Citysearch Kills Free Business Listings

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on July 28, 2009 41 Comments

UPDATE: Citysearch has reinstated free business listings. Please see this post for details: Citysearch Brings Back Free Business Listings, Adds Twitter.

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Citysearch logoI’ve spent the past two months trying to get an answer from Citysearch to a very simple question: Where on your web site can a small business submit a free listing? The lack of replies from two contacts associated with Citysearch, my own scouring of their web site, and the repeated inquiries I’ve had from small business owners who can’t find a way to add a free listing suggests one thing: Citysearch has killed free listings for small businesses.

There’s some history here that’s worth mentioning: Almost two years ago, I wrote a post, SBS Mailbag: Adding Your Business to Citysearch, in which I answered a reader’s question about where to find the “add a business” page on Citysearch.com. That post now ranks very highly in search engines for “add a business to citysearch” and similar terms.

Citysearch told me at that time that the “Make a Correction” form located at http://national.citysearch.com/corrections could be used to add a new business for free.

Don’t bother clicking that link now, because the page no longer exists. And as best I can tell, there’s no replacement. In several places on Citysearch.com, there are fairly visible links to an advertise with us page … but no mention of a basic, free listing. (Readers: Am I missing it?)

Citysearch might think small businesses aren’t interested in free listings at this point, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Since January 1st of this year, I’ve had referral traffic from 249 different keywords that include the “citysearch” name, and as the chart below shows, search traffic on that keyword started increasing pretty dramatically in early March and hasn’t let up.

citysearch

Citysearch: There are lots of small business owners wanting to add themselves to your web site without having to buy an advertising package. How about bringing that back?

Comments (41)

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  1. T.M. says:

    I tried to talk with CitySearch about 6 months ago when I was thinking of going back to massage therapy (as a CMT), and looking at advertising options.

    The guy on the phone told me he appreciated my business and would be in touch with more information within 48 hours.

    I never received a return call.

    I’ve since really ratcheted things up in my online endeavors, and don’t really care to have a listing there on Citysearch, but I REALLY hope, for their sake, that they come around and read your post here. Going the model of “Pay us first, we’ll bring the value later” is just dying out rapidly, and could be hugely detrimental to their business (I think), which would be a shame, because I like Citysearch.

  2. Adam M says:

    Hey Matt,
    I’ve been reading your site for the past month or so and really have been finding it valuable.

    I was working on some LB seo and 2 weeks ago I attempted to try to grab a free listing on citysearch. I of course talked to an advertiser and he was spouting off all sorts of stats and packages on the phone. I asked him to send me some data in a file that I could look over and also asked if I could have just a free listing until I decide. He told me they no longer did that directly on their site.

    He did send me the stats and information (which seemed a bit inflated but who really knows) but he never even followed up to see if I was interesting in buying advertising…which I wasn’t, but still!

  3. i think the economy has caught up with them and this is most likely a last breath type of approach.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Sorry to kill a conversation here, but I deleted several comments from people using spammy names. There’s a very obvious “read my comment policy” link right above the text box where you type your comment.

    Adam M – sorry, but also deleted one of yours since you were replying directly to a diff. comment that was deleted. Didn’t make sense to keep it when the original was removed.

  5. Adam M says:

    No problem Matt, it’s your blog. Thanks for the good posts ;)

  6. Rob Sullivan says:

    Hi there

    I just wanted to let you know that we operate business directories targeting local markets. Our main directory is shopinusa.com, and if you go there and scroll to the bottom of the home page you will see all our city specific directories as well.

    We always have and always will accept free listings. We do have an advertising option as well if you are interested, but please feel free to submit your listing for free to any of our business directories. All we ask is that if you are submitting a regional business, to submit your listing to the city it belongs in.

    All our new submissions are reviewed by humans. We don’t have some software running which arbitrarily accepts or rejects listings.

    We’ve been in the directory business for over 10 years. We’re well established in Canada and have been growing quickly in the US.

  7. Miriam says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Matt. I guess that’s one to delete from my to-do list for local business clients. A pity.

  8. Kim says:

    Hmm… I recently ran into this same brick wall. Very disappointing.
    I used to go to Citysearch to search for restaurants and other services, but their lack of valuable info (like listing the business websites) eventually drove me away.

  9. Let me start by saying I am not a CitySearch user and never really have been. I am also not a know it all and I am probably wrong by saying this, but I will say it anyway.

    I think more and more people today go to Yelp, Google, etc to find reviews and businesses. Even though Yelp is a vertical, I see people all the time going to broad based engines to get their info. In fact, I have people tell me all the time they found a restaurant or a bar or a club or something through Google local, they check the reviews there, etc….

