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Yext – Nice little local business citation insurance plan, but no Obamacare if you leave

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Nyagoslav Zhekov, a well-known Local SEO in the industry, recently wrote a blog comparing manual citation building with Yext, an online service that makes the normally long tedious process of citation building short and sweet.

(Citations, in case you don’t know, are mentions of your business throughout the web that include your name, address and phone number. These usually include listings in Google+ Local, YP, Yahoo, Yelp, Manta, Bing, Foursquare, Citysearch, and other hyperlocal directories and are important for helping local business get found wherever people are looking for local businesses. They also help websites rank higher in Google.)

Since there are literally hundreds of places your business can be listed, citation building is very time consuming, so when I first heard about Yext I was thrilled. Imagine being able to create and maintain 50 of these listings from one dashboard with just one account instead of 50. Truly a time and headache saver.

But, aside from the cost, Nyagoslav drew attention to something about Yext that really ‘got my goat,” so to speak.

“After 1 year, unless one decides to continue subscribing, the listings are taken down or revert back to the stage they were in prior to the initial subscription.”

Taken down? You mean if you used Yext to build out your Yelp or other directory account and you quit, you lose it completely – along with its reviews – and have to start all over again!

Yow! You can see why I would react negatively about Yext.

To make it worse, this came on the heels of some problems I had just helped clients with, and it sounded all too reminiscent.

Local businesses owners too often become victims of their own ignorance.

With one client I had to undo some of the damage her SEO had done in the form of toxic backlinking and for which he had been charging her $99 a month for the last 2 years. Not only had she wasted that money for something that provided no value, it could possibly harm her. In addition, she didn’t know it was bad and was afraid of quitting because she thought the first page rank she had was because of his work. She was a victim of her own ignorance.

Another client had been paying $99 a month for SEO to “get her on the front page” for the last 5 years. After those 5 years, she was sitting in position #5 for the keywords when it was obvious to me she should have been #1. It was also obvious to me, an SEO, that no optimization had been done on her behalf. There was no Google+ page and no optimization on her site at all. I told her she could quit, but she was very resistant to doing so out of fear she’d lose her first page ranking. I told her not to fear and that after I proved to her she would not fall, I’d spend a few hours, if that, to get her #1. And that is exactly what happened. But convincing her to let go was tough.

Leaving Yext comes with consequences.

In those 2 client examples above, there were no bad consequences from quitting their SEO contracts, but in Yext’s case, it seemed to be so, and that alone caused some alarm.

But I also became alarmed over the fact that a subscription with Yext might keep businesses locked into their system out of fear – and apparent reality – of what would happen if they left – much like the fear my clients had over canceling their SEO agreements.

Turns out mine was a legitimate fear. Look what someone left on Nyagoslav’s blog –

And that is exactly what I was afraid would happen. It’s the purpose of this blog to put the Coreys of the world at ease.

Yext’s CEO clears up the misconception.

Since Nyagoslav’s post went live, Yext’s CEO tweeted the following to him to correct a misunderstanding:

Ah, ok. Little better.

What really happens when you leave Yext?

What does that mean? I guess that depends on what “core listing data” is. I’m going to assume that refers to your basic information, that simple core data that is necessary to create a record in local directories in the first place. That would probably be what Local SEOs call your NAP (name, address and phone number) and probably a category assignment.

If I’m right that means if you do not continue to pay the subscription fee to Yext year after year, the photos, videos, descriptions and whatever else you added to your listings to enhance them will disappear when you leave and you’ll be left with a shell of a listing in those hyperlocal directories. Your core NAP (name, address, phone number and probably category assignment) data will remain, and since Yext has no control over reviews  attached to your account, they will remain as well. So your directory listings should stay intact.

But you will need to start over again with your citation optimization. You’ll have to add photos, videos, and descriptions to each directory, and then claim them all.

A bit of work to say the least. And after having paid $499 to have it done, it’s a bit unsettling to have to do it all over again.

So would you be better off putting your marketing dollars someplace else?

