Share on FacebookEmail to someoneTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on LinkedInShare on Reddit

(Editor’s note: This post has received some criticism that I “gamed” the outcome by using the unusual case of a two businesses with the same address and phone number. While I agree that the majority of businesses won’t have this issue, there still is a huge swath of them that do. We deal with them every day. That said, if you are one of the lucky businesses that is not affected by this kind of thing, then your results with Moz Local will likely be different.)

Last year, Local SEO Guide paid Moz Local about $17,000. Our primary goal was to use it as a one-stop shop to push some of our clients’ info to the main data listings aggregators. While the service worked for our needs, it was not without its share of hiccups. Our contract is up for renewal and before we committed to another year, we wanted to make sure it was going to be a worthwhile investment. So we decided to run a test to see how its most current version works.

We tend to get complicated SEO cases for multi-location businesses and we wanted to see how the latest version of ML handled a common case for us – listings that have overlapping NAP data with other related businesses.

On August 11th, we purchased a MozLocal plan for Locadium, our new GMB change alert service. Before then there were only a few sites that had Locadium NAP info indexed in Google such as the California Secretary of State website. The business had been incorporated in Feb 2017 but none of the aggregators had picked it up yet and it was on none of the top local directories. It had the exact same phone number and address as Local SEO Guide, Inc. and Backfence Media, Inc. (a corporation that has been defunct for several years). I should note, before this test none of these businesses had listings in Neustar Localeze, Acxiom or InfoGroup. Here’s what happened:

TL;DR

  1. MozLocal got Locadium into InfoGroup, Acxiom, YP.com and probably CitySearch, DexKnows, InsiderPages, and Whitepages.com within about a month.
  2. In cases where Local SEO Guide, Inc. and Backfence Media had existing listings, Moz Local identified them as “Inconsistent” versions of the Locadium pages and provided no way for us to keep them as separate business listings.
  3. In some cases, MozLocal identified new Locadium listings it helped create as “Duplicates” of the LSG and Backfence listings and provided no option to correct this.
  4. After two months, we were informed by ML that there was at least a two month delay in getting updates into Factual and that Neustar Localeze would not take our listing because they already had a listing for us, even though they did not.

“Record scratch” – Let’s start at the beginning:

August 11th, 2017
No GMB or Facebook Page – No MozLocal Verification

MozLocal will not allow a business without a GMB or Facebook page to use its service. They use these pages as verification that the business is legit. It’s probably not normal for a business starting out with ML to not have one of these but Locadium had neither. We were interested in seeing how long it would take Google to auto-create a GMB page for us. We’re still waiting.

I set up this Facebook page for Locadium on August 11th. Share it with your Family & Friends!

August 30th, 2017
Verified
It took 19 days for ML to verify Locadium’s Facebook page. I suspect this has something to do with how long it took Facebook to add Locadium to its Places API. It took Google about three days to index the Locadium Facebook page. Oddly, the first versions it indexed were Russian (#FAKE NEWS).

Once Locadium was verified, I was able to add a business description, a tagline, hours and additional data including store within a store info, store code, neighborhood, etc. I had a minor issue with categorization – I could only specify Locadium as either a Software Company or an Internet Marketing Service, hardly the most precise categories. But this is likely an issue with aggregator and publisher categorization, not MozLocal.

Post-verification, the MozLocal dashboard quickly updated the status of Locadium’s listings. It showed the Facebook page and a profile on Superpages, which was odd since Locadium did not have a profile on Superpages. It had marked the SP profile as “Inconsistent.” I clicked over to Superpages.com and found myself looking at the Local SEO Guide, Inc. Superpages profile.

Apparently because both LSG and Locadium have the same phone number and address, ML interpreted the LSG Superpages listing as a relevant profile with conflicting NAP data. This is a good thing to point out as it’s quite common for businesses to have an issue like this for a variety of reasons. I clicked back to MozLocal and was prepared to be offered the option of “Ignore listing” or “Different Business at Same Address” or something like that. I was not offered any way to resolve this situation.

Quickly thereafter the dashboard updated to show ML had found listings for Locadium on both Best of The Web and HotFrog. These two were also Local SEO Guide, Inc. listings.