    So, sure maybe Citysearch is done anyway and they realize it. Therefore trying to scrape all the pennies they can. It could just be me but I really think that broad based engines are at the point where you don’t really -need- sites like Citysearch…just my 2 cents and maybe I am just plain wrong, but that is how I feel.

  10. Sean Callahan says:

    One more thing…Even though your Citysearch type traffic is rising and the trends are increasing that could be a direct correlation to the prevalence of SEO today. People and businesses who are just hearing about SEO are starting to read [local] SEO guides that are kind of out dated. ALMOST EVERYONE OF THEM says to list your business in citysearch and get that citation across the web of your address….could be something to that….

    Maybe after someone writes a really good (and highly accessable) “local biz seo- how to guide” with current info you would see that trend fall ? Not sure…..I know personally that when I started it was actually kind of a maze to find the trsuted seo’s that provided quality info. Most of them just said the same stuff the last guy said by rewording the sentence. Then I started to find things like, SEOmoz, Cutts blog, THIS SITE, etc etc…that really have valuable information for anyone. Not just the same mumble jumble.

    I guess these 2 cants make the total 4 cents :)

    -Sean

  11. Matt,

    I’ve wondered the same thing and just passed it up when I could not find a link either.

    What I find interesting is that UBL (universalbusinesslisting.org) lists CitySearch as one of their submissions for your website business profile. How do they do that? What does UBL know that we don’t?

    Danielle

  12. Marce says:

    I suppose UBL indirectly benefits from CitySearch that’s why.. Is there an alternative for CitySearch? I’ve seen from other blogs that CopyOracle can do the as well.

  13. Marce says:

    Sorry, I mean I’ve seen from other blogs that Copy Oracle can do the job as well.

  14. Matt McGee says:

    Hey gang – update to this post from Citysearch. Please see here for details:

    http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/update-citysearch-free-business-listings/2188/

  15. They are looking for last ditch efforts to succeed… It will be interesting to see what happens.

  16. That was my first reaction, but I guess they still offer the free listing. Matt put a link to an update at the top. The link is http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/update-citysearch-free-business-listings/2188/

  17. T.T. says:

    We’ve spent the last 2 years trying to get some type of response from CitySearch, however, to no avail. It seems that is it an IMPOSSIBILITY to get anything corrected on their listings, not to mention a response. Rather unsettling as many individuals would really like to have use of this site.

  18. JohnM says:

    My company has been in the same city for 18 years, had a free listing on CitySearch for years, and with much success. I authored many articles for them in their salad days when they needed genre specific content,etc etc….. a genuine mutually beneficial alliance.
    Last month I realized we had been dropped from the CS site and called to get back on.
    One month, five phone calls, being put on perma-hold, submission requests, later– it came down to this phone call yesterday:
    “Mr.X, I will be in your area all week meeting with business owners. I am very busy, but based on your prior history with CitySearch here are the times I may be able to squeeze you in.”
    The rest of the call was basically,
    Me: I can’t meet with you, nor is it necessary; just email me your literature & I’ll get on it ASAP.
    CS: (cocky) Oh…you’ll meet with me. That’s how it’s done. If I just “email” you some rate sheet you’ll never understand it (laughs). You won’t even know what category we’ll feel is best to build your campaign around.
    Me: I don’t need you to build me a campaign yet, just reinstate my free listing as I had for years. Then we’ll set up my other paid account.
    CS: There are NO free listings. There NEVER were.
    Me: That’s not true. I had one for years; I wrote content for you, reciprocal links on my site, and I can prove it.
    CS: (sarcastically) Wow! How wonderful! (pushy) So, what time on Tuesday are we going to meet?
    Me: I know for a fact that two colleges of mine currently have free listings on CS. So why are you saying there are NO free listings?
    SC: (sigh) That’s because, unlike you, THEY are obviously grandfathered in. (Perky) Hey! My supervisor just authorized me to offer you 50% off your CPC rate. If you sign up now these rates will NEVER change!
    Me: Great!! But, please define “never”. Even 10 years from now? That kind of ‘never’? Will that “rate never changes” be written into my contract?
    If so, let’s meet ASAP.
    CS: (sigh) It’s good for two years.
    Me: Two years is the same as ‘never’? So if my wife tells me “I will NEVER stop loving you”, I should anticipate she’ll be filing for divorce in 24 months?
    I want to talk to the supervisor that authorized that 50% discount and ask her to clarify. I’m ready to sign up for $850 per month, but I want a different sales rep.
    CS: (totally pissed) Sorry to have wasted your time!

