I get two or three emails per month like the one that came in this week from a small business owner named Akbar. His business is listed on a certain local search/directory site and, for reasons he didn’t explain in the email, he doesn’t want to be listed there.
Could you please inform me on how to remove my business listing from a website called Citysearch. I do not pay Citysearch for advertising my small business and do not wish my listing and its associated reviews to be on their website.
Akbar – the direct answer to your question is to check Citysearch’s web site to see if or how to get a listing removed, but there’s a chance you can’t. Why? Because the bigger issue here is that there’s an industry built around databases of business listings, and once you’ve created a business and registered a name, address, and phone number … it’s somewhat out of your control where that information shows up.
To explain how local business listings work in more detail, I did a Q&A this week with Gib Olander, Director of Business Development for the business listing identity management company, Localeze. It’s brief and to the point, covering how and where local business listings spread across the web.
Q&A with Gib Olander
Matt: There are countless web sites that provide business listings, and in most cases, the business owner probably never even submitted their information to these sites. Where does the information come from?
Gib: There’s a lot of fragmentation in the local search space. Just think about all the local search platforms, IYP sites, vertical sites, social sites, social games, mobile apps, navigation devices, etc., working to help people find local information — and each has to be able to answer every “recovery” search, so they need a complete index of business names.
Today, most reports say that between 40% and 60% of businesses don’t have a web site, so companies like Localeze have to organize, normalize, validate and govern content collected from offline sources. Online local search business listings are generated by web site crawls, local advertisements, compiled by topical specialists, phone books, government filings, trade affiliations and organizations, telephony sources, VOIP, and possibly marketing lists, to name a few. The list is really endless.
[emphasis is mine – Matt]
What happens after a new business registers for a business license in its hometown and/or county/state?
Data is registered with the state department, which makes it public for review. Companies with various business objectives have access to the data and a business listing can be born.
For various reasons, SMBs sometimes don’t want to be listed on so many sites. Is there anything they can do in the beginning to limit where their business data spreads? Or is it a case of, once they’ve registered for a business license, the cat’s out of the bag and not coming back?
Removing a listing entirely is rarely a good solution and isn’t necessarily the answer a local search application wants to offer, as they serve the needs of their users. Successfully answering recovery searches is table stakes for these applications to be able to attract, satisfy and grow their user base. Every time they suppress a valid and accurate local business listing they run the risk of not being able to answer a question asked of them by their user base.
The better option is for the business owner to actively manage the content they want to share and be found. All business owners should take the time to create and manage a standard, accurate Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) that will act as an anchor for the rest of the content that gets created regarding their business across the web.
With the idea of citations and a highly fragmented local search landscape, I can’t imagine why a business owner would not want their NAP to be available for their customers to find wherever those customers want to look.
We always talk about where to get listed, but what about getting removed? Does Localeze support that, and do you know if others do?
We do support removing business data, but cannot speak for other companies. There are many reasons to delete business listings for legitimate reasons, e.g., business closes, moves locations, changes ownership, has inaccurate information. All of these things can bring about the need to suppress an identity or let a new identity evolve.
As a closing thought, we strongly believe the NAP is a business’s online identity — think of it as a fingerprint that holds the key to how a business is found and how people make buying decisions it’s as important to have right as the sign on the front of the building or name painted on the side of truck. By continually managing your NAP, the positive consequence is pervasive accuracy across the local search platform ecosystem.
To me, the key points here are:
- Local/mobile/social sites get business data from a lot of sources that are largely out of the business owner’s control.
- Trying to control what sites can and can’t list your business is very difficult, if not impossible.
- If you’re an active business and start removing business listings from various sites, you likely remove the ability for some customers to find you.
Akbar, I realize this doesn’t exactly answer your question. But keep in mind that Citysearch (and other sites) can get your business data from a variety of sources and, if they remove your business listing, it negatively impacts their ability to serve their own users. That’s why removing business listings is often as difficult as it is.