Ever since I started working as a local search specialist, one of my main responsibilities has been to get our clients listed, claimed, verified, optimized, and cleaned up on the top citation sites for local SEO, as well as other industry-specific and locally relevant citation sites.
Important Local Search Ranking Factors
According to Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, structured citations play an important part in local search rankings. Consistency of structured citations—having the business name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistent across the company website, Google My Business, and trusted citation sites—is often high in the survey results each year. Here are some notes from the 2017 survey that illustrate how important structured citations are.
Rankings of structured citations in the following surveys:
“Top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors”
- #5 – Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources
- #8 – Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
- #9 – Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources
“Top 30 Foundational Factors”
- #2 – Consistency of Citations on The Primary Data Sources
- #5 – Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources
- #13 – Consistency of Citations on Tier 2 Citation Sources
- #20 – Proper Category Associations on Aggregators and Tier 1 Citation Sources
- #27 – Enhancement/Completeness of Citations
“Top 30 Competitive Difference-Makers”
- #12 – Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
“10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on Less Since the Possum Update”
- #4 – Quantity of Structured Citations
- #5 – Consistency of Citations on Tier 3 Citation Sources
- #6 – Enhancement/Completeness of Citations
As WhiteSpark’s founder Darren Shaw once told me, “These sites…are the most authoritative in the citation space, and combined, they feed hundreds of other sites, so there would be a ripple effect of the benefits from the work.”
Making the Local Citation Journey an Easier One
Casey Meraz stated in his Ultimate Local SEO Audit, “This is where the hard work gets real.” And as Phil Rozek said in his Local Citation Building Best Practices, “Building citations is the hardest part of getting your business visible in the local search results.” I completely agree with both of these statements. My goal with this article is to help make this hard work easier for you by letting you in on a few secrets my team uses. These tips, tricks, and detailed instructions have lessened over-the-phone time with our clients, made the citation building journey less bumpy, and helped us produce more effective results for our clients.
Let me walk you through the top 50 generic citation sites for local SEO and show you what we specifically do for each site when it comes to verifications, how we report duplicates and old listings, and other instructions that will help you get passed certain roadblocks you may encounter. With four ads at the top of many local search results in Google and only a portion of the local pack showing above the fold even when ads don’t show, it is even more important to get the basics down and make sure you don’t miss anything important.
For each citation site, I’ll walk you through following:
- Which sites allow a workaround to bypass their verification processes and instructions how to execute those workarounds.
- The most difficult top tier sites in great detail
- The best ways to remove duplicate listings on each citation site
- The best support options to use, including the emails, phone numbers, and contact forms that I’ve had the most success with
- Any other tips, tricks, or solutions to common problems
Before we begin, I’ll also cover a few basics, including how many sites actually allow shortcuts, why you should consider Moz Local, the importance of using an email linked to your client’s domain, and a quick note on call-tracking shortcut.
How Many of the Top 50 Citation Sites Allow Workarounds to Verifications?
One trick my team uses is something I like to call verification workarounds. It’s a real thing. Every citation site’s support team has the power to manually verify your listing on their end. But they don’t tell you that.
As most of us know, not all of the top 50 citation sites require verifications. I counted about 13 sites that have a verification process, and of those 13 there are a solid 6 sites that almost always allow a workaround to their verification process. And when a client has an automated phone system which makes it difficult to receive automated calls, there are about 3 additional sites—on top of the previous 6—that will allow you to bypass their verification process. The remaining 4 verification sites are very helpful in getting your listing verified.
If you don’t want to go through the pain of manual citation work on the four data aggregators as well as CitySearch, Bing Places, SuperPages, Foursquare, Best of the Web, and InsiderPages, as well as the other citation sites these sites send data feeds to, I suggest using Moz Local. This will verify listings for you on the sites that require it and will help you recognize and remove duplicates on these 11 citation sites.
Another great option for data aggregator submissions is BrightLocal.
A quick note in case your client is using a Yext subscription. If your client already has a Yext subscription, ask for the login to their account. If they don’t have the login, and you come across a listing that is powered by Yext (e.g. on CitySearch, Local.com, YP, Yahoo!), and you are having trouble editing or removing that Yext-claimed listing, then here are a few support options you can use:
Using an Email Linked to the Domain
One of my best tips is to use an email linked to the client’s domain when registering for citation sites and when making requests to these sites’ support teams. They will trust you more than if you used a Gmail or a Hotmail email for example. But in our experience, we can with a little more persistence succeed just as well without a domain email.
A Call Tracking Shortcut
One shortcut I need to mention is performing all of the necessary phone verifications yourself by forwarding a client’s call tracking number to yours—I was once allowed to do this for one of my clients and it was so awesome! I just logged in to their LogMyCalls (now re-branded as Convirza) account, temporarily changed the number to my work phone number, and performed all the phone verifications myself that I needed to complete. Then I changed the number back to the client’s number right after I finished.