    What I leared from this call:
    1- Yes, there apparently are those with FREE listings, but they are “grandfathered in”.
    2- Being one of the original 10 listed businesses in my city, and long time (no charge) content contributor does not qualify me as “grandfathered in”.
    3- CS sales reps are being instructed to push really hard for a face-to-face, and offer huge discounts with insane promises– as long as you don’t commit them to paper.
    4- CS reps are told that if someone is not willing to meet with you then they are not worth the time.
    5- Deny any knowledge of free listings at any time. If pushed by someone that seems to have proof contrary to to this, just tell them anything to change the subject.
    6- The CS reps must be so heavily commission oriented that regardless of budget, a rep will not turn over a lead if they can’t have the full commission.
    Nothing like building a unified, dedicated team.

    As an early adopter and supporter of CS, I resent this disrespect (but am not surprised at all). But, as a business owner, I am actually surprised at their willingness to make wild promises that they know business owners will hold them accountable for.
    I had allocated a $850/per month budget for CitySearch; a fact this rep clearly knew. She trapped herself in lies and lost the deal.

    I don’t get their methods; and they don’t get my $9,700 this year.
    Frigging stupid.

  19. Jerome G. says:

    I work for a major media company as a sales manager (we’re one of cs’s largest competitors) and what’s happening here is that this sales rep is calling you because they have a quota. This quota is how they get paid, how they buy their kid’s christmas gifts, how they take vacations, etc. These reps don’t get paid to see the big picture. They care about revenue and that’s it. When they hear a customer like you mention free it’s the equivalent of meeting a woman at the bar talking about how you should meet her parents – it’s a major turn off even if this girl is planning on going home and doing the nasty. Which in this case you had allocated $850 per month to ‘do the nasty’ with City Search.

  20. Mike says:

    What about all of the SEO Bull puckey out there. I have thought about learning the stuff, but every time I buy somthing, it’s useless. How about some USEFUL INFORMATION from the SEO guys.

  21. Mark Pelloth says:

    I currently have another browser tab opened to a citysearch page that allows me to add a business- in this case my own- but I’m taking a moment to google the process to avoid unexpected consequences.

    To get to this page, all I did was to type my business name into the citysearch search box, and click the ‘add a business’ link which accompanied the ‘no results found’ message. I created a new citysearch account, and one of the tabs available to me is labeled ‘my business (beta)’, which is now open in the aforementioned browser tab, awaiting my input.

    I hope this helps those of you who can’t find the free listing option, but the general tone of this forum makes me wonder if it’s worth bothering with citysearch at all; it sounds ready to go belly up.

    What do you think? Is citysearch viable?

  22. Matt McGee says:

    Hey Mark — yeah, I had posted about these new listings here:

    http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/citysearch-brings-back-free-business-listings-adds-twitter/2534/

    but failed to update this post. My apologies. A free listing on Citysearch is a good idea.

  23. frustrated says:

    can you recommend how to get city search to remove a listing? my company somehow was listed on citysearch. I did not list myself. I am listed as a restaurant which i am not and i have some unfavorable comments posted on my listing from what i suspect is either a competitor or former employee. city search refuses to remove my listing and when i asked them to remove the negative reviews they suggest i advertise with them and say they will then remove…help!

  24. Geena says:

    City Serach is a PRIVATE FOR PROFIT COMPANY.
    We have requested 3 x they remove our closed outdated/busnesslisting. We were actually cyber harassed by several ver jealous businessowners in Portland, Or. on City Search. We relocated our business and CS HAVE ACTUALLY REFUSED to remove the ugly listing of our location closed in Sept/2008..
    We have been letting a damges case against CS idel and grow on our attorneys desk. We just made a 4th request to have the dmaging listing of our closed businessremoved. We gaioned testimony from 3 business people we are delaing withb now that hae made statement the listing cast a negativ light on our company. Christopher Mancilla of City Search just stated in aan arrogant email they would not remove the listing. Our attorney said “Time to move now.”
    We have spoken with many other businsses that are taking legal action to be removed from CS/YELP and may others. Check please on a class action.

  25. Gigi says:

    Myself and several other restaurants hae gathred a clas ation suit to forcethese criminalsto remove our busines listing from citysearch.com and insiderpages.
    The actually replied at first that we are not alowed to remove our listing.HAHA.
    CS CEO will soon find out what a mistake therefusals to businesses asking to removed was.
    My company name is mine and they are using it for monmey.Never given permisssion. New trend. Before a restauarnt opens it is on the PRIORITY list to have your attorney send all review sites letters warning they will be sued if they list the business. Far more harm then good and CS will be taken out in 3 years time.

