What’s the big deal about business listings?

Business listings hold the secret to potentially doubling or tripling your marketing results overnight—especially if you run a local business. Really. Getting this right is one of the fastest, easiest things you can do to improve your online presence immediately.

Everything you need to know about online listings.

Step-by-step instructions for fixing your listings.

Products & services that can help with your listings.


What is an online business listing?

I could explain online business listings, but it’s 100x easier to show them.

Here are two examples you’re probably familiar with: Yelp’s and Google’s.

In a nutshell, business listings are online profiles about businesses. They’re similar to old print directories in that they display key information that customers want to know, such as address, phone number, website, and hours of operation.

There are thousands of listings sites out there, including some that you’ve heard of and a lot that you haven’t. CitySearch, DexKnows, Merchant Circle, TomTom, Manta, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Bing, Judy’s Book, Houzz, WebMD, 411.com, Edmunds, ZipLocal. The list goes on.

While the average US business has 68 online listings, The Big Four listing sites that account for roughly 85% of all search traffic are Bing, Yelp, YellowPages, and Google.

Why are business listings important?

Listings are important for two reasons: customer experience and search visibility.

A) Customer Experience

When it comes to customer experience, you probably don’t know the importance of accurate listings until you’ve had a bad experience.

For example, have you ever followed Google Maps or a GPS all the way to the other end of town and… dun dun dun… the business you’re looking for isn’t there? Or maybe its hours are different than what it said on Google? That’s because their listing information was wrong.

Plain and simple: If your listings are wrong, people are getting false information about you. And when that happens, customers blame YOU, not Google.

B) Search visibility

The more listings you have—and the more consistent those listings are, which we’ll talk about in a second—the higher up on Google your business will likely appear.

This is a BIG DEAL, since the top three results of a Google search account for over 50% of all clicks, and the top 10 results account for more than 90% of clicks (Chitika). If people don’t find what they’re looking for in the first few results, they move on. Your business has got to be in those top spots if you want anyone to see you, and listings are the key to getting there.

If you’re still not convinced about the importance of listings, consider these stats:

– 85% of people use online listings to find businesses (Yelp)

– 63% of consumers under 40 never use phone books to find local businesses anymore (RingCentral)

– 73% of consumers stated that they lose trust in a brand when the online listing shows incorrect information (Placeable, 2014)

The most compelling stat, however, is that 50% of business owners say they’ve noticed wrong information in one of their listings before—but over HALF of them admit to never updating it.

Translation: with a few easy fixes, you could be ahead of HALF your competition!

A Cautionary Tale: The Serbian Crown

After 40 years in business, the Serbian Crown—a restaurant in Washington D.C.—closed its doors for good. The Crown was a place where adventurous diners could order up a plate of kangaroo, bear, or even lion meat (yes, surprisingly legally).

In early 2012, owner Rene Bertagna experienced a sudden 75% drop off in customer business over the weekend. Being a little off the beaten path, this was the time he did most of his business. The slump continued. And continued. Bertgana had to lay off staff and he puzzled why his lion delicacy was no longer a “mane” event.

Finally, one of Bertgana’s regulars phoned him to ask why he was closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The 74-year old from Northern Italy had heard about this thing called the internet, but he’d never been on Google.

As it turned out, Google was misreporting the Crown as closed on the weekends. This was a fatal problem, as potential diners who searched for the restaurant saw the listing pop up with a red “closed” sign. Bertgana hired someone to help him fix his listing, but alas, it was too late. The Serbian Crown closed its doors for good.

An extreme example of listings gone awry, a version of this scenario takes place every day. Sometimes it’s the wrong hours, incorrect address, or a case of a missing phone number. Regardless, being listed properly is critical.

Where do business listings come from?

Well, when a mommy listing and a daddy listing love each other very much…

Kidding. It’s way sexier than that.

Google gets your business information from a variety of sources, including government directories, data providers/aggregators, search engine data, and user-generated content.

This list might seem short, but that doesn’t mean it’s not complicated.

1. Government sources include information that’s gathered from phone service providers, utility companies, and registration services.

2. Data aggregators are companies that collect and repackage information that’s already available online.

3. Search engine data uses information populated by major search engines to create local listings. Google Maps, Google My Business, and Bing Places are common examples.

4. Users. Even though Google automatically creates listings, it relies on two types of users to update this information: business owners and average joes. Anyone can suggest edits to Google business pages, and the data is then checked, verified, and reshared to other places.

Sites like Facebook and Yelp rely heavily on user-generated content (UGC) too. UGC is information that unpaid contributors have provided to a website, such as a photo, video, blog post, comment, etc. Unfortunately, this type of data is not always correct and can lead to incorrect or duplicate listings.

