Manual Submissions vs. Aggregator Submissions: What’s the Best Approach?

Manual Submissions vs. Aggregator Submissions: What’s the Best Approach?
32

Overview of Online Business Listings

Online business listings (aka local citations) are an important aspect of local search optimization. Having an abundance of accurate and enriched listings has been shown to improve the ranking of a business within local search results — on Google and other search engines.

Conversely, having incorrect or duplicate listings hamper a business’ ability to rank well in local search and thus reduces their ability to get in front of a huge number of local customers.

As with every aspect of SEO there is more than one way to skin a cat. The same is true of citation management and in this post we take a deep dive into the two most common routes of Manual Submissions and Local Data Aggregator submissions.

We also look at outsourced Submission Services and services like Yext to provide an all-around view of the options available to you.

Once you’ve read this post you will have a clear understanding of how each approach works, their pros and cons and also which approach is best for you and your clients.


What are Manual Citation Submissions?

Manual citation submission is the updating or inputting of business information directly onto a third-party website by hand.

It’s typically done one site at a time and involves a person physically:

  • visiting a website,
  • searching to see if a business is listed on that website,
  • creating an account on the site,
  • submitting business information to update or create a listing
  • verifying their account through either email or phone verification steps.

What are Local Data Aggregator Submissions?

Local Data Aggregators (LDAs) are companies that gather data about local businesses and then sells or distributes that data out to a network of local search engines, third-party directories, mapping services, GPS services and mobile apps.

Submitting via Local Data Aggregators involves creating an account on each LDA and updating or submitting business data into the LDA’s database.

The LDA then performs a verification of the business information before making this business info available to the third-party services that buy or take its data.

LDAs use a number of means to distribute their data including FTP file dump, data feeds and APIs.


How Long Does it Take to Complete Submissions?

Manual Citation Submissions

It takes anywhere between 5-20 minutes to submit to one site — approx 10 minutes on average.

So if you want to submit or update to 50 sites = 500 minutes = 8.3 hours

Ouch! That’s a long time which could be better spent on more valuable and interesting business tasks!

Outsource to Manual Citation Submission Services

Because of the time consuming, and frankly tedious, nature of manual submissions, many businesses and SEO agencies outsource this task to specialist third-party services.

If you use a Manual Submission Service then you provide your data to them one time and they submit directly to other sites for you.

In terms of time saved, we estimate this as:

  • 20 mins to upload your data to a Manual Submission Service
  • Time saved = 8.3 hours – 20 mins = 8 hours saved

But the value of using a manual submission service is not just the time you save. Manual submission services often have a big database of sites that they submit to and have detailed knowledge of the issues and requirements of each site.

For instance, almost every online business listing or directory site is different and has unique terms and conditions, rules or guidelines. A quality submission service will know these nuances and ensure your business listing submissions are done correctly.

BrightLocal (that’s us!) is one of the best-known manual submission services. We are the trusted citation partner for more than 1000+ SEO agencies and have a team of 50 in-house submission experts who handle more than 50,000 submissions every month.

Local Data Aggregator Submissions

Submitting to one LDA also takes about 20 minutes. So if you want to submit to all four main LDAs in the USA it would take approximately 80 minutes.

Are There Third Parties That Submit to All Local Data Aggregators?

That’s a bit of a leading question…but yes, there are!

There are a number of well-known services such as BrightLocal or Moz Local that enable you to submit to all LDAs at one time.

The benefits of using a service like this is include:

  • Saves Time – it only takes 20 minutes to submit to Brightlocal or Moz Local and we submit to all four LDAs
  • Saves Money – it only costs $55 to submit to all LDAs using BrightLocal. Submitting directly to the LDAs is typically more expensive
  • Free Updates for 12 Months – you can update your business information for free within 12 months of purchasing via BrightLocal or Moz Local

If you’d like to see a full comparison of these services, then head over to this post where we compare six well-known Local Data Aggregator services – BrightLocal vs Moz Local vs Yext vs Whitespark vs Synup vs AdviceLocal


What Do Listing Submissions Cost?

Manual Citation Submissions

Most sites offer a free listing option which allows you to submit some basic information about your business to create a simple listing on the site. The amount of information that a site accepts or displays for free varies from site to site. (FYI: This is something that a good manual submission services will be aware of for all the sites they submit to.)

