08 Jun Google vs. Yahoo: The Local Listings Battle
By Dina Ely
I recently had the “pleasure” of having to update approximately 60 business local listings for a client across the Google and Yahoo local business networks, and what I experienced working with both companies on this was an eye-opener. In the end, I think I’ve figured out why Google will always trump Yahoo, and how out of touch Yahoo is with the needs of small and medium businesses. (Marissa Mayer, take note – there are a few things I think you’ve forgotten since the Google days.)
For this grand adventure I worked in the dashboards of both sites as well as extensively on the phone with support. Let me compare and contrast the overall experience and discuss a few takeaways.
Both Google and Yahoo play an important role in local search (as do a few other players – but that’s another post for another time). Google is used more by customers in local searches, but to ignore Yahoo altogether would be foolhardy. Especially since Yahoo, like Google, offers free business listings. What they also offer, and pretty much give you no choice but to use, is a variety of subscription-based services including Localworks, which starts at $29.99/month per listing.
Here’s where I hit my first road block. In order to do anything substantial with these 60 some odd listings, I really had no choice but to pay for a Localworks package just to get a fully-featured version of the marketing dashboard. If you try to go the free route, the tools available to you are minimal and it’s virtually impossible to do anything on the kind of scale I needed. I claimed and prepared to edit every outdated listing, but everything came to a grinding halt when I hit the log jam of verification postcards. (This will come up with Google too, in just a minute.)
Begrudgingly I forked over the cash in order to manage these listings in a more streamlined fashion. There were a bunch of bloated features that may be useful to some businesses but had no usefulness to me – all I wanted to do was correct listings that had outdated information like old phone numbers or addresses. And even having paid the $29.99/mo for a 3 month package, Yahoo’s dashboard is such a mess I had no choice but to throw the problem directly in their lap.
Frequently I would login and it would tell me I didn’t have permission to view the dashboard I’d just paid money to unlock. The customer experience should be the #1 priority for any business. It doesn’t matter how hard you promote a service if it fails to work. Yahoo pushes these paid packages so hard you’d expect them to be some sort of business marketing management nirvana when you actually get access. To me, they seemed like a waste of money.
What Localworks did give me was a legitimate complaint to bring to Yahoo’s phone support, and as a paying customer, I couldn’t be ignored. I explained to the cheery and helpful agent on the other end of the line what I was trying to accomplish. In the end, her solution was to go into my account remotely, wipe every single business listing from the database, and have me start fresh with new ones in a couple weeks when the dust had settled.
It got the job done, but I found myself having to set a series of to-do items and reminders to check when the database removed the outdated listings, and then to add correct listings so my client didn’t drop out of Yahoo altogether. (I also had to set another to cancel Localworks before it expired!)
Although the issue was resolved satisfactorily it took me paying $90 basically for the privilege of priority support, just to get basic business listings that I could have – and should have been able to – update myself without needing to buy their Localworks package. Being forced to pay for something a competitor lets you do for free is frustrating. What’s worse is paying and then having the product not work.
Yahoo support? Great, once you can get them on the phone. Yahoo customer experience with the Localworks package? A joke.
The task was similarly convoluted with Google local, whose service is by no means without fault. Hitting another road block verifying 60 locations (bear in mind, you can’t verify by postcard or phone a listing that has an incorrect address or an incorrect phone number – it’s simply impossible), I claimed the locations but was unable to fully edit them.
Google, unlike Yahoo, does not have an obvious phone support network. But also unlike Yahoo, they don’t have a Localworks type package that gives you access to support who’ll do all the work for you. Or so I thought.
Out of desperation I used the Google contact form that’s available to report an incorrect listing.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I figured someone somewhere at Google would eventually review them and maybe a few months down the line the information would be updated. I definitely didn’t expect to receive an e-mail from Jamil at Google local support a few days later. He requested a call to talk about my situation.