Even with all this technology working together, there are many problems. Every month, 17% of business data changes, which is a pretty substantial number that needs to be monitored and updated on a regular basis. Also, if incorrect information is found enough times, it might lead to the assumption that this is the correct listing.


Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing Listings

This section is broken into nine steps that’ll help you improve your presence and accuracy on listings sites. Once you’re done, your business will be easily found on Google and you won’t have to worry about “bad data” misleading your customers.

Before we begin, decide EXACTLY how you want your business address to appear online.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to make your address the same everywhere. Even something as small as an inconsistent abbreviation could mess things up (the difference between “ABC St.” and “ABC Street” might be the difference between placing first or fifth on Google).

Once you’ve decided how you want your address to appear, you can get down to business.

Step 1: Create or claim your Google listing

If you already own your Google listing and it’s correct, skip to the next step

Controlling your Google listing might seem like a lot of work at first, but it’s not that bad. Follow these steps to a tee:

1. Visit www.google.com/mybusiness and click Start now in the top-right corner.

2. Create a Google account or sign in with a gmail account.

3. You’ll see a map of your country with a form at the top left. Enter your business name in the first field.

4. As you type, suggestions for possible matches will appear. If you see your business, select it from the suggestions.

5. Complete the rest of the fields with your business information, then click Continue. You may see a potential matching business suggested to you. If this is your business, click it. If it’s not your business, click Keep the information I entered.

6. You'll see the option to confirm that you're authorized to manage the business. If you are, check the box, then click Continue.

7. If you do not see an option to manage the page, someone else may have verified the page. See http://bit.ly/1JNcjVQ.

If you find that any of your business information is wrong, do the following:

1. Click Verify later.2. Click Info at the top of the page.3. Click the section you’d like to change and enter your business information.4. When you’ve finished editing all of your business information, click Done editing at the bottom of the page.

The last thing you need to do with your Google listing is verify it. Until you’ve completed verification, you won’t be able to edit the business information that appears on Google products. For most businesses, verification means requesting, receiving, and reading a verification postcard from Google. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it’s the way they do things. After signing up, you’ll see Mail in the top-left corner of the page (over the map where your business is pinned).

1. If your business information is correct, click Mail. Make sure not to click Verify later below.

2. Enter the name of the person the verification postcard should be mailed to. (This is optional—you can leave it blank if you’d like.) We’ll send it to the address you provided for your business.

3. Click Send postcard.

Now we wait. In a few weeks, you’ll receive a postcard from Google at your business address. The postcard will include a unique verification code, which you’ll enter in Google My Business to confirm you’re located at the listed address.  Once you receive your postcard, go to www.google.com/business. Sign in and click Enter code in the blue banner at the top of the screen, then follow the instructions. Congratulations! You’re now verified and ready to control your business info, respond to reviews, and add photos.

Steps 2 - 7: Claim your business on other major listings sites

For the sake of readability, I've put the rest of the instructions in the following collapsable sections. If you already have a listing on any of this sites and it's correct, skip to the next one.

This one’s similar to—if not easier than—Google. Do the following:

1. Visit www.bingplaces.com.2. Create an account.3. Follow the three on-screen steps to owning your business listing.

1. Visit www.biz.yelp.com.2. Create an account.3. Yelp will walk you through all the steps to claim your clients’ business page.4. If there is no option to claim the page, one of three things might be going on: It may have been previously claimed (see http://bit.ly/1JN0rTI), the phone number needs to be changed (see http://bit.ly/2hdHQrx). or the listing was recently submitted and is still pending publication (see http://bit.ly/2hen6Ed).

1. Visit www.adsolutions.yp.com.2. Click Sign In, then New to YP? Join! and create an account.3. Verify your account via email.4. Click Get Your Free Listing, or if you’re on the listing, click Claim This Listing5. YP will walk you through the verification steps.6. If you do not see an option to claim the listing, someone else may have claimed your listing, and you must contact YP directly.

