Experts Blog

Data Providers are Quickly Becoming the Go-To Source for Local Data in 2013

By Mary Bowling on Feb 26, 2013 - 10:09 AM

The established Business Data Providers have always played a huge role in Local Search. However, their value and impact seems to have dramatically increased for anyone looking to rank within Local Search because of a number of factors that have all become a reality

  • Smartphone usage has exploded and is predicted to continue to rise at an astounding rate. Statistics tell us that 1 in every 3 Mobile Searches is Local in nature. More and more people are searching for things nearby them every day, so data about those establishments, is extremely valuable to mappers and mobile app developers.
  • Google's API costs have increased, spurring those thirsting for local data to seek other sources and the Data Providers are a logical choice. If it's good enough for Google, it's a good place for them to start, as well.
  • TomTom, Nokia and Mapquest are ALL compiling their own business directories as quickly as possible and getting a huge volume of verified data from trusted sources is extremely attractive to them.
  • Apple Maps is now the default local discovery and navigation program on millions of Apple devices. Apple certainly doesn't want to buy data from Google, so it, too, has turned to the data providers for already-verified information about locally-based businesses.

For years, those of us working with local businesses have been waiting for Local Search to become recognized and appreciated as a unique discipline, instead of others in online marketing believing Local SEO was simply SEO with some geographic terms thrown in. The tipping point seems to have finally been reached. Now, many agencies are scrambling to catch up by finally providing worthwhile Local SEO services and submission to the big data providers is an easily executed no-brainer for them.

With Google's Venice update in early 2012, true localization of the organic search results has become a reality. In most locations and industries it's no longer possible in to rank well in the Local Packs solely on the strength of a Google local listing (aka Google Places or Google+Local for business listing). The ranking power of the business' Web site and how well the optimization of that site aligns with the local listing is now critical, too. So, those agencies that were selling submissions as the answer to Local Search rankings are now failing miserably at providing real solutions to the SMBs. Submissions and citation building are no longer enough to prosper online.

In all things, Google is placing even more emphasis on trust than it has in the past. The data Google receives from the big providers is some of the most trusted data it can get because it's been verified in one way or another. While this does not completely relieve Google of performing further verification at several levels, it does provide a good baseline from which to work.

Good Data is Only Half of the Equation

Brand new companies that are pushing squeaky clean, standardized data out across the web for the first time don't need to worry about inconsistent information confusing the Search Engines. But for companies that have been around a while, making accurate data submissions is only the first half of the equation. It's incredibly easy to publish business information on the web, where it can spread like wildfire via scraping and network sharing. However, it's extremely difficult to eradicate old and/or differing information, which needs to be uncovered and updated or removed as much as possible from the internet, especially at the data providers.

Without this critical step, inconsistency will continue to haunt you and bad data will resurface with every push by the suppliers. In order to prevent this, perform searches at Localeze, InfoGroup and Acxiom for your business name and variations of it; your address and any addresses you may have used in the past; and your local phone number and any other numbers you may have used or are still using. I am frequently amazed at how many problems I find when doing this.

After you've discovered bad information, you'll need to gain control of the listings that harbor it. This usually requires some type of verification, which can differ by data provider. Sometimes, verification will mean a phone call to the business number in the listing and other times, you may be required to call the data provider from the phone number in the listing. Recently, Acxiom, required me to upload an official business registration document containing the company's street address for verification purposes.

Sometimes, others have control of listings that concern you. It may be another marketing agency or an employee, past or present. More and more often, you may find that another business has submitted data about you, such as a professional organization, your parent brand or an industry directory. So, in Localeze, you may need to wait until it sends a request to that person ask them to relinquish control of the listing before you can gain the ability to update or close it.

This process is daunting enough with only one physical address. It can become completely overwhelming for dozens, hundreds or thousands of locations. If your type of business normally sees online listings in Google for its practitioners - like doctors, dentists and lawyers - data gets even more convoluted and time-consuming. Therefore, large brands often skip the step of purging inconsistent data and try to rely on submissions alone for Maps ranking.

When big companies realize that their top locations are not ranking well in Local Search, they often seek out a Local SEO to help them out. Unfortunately, they tend to be easily convinced by people who tell them what they want to hear, which is that the solution is quick, cheap and easy.

If you are approached in a situation like this, take a close look at the overall condition of the company's data consistency before you quote a price or commit to doing the work. If you are going to have to play a game of 2-fisted whack-a-mole for numerous locations, you want to be certain you're charging enough to have the time to actually fix the data problems that may be suppressing local rankings.

Understanding how important consistent data is in the Local Search ecosystem really gives you an advantage over most SEO firms, but being willing and able to actually take the steps needed to make data consistent can be the ace up your sleeve in Local SEO.


Localeze is by far the most impactful data provider in Local Search. Its free submission process is better than nothing, but is definitely not as powerful as the paid version.

The retail price of business data submission to Localeze is so steep because it doesn't really want to deal directly and individually with millions of business owners. It prefers, instead, to receive bulk uploads of multiple locations from brands and to deal with agencies who understand the submission process and its value a little better. It gives deep discounts to these types of customers, depending on submission volume, so it's definitely worthwhile to get an agency account.

Google and others pay Localeze for the verified business information it provides to them. So, it is essentially getting paid on both ends of the equation – first by the business that wants it's verified data spread far and wide and then by the outfit that wants that verified data about the business.

When Localeze was acquired by Neustar in late 2012, it lost Gib Olander, its public face in the SEO community. Gib is well respected for his deep understanding of how data affects local businesses and willingness to share his knowledge. It's unclear who the new evangelist will be and if they will be able to carve out a similar spot in our industry.Planet Ocean article end

- Mary Bowling, Writer & Lead Local Search Trainer, Planet Ocean