So submitting manually can cost $0. The only cost is the cost of your time – the 8.3 hours it takes to do 50 sites. 

What Do Manual Submission Services Charge?

You typically pay a per-site fee for every listing they create or update. The range of fees is from $1 – $5 per listing (i.e. per site). You then need to calculate how many sites and how many locations you want to submit to to get the total cost.

This is typically a one-time fee and you don’t pay any recurring charges. If you want to make updates at any point in future (if you move locations, for instance), then you simply pay for the service again.

Some manual submission services operate a monthly recurring subscription fee which spreads the cost over a year and does offer free updates while your subscription is active.

Here is a comparison table for six submission services:

Service# SitesCostBulk Rate/DiscountRecurring CostBespoke Research
BrightLocal1600$3/site$2/siteDelete
Check
Yext82$499/year10-30%$499/yearDelete
Whitespark100$4-5/site5%-20%Delete
Check
Synup42$30/month$20/month$20/monthDelete
AdviceLocal50$150n/a$20/monthDelete
The Hoth30-90$149-$549n/an/aDelete

Local Data Aggregator Submissions

Some LDAs charge for submission and some don’t.

Here’s a table of the current charges for the four big USA aggregators:

AggregatorCharge/Location
Acxiom$0*
InfoGroupfree
NeustarLocaleze$297
Factualfree

*Acxiom is free for 1-5 locations. For 5+ there is approx $50/location fee.


Can I Choose Where My Listings Appear?

Manual Citation Submissions

When you submit by hand yourself then, yes, you can choose which sites you use. The only restriction may come from sites that don’t offer a free submission option. So it’s your decision whether you submit to a paid-only site, but you should evaluate these carefully to be sure they’re worth the cost.

Check out our list of top citation sites to see which we value most highly

Bundled Sites Via Manual Citation Submission Services

Most citation services will bundle certain sites together and then you purchase that bundle. Usually you can’t pick and choose which sites they use and you simply select the bundle or package that works best for you. This can be frustrating and restrictive for businesses and SEOs who want to hand pick the sites they use.

At BrightLocal we have a database of 1,600 local, niche and national directories. We allow you to select exactly which sites you want to get listed on– as long as they’re applicable for your business type (i.e. no florist directories if you’re a plumber and no San Diego directories if you’re located in Orlando).

Aggregator Citation Submissions

Short answer…no.

The LDAs make their data available to their network of sites and you don’t have any control over which sites pick up your data and which do not.


Can I Remove My Listings?

It’s typically not possible to remove a listing unless the business has closed down or moved. This is the same for both Manual and Aggregator submissions.

Directories have an objective: to provide a complete set of business listings to their users. So removing a listing goes against that objective, and because your business information is in the public domain, it’s hard to get them to remove it.


Can I Remove Duplicate Listings?

Manual Citation Submissions

You can claim and update listings but removing them usually requires contacting or messaging the site editors. Many sites don’t let you remove a listing unless there is a very good reason. Spotting a duplicate listing is usually good grounds for them to remove it so long as you can show that there is another listing that is correct and up to date

To do this you typically need to submit a request to the site editors and explain that the listing is a duplicate and provide evidence to support this.

Aggregator Citation Submissions

The LDAs themselves will always look to remove any duplicates within their own database. However, their automated logic is limited and they struggle to relate listings that have significant differences in name and address. So if a business changes names or moves locations, the LDA usually won’t connect the two separate listings together.

If you have duplicate listings, this problem transfers down to their networks with both the correct and incorrect listing information being pushed to them.


Which Method Allows Me to Submit My Data to the Widest Set of Sites?

The answer here is simple – Data Aggregator Submissions!

Manual Citation Submissions

How widespread your data becomes really depends on how many sites you have the time and patience to submit to. The latest wisdom says that as long as you have your data correct on the top 40-50 sites, then that’s enough – at least in everything but the most competitive industries and/or locations.

Data Aggregator Submissions

Because of the networks that LDAs distribute to, they push their data into many different third-party sites and services. This ‘push’ is automated and by submitting just one time to an LDA your data will appear in lots of other sites.