If you don’t have a Facebook Page for your business yet, you’re going to need one. Log in to Facebook with your personal account and search for your business in the blue bar at the top. If a page already exists that you don’t own, you need to claim it. Option 1: Claiming an unmanaged Facebook Page: A Page may exist for your business even if someone from your business didn’t create it. For example, if a customer has ever “checked in” to your establishment, a Page was automatically created to represent your location. If the Page is unmanaged, you'll see “Unofficial Page” below its cover photo. From there, you can request to claim the Page and become its admin (if you already have another page, don’t worry; you can merge the two later). To claim or merge an unmanaged Page: 1. Click Is this your business? below the Page's cover photo.2. Follow the on-screen instructions. Option 2: Creating a new Facebook Page: If you don’t have a Facebook Page for your business and a page doesn’t already exist, you can create one from scratch. Do the following: 1. Go to https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/set-up-facebook-page and click Create a page.2. Follow the on-screen instructions. Make sure you fill in as many fields as possible with the exact same information you’ve been using in your other listings! Ensure your Facebook Page details are correct: Once you have ownership of your Facebook Page, make sure you’ve added all of your basic Page information, including the name, category, address, phone number, store hours, username, and a short description about your business. 1. Click About on the left side of your Page.2. Click Page Info.3. Click the section you want to edit and add info.4. Click Save Changes. Congratulations, you now have a Facebook Page for your business. We’ll come back to it later to pretty it up and use it for generating customers.

Believe it or not, something like 1 out of every 8 searches in the U.S. is still done through Yahoo, so you definitely want your business to be properly represented there.

1. Go to http://www.yext.com/pl/yahoo-claims/index.html.2. Enter your business information and click “Find My Listings”.3. You’ll see a page that is powered by a company called Yext. It’s a bit intimidating, but don’t worry about all the warnings and error rates for now—just click Continue.4. Update the information about your listing. Complete this page and don’t forget to use the exact same information you’re using elsewhere for your business. Click Continue.5. Yext will present you with four paid plans, but immediately below these plans is a tiny link that says Claim your Basic Listing only on Yahoo. Click that.6. You’re now at the “Yahoo Basic Listing Checkout” page. Complete the checkout and click Place Order (it’s free).7. Yext will send you an email to verify your email address. Click the link, create a password, then log in to your account.8. The final step is to verify you represent this business. The easiest method is to have them call you, but there are other methods as well.

If you don’t have a Twitter account for your business that’s separate from your personal account, you should get one. Go to www.twitter.com and click Sign up. Follow the on-screen instructions and then come back here. Once you have a Twitter account for your business, log in and do the following:

1. Click your profile icon in the top right.2. Click View profile.3. Click the Edit profile button on the right below your cover photo.4. In the Bio field, write a brief description of your business.5. In the location field, start typing your city until it pops up. Select the most relevant location from the dropdown list.6. In the website field, enter the link to your site (if you have one).7. Click Save changes.

Steps 8: Continue working your way down the listings mountain

By now, you should be getting the hang of this listings stuff.

As mentioned before, there are thousands of listings sites out there, and there’s no “right answer” as to how many you need to be listed on. We’ve now covered the most important ones, but you should shoot for at least a couple more than the industry average.

So what should you do now?

Take a look at the image of the “Listings mountain” below—it’s a great way to prioritize which listings to tackle next.

Ideally, you should aim to get listed on the sites at the top of the mountain and work your way down. You do not need to cover the entire mountain, as listings are only one aspect of search engine optimization, but the more the merrier.

If you need help, Google “how to claim business on [website]” and follow the instructions.

Tips, tricks, and important things to know:

  • Skip the sites that aren’t related to your industry. For example, if you own a restaurant, you don’t need to be listed on Houzz (a site for realtors), HealthGrades (a site for doctors), or Cars.com (a site for automotive).
  • Many of the top sites in the listings mountain allow for free listings management. Unfortunately, some of them make it difficult to update your listing—and some require you to pay. If you run into any of these, feel free to skip them. Don’t worry about getting on every single site.
  • Keep listings consistent (I can’t say this enough). Google gets confused if your address is “123 Bloomington Drive – Unit 101” on one site and “101 – 123 Bloomington Drive” on another site. Even “Drive” vs. “Dr.” makes a difference.
  • Make the most out of each listing and use every field that’s available. Don’t leave anything blank if you can avoid it, and upload your best pictures whenever possible. Please, please, please avoid poor-quality photos.
  • If a listing for your business already exists on a site, try claiming it instead of making another one. Making another one creates a duplicate, and that’s BAD. Not only will you be competing with yourself for rankings, but it’ll confuse Google and your customers.

Step 9: Fix your core data with the data providers

The last area you need to think about with listings revolves around data provider accuracy. As described earlier, these four companies (Neustar, Factual, Acxiom, and Infogroup) are responsible for maintaining the internet’s core listing information.

Why does it matter?

Because if you’ve gone through the work of updating your listings manually BUT your business information is wrong with these providers, you’re screwed.



It’s critical that all four of the data providers have accurate data.