ML showed that the other services in its network had “Updates in Progress”, but that I had to create a listing myself for Google My Business, YP.com and Yelp. And in the case of Yelp, I would need to get reviews on the page before it would show up in MozLocal. It wasn’t clear why I needed to create my own listing on any of these services, except for Yelp, as this would be something I think a normal SMB would have expected to have ML do for them. Of course, knowing the industry, I understood why these sites don’t let ML create these listings for them.

August 31, 2017
Things Starting To Get Funky
The next day I logged in and saw the YP.com reference had disappeared from the Incomplete screen. But there was no other reference to YP on any of the other screens. Later that day it showed up again, but this time it referenced an old Backfence Media profile. A few hours later that too disappeared.

September 2nd, 2017
Ghosts in the Machine?

Two days later the “Create a Listing” link for Google My Business disappeared from the dashboard. Over the course of the test I noticed this kind of thing happening intermittently. It felt like the connections to these services were unstable. Again, I’d say this was par for the course knowing what I know, but to a business owner, this kind of funkiness could be very confusing and troubling. It felt like a TV set that was often on the fritz as it were. But there was no way to kick the side of it.

September 6th, 2017
Starting To Work
A week after Locadium was verified in ML, I got a call from InfoGroup to confirm Locadium’s information. While this may have just been a coincidence, I’d give pretty good odds that this was due to MozLocal.

September 8th, 2017
Locadium was now listed in ExpressUpdateUSA.com (InfoGroup’s front end database for businesses).

September 11th, 2017
Listings Starting To Appear
I noticed Locadium was now listed on CitySearch and InsiderPages. Whether or not this was from ML or InfoGroup, hard to say, but it was progress. At the same time, I also noticed requests in ML to sync my business with GMB and Foursquare. I did not recall seeing those specific messages before. And again, if I were a naive business, I’d wonder why ML couldn’t do this for me.

September 16th, 2017
Duplication Creation
The ML dashboard now showed I had one duplicate listing.

The dupe turned out to be the new Locadium listing, likely created as a result of the InfoGroup listing. The layout of the Duplicates Status screen made it slightly confusing to figure out what to click on, particularly in this evil twin scenario. “View Managed” turned out to be the link to the SP LSG page. But the only option I was given was to “Close” or “Ignore” the new Locadium SP listing, which ML itself had helped create! I really just wanted to mark the LSG page as “Ignore” and the new Locadium page as “Canonical” or whatever the main page should be called.

And the dashboard still showed it was unable to connect to YP.com.

September 17th, 2017
Interestingly the next day I noticed Google had two Locadium listings indexed from YP.com.

But since ML was unable to connect to YP.com it couldn’t tell me there had been a dupe listing created. Presumably this kind of notification is one of the key benefits of a service like ML. So again, if I had been an unsophisticated business, I would not have known about this potentially harmful issue. I know the SEO guy at YP so I pinged him and asked how the dupe was created. It turns out YP’s system can create these, so this was not caused by ML. Unfortunately, I think he deleted the dupe so I never got the chance to see if ML would eventually catch it.

September 23rd, 2017
Moving Along
Locadium’s Acxiom listing was published. That same day, ML showed the same CitySearch listing twice and classified the BOTW LSG listing as “Inconsistent”.

Sept 27th, 2017
Locadium listings appeared on DexKnows.com and WhitePages.com. Neither of these sites are explicitly powered by ML (but DexKnows and SuperPages are owned by the same company so it was likely updated at the same time as SuperPages), so it’s likely these were due to getting published in InfoGroup or Acxiom.

Epilogue
Locadium’s ML status has remained unchanged for all other sites. To recap, after two months, MozLocal has gotten Locadium published on:

InfoGroup
Acxiom
SuperPages
YP.com
DexKnows.com
WhitePages.com
And likely CitySearch & InsiderPages

On the one hand, this is not a bad result for $99. I didn’t have to do much. I got the business on some decent sites and over time I suspect the aggregator listings will filter out to more services. But it still felt like more than 50% of what MozLocal promised to do wasn’t done. I decided to ping their help chat.

October 17th, 2017
I submitted the following message via ML’s help chat window:

“Hey guys – having an issue with MozLocal – I am using it for our new company – Locadium – Locadium is at the same address/phone as another business I own. In some cases, ML is flagging Locadium as the dupe of my other business and in others it is flagging my other business as the dupe of Locadium. Unless I am missing something, there does not appear to be anyway to resolve this issue in the tool. There are also several sites that still have not been updated after 8 weeks – Factual, Localeze, Foursquare, etc. Would love some help/feedback. Thanks!”

