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What in the world is Yahoo! Local thinking?

Here’s a little nugget of trivia for you: during the first year of its existence Yahoo! was called “Jerry and David's guide to the World Wide Web”.

I can barely get that out in a single breath. Well, that was back in 1994, and thankfully they’ve shortened their name to what we know today: Yahoo! It just rolls off the back of your throat better I guess.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.35.25 AMThe interesting thing about Yahoo! is that so many of us are familiar with the company, but so few of us actually use their search engine. By several statistics less than 11 percent of all online search as of July 2015 was performed on Yahoo! sites. It's a percentage that has been steadily decreasing over the years.

Despite its decline Yahoo! has managed to keep its head above water. In 2012 the company appointed the former head of Google Local, Marissa Mayer, in attempt to turn things around and set the company on a positive trajectory. In recent years it has also undergone extensive rebranding to bring a fresh look to a previously stagnant company. The future of Yahoo! is still uncertain, but since bringing on Mayer the stock price has more than doubled, so there are signs of life.

Which is one reason, as a business, you shouldn’t write off Yahoo! just yet. Things could get better.

If you follow the trends in the search engine world you surely know local search is on fire right now. All the big players have been changing their algorithms to give more weight to local businesses while simultaneously providing valuable reviews for their users.

At the moment Google is doing a remarkable job at integrating local business information and reviews into their search engine. With a single keyword search, e.g. ‘pizza’, you can get a list of nearby restaurants, photos of the business, their menu, online reviews, and even directions on how to get there.

Yet for some reason when the other major search engines turned left towards an improved user experience and local business autonomy, Yahoo! took a hard right.

Yahoo! Local is like an out-of-touch parent awkwardly trying to figure out Snapchat for the first time. I can see the effort, but their attempts have fallen flat.

On the consumer side they’ve tinkered with a partnership with Yelp while also offering their own review platform. I spent hours trying to wrap my head around their strategy, but at this point it just isn’t clear.

I performed that same search for ‘pizza’ on Yahoo! and instead of getting a list of restaurants I was shown the nutritional facts for a 14” cheese pizza. What? I mean, aside from the fact that I’m not counting calories, they didn’t even include the pepperoni.

To be fair the list of restaurants were hidden there somewhere, I just had to scroll halfway down the page. But the listings seemed sparse and incomplete.

As a business, if you would like to make any changes to your default listing (such as updating your address, phone number, description, or adding photos) on Yahoo! you have to pay money. And it isn’t cheap.

Yahoo! has signed an exclusive deal with a company called YEXT to manage its local online listings. But after digging into this further I did find one way around this, which I explain below.

YEXT is a ‘Digital Location Management’ software company. Basically they (for a fee) manage the local directory listings and content for businesses across various online sites. They tout their services by highlighting several online websites they work with. Fortunately they only have exclusive agreements with Yahoo!, Whitepages.com, Mapquest, and a handful of less relevant directories.

Which leaves me wondering why a struggling search engine fighting for relevance would hamstring its local search, an area rapidly expanding in significance, by trying to force businesses to pay to keep their online listings accurate?

Now for that way around YEXT. Go to www.ExpressUpdate.com and claim your business online. This will allow you to update information which is sent, for free, to 97 percent of online search engines. Yahoo included. This includes all basic information which affects local SEO, but does not include business descriptions. Not to worry though, because on all the major search engines you can add photos and descriptions for free (excluding Yahoo! of course).



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