As excited as I was, it was a reality that cannot very often be repeated, since most of my clients do not use a call tracking number. I believe the forwarding of one phone number to another can only be done with call tracking numbers, right?
Moreover, I am not encouraging the use of call tracking numbers, as this is often bad practice for local search, unless the number has a local area code and the client owns that number. If the client insists on using a call tracking number, it can be a boon for the local SEO who has to work out the phone verifications!
And without further ado…the top 50 sites!
1. Google My Business | 2. Bing Places | 3. Apple Maps | 4. ExpressUpdate | 5. Acxiom | 6. Factual | 7. Localeze | 8. Dun & Bradstreet | 9. Facebook | 10. Yelp | 11. YellowPages | 12. Yahoo! Local | 13. Superpages | 14. Foursquare | 15. MapQuest | 16. Manta | 17. Local.com | 18. Kudzu | 19. Yellowbook | 20. CitySearch | 21. ChamberofCommerce | 22. MerchantCircle | 23. ShowMeLocal | 24. Best of the Web | 25. LocalStack | 26. HotFrog | 27. Brownbook | 28. Cylex-USA | 29. InsiderPages | 30. EZLocal | 31. eLocal.com | 32. Tupalo | 33. ForLocations | 34. CitySquares | 35. GetFave | 36. 2FindLocal | 37. Nokia Here | 38. Yasabe | 39. Angieslist | 40. Salespider | 41. DexKnows | 42. Opendi | 43. MyHuckleberry | 44. ZipLocal | 45. iBegin | 46. n49 | 47. MakeItLocal | 48. B2BYellowPages | 49. BizVotes | 50. Tuugo
Verification method: Phone, text, email, mail, or website via Search Console
Verification workaround: Manual verification used to always be available, but now it’s only available in “extreme cases.” Meaning, if a business is unable to verify their Google listing after trying each available method (e.g. due to an automated phone system or a postcard failing to arrive at a business’s location after 15 days), then GMB Support will help to manually verify it if you ask them to.
General Google My Business Support options
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/GoogleMyBiz
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GoogleMyBusiness/
- Have a representative call or email you – https://support.google.com/business/contact/business_other_problem
- Call 1-844-491-9665 (this number is on the GMB sign-in page https://www.google.com/business/)
- You could also become a Local Guide and make any edits you want on any listing https://maps.google.com/localguides/
Commonly used GMB Support pages for specific problems
- Transfer ownership or manager access request form – https://support.google.com/business/troubleshooter/3452717
- Verification code issues (can be used to request a manual verification) – https://support.google.com/business/contact/verification_code_issues
The manual verification process
Contact Google My Business Support and have the representative manually verify the listing on his or her end. This will most likely require the business owner’s or an employee’s consent, as not just anybody can request a manual verification on Google My Business.
The Google representative will either call the number on the listing or email the business owner to verify your relationship to the business, if you are involved in the manual verification process. The rep will likely ask you to email them a couple of photos of the building.
Note: In rare cases, you may be required to do a video verification.
Updating the address when it won’t update via your GMB dashboard edits
Sometimes I will add a suite number, or a street that ends in N, S, E, or W, and Google’s system will not update the edit I made in the GMB dashboard on Google Search or Maps. In this case, I contact GMB Support and have a representative update the information I want added or altered, and the rep will update it manually on their end across all platforms—GMB, Google+, Knowledge Graph, Google Maps.
Note: Suite numbers are no longer factored into Google’s Local algorithm, but are merely there for display purposes. But if you really want your Suite number or your North or South to look a certain way, you can ask GMB Support to fix it for you.
Merging duplicates: Work with GMB Support and have them merge identical existing listings.
Merging old listings: Joy Hawkins discovered a way to merge, or “move,” old listings with the main listing. Here is how you do this:
- If the old listing has a verified Google+ page, gain access to the Google Maps listing and first delete the Google+ page. (If the old listing is only on Google Maps and doesn’t have a Google+ page, then you can skip this step)
- Contact Google My Business Supportand ask them to “move” the old Google Maps listing into the main listing. This merge the pages, keeping the main page. Reviews from the old listing will also be merged, but I would include—in the original request—a request to also transfer the reviews on the old listing to the main listing.
Note: If there is an existing permanently closed listing that you want to get rid of, you can request to “move” it to the main listing.
2 – Bing Places
Bing Local search URL: www.bing.com/local/
Verification method: Phone, text, mail, email, or this other method where they ask you questions about the business. It depends on the business which of the verification methods Bing will offer. And as my colleague, Nate Somsen, discovered, there is also a way to verify Bing listings by website verification, if available.