Like everything, you have to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine if Yext is right for you. All Local SEOs have citation building as part of their services and can do it for you as cheap or cheaper than Yext, but we can’t offer a platform like theirs. Is that so important? Or  would your already-small-marketing budget be better spent in other ways such as on a complete Local SEO plan?

From my experience with small local businesses, and given that Yext’s is not a one-time cost but is recurring year after year, I would probably advise local businesses to do the later, but it really depends on their unique needs and really can’t be determined here. For the purposes of this blog post, suffice it to say that Yext could be good for some businesses even if leaving creates some temporary discomfort.

Leaving Yext is not the end of the world.

For this post, I also want to make sure that business owners like Corey understand that there is a consequence if you leave Yext, but that it is not the end of the world.

Yext is just a tool to make things you can do yourself easier. It’s not necessary, and even though you will need to re-optimize your citations if you leave, you will still have them.

More importantly, your rank and visibility online are not dependent on Yext.  They are dependent on your SEO and all that entails, not just citations which you can build yourself apart from Yext after you leave – and you can do that rather quickly. In just a few days, you could have the same directories that Yext managed back up to snuff. But you will have to go through the waiting process that comes with having to claim them (waiting for the postcard, etc.) It should also be noted that NONE of my clients are in Yext and yet they enjoy top rank and lots of customers. I’m sure other Local SEOs can confidently and honestly say the same.

So don’t be afraid to leave if you’re already there, and if you’re just thinking of jumping on board with Yext, don’t let the consequences of leaving keep you from doing so. You will recover.

(When you’re considering whether or not to use Yext, it’s important to understand the benefits of manual citation building as Nyagoslav pointed out in his blog. We do it manually here because we think the quality is better done that way. We also enter your business in industry-specific niche directories. Yext does not. So make sure you understand your choices!)

There may be a possible, inconsequential Yext exit plan.

Ok, all that said, there may be a painless Yext exit plan.

I can’t for sure say this will work, but I suspect it might. Take a look at this Yext listing in Yelp. (By the way, be careful in interpreting Yext’s callout regarding the PowerListings Profile. The only thing that differentiates Yext in that description is the fact that Yelp will update their listings on a daily basis if you change anything in your Yext account. If you were managing your Yelp account yourself, you get to update all those things yourself any day of the week; you just have to do it IN Yelp and then in all your listings elsewhere, if needed.)

Note that Yelp’ “Claim This Business” button is still there. That is because while Yext is in control of your listing, it has not really been claimed. That makes sense because claiming a listing locks it to anyone but you. If it was claimed, it would be locked to Yext, but I can’t be certain because I don’t know what kind of agreement Yelp has with Yext.

My recommendation to Yext customers if you want to suspend your subscription with them is go claim all your profiles that Yext manages for you first. Lock them down, then cancel your subscription. Hopefully, all your photos, videos, and description will stay intact.

I’m not sure this will work, but I’ve put a request out to users that will be canceling to give this a try. I will report back as I find out more.

So why don’t we just ask Yext? Well, others have and the info they provided is above in Howard’s comment. Hopefully we can get clearer answers as time goes on. I know Nyagoslav is trying to track that down and if anyone has any info or experience with quitting Yext, please let Nyagoslav or myself know. From all I’ve said above, there is no reason to keep it secret. Yext should be more concerned with making their product so great that no one will want to leave.

Final thoughts

If you choose to stay with or join Yext, one way to look at Yext is like an insurance policy.

Once you’ve got your citations set up, you may not need to use the Yext tools again. Or if you are using their PowerListings, you may find that you can do without those too. But if you do need them, like an insurance policy, those tools can save you time and expense.

Just remember that if you choose to cancel Yext, you will leave with a preexisting condition and there is no Obamacare to cover the work you will need to do to recover.

Need help with citation building? Whether or not you have an account with Yext, we can help you with your citation building or you can use one of the many ethical Local SEOs throughout the world who do the same and who work hard on your behalf. This is not something you need to worry about. We’re here for you.


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Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.

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