Another useful aspect about data aggregators is that they distribute your data to services that don’t offer a manual submission route. For instance, certain GPS services and mobile apps don’t provide a way for you to amend or add your business data. So the LDAs are your only option in these cases.


Which Approach Updates/Creates Listings the Fastest?

Definitely manual citation submissions will get your business information listed the fastest. Manual submissions generate live listings faster than aggregator submissions. This has been proven many times over.

Manual Citation Submissions

Because you’re submitting your information directly to each site, the information either goes live immediately or is put into a queue to be reviewed and verified by a site editor.

On higher quality sites that are well staffed, you should see your business data go live within 1-5 days. However, on sites with smaller teams and resources, it may take longer to process your request – some can even take many months.

Data Aggregator Submissions

When you submit to an LDA, there are a number of steps that your information passes through before it pops up on network sites.

The exact steps and timing varies for each LDA, but the result is that your information can take between 1-6 months to start appearing on the sites within an LDA’s network. And because each site is independently run, not all sites will put your data live at the same time.

This can be frustrating for business owners who want to see more immediate results for their time and money, but this is the way the system currently works and it does work – eventually your business information will appear across the web.

Steps Your Data Takes from LDA Submission to Live Listing

  • Submit to LDA
  • LDA Verifies Data Accuracy
  • LDA Inserts data into their database
  • LDA makes Data Available to Network Sites (FTP, Feed, API)
  • Data accepted by Network Sites
  • Data Verified / Scrubbed by Network Sites
  • Data pushed live by Network Sites

Do I Have Ownership of My Listings?

Manual Citation Submissions

Yes, you do. When you create a listing you are usually (although not always) asked to create an account (email and password).

Your listing is then associated with this account which you have control. This has two great benefits for you –

  1. Your listing can’t be claimed by someone else that’s not you
  2. The directory/site gives your data a higher level of trust/authority so that it won’t be overwritten by data from another source – e.g. a data aggregator

What About Manual Submission Services?

Different services have different approaches here. More bonefide services will give you the login details for all your listings so that you own them – they will simply manage them on your behalf.

Some services may not do this and you could find that down the line they hold your listings for ransom and force you to pay to get access to your credentials.

You should definitely ask this question before you select to use a manual submission service.

It goes without saying that if you choose to use BrightLocal, we give you your login details and never withhold them for any reason.

Data Aggregator Submissions

When you submit via an LDA, an account does not get created and your listing is usually marked as ‘Un-claimed.’

This means that it can be claimed by someone else, who may be acting on your behalf or who might be doing it for malicious intent (i.e. a competitor.)


Should I use Both Manual and Aggregator Submissions?

Many SEOs recommend a hybrid approach for best possible results when managing your local citations.

  1. LDAs – Distributing via LDAs pushes your data far and wide and give you maximum reach – even if it does take a few months to percolate through.
  1. Manual – Doing a manual submit and claim on the most valuable sites (30-50 — depending on industry.)

Claiming your listings on the top directory sites is really important – that’s where the most benefit (or damage) is done to a business’ citation profile. So having direct control and ‘ownership’ of these listings is important.


What Happens After a Year?

Manual Citation Submissions

Nothing really 🙂

Your listings remain claimed and owned by you, and your data should remain as it is without being altered by data from other sources. Some sites may prompt you to login and check your data or they may try to upsell you to a paid account, but that’s no mandatory.

Data Aggregator Submissions

After 12 months your data loses it’s ‘trusted’ status within the aggregators. This means that they may alter the data if they find different information from a different source. This has a knock-down effect to the sites in their network.

To avoid this from happening, it’s useful to re-visit or re-purchase your listings with the LDA every 12 months.

This is part of the LDAs business model and is their way of ensuring the data remains accurate as well as generating a recurring revenue stream.

But if you choose to use BrightLocal then the cost is only $55/year = $0.15c per day. (That’s not a lot of money to ensure that your business data remains accurate across the web.)


What About Services Like Yext?

Yext is neither a Manual Submission Service nor an LDA. Yext is a real-time listing management platform. Let me explain….

Yext’s model is to get businesses to pay them so they can update their data in real time on the sites within the Yext network. Yext, in turn, pays the sites in their network to allow them to do this.

