Those just setting out on their citation-building journeys would be forgiven for thinking that once you’ve paid for a citation, that listing is yours to do with as you wish.
Unfortunately, with business listing management services that rely on API partnerships like Yext and Moz Local, purchasing a listing is not just a one-off transaction.
Putting your money in the hands of most citation-building services simply means you’re a tenant. And as is the case with a tenancy agreement, if you stop paying your rent, you’ll be evicted.
But what does that mean in terms of citations?
When you stop paying your fee to Yext or the like, your citation will be depleted (according to a study by the Local Marketing Institute, only 5% of business’s listings that had canceled their Yext subscription remained fully intact) — something that comes as a nasty surprise to many of those new to the citations game.
With BrightLocal, we’re determined to give back control. Building citations with our team means you own your listings, rather than rent them.
Read on to learn how you can claim back control of your business’s fate!
The two types of citation submissions
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of citation submissions: direct-to-site and API (or automated) solutions.
As the name suggests, ‘direct-to-site citation’ means that citation service providers can go straight to the directories to update listings and submit business data to them.
With direct-to-site citations, service providers will craft a select database of directories based on things like industry, business history, budget, and the desired results.
Direct-to-site submissions are designed to create permanent listings. Once created, nothing will happen to these listings, unless someone accesses the listing and makes manual changes.
This process is performed exclusively by a team of “real” people. Take a look for yourself at the team behind BrightLocal’s citation efforts.
As you might have gathered from the initialism, APIs (application program interfaces) require a little more in-depth explanation.
If, like me, you find yourself wondering how APIs function, our very own Enterprise Solutions Manager Jon Rana advises to think of them like data feeds, or pipes — the API absorbs or pumps out information.
There are no humans involved in the process as the API is coded to function autonomously. Sites like Moz and Yext use APIs to submit to local directories.
In terms of citations, each API will have a set network that it provides information to. Some companies will even have exclusivity partnerships, such as Yext and Yahoo.
Within API solutions, there are two distinct versions:
The first version functions by providing data to directories as a kind of “data layer”. This means the API will give TripAdvisor, for example, your information (again, no humans involved here!)
The information is then layered over the existing website. So, put simply, you’re paying for your business’s information to be put on top of existing data on that page.
As a result, this is a temporary solution, meaning you have to continue paying for the listing for it to remain active.
The second version uses APIs to submit data directly into the database. In theory, this method should result in permanent listings, however that’s unfortunately not the case.
The problem is, the information provided by these APIs relies on constant data pushes — much like an RSS feed.
So, if you cancel, most listings are likely to revert because there’s nothing to confirm the information is correct.
While I wouldn’t recommend API solutions to the many, there are a select few instances where API solutions are not only worthwhile but actually preferable.
Say you’re McDonald’s — you’ve got thousands of locations around the world and you’re constantly making changes to menu items, offers, and more. API solutions could allow you to have an always-on approach while doing little heavy lifting yourself.
In the case of huge multi-location businesses that are more concerned with having an up-to-date shop window than sending trust signals to Google, API solutions might well work for you.
But for businesses who haven’t quite reached levels of world domination like McDonald’s, a direct-to-site solution is certainly recommended.
Given that BrightLocal submissions are designed to be permanent, if you’re hoping to make hundreds of changes to your business listings per month, we’re probably not the right fit for you *single tear*. That being said, our team is always on hand to assist with minor tweaks, updates, and additions.
The main problem created by API solutions is the temperance of the listings, combined with the permanence of the financial commitment they entail. With API solutions you’re drawn into continually paying for listings that you may never need to touch or change.
Did you know that with some API providers, even if you close a location you have to keep paying for it? Otherwise, the location will revert back to being “open”, sending conflicting trust signals to Google and potential customers.
In short, for most businesses, the risks presented by APIs are likely unworthy of the gains they might provide.
Data aggregator submissions
In addition to the two types of submissions, we also have data aggregators.
These are a bit of curve-ball, as they operate entirely differently to the aforementioned citation methods. As such, it’s best to think of these as their own entities.
It’s important to note that most API solutions don’t submit to data aggregators.
Unlike with direct-to-site or API submissions, there’s no way of telling when a data aggregator will crawl and submit your information. As a result, it tends to be a much slower process, but can be a good way to fill gaps and cover a wide range of sites.
The best use cases for data aggregators are businesses who 1) are concerned about inaccurate, duplicate, or messy NAP, 2) are moving away from using an API provider like Yext and want to ensure they’re covering all bases throughout the transition, or 3) have just undergone a rebrand or change in ownership.
Most businesses will have a presence with at least one data aggregator, it may just be the case that you yourself have never managed this presence.
Speaking on the importance of distinguishing between the different types of citations, BrightLocal’s Jon Rana says:
It’s always surprising how many brands don’t know there’s more than one way to approach listings management.
The goals of each approach could be widely different, so you’ll be interacting with the same type of website on the surface, but the end result is targeted very differently and that’s not always made clear.
If you want to know more about online citations, we’ve got a great article covering the ins and outs of NAP, structured and unstructured citations, the benefits of building them, and more.
Choosing the right citation service
When it comes to submitting citations online, it’s good to know what your options are.
There are plenty of business listing management solutions out there — some of which use API solutions.
Choosing the right citation service for you is absolutely vital, and a key part of local search success.
Plus, as I’ll explain here, you might find yourself being held to ransom if you commit to a service that charges an annual fee for renting, rather than a one-off purchase for buying.
Why buying beats renting
Though committing to a service like Moz Local, which charges between $129-$299 per location per year, may seem like a cost-effective option at the time, you’ll find yourself committing to that fee year-on-year, even if you don’t need to make any changes to the listings being managed.
If one day you decide you no longer want to hand over a hundred bucks to Moz (a service that uses those aforementioned API submissions), the citations you built with them will be removed, or — arguably a worse outcome — the citations will remain active but you won’t be able to amend them, which could result in inaccurate listings.
Alternatively, using a service like BrightLocal, where citations are offered as a one-time transaction (and completed direct-to-site), means you own your citations rather than having to rent them.
With BrightLocal, a citation can cost as little as $2, and after you’ve made that payment, the business listing belongs to you. If you stop working with us, you’ll still be able to freely edit and update the listing in question.
This means for the same, or less, money you’ll have full autonomy over your business’s online presence.
How to claim back your listings
Some of you may be reading this article thinking it’s too late — you’ve already submitted to Moz Local, Yext, Synup, or Uberall, and now you’re committed to spending hundreds of dollars each year just to maintain a handful of citations.
Luckily, there is a way to claim back your listings — and with them, regain control.
The reclamation process varies from service provider to service provider, but at BrightLocal we’re committed to making local marketing simple.
So, just get in touch with our team today, and one of our account managers will guide you through the process.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what CEO of Staylisted, Sergio Salazar had to say:
I don’t know how we ever got by without BrightLocal’s citation service. Now, we’re not only saving time and money for our agency, but we’re offering a superior product to our clients.
What are your thoughts on buying versus renting? Share your experiences in the comments below!