Verification workaround: Yes. Contact Bing Support via their live chat here: https://www.bingplaces.com/DashBoard/Support (while logged into your account). Ask the representative if they can manually verify the listing for you, and they will respond that they will be happy to do that for you. They will ask if you have access to a domain email (this could be a domain email the client provides you to do for online marketing purposes). Another option is to give Bing Support a company email that is displayed on the client’s website that you have access to. This could be a Gmail or any kind of email. Once you provide them that, they can manually verify the listing for you.
If you do not have access to an email linked to the client’s domain or an email displayed on the client’s website, then the Bing rep will need to contact the client via email or phone in order to verify your relationship with the business. Once the client authorizes that you can manage the listing, the Bing rep will manually verify the listing for you.
Note: If you update anything major—e.g. the phone number or address—after you verify a Bing listing, the listing will be unverified, and you will have to re-verify it.
Removing old locations: Contact Bing Live Chat. Currently, Bing is not removing old listings from their database. Instead, they are marking old listings as “Location Closed”—you will need to mark the old location as closed AND verify the listing. The order doesn’t matter. You can verify the old location before you mark it closed if you want. (I recommend working with Bing Live Chat to get it verified manually.) The old listing will remain on Bing with “Location Closed” displaying in red, and the listing will eventually stop showing up in Bing Local search results for potential customers search for local businesses with the business’s category.
Note: For old locations, you will see “Mark as closed” option and a “Delete” option. Choose the “Mark as closed” option. All that the “Delete” option does is remove the listing from your account. It does not in any way remove the listing from Bing.
Merging duplicates: Duplicate listings (two identical existing listings) can be removed or merged. Contact Bing Live Chat for guidance.
All other issues: Contact Bing Support via the live chat for all other issues. They are very responsive and helpful.
3 – Apple Maps
Verification method: Phone
Verification workaround: Yes. Contact [email protected], and ask them to manually verify the listing, and attach “a photo from outside your business.” The photo should include your business sign and the surrounding area. Also, a screenshot of “your business listing including the address would also suffice.” If they reject your request, then they will probably ask you for better photos.
All other issues: Contact [email protected]
Note: Apple Maps currently is “only accepting businesses with a retail storefront or commercial location that…users can actually visit during the business day.”
4 – ExpressUpdate (AKA InfoGroup)
Verification Method: Phone
Verification workaround: None. If your client’s phone has an automated system that is unable to receive automated calls from citation sites, you will need to have your client call ExpressUpdate at (800) 794-1404. Tell your client to ask the representative who answers the phone to manually verify the listing phone number (and explain that the phone is automated and cannot receive the verification code). If issues arise, you can always contact [email protected].
Reporting Duplicates: Send an email to [email protected], and ask to remove any duplicate listings.
Adding a listing to ExpressUpdate
If a client is not listed on ExpressUpdate, then add it to the site:
- Search for it on http://www.expressupdate.com/search
- If not there, click “Add it now”
- Once added, wait a few weeks for it to be approved and listed on the site.
- Once it shows up on ExpressUpdate, if the listing is searchable by phone number (or if the phone number is showing up on the listing), it is ready to be claimed/verified.
- ExpressUpdate will try to call the business owner to confirm the phone number. This usually occurs about two weeks after a listing gets approved on ExpressUpdate.
Toll-free numbers: Generally, ExpressUpdate does not accept toll-free numbers and prefers a phone number with a local area code as the main number. The best solution to this would be to use a local number as the main number in the first place on all citation sites. However, if circumstances dictate that you list the toll-free number as the main number, then you can use an automated citation tool like Moz Local to push the toll-free number onto the ExpressUpdate listing as the main number.
Contact me or other local search experts for other tips if you are stuck in this particular situation.
Wrong phone number listed: If the phone number on the listing is wrong, contact [email protected] and ask them to change it for you. Keep in mind that ExpressUpdate will call the wrong number originally listed on the listing to confirm that that number is wrong. If it is wrong, they will change the number for you.
Service area businesses: ExpressUpdate does not allow you to list employees’ home addresses as business locations on ExpressUpdate. I’ve been told by an InfoGroup representative that “the business location must be a storefront or you can provide a PO Box for a mailing address.” However, I don’t think this is a good policy, since Google does not allow PO Boxes on Google My Business. On the home address policy, I have successfully submitted several businesses with home addresses to ExpressUpdate, so I don’t think that policy is enforced that much.
Another thing is ExpressUpdate does not allow us to hide street addresses, as Phil Rozek explained. He said, “You can’t simply ‘turn off’ the display of your address on your ExpressUpdate listing. But you can search for your listing on the site and request its deletion, OR you can call up Customer Service and ask them to suppress your listing.”