 

October 19th, 2017
Two days later I received the following message from ML via the help chat (emphasis mine):

Hi Andrew!
Sorry for any confusion. You will need to update on (sic) business to have its own unique local phone number. Sharing the same phone number for two or more businesses confuse aggregators as they cannot distinguish whether or not a business is re-branding or moving to a new location. This will cause our tool to flag the other listings as possible duplicates. Also please keep in mind our duplicate detection are only “suggested” duplicates as we cannot make that determination. Click on “ignore” for any result that is not your business or is not a true duplicate (different physical location). 
Factual is currently experiencing a two month backup of processing submissions after a migration which affects everyone submitting data to them. We do not have an ETA of when their queues will catch up. 
Localeze is rejecting our submission as a listing in their database is already claimed. You will want to consult with them directly for more info. 
Foursquare, you will need to claim the listing to a connected Foursquare account. Please view Foursquare Sync to take action. 
To ensure data acceptance and seamless distribution of listing data. Each business must have a unique local phone number. 

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions!

To recap:

  • ML can’t deal with different business names at the same address and phone number because it claims data aggregators get confused by this. While I agree they probably do, they seem to have plenty of listings with different brands and the same phone numbers and addresses:
  • Neustar Localeze won’t take the Locadium listing because it already has one, even though it doesn’t. It does have a bad search engine, though, which I guess is why ML is being told that they already have the listing:
    And while I can’t verify that Neustar’s misidentified dupe is what’s causing it not to take our listing from ML, shouldn’t this be exactly the kind of problem that services like ML should solve?
  • Factual is delayed for at least two months
  • I have to update Foursquare myself

Since I don’t really care about the citations – only the data aggregators – this perhaps isn’t the worst outcome knowing what I know about how screwed up all these systems are. That said, I still have not received 50% of what I paid for. I suppose MozLocal has eight more months to deliver on at least getting Locadium into these systems, but at what point does it become more effective for me to do it myself? BTW I added LSG manually to Acxiom recently (they require a copy of your business license so this may not be practical for many). It took about five minutes and the listing was published in less than two weeks, for free.

And now of course ML is flagging it as a Locadium dupe with no way to resolve it:
Acxiom MozLocal Duplicate
For an SMB or a multi-location business, this outcome is problematic. At no point did the UI clearly tell me about these problems. I had to figure them out for myself and then, only after I asked, did MozLocal tell me what was happening with my data. And a listings management system that does not deal with multiple businesses with similar NAP info is not designed for reality.

So Mozzers, if you’re reading this, here are some ways you could improve Moz Local

  1. In cases with multiple businesses with the same address and phone number, allow users to select a “primary” listing. Perhaps allow “store within a store” like GMB or some other way to differentiate these listings. And don’t forget about profiles for old business names that need to be closed down.
  2. Be clear in the UI about which providers are preventing updates and provide an ETA for resolution. I know in most cases you won’t be able to, but I paid you for Factual. If I am not getting it, are you going to give me a partial refund? I actually don’t want a refund. I want my data in Factual in a reasonable amount of time which is what you sold me on.
  3. Consider dropping listings on citation sites like YP.com, Yelp, etc. It doesn’t seem like you guys add a huge amount of value here and as I saw, it likely is creating more problems and expense than benefits. There’s a role for a “just the aggregators” solution. Be the best at that before you try to do anything else.
  4. “Local is hard” is a common refrain in the search world. Moz has one of the best brands in the industry and can help a lot of businesses if it can solve these problems. Keep at it.

 
 

28 Comments

  • Susan M Staupe  December 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Great, great article Andrew. I’ve run into the same issues myself and my other frustration is there is zero phone support for anything. That could help improve the customer experience too.

    Thanks for sharing this test data!

    Susan 🙂

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 11, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      100% agree Susan. My guess is Moz is having the same customer support issues everyone servicing SMBs experiences. It’s very hard to scale it without losing money.

      Reply
  • David Iwanoe  December 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Very intriguing test, I’d wonder if you did it again would you get a whole different set of results.

