One of the factors that is universally considered critical in ranking well in local searches, especially on Google, is the consistency of your business name, address, and phone number (abbreviated as NAP) across listings on the Internet. For this reason, a very basic and common task in the effort to improve ranking through search engine optimization (SEO) is correcting business listings that appear on the many directories found on the Web.
YEXT is a service that purports to simplify that task of keeping your NAP consistent. For $500/year (typically) you can update your business details in one place, and YEXT will feed it to dozens of popular, and not so popular websites, making your online business information consistent, which translates to a strong signal to search engines that should translate into improved local ranking.
The problem is that many websites that YEXT feeds to are low quality, spammy, often have erroneous information, and can only be corrected by plunking down $500 (or some smaller amount on a per website basis). For these web directories, being wrong pays the bills, and YEXT will happily show you to their door with its “Free Business Listing Scan.” Many SEO agencies are YEXT partners, and make money from YEXT themselves, so are unlikely to complain too loudly.
Another fact that not everyone knows about YEXT’s service is that if you stop using it, your listings will revert back to their state before YEXT. This is because YEXT populates the listings on its partner sites through a feed, not by actually correcting individual listings in the directory. So when the feed shuts down, the old listings pop up again.
If paying $500/year is a drop in the bucket to your business, YEXT is a fine, if flawed, service. However you should not be forced to pay a company to correct your business information, especially if that incorrect information has the potential to effect your bottom line. Unless YEXT decides to require it’s partners to allow individual claiming and correcting of business listings in their directory through another mechanism, YEXT is complicit in this unethical scheme.
Since writing this article I’ve had the opportunity to use the YEXT’s service. As their customer support reps say “YEXT is not for everybody,” and indeed that is true. I already had the citations in good order for the business I used it for, and saw no effect on local rankings and no additional traffic, despite being listed in additional directories with tricked out and optimized listings. There was a significant downside for trying out YEXT and taking them up on their 30 Day No Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee though. Some listings that existed before implementing the YEXT service did not come back. DexKnows, Superpages and Local.com (possibly others I haven’t checked for yet) disappeared. That DID have an effect on ranking. A negative one. YEXT clearly states in it’s documentation that this should not happen, but it did, so be forewarned.