5 – Acxiom
Verification method: Someone at the business will have to call from the number on the listing (Acxiom’s number is 866-750-5438, option 1), and leave a brief message with the business name and username. If you are unable to call from the phone number on the listing, you can email [email protected] with your listing info and attach a recent phone bill with the listing phone number.
Note: Once verified, the business name and phone number cannot be changed, but the address can be changed. If the business name and phone number are perfectly listed to begin with, then you will need to give your client instructions on how to verify the phone number.
Verification workaround: I wouldn’t say there is a workaround, but the use of [email protected] is very helpful in working through the verification process. They will help with any issues you have.
What if the business name and/or phone number are incorrect on the listing you want to verify? You then will need to first delete the listing (which requires verification), and then add a new listing and upload “accepted documentation” in the “Document Upload” section of the dashboard.
Do you need to verify listings before you delete them? Technically, yes. But I have deleted duplicate listings in the past without any pre-verification, and they got officially removed from Acxiom’s database about a week or so after I deleted them from the dashboard.
If the delete option is blocked in the dashboard, you have no other option but verify the listing before being able to delete it. In one case, I contacted [email protected] to update the phone number and address, and Support only updated the phone number. The delete option got blocked, probably because they wanted me to verify the phone number that they just update for me.
So, you can try deleting a duplicate listing without verifying it by claiming into your dashboard, selecting the duplicate listing, and clicking the “Delete Selected Listing” button. But, if the duplicate listing hasn’t been removed from Acxiom’s database after two to six weeks, a verification will probably be needed.
Note: Option 6 on the MyBusinessListingManager’s help line states, “If you would like a duplicate listing removed from the database, please send the business name, address, and phone number to [email protected]. A confirmation will be sent to the email address on the account once the listing is deleted. The duplicate listing will be updated on the website within 30 days.”
If my memory serves me well, I don’t remember MBLM Support ever removing a duplicate listing just by simply providing them the business’s NAP. But it wouldn’t hurt to try!
Six options on MyBusinessListingManager’s Help Line 866-
- Verify a listing
- If you are unable to log into your account
- If you are receiving an IP address error when creating an account
- Questions about editing a listing
- Questions about adding a new listing
- Questions about removing a duplicate listing
- All other questions
What documents does Acxiom accept when adding a new listing? You can upload one or more of the following documents:
- Federal Tax License Letter (submit the letter that includes your ID number, name, address and/or phone number of business)
- State, County, or City Business License or Sales Tax License
- Doing Business As License
- Fictitious Name Registration
- Utility Bill
- Phone Bill
- Insurance Certificate
The uploaded document must contain the following:
- Business Name
Once the document is uploaded, Acxiom will verify your listing (the status in the dashboard will say “CLAIMED”). Some listings added to Acxiom may get verified the same day; however, it could take up to 30 days to get verified.
Acxiom only accepts one account per IP address. How do you deal with that problem? I just call the client and walk them through creating an account on https://mybusinesslistingmanager.myacxiom.com/ using their computer. Once the account is created, you can login from your computer and claim up to 5 free listings. You could also set up multiple proxy servers, using a proxy service like Proxy Bonanza, to get multiple IPs so you can create multiple accounts on Acxiom.
When do you start having to pay for multiple listings? If you claim more than five businesses in one account, you are charged $50 per additional listing. If you plan to submit more than 30 listings, Acxiom offers a bulk upload option that is less expensive. For details, e-mail [email protected].
MBLM Support FAQs: https://mybusinesslistingmanager.myacxiom.com/#faqs
6 – Factual
Verification method: No verification required. But for updating existing listings and submitting new listings, I use their free update system. Another option is to use their free API access to add or update a business.
Reporting duplicates: Use https://www.factual.com/contact/update_add_business
- First find the main and duplicate listing(s) via https://www.factual.com/data/t/places
- On the Add or Update Business Listing page, choose “Yes” for “Have you already found your listing in our places data?”
- Copy/paste the Factual ID of the main listing you want to keep
- Click on the box for “There are duplicate listings for the business”
- Copy/paste the Factual ID of the duplicate listing(s) in the text box for “Factual IDs of unwanted duplicate listings.”
You can also use the free API access to “flag a duplicate business (same address, same address) for removal,” or “flag a closed business for removal.”
7 – Neustar Localeze
Verification Method: Phone
Verification workaround: None, unless your client’s phone has an automated system and you are unable to receive the verification code. In that case, email Localeze Support at [email protected], and ask them for the PIN code for the listing you are trying to verify.
For instance, on occasions where my client has an automate phone system and we are unable to receive the PIN code, I email Localeze Support and say:
”Hello, we are having trouble receiving the code from Neustar Localeze. We have an automated system, and we are unable to receive the code needed to verify the phone number on this listing –