While it’s possible for you to update your information with them directly, there are challenges you’re bound to run into. (If you thought claiming your listings on Google or Yelp was challenging, expect a level-up in difficulty with the data providers.) While a couple of them have free options, it can take a while for your information to update; for others, it’s expensive.

If you want to avoid paying hundreds of dollars to these data providers to correct your core listing data, you could use a listings management tool instead. With a tool, you enter your business information one time—just once—and that information will go to all four data providers and the hundreds of sites that refer to them.

PERSONALLY, I recommend using a listings management tool. More on this in the next section.

If you’re not interested in saving time with a listings management tool and want to update the data providers directly, follow these steps:

Infogroup: Infogroup is the easiest of the four data providers to update. Go to their website and add/claim a listing after creating an account. You will then have to verify your information over the phone. There is no method to remove duplicate listings. If you want to delete duplicates, you must call Infogroup directly or claim all of the duplicate listings and then delete them manually.

Neustar: Neustar has a similar process to Infogroup (including telephone verification), but note that the free listings option only allows businesses one update a year. Once a listing appears, a business is prompted to claim it. Be careful that you type your information correctly, as you only have one update per year. If you deal with an agency or company that deals with Neustar directly, it is possible to make multiple changes per year.

Acxiom: Frustration levels start to rise as we go down this list. Acxiom has a strict verification process, starting with account creation, then email verification, then phone verification. To claim your listing, you must make sure you state the name of your business the exact way they set up the business listing in the telephone message or else it will be rejected. After a few days, Acxiom will send an email approval. Once the email approval is sent, you can edit your listing with the exception of the business name and phone number. If either of those are incorrect, you have to delete the listing and start over again. If you want to create a new listing, you must provide documentation for proof of business existence/ownership and wait at least 30 days for approval.

Factual: Unfortunately, Factual has changed their system so it’s nearly impossible to update your listing yourself. While the site has options for businesses to create a login and add themselves for free, you can only change your information if you’re a programmer and can write an API. So hey, if you know how to code, knock yourself out, otherwise listings management tools are the only way in which you can change your Factual listing.


Listings management solutions

As you’ve now seen, there are hundreds of business listing sites that are important for local search, some niche and some more relevant in particular industries.

Keeping up with these listings can be a tedious task for the following reasons:

  • There are too many listing sites to manage
  • Business listings need to be constantly updated since the data providers can push out old data and/or anybody can change your information
  • You never know when or where updates have been made unless you check them manually

That’s why listings management tools exist.

Listings management tools simplify listing management by pushing accurate information to data providers and listings sites directly, usually with a single click.

Depending on the solution, you should be able to automatically sync your business information to hundreds of listings sites AND the major data providers with the click of a button, update your listings on a continual basis so that “bad data” doesn’t affect you, and see how long it takes to update your listing on each source.

There are many options for listing management solutions. Here are some good ones.

Option 1: Listings management tools

The current industry-leading listings management tool is Yext.

If you are an agency, local media company, or another entity that sells products or services to SMBs and you want to offer a listings management solution, Yext is available through Vendasta’s white-label Marketplace.

Warning: If you sign up with Yext or other listings tools and decide to cancel down the road, your listing data may revert back to incorrect information.

Before you dive in and start buying tools, I highly recommend seeing where your listings currently stand with the Report of Pain.

The Report of Pain is an online marketing grader that’ll show you your marketing performance in five categories: listings, reviews, social media, website, and advertising. Find out where you’re winning, where you’re losing, and what to do next. [Full disclosure: I run that site.]

Option 2: Local marketing providers

If you work with a local marketing provider or advertiser—whether that’s someone from a local media company like a newspaper, radio station, TV network, internet provider, or someone else—you can ask them about their listings solutions.

Many of them are starting to offer tools like this. They all call them something different, but listen for words like “Listing Builder”, “Listing Distribution”, “Listing Syndication”, “Listings Management”, “Reputation Management”, etc. Just make sure they cover key listings sources (refer to the listings mountain diagram again).

What’s nice is that some of these providers offer full-service options, too, so you don’t even have to log in to a tool to fix your listings—they’ll do everything for you.

Get a personal recommendation

If you want a recommendation for a local marketing provider, email me your name and location. I’ve got a list of great providers in every major US city, as well as other centers.

Bottom line: Do what’s best for you

If you aren’t sure what’s best between listings management tools vs. local marketing providers vs. doing it manually, price them out and weigh your options. What it really comes down to is if you want to pay for an instant service or save some cash.

If you decide to manage your own listings but don’t have time to do it properly, you run the risk of having incorrect business information and losing opportunities on Google, which ultimately hurts your bottom line.