    Reply
  • Phil Rozek  December 11, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Great research, Andrew. Acxiom often goes off without a hitch via ML, but God help you if it doesn’t. Pretty much certain you’ll have to handle it manually, as you did. Not that that’s a big deal. One of my clients once went against my advice to skip Acxiom, and “fixed” the document he scanned for the owner-verification. Worked just fine.

    Reply
  • Andrew Shotland
    Andrew Shotland  December 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks Phil! The edge cases are where automated citation tools can really go off the rails, and unfortunately Local SEO is pretty much 90% edge cases. The case where you would have to handle Acxiom if it doesn’t work via ML could really destroy your budget if you had to do more than a handful manually. Imagine buying ML for 1,000 locations and then having to fix this problem yourself. I don’t pretend to have the answer (besides “start out with a good budget”) but tools like ML either need to be bullet-proof or else have a huge disclaimer before you buy, which won’t happen as it would kill conversion. For bulk deals, ML does disclaim that the aggregators “will process data according to their internal processes and timings” which gives ML a big out if they don’t take your listing, but if ML can’t guarantee a listing makes it into an aggregator, it gets hard to justify its cost.

    Reply
  • Phil Rozek  December 11, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Well-said. That’s why I usually hook clients up with ML only if (1) it’s a brand-new location or business, or if (2) there are few or no NAP skeletons in the closet.

    Reply
  • Garrett Smith  December 11, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    What a cliffhanger…are you renewing or not?

    Reply
      • Dan
        Dan  December 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm

        No spoilers!

        Reply
      • Garrett Smith  December 16, 2017 at 7:22 am

        I see what you’re doing here…keeping me wondering…coming back…clicking…page viewing…such a growth hacker 😉

        Reply
  • Noah Learner  December 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Favorite part of the whole article was your comment,” 100% agree Susan. My guess is Moz is having the same customer support issues everyone servicing SMBs experiences. It’s very hard to scale it without losing money.” Scaling is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far building my small SEO practice and it seems to confront us all…

    Reply
  • Miriam Ellis  December 11, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Andrew,
    Wow! Thanks for the very detailed review. We’ve absolutely read through all of your feedback here at Moz, and you’ve helped point out some critical communication areas in which we can improve. We really appreciate this. There’s so much to address here. I’m going to pick the things I understood as mattering most to you, but please free to reach out to me or anyone at Moz to chat further about any of this at any time.

    Managing Listings with the Same Phone Number:
    A lot of the problems you had stem from having two businesses with the same address and phone number. I understand that you were approaching this whole review from the mindset of a total newcomer to Local SEO (not as your wizardly self!). So, as you and I both know (and as I just wrote about at length in my latest Moz blog post: https://moz.com/blog/not-actually-the-best-local-seo-practices), it’s not a best practice for two entities to share a phone numbers. Whether that’s two businesses at the same address, or two businesses at totally different addresses, it’s something a Local SEO knows doesn’t stick to the letter of Google’s guidelines. But, it’s also something that a total newcomer might not know. You couldn’t be more right about that.

    In a nutshell, each aggregator or other data provider uses uniqueness of NAP to determine whether a listing is new, or matches something they already have in their system. In your test case, the shared NAP caused some trouble for Moz (which gives us a scary hint of the kind of trouble shared NAP might be giving to Google, right?).

    But the main point here is, we could have handled your shared NAP scenario better, and this really deserves more thought on our part. I’m not sure exactly what the solution would look like, but we need to give you advanced options for how to push the data, or for keeping it from creating problems, or even just doing a better job of providing a warning against shared phone numbers. Thank you for pointing this out.

    Difficulty Correcting Duplicates:
    You’re right that Moz Local didn’t handle this well for you. The most common use of this feature (what we built it for) is removing actual extra, bad listings for the same business. For more straightforward cases, this simplicity works pretty well. This is definitely a case where we needed to give you more advanced options for action.

    Factual & Localeze Issues:
    I’m not sure if you saw me chatting with Darren Shaw of Whitespark about this over at the Local Search Forum, but we’ve all seen that Factual hasn’t been publishing updates for the last few months of 2017. This would apply, whether you use a service like Moz Local or Whitespark, or tried to create Factual listings solo. We should be doing a better job of communicating events like this. They do come up, and I’m sorry if it threw you for a loop. The same applies to the issues with your Localeze listing. We need to find a solution for better communication with SMB customers, and I’m grateful to you for raising this point.

