but InsiderPages is one of them. I think of it as sort of the Pac-10 of the Local SEO BCS. It’s rare that you see an InsiderPages result show up as a citation, but when you do see one, it carries a lot of weight (think USC vs. the rest of the Pac-10 conference). Interestingly enough, it looks like InsiderPages is an affiliate of CitySearch, judging by the links in the footer. Didn’t know that until today. Here’s where to submit your business to InsiderPages »

The best of the “Mid-Majors” :

Citysearch – Can be VERY powerful, and reviews are spidered very well. If I ever expand my BCS to a seventh site, this would be it. But it can be pricey (there are no free listings), especially in the larger metro areas, and if your goal is simply to rank well in the 10-pack, I think your money would be better invested elsewhere. I also think that CitySearch is becoming too large a player and either they’re going to fight Google on syndicating their content OR Google is going to stop showing CitySearch references because they’re building brand value for too great a competitor.

TripAdvisor - If you’re in the travel industry, this site is a MUST. Mary Bowling of Blizzard Internet would know more about SEO for this industry than I would, but I bet she’d agree.

DexKnows – Intuitively, it seems like I’m starting to see this site popping up more and more under the “Web Pages” tab, but I don’t have any hard data, or even any soft data, to back it up.

OpenList – See my comments above re:DexKnows AND Localeze…

I will say that the most important citation sources do seem to vary a good deal by industry. As I mentioned earlier, Hotels and Spas would do well to look at TripAdvisor. Restaurants get cited in Zagat’s. Lawyers get cited on Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyers.com. Basically, if there’s a traditional print source that has served as a reference in your industry for decades, make sure you’re listed there. If their website has ANY kind of pulse (i.e. is not built in Flash or completely form-dependent), it’s likely to be crawled by the search engines and counted as a citation.

The best strategy you can use as a starting point for finding your own “BCS,” analogous to linkbuilding in traditional SEO, is to look at sites that are doing well in Local and where they are being cited. Lots of times if they’re standard directories, with just a little digging, you can be listed there as well.

And one final note: for those of you interested in Local SEO, Pat Sexton just put out a call for help with a Local Search Guidelines project he’s putting together. Head on over to SEOish and check it out to see if you can help!

37 Responses to “The “BCS” for Local Search Engine Optimization”

  1. Will Scott says at

    David,

    Awesome rundown. I’m working on a tactical execution post as we speak.

    This issue of “citation” is an interesting analog to “links” in the local space and thanks to you and Mike I’m only just getting it.

    Thanks for all the hard work of late — I hope you still have some time for clients :)

    Cheers,
    Will

  2. Kris Keimig says at

    Great posts on local.

    One thing that I’ve used with my brick-and-mortar customers is to actually submit their business for a single line listing to the actual yellow pages (primary, secondary and local books). If you are new to the books you can often get the first year or two for free – the nice thing is that you will automatically get listed on their web versions of the book. Thus you get double coverage – one in the actual book (helps with the phone calls) and one online (helps with local search).

  3. David Mihm says at

    Kris, that’s a GREAT point that I probably should have made myself at the very beginning of the article. The best way to get into the YellowPages websites is to actually get an ad in the print YellowPages. In my experience, as you say, just the single-liners will do.

  4. trif3cta says at

    Stellar stuff. Local SEO + college hoops? Forget it, welcome to my feedreader.

  5. Brent says at

    Here is another nice list of local search directories http://www.ecommerceoptimization.com/local-business-listing-guide/

    Here is another with more of International flavor to it http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm

  6. eCopt says at

    Hi David,

    Great local topic post. You’ve had some really good ones lately, nice job.

    Thanks for mentioning our local search guide Brent!!

