Getting local search right is a concern and challenge for brands and agencies. Yet it all starts with a perceived dilemma: pay a monthly fee for the rest of your company’s life to allow another entity to manage your listings, in which cancellation results in the death of any listing created using the service, or manually enter the same data hundreds of times, having to monitor the data, and ensure it’s accurate.

As we work with many multi-location businesses, including franchises, I know that the creation and upkeep of local citations is both insanely challenging or monotonously mind numbing—especially when the client hits 50, 100, or more locations.

That’s why I decided to start looking into local citation service options. Already knowing of Yext, after their bold move to buy both Adweek and Advertising Age covers, I looked for other options that may be more cost-effective or insightful.

So, of course, I clicked on the first comparison of local citation services I saw. The post, informative but potentially biased (written by BrightLocal), shares a very nice comparison of BrightLocal, Yext, UBL, WhiteSpark, and MozLocal.

My Goal? Avoid seeing something like this:

Background

We’ve done a lot of work for clients over the years, developing local presence for new businesses and moderating and managing existing business locations. This means that we have completed and do not need the following:

  • Google+/Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • Yelp
  • Foursquare

This was one of my first concerns with many of these, which pride themselves on a Google+ listing and Facebook listing. Frankly, I wouldn’t be working at an agency if I didn’t know how to use Google or Facebook.

What I really needed is a service that can work with data aggregators (Axciom, InfoUSA, NeustarLocaleze, Factual) to control listings, and give me recommendations as to where I can submit, all while monitoring my current citations.

Essentially, I’ll do the work, the service gives me the insight, and I don’t lose what I already have if I don’t pay. This, and I wanted the service to be cost effective when I do pay.

The Free Trial

As I just started this today, I am in the “free trial—no credit card required” period. Considering this, I signed up for the $34.99 a month service, which allows six scheduled reports and 100 ranking runs.

As this is a test, I decided on the middle-of-the-road offer, the multi-business plan. BrightLocal provides the following three options, as well as a bespoke, white-label offer:

  • Single Business ($19.99/month): Perfect for independent, local businesses with 1-3 locations
  • Multi-Business ($34.99/month): Just right for a growing SEO agency with up to 6 clients.
  • SEO Pro ($64.99/Month): Spot-on for a thriving SEO agency with up to 100 clients.

As this is just a test, I chose the middle option, but would probably need the SEO Pro option if I was to add every client.

Not terrible, but still comes to about $420.00 a year for only six locations, and I’m still not incredibly sure what I’d be paying for, considering the fact that I’d be paying even more ($2-3 per submission) to use their CitationBurst service. That, and I’m still not sold on whether or not I will still own my location if I cancel.

The Platform

After signing up and entering the platform, I was introduced to each item that BrightLocal offers: Rank Checker, SEO Check-Up, CitationTracker, Google+ Local Wizard, CitationBurst, ReviewBiz, and ReviewFlow.

The first tool I used was that of the CitationTracker. It all starts with running a report on your client, which takes about five minutes to create. Once the report is complete, it provides an informative report of the who, what, and where of your business—top 10 and top 50 citations, currently listed citations from across the web, and opportunities for new citations in directories.

As I decided to complete this with our own agency before working on any clients, I ran it for our current business entity. The results were as follows:

  • 51 Active Citations
  • 87 Potential Citations
  • A few incorrect citations (including a business whose YellowPages Account linked to our website)

Not bad, considering that we were not listed on the aggregators, which in turn feed many of the others.

CitationTracker: Top 10 and Top 50

The first portion I hit after generating a report was that of the top 10 and top 50 directories:

  1. Yelp
  2. Yahoo! Local
  3. YellowPages
  4. Facebook
  5. Manta
  6. CitySearch
  7. InfoUSA
  8. Localeze
  9. Acxiom
  10. Factual

BrightLocal provided either the information on the site, or the link to get citation. For instance, if I was to submit to Acxiom, the link out would be https://mybusinesslistingmanager.myacxiom.com/

I mention this one because It’s not easy to find this link in any other form. I’m actually pretty sure that Yext had touted its relationship with all of these and said “We are the only ones who can get in contact with many of the directories.”

So, is it manual? Yes. However, this is good, because I don’t want to hand over all of the control to someone who has my NAP info in a vice grip.

CitationTracker: Active, Pending, and Potential Citations

BrightLocal Citation Tracker

This is where I am starting to like BrightLocal, and am starting to see the value of the monthly fee. In the short five-minute period that it took to compile the information, it was able to find current citations, rank the citations based on value, and allow me the information to manage each (in the case of duplicates).

Further, the ‘Potential Citations’ portion is valuable as it provides information I need to know before submitting: Authority, Value, Free/Paid Listing, and whether it provides map information.

CitationTracker

Citation Burst

For those who just want to get it done. Citation Burst is another paid service that, for $2-3 per submission, will let BrightLocal do the submissions for you. Here’s where I’m starting to love it:

“As 95% of our submissions are direct to site rather than into aggregators, the majority of listings are claimed & ‘owned’ by the customer so data remains intact in future. But for any aggregator listings, after 1 year the feeds from aggregators into 3rd party sites lose their ‘managed’ status.”

So, essentially, I could pay them to submit to the hassle-prone submissions like SuperPages and YellowBook, of which will call you relentlessly for paid services, while still doing the rest of it myself.

Other Services from BrightLocal

A few of the other things that are offered from BrightLocal, Local SEO Check-Up, ReviewBiz, ReviewFlow, and Rank Checker. I look to run those reports and provide a bit of information. From BrightLocal, however, here are the descriptions:

  • Local Search Rank Checker: The quick & easy way to monitor your local search performance. Track your most valuable keywords and locations in Google, Yahoo & Bing. Set-up automated reports to run each week or run them on the spot. Track changes with interactive charts and white-label your reports to share with customers and prospects.
  • Local SEO Check-Up: Get a complete local SEO report in just 15 minutes. This audit tool runs over 300 simultaneous checks and presents these findings in a clear and professional PDF report. Each report covers 6 areas of local SEO including Google+ Local, Local Directory listings, on-site SEO and social media. Add your own branding to these reports and share with customers and prospects.
  • ReviewFlow: ReviewFlow is an online tool which automates the identification & monitoring of online reviews on major review sites & local directory websites. ReviewFlow works by finding your business listing on these sites, extracting the star rating & review content, and presenting this data in 1 clear, visual report.
  • ReviewBiz: Add a ReviewBiz button to your site and make it easy for your customers to review your business. ReviewBiz connects to leading local directories (e.g. Yelp & Superpages) and Google + Local. Having more positive, online reviews will help boost your local ranking and convert more leads to customers. It only takes a few minutes to create your ReviewBiz button and you can now create white-label buttons with your own backlink & anchor text.

Conclusion

In all honesty, from day one of using the software, I’m impressed. It gives me the information I need, shows me how to submit to other sites, and will do so if I want them to do it.

If one thing stands out, I’d have to say the sheer amount of directories searched (1,600+(!)) is what would keep me using this, along with the fact that for $64.99, I can manage up to 100 locations.

As I begin to add clients to these reports, submit them to directories, and continue to develop the local SEO authority of these businesses, I can’t help but be impressed for the price tag and continued control of each location.

If I do stop paying, I look forward to providing a follow-up rant or review of the platform.

If you’re looking for local citation information, I welcome you to check out the following resources I had come across while writing this:

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