  26. amber says:

    I advertised with Citysearch and got totally screwed!…Whatever you do, don’t let them get your debit/credit card info. or checking acct info. I cancelled because I got absolutely no results, however, they showed a whole lot of unexplained clicks that i was billed for. BEWARE!!!..THEN, WHEN I cancelled, they billed my credit card for the next 4 months. I had to cancel my card which was for my business. I got not one apology or credit or call back. I called many other businesses listed on Citysearch and they had very similiar experiences. Just BEWARE…they do not do as they say they will…this is the biggest SCAM i have ever seen!!!

  27. amber says:

    Also, notice….anybody can write reviews, good or bad on Citysearch, but there is not one place you can write a review about Citysearch…go figure!

  28. Ron says:

    JUST FYI I was not listed in citysearch, and I went to infousa.com and filled out there business form, after 20 mins, I went back to citysearch and searched my company. It was there the second time. Maybe if you remove your info from infousa.com it will disappear from citysearch. Hope this works for you.

    Kid

  29. Alex says:

    I HATE CITYSEARCH!

    I can list on any other website free, but not city search? who do they think they are?

    I’m not a cheap bastard either, I pay for advertising in newspapers and on the web, but why would I give CitySearch $$$ when I don’t even know if they can send me business???

  30. I had the opposite experience. I posted a negative review of a company and citysearch took it away. The company falsely claimed my post was that of a competitor. They were trying to remove the bad posts to keep us from warning others that they are a scam business. And it was not for a hamburger stand, but a monument company that screwed up my family’s gravestone. BAD BUSINESS DECISION BY CITYSEARCH. They protect the bad people and punish the good.

  31. kimberly says:

    Huge scammers. they are now called citygrid media, they get lots of bad reports on BBB and then change the parent company name. they are a huge company scamming small biz. Im pretty sure this link wont show up but google citysearch scam and its the first link, not my blog but same thing happened to me. they were advertising my local biz all across the US and i was paying for clicks. I only discovered this because they spelled my biz name wrong and after 3 months and several email still couldn’t figure it out. i did a search and bam, there is my biz alll over the us. they have no fraud dept and yet they base their biz on clicks. BS.
    http://aldebaranwebdesign.com/blog/my-adventure-with-city-search-pay-per-click-advertising-and-click-fraud/

  32. kavin says:

    I have advertised with city search for 6 months first i thought it was free!!! 6 months later I received a bill from collecting company claims that 566 dollars I called city search to get an explanation for this they said its reflecting a clicks for your business and i always tend to teach my drivers to ask customers where they learned from us, not even one driver mention that a customer claimed that we found North Austin Taxi Service from city search they all say ; yellow book; search engines as Google , yahoo,ping att book, radio website and newspaper , magazines .. plus they changed my business phone number, first was 512-553-7777 they changed it to 512-410-8294 when i called they said in order for us to calculate the clicks we have to have a diff number !!!

  33. I know – City Search is unbelievable in their unwillingness to help with this issue. If they would just be helpful when I get them on the phone, I might spend money with them.

  34. Michael Kern says:

    I believe there are a ton of small businesses looking to post in their directory, as there are a ton of websites that say a listing there is valuable.

    I am considering signing up for a paid listing and then cancelling to see if I remain in after I cancel subscription, has anyone tried that?

    BTW: one of your posts is by “Nick Stamoulis” who is listed in their directory, He is the owner and I believe chief SEO guy at Brick Marketing. Just sayin

  35. Chris T says:

    I just spent about 20 minutes on Citysearch trying to find a link to add a business. Never found it and then I came across your post, what a waste of 20 minutes that was. Thank you for the info!

  36. Aubrey says:

    @Chris – yeah, same here! Thanks Matt.

    I AM confused however. My client’s clinic IS listed there and neither I nor they ever set it up. I am assuming then the CitySearch is simply pulling from other data sources?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Aubrey – yes, there are primary data providers that supply basic business information to a number of sites. It’s a complicated ecosystem of who-provides and who-receives. Citysearch is owned by IAC, which also owns Ask.com, InsiderPages, Merchant Circle and other sites — so there’s lots of room for data sharing in there.

  37. Brian K. says:

    Matt – Great Blog! I’ve found a direct link to a submission form that allows you to enter a business listing. http://www.citysearch.com/profile/add_business

    You must be logged into an account.

    Hope this helps the community.
    Brian K.

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