  7. Nick says at

    Stellar post! Very good analogy. Just recently I had listed one of my clients on insiderpages and just recently he received a phone call from CitySearch, saying they had been referred from InsiderPages, trying to sell him a listing on their site. My client mentioned he had someone handling his online presence. The salesman was pushy and said that InsiderPages carried no weight in their online presence… on and on… then went on to quote some pretty big ( read unbelievable) numbers on the traffic they get for a pretty competitive search term in Charlotte NC.

    I tried to pull up the results in big G and City Search wasn’t even in the first 3 pages. If the number are true then they must be pulling in traffic from elsewhere, or have very loyal users.

    Not sure if all of CitySearch’s sales people are like this, or if my client just had a bad experience, but the two companies are definately related.

  8. Andrew Shotland says at

    David,

    InsiderPages was acquired by Citysearch about a year and a half ago.

    A

  9. Don Campbell says at

    Another excellent post David – thank you. I’ve also noticed that Google and Yahoo seem to be opening up to smaller vertical focused data providers. For example, for dentists in the San Francisco area Vimo, nomoreclipboard and Demandforce are providing “citations” and reviews for many of the local listings. Based on what I’ve heard we’ll be seeing more of this over time. Do you have any sense for how valuable those are in comparison to the majors you list above?

  10. David Mihm says at

    @Nick, Agreed that Citysearch is much more reliant on salespeople than some of the other Local SE’s and I’m not sure their product backs up the sales talk. But there are a TON of folks, at least in Portland, who swear by it, so maybe it’s worth it.

    @Andrew – Thanks, man. I know you are always more up-to-date on industry stuff than just about anyone.

    @Don – Totally agree that specific verticals are on the rise & that’s why I included that caveat as part of the “Mid-Majors” section.

    Just to take this analogy to its irrational extreme, just as there are quality mid-majors like Gonzaga and Butler, there are quality vertical directories like TripAdvisor and Lawyers.com. But there are plenty of lesser ones like Prairie View A&M and North Carolina A&T that have no business being in Division I. I might equate these to some of the directories you’re seeing. One thing to keep in mind though is that some of the power players’ data sets are what these smaller directories are using to seed their own databases…

  11. Scott Salwolke says at

    Excellent post. It combines two of my favorite activities, SEO and complaining about the BCS. Especially with college football on the horizon. This is also a nice assessment of the various local directories and reminded me how important some of these sites are.

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  13. Robert Carter says at

    And best of all, these are all free! Do you think there will be a time when we can just submit to one site to get into all of the local databases? Updating 10+ directory listings can be a pain.

  14. David Mihm says at

    Hey Robert, thanks for your comment.

    Localeze and UniversalBusinessListing.org are both attempting to do that, IMHO.

    I think UBL has a better chance at it since they’re not into specific data syndication deals (at least as explained by Chris Travers at SMX Local/Mobile last week). Instead they publish their data sets free for anyone to grab. The yearly fee is only something like $15/listing.

    But in the meantime Localeze is a great option, if not cost-prohibitive for your clients, to get their profile data syndicated across a number of platforms.

  15. Jim Spencer says at

    Interesting and clearly presented with helpful links. Thanks David.

    I have one Internet business pretty well listed locally. Not sure how to move forward with new ventures that I start. My office is in my house.

    Can you locally list multiple businesses with the same contact information from the same address, etc? Do you need to add a “unit 103″ and use a different phone number and so on?

  16. David Mihm says at

    Jim,

    In general, it’s not a good idea to list multiple businesses with the same contact information — the reason is that Google in particular has a tendency to conflate records with the same info. At the very least I would use a different phone number.

  17. Todd Bryson says at

    thanks David. As I have been using these techniques for a while now this reaffirms what I have been doing. I usually check “web pages” for competitors in the 10 pack and then just go to those sites and submit a listing. But still I do not understand how some listings make it to #1. I have seen super crappy , not even edited listings in position A on the ten pack. I can usually always break into the ten pack but getting to position A is another story.