And it works pretty well on the whole. The real-time update solution is very useful for companies whose information changes frequently – e.g. seasonal opening hours, changing menus, new services etc.

Why Wouldn’t I just Use Yext?

Here are five reasons –

  1. Expensive – Yext charges between $200-$500 dollars per year depending on order volume. That is too pricey for some business owners vs. the benefits they get
  2. Recurring charges – Yext’s fee is recurring every year and if you don’t pay the charges, your business information is removed from the sites in their network*
  3. You don’t own your listings – your listings become “locked” when they’re controlled by Yext. That means they can’t be claimed by other people — but also you don’t own them. This means that you can’t access your listings directly on the site and set up your own logins
  4. Your business doesn’t change much – your business doesn’t change frequently enough to warrant paying for real-time updates
  5. Aggressive sales approach – Yext have been widely criticized for their aggressive sales approach which puts some business owners off using them

*I think of Yext as the PPC of local listings. You pay for inclusion in their listings and when you stop paying you lose that inclusion.


So Which Approach is Best for Me?

We typically advise customers to use a hybrid approach:

  • Manual Submissions –
    • Submit and claim your listing on the most important 25-50 sites
    • Get quick listings and benefit from these sites
  • Aggregator Submissions –
    • Get wide distribution to hundreds of sites/services
    • Results are slower but you get wider coverage long term

To help you decide the right approach for your business and situation, we’ve put together a table so you can score your requirements against each submission service:

RequirementVarianceManualManual Submission ServiceAggregatorYext
Number of Locations<10CheckCheckCheck
<200CheckCheckCheck
>200CheckCheckCheck
BudgetLowCheckCheckCheck
MediumCheckCheckCheck
HighCheckCheckCheck
UrgencyLowCheckCheckCheckCheck
MediumCheckCheckCheck
HighCheckCheckCheck
Frequency of UpdatesLowCheckCheckCheck
HighCheck

Manual Submissions and/or Aggregators via BrightLocal

Using BrightLocal you can purchase both Manual submissions and Aggregator submissions.

1. Flexible Service

We try to provide the most flexible service we can do. This means that you can select how many submissions and on which sites we handle these for you. You can also choose whether you want manual submissions, aggregators or both.

And with LDAs you can select one, some or all of the aggregators.

2. Cost Efficient and No Hidden Charges

With manual submissions from just $2/site and LDA submissions costing just $55/year, BrightLocal is one of the most cost-effective solutions on the market. Also, we don’t force you to repurchase your aggregator submissions after 12 months – although we do make it easy for you to do this.

And we don’t charge you for citation research if you want us to find additional niche or local sites for your campaign. We do have a large database of 1,600 sites, but for sure there are some towns, cities and industries that we don’t have total coverage over – but we can add them for you.

3. We Do it But You Own It!

We’re here to do the grunt work for you and deliver the results. But we don’t own the listings we create and the listings are yours to take over at any time you want.

Click here if you’d like to see a sample report for a typical BrightLocal citation campaign.

 

Share this article

4 thoughts on “Manual Submissions vs. Aggregator Submissions: What’s the Best Approach?”

  1. Thank you, an Excellent and very thorough article! It is so much clearer now on the best approach on citation marketing. The only question left in my mind is this:

    If we create lets say 20 citations with your manual submission service BEFORE the LDA , is there a chance the LDA settings/data might overwrite the manual submission data? (and seem less authoratative)

    I would add one sentence for clarification here:
    ” You can also choose whether you want manual submissions, aggregators or both.”

    And is this in another article? What do we need to watch out for that might cause 2 seperete entries? Basic Punctation differences? (, # . )

    1. Hi Sean,

      Thanks for reading and getting involved in our blog post!

      Great question Sean!

      The LDA would not override a manual submission as they have more authority if they have been claimed.

      This is because someone has manually created an account and therefore they own that data.

      The Aggregators data does not have as much authority because its pulling/feeding in the data.

      Obviously each directory has their own data policies but from our experience its very rare that we see data from LDAs overriding manual submissions.

      With regards to your question on punctuation- this should not make a difference but some sites will normalise data which may make the punctuation slightly different. But within the Business Name and address I would not worry about this too much- if its just a difference between ; or , for example.

      I hope this helps

      Thanks,
      Helen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *