Every well-rounded local SEO campaign will include some citation building, but how those citations are built, and whether manual submissions or data aggregators are used, will vary from campaign to campaign.
There’s no right or wrong way but, for those with large or complex local SEO strategies and multiple physical locations, there’s no doubt that local data aggregators offer an efficient solution.
What are data aggregators? They are platforms which can submit your business data to a wide range of listings sites and apps all at once. While they all boast incredibly wide distribution, not every listing or placement is guaranteed, as each data aggregator works more like a marketplace, trading on the supply of business information. See below for more detail.
Because citations include essential business details such as name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP), they’re incredibly useful for both search engine users and search engine crawlers.
In our most recent Expert Local Citation Survey, 90% of experts agreed that citations were important to local SEO rankings. Our panel was unanimous in requiring a business phone number, city, zip / post code and URL to be identical across citation sources for local search success. The 22 local search experts sitting on our survey panel also believe that a mix of different citations, from a range of industry and niche sites, is preferential.
For those charged with creating those citations, there are a couple of clear issues;
- Building citations – we estimate that manually building citations takes around 20 minutes per listing. It’s easy to see how much time is required to build citations at volume, for multiple physical locations.
- Accuracy – even changing how the city and state is formatted from one submission to another, or how the phone number is written, means citations aren’t an exact match. If you’re spending all your time manually building dozens of citations (without the necessary training to handle all the different citation types), accuracy can falter.
So, what’s the solution? Data aggregators, or local data aggregators as they are sometimes known, offer accuracy and wide reach. This expanded reach, and relatively simple submission procedure, can reduce the time needed to submit the volume of citations necessary for local SEO improvement, and lead to the all-important broad coverage and value over time starting sooner.
What is a local data aggregator?
A local data aggregator (LDA) is an organization that gathers information about other businesses and then passes that data on to other sources.
Think of their function as similar to that of an old-school Yellow Pages: they bring together information such as business name, address and phone number, but on a much larger scale. Unlike the Yellow Pages, the data gathered by a data aggregator is then funneled to lots of other services for use in a range of ways; in mobile apps, on maps, to populate business directories and to be used on citation sites, for example.
Any business can sign up to use a data aggregator. Simply create an account, input your business information and then that LDA takes steps to verify your information. Once verified, you’re added to its database along with thousands of other companies and your business information is subsequently fed to many of the websites and services that use business data from that aggregator.
Aggregators diffuse their information using systems such as RSS technology, so they can push information on thousands of businesses to thousands of sources. It’s this process which makes data aggregators such a useful tool for citation building. Just create an account with an LDA, submit your information and wait as it gets blasted out to multiple sites.
Compare the ease of that process with the prospect of having to submit your information to every citation site one-by-one, and painstakingly typing out the details of your address, phone number, etc. each time (and consistently and accurately, too!) and it’s easy to appreciate their usefulness.
Who are the main local data aggregators to be aware of?
We’ve seen that data aggregators make building citations easier, by sending your business information to multiple sites automatically. There is further good news too; there are less than a handful of data aggregator services in the USA. This means it’s not too much of a task to submit your business information.
Foursquare has emerged as a key player in the data aggregator market, having merged with Factual in 2020, who were one of the longest-standing data aggregators.
Most people recognize Foursquare for being “that app that you used to check in at your local coffee store to let you friends know how much of a caffeine nut you are”.
But Foursquare has since pivoted to focus on providing accurate location data to a wide range of different apps and publishers. Today they power location data for the likes of Uber, Snapchat, Apple Maps and Bixby (Samsung’s Voice Assistant).
Foursquare now has one of the largest location data sets in the world, spanning more than 500 million devices, a panel of 25 million opted-in, always-on users, and more than 14 billion user-confirmed check-ins.
Top Tip: There are some things that can flag up data submissions as suspicious, and which you might need to be ready to resolve or escalate if you’re choosing to submit data to aggregators yourself.
One example is your registered business name: if it includes a geomodifer (such as ‘Orlando’ in ‘Flowers of Orlando’), be prepared to show proof that this is your registered business name.
This is because falsely including a location in the business name is a common spammy tactic that aggregators and directories are naturally wary of.
Data Axle says it is “… the leading provider of business data to the top search engines, navigation systems, mobile apps, marketing information programs, and location-based apps. Our data powers the top search engines, because we provide the most accurate, continually-verified collection of real-time business data available, delivered through powerful technology.”
The process is simple: simply search Data Axle Local Listings for your business listing and verify the information is correct. Any anomalies can be corrected and updates can be made in future as circumstances change. As a bonus, the first ten locations are completely free!
Data Axle conducts a phone verification and then makes that data available to its partners, which it says include the leading in-car navigation systems, 85% of the largest public libraries, and the leading search engines, which account for 98% of all US-origin internet searches.
The BulkUpdate works in a similar manner, but is for those with 10 or more listings to submit – for example, brands with multiple physical locations.
Top Tip: Data Axle and Neustar Localeze follow the USPS address format, so stick to this when submitting data for the best results.
Neustar Localeze is a data aggregator for small businesses. Its local search solutions for small businesses are built around True Identity™, its proprietary platform which offers listing management with full control over business data.
It says, “Our True Identity™ service enables businesses to update their local listing information with over 100 local search platforms, mobile applications, navigation systems, and directories at one time – from one place.
“Localeze publishes your listing information to the largest authorized local search platform network in the industry.”
Businesses must take out a subscription to use True Identity™ – this is currently $79 per year, for 1-24 locations with unlimited updates. Data is subject to ongoing verification and validation to ensure complete accuracy and a completeness score is assigned to data, demonstrating how much additional information is required to assure trust in business information.
How can using data aggregators help local SEO?
Data aggregators fit under the citation umbrella when it comes to assessing their contribution to your overall local SEO progress.
Local citations are a ranking factor
According to the benchmark Local Search Ranking Factors survey, citation signals play a role in local pack ranking. Although their importance has decreased over the years, local experts still claim that citations do influence how Google ranks businesses in local search.
This is because citation sites form part of the ‘authority layer’ of listings management. These are the sites that, while they don’t get much in the way of consumer engagement compared to big hitters like Yelp and Google, still build trust in business data when generated at scale. This trust is key for search engines looking to decide which business to rank for what search terms.
Incorrect citations damage credibility
We’ve already mentioned how time-consuming building citations manually can be, and touched upon the margin for error. For large businesses, or those with multiple people building multiple individual citations, the potential for inaccuracies and inconsistencies increases.
This isn’t only problematic from a ranking perspective, given Google’s known preference for accurate, consistent information, it can also seriously erode brand credibility and trust.
Our most recent Local Citations Trust Report confirmed this, with 93% of consumers telling us they become frustrated by incorrect information in directory sites. More troubling is the 80% of consumers who say they lose trust in a brand if they discover inconsistencies or discrepancies in contact information or the business name online.
71% of local consumers also said they had had a negative experience within the previous 12 months because of incorrect business information found online. Incorrect information can have real-world consequences too, with 22% of consumers ending up in the wrong place due to a misleading or incorrect local business address.
Local data aggregators offer an efficient way to sidestep this potential reputational damage by offering a single source of accurate data to multiple third-party sites.
It’s less time-consuming to build a visible profile
By its very nature, manual citation building is much more time consuming. It’s inevitable that some listing opportunities will be overlooked or simply not leveraged as quickly as they should be due to time constraints. Every citation not built represents a lost opportunity to be discovered online.
Likewise, missing information due to a rushed submission can make it almost impossible for potential customers to find your business. Using a data aggregator means you have just one listing to manage and keep up to date, while enjoying widespread visibility.
Should I submit directly to local data aggregators?
If you’re working with a single location and want a hassle-free way to submit their data to a wide range of directories and apps, going straight to a local data aggregator makes sense.
However, this process gets bulky and time-consuming the more locations you’re having to submit, so if you’re a business doing this for the first time for lots of your branches, or if you’re an agency bringing on a multi-location client which needs improved visibility, it’s best to go via a provider or aggregator partner like BrightLocal to make it as cost-effective as possible. Providers and partners have existing relationships with data aggregators and directories which make submitting data and ironing out discrepancies much easier.
Manually signing up for and managing your business data on every relevant citation site takes a huge amount of time. A data aggregator makes that process much easier and ensures data is accurate, complete and trustworthy.
For best results, combine data aggregator use with BrightLocal’s citation building service: this ensures the best coverage for your business, with listings on key local and industry sites.