  18. Jonathan Martin says at

    I just got off the phone with Acxiom. After being transferred a couple of times, I was able to provide some business information. The associate that assisted me told me that they get all of their information by cutting the binding off of phone books and scanning them in. She did say that within a months time they will have a system in place to submit information.

    Ditto on the subscribe status. :)

  19. GR says at

    Great post! I am starting to figure this out for my business and there is tons of crap. Posts like this make it easier.

    GR

  20. Marcus Keith says at

    The curious abscence of MerchantCircle in your BCS betrays your bias, David. Say what you will about MC’s past robo-calling and lack of support for free listings, MC is a powerful citation source and gets crawled with great frequency, and MC citations show up in Google Maps just as quickly or quicker than Superpages.

  21. Chris Reilly says at

    I’m curious if you’ve used UniversalBusinessListing.org for any work with clients, it seems to be an excellent resource, but I am too cheap to part with the $30 to find out for myself… They don’t guarantee listings, just that the data will be submitted to the various directories. If it works it does seem to be an incredibly good deal in terms of efficiency.

    Thanks, your blog is a great resource!

  22. Osborne Brook says at

    Great post!

    Thank you for the comments on local directories as there are so many and most of them are not really worth any effort.

  23. Yaros says at

    Today, I spoke with someone from openlist.com on the phone. Apparently, you can no longer submit any new listings via the opensource.com/submit option. All of their data is now coming from localeze and reviews, from yelp. Update cycle is every two months.

  24. Kevin says at

    Thanks for leading the pack on Local SEO and providing such great resources!

  25. BM Models Agency says at

    We really appreciate the collection of local citation sources as they have had a positive impact on our local results. Given the vast amount of useless resources on the web your post is really invaluable.

  26. brian says at

    Can you give suggestions for the Canadian landscape of local Search.

  27. GregB. says at

    Great advice on the LBC here – and thanks for sharing the extra info on Google Local yesterday at Searchfest!

  28. SteveM says at

    As usual, ton’s of good information here. I really enjoy reading your posts.

    BTW, I think you’ll find that Acxiom accepts listing information through their subsidiary site MyBusinessListingManager.com…

    “I’ll buy a beer for, and happily link to the website of, the first person who can lay out for us how to submit to Acxiom’s data set online! :)”

  29. Asim Alvi says at

    not sure if you are gonna reply
    i have some questions
    1. how much time googel usually take to add a respective citation coming from a yellow page ? since business is claimed on google map and on directories as well(I have done all the citation work almost 100 approved but google is showing only five) don,t know if google has not picked the citations yet then how my business make it to seven pack all the way down from 7th page with a very competitive k word ?
    2. it is important to fill out the information not only on google places but also in directories what do you think ?
    3. is there any impotence of blog comments if one has added the business address in it like if i add my b add in this comment ?
    4. is there any age fector of the listing?
    5. there are 5 fields for category, one dedicated for google defined and 4 user can custom define. my question is that what is the best practice ? should i use all k words and separate them by commas (3 comma separations can be used per field) or stick to only main 4 k words ?
    PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
    the address similarity is not an issue but phone number is
    no effect on ranking by using 800 or 888 number
    implementing your address in your sites footer or somewhere that easily used by every page of website like your blog
    use of k word in title got my listing an instant jump

    thank you

  30. Rich says at

    Awesome stuff,

    Thanks David,
    I believe that local seo is essential beyond global seo for local businesses that are say “pizza delivery boston” etc…

    Good post.

  31. Adam Chronister says at

    Great post. This year I have made local SEO my focus and you can bet I have seen my share of these services.

  32. Cody Baird says at

    David,

    I wanted to share a trick I found for listing a new business with Acxiom. Matt McGee did a post about about it on his personal blog last Friday here http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/submit-your-business-to-acxiom/5184/. You can also visit my blog http://www.milkmen.com/blog/2011/11/how-to-guide-for-acxiom/ where I offer a step by step tutorial. I hope that some of your readers will find it as helpful I have.

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