    Summing Up:
    Your experience has emphasized for me and everyone here at Moz that there are multiple opportunities for us to improve communications that guide SMB customers better in knowing what to do and what to expect from our application. A few of the points you made about Foursquare, requiring GMB accounts, etc. would have been cleared up with some simple messaging in the application and improving the visibility of actions to take. We will be taking ideas away from this to work on.

    Thanks, again, Andrew. This was a really good read.

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 11, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks for commenting Miriam! It’s encouraging to hear that you guys are listening to your customers. I know this stuff is quite tricky to get right.

      Reply
  • Michael Giamprini  December 12, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Very detailed summary. A good read and very insightful. I do have one question: “MozLocal will not allow a business without a GMB or Facebook page to use its service.” To your knowledge, is that is that standard industry practice?

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 12, 2017 at 7:43 am

      Some kind of verification makes sense but in this industry their are few standard practices 😜

      Reply
  • Darren Shaw  December 12, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Excellent and detailed review, Andrew. I’m surprised to be the first to say this, but Yext has many of the same problems you identified in Moz Local. Yep, Local is hard, and as Miriam pointed out in her comment, using the same phone number on multiple listings really adds to the confusion. Of course, I’m biased since we offer a manual service, but after looking at thousands of cases, I’m convinced that if you want to get your data right, you just can’t rely on automated platforms. You have to do it manually. It’s also actually less expensive to do it manually because it’s a one-time fee instead of recurring. After 2 or 3 years of recurring payments for a half-baked automated solution that only partially helps you, you could have paid less for a full and complete clean up/distribution job by doing it manually – either through outsourcing this to a reputable service or doing it yourself.

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 12, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Darren! We have found a mixture of manual and automated is the way to go for large-scale engagements, but chacun son goût 🙂

      As you and I have discussed ad nauseum, the trick to Local is to fix this crap as quickly and as well as you can, keep an eye on the inevitable overwriting that will happen and move on to higher value, more interesting stuff.

      Reply
  • Dave Oremland  December 12, 2017 at 11:45 am

    This was an excellent article and a great discussion. Kudo’s to Miriam for responding on behalf of MozLocal, taking your comments seriously, and appreciating the perspective.

    Moving forward I’m not going to use the same phone # for two businesses.

    Thanks folks

    Reply
  • william  December 12, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    my experience with Moz local was an explosion of robo calls right after joining. so that killed it for me not worth any seo benefit when having to deal with up to 6 robo calls a day. just to note I had robo calls before using the service but no where near the amount right after joining

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 12, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      We haven’t received any robocall from Moz Local that I can recall. We do get a fair amount of robocalls though. What were they calling about?

      Reply
  • Andrew Hewatt  December 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for such detail Andrew! I just signed a client up on MozLocal to test it out so this is very timely for me. I’m curious to know your thoughts on when to use MozLocal, vs Yext, vs possibly a combo of the two?

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Hey Andrew, these two tools have a lot of overlap but also some big differences. We liked Moz Local as a relatively cheap way to get to the big four data aggregators. IMO their distribution to various local sites is not enough to think of as a citation builder. Yext offers distribution to a more comprehensive set of publishers and a lot more control, features and customer support. But Yext is more expensive. Depending on your budget, timeline and feature requirements some combination of ML, Yext and manual could make sense. (Full disclosure: Yext is a client of Local SEO Guide’s). There are also plenty of other services that offer local citation services (like Local SEO Guide!). We have a more comprehensive list of local citation services on our Local SEO Tools resource page

      Reply
  • Brent Friar  December 13, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Great write up Andrew, we have had similar experiences with businesses that share address and phone numbers. There is an obvious and easy solution that completely negates the issue though – get a different phone number. It’s as simple as getting a free Google Voice number. For businesses that use some sort of hosted VOIP it’s often just a case of using one of the multiple numbers that come with most accounts. There’s no reason not to do so if the same people are answering the phones and there is the added benefit of knowing which company a caller is trying to reach.

    This does become problematic for businesses that have many locations, but then those businesses are likely already have phone numbers for each location.

    Simply put, following Google’s rules on NAPs prevents this issue.

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  December 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Hey Brent,

      You are spot on. Unfortunately our experience with the easy solutions is that they often are not so easy when you have to rely on your client’s organization to approve/implement them.

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.