When he called me, Jamil seemed understandably concerned that 60 listings were incorrect in their database. He apologized, and explained the information comes from third party sources. (I got the feeling this wasn’t his first rodeo, but perhaps not with someone who had the patience and tenacity, or perhaps just plain insanity, to spend an afternoon submitting 60 incorrect listing update requests.)
Once I’d explained the problems I was facing with most the listings Jamil vowed to escalate the case to a higher support team and keep me posted. While he anticipated an answer in a few days, it took closer to two weeks. But he didn’t forget about me. He called back and let me know if I verified a few details, which I did right there and then, they could edit these listings themselves. I could sit back and put my feet up.
Not long after I got another call from Jamil. He’d personally taken the time to call all 60 locations to verify those he could and those he couldn’t (such as old phone numbers) he took as proof of inaccurate information. He marked them in the Google database as closed or relocated, which in a couple weeks, he said, would push them more or less out of sight. He made sure correct listings would rise to the top of the pile.
I didn’t have to pay a dime. All I had to do was get a sympathetic ear who was concerned about the quality of his database – basically, his product – and who worked hard to make the experience virtually effortless for me (apart from the initial barrage of support requests!).
I give credit to the support agent at Yahoo who wiped the offending listings for me, too. The difference was I had to chase her down, and I had to pay to even see what was really going on with my listings. With Google, they contacted me with concern, and did it all for free.
Google also has a bulk listing editing option via spreadsheet upload. When I asked Jamil about this on the phone – to make both our lives easier in the future – he promptly e-mailed me detailed instructions about using this feature going forward. From start to finish, Google seemed dedicated to convenience.
What I Learned
Here’s the fundamental difference in approach: Google recognizes that the quality of their search results are the bread and butter of Google local. If they consistently produce crap, eventually users will migrate to another option. Google wants their database to be as accurate as possible and they accept responsibility for keeping it that way.
Yahoo may care about the quality of their search results, but they care more about putting the responsibility for maintaining their database on the businesses in it. And they charge a premium for businesses to do the work for them. In the end this paying customer felt like she’d been taken for a ride. As a side note, when I called to cancel Localworks at the end of the three months I’d paid for, they told me my Localworks account had already been canceled. I don’t know who did it – yet another glitch in the Yahoo experience – but thanks for making sure I didn’t pay more than I had to for a service that simply doesn’t work.
Muddying the waters of local search are the aforementioned third parties that feed their data to local search engines. I’ve yet to see either Google or Yahoo implement some sort of safeguard against incorrect information from other sources. I certainly didn’t create 60 separate listings for my client. It all came from outside. And I kind of resent the fact that somebody else’s mistake then became my problem, and certainly for Yahoo, a problem I had to pay to fix.
But that’s the way things work. So what we need to do as marketers and business owners is realize the onus is on us to periodically check our local business listings for inaccuracies. If you find any, and if the verification process is made difficult or impossible in any way, my advice is to submit a support request with Google. As for Yahoo, get in your dashboard as best you can and see if you can get some phone support. Don’t bother with the tools provided as they most likely won’t do what you need them to do – or if you’re like me, you won’t even be able to use them at all thanks to errors in the system. And be prepared – if you don’t get the help you need for your basic listing, you may need to fork over money for Yahoo Localworks.
As nonplussed as I am with the Yahoo business services I’ve experienced thus far, and knowing Google has a bit more weight in the world, I have to declare Google victorious – by far – over Yahoo’s glitchy, ineffective local business tools. I walked away from this feeling like Google had heart, and Yahoo was more interested in my money than anything else.
And that’s the sort of thing that creates – or destroys – brand loyalty.
About the author: Dina Ely is an integrated marketing communications and multichannel marketing specialist who’s marketed small and medium businesses nationwide for nearly a decade. Prior to hopping on the roller coaster ride of SMB marketing, Dina worked in communications in the music industry. She is presently the Marketing Project Manager for Wax Marketing.