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

With our useful guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of how each approach works, their pros and cons, and also which is best for you and your clients.

Overview of Online Business Listings

Online business listings (aka local citations or online directory listings) 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 can hamper a business’ ability to rank well in local search and reduces their ability to get in front of a huge number of local customers. And that’s not to mention how frustrated consumers get when they find inaccurate information online.

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’ll take a deep dive into the two most common routes of citation building: manual submissions and local data aggregator submissions.

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

Once you’ve read this post, you’ll 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 LDAs involves creating a separate account for each one 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 information 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!

Outsourcing 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 only have to provide your data to them one time and they’ll submit it directly to other sites for you.

In terms of time saved, we estimate this as:

  • 20 mins to upload your data one time 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 in the time you save. Manual Submission Services often have a large 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 and guidelines. A high-quality submission service will be familiar with these nuances and therefore ensure that your business listing submissions are done correctly.

BrightLocal (that’s us!) is one of the best-known and most trusted manual submission services. We are the trusted citation partner for more than 1,000+ SEO agencies and have a team of 50+ in-house submissions experts who handle more than 50,000 submissions every month.

Local Data Aggregator Submissions

Submitting to one LDA takes about 20 minutes, so if you want to submit to all four main LDAs in the USA this should take you about 80 minutes.

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

Please pardon the 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 once.

The benefits of using a service like this 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 $60 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 citation 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 Service will be aware of for all the sites they submit to.)

So, financially, manual submissions can cost $0. The only cost is the cost of your time: the 8.3 hours it takes to do 50 citation 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 citation 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 the 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 Manual Submission Services:

# Sites
Bulk Rate/Discount
Recurring Cost
Bespoke Research
The Hoth

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:


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 allow you to 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. To only have this option 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 a clear 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 as 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 to 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 name or moves location, 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. In these cases, LDAs are your only option.

Which Approach Updates/Creates Listings the Fastest?

Manual Citation Submissions will definitely 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 particularly slow sites can even take over a month.

Data Aggregator Submissions

When you submit to an LDA, there are a number of steps that your information has to pass through before it appears 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 with your email and password.

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

  1. Your listing can’t be claimed by someone else
  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 bona fide services will give you the login details for all your listings so that you own them, and they will simply manage them on your behalf.

Some services may not do this and you could find that, a little down the line, they hold your listings to ransom and force you to pay to get access to your credentials. You should definitely ask about this before you select a manual submission service to use.

I hope it goes without saying that if you choose to use BrightLocal, we give you your login details and never withhold them for any reason, giving you complete control of your listings.

Data Aggregator Submissions

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

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 the best possible results when managing your local citations.

  1. LDAs – Distributing via LDAs pushes your data far and wide and gives you maximum reach, even if it does take a few months to percolate through.
  2. Manual – Doing a manual submission and claiming 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 log in and check your data or they may try to up-sell you to a paid account, but that’s not 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 effect trickles down to the sites in their network.

To avoid this from happening, it’s useful to revisit or repurchase your listings with the LDA every 12 months.

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

But if you choose to use BrightLocal, then the cost is only $60/year. (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. It’s expensive. Yext charges between $200-$500 dollars per year, depending on your order volume. That is too pricey for some business owners, especially when considering the benefits they get.
  2. There are 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 it also means that you don’t own them, so you can’t access your listings directly on the site or set up your own logins.
  4. Your business doesn’t change that often, so why would you need it? Your business doesn’t change frequently enough to warrant paying for real-time updates.
  5. They have quite an 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:

Manual Submission Service
Number of Locations
Frequency of Updates

Manual Submissions and/or Aggregator Submissions via BrightLocal

Using BrightLocal, you can purchase both Manual Submissions and Aggregator Submissions.

1. Flexible Service

We try to provide the most flexible service that we can. 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 our LDA submissions, you can select one, some or all of the aggregators.

2. Cost Efficient and No Hidden Charges

With Manual Citation Submissions from just $2/site and Data Aggregator Submissions costing just $60/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 if you’d like to.

Plus 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 there’s no doubt that 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.