Here's what happened in the world of local SEO in the past week.

Whitespark Rolls out Their Yext Replacement Service

On Thursday, April 23rd, Darren Shaw (the founder of Whitespark) announced a competitive alternative to the Yext citation maintenance service.  According to Shaw, instead of paying a recurring fee to maintain your listings, Whitespark can do a one-time cleanup across 11 major sources for $349.

The roll-out received a big welcome on Twitter, where a lot of well known names gave it a boost with retweets.  Whitespark seems to have tapped into an undercurrent of deep resentment around Yext.  Naming their new offering a "Yext Replacement Service" may have been quite a successful marketing coup.

The controversies and resentment around Yext mostly center on the fact that they will remove your listings if you cancel the service.  The Reddit thread Yext is essentially a protection racket makes for interesting reading if you want to hear what others claim to have experienced while using their services.

This development seems to be part of a bigger trend in local SEO.  Yext prides itself on working with hundreds of business directories, but as Whitespark and others have claimed, most ranking value seems to come from a much smaller subset of those directories.  

Google Enables Reviews for Open Businesses

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Google disabled new GMB reviews, starting about a month ago.  This policy seems to have been in effect across all categories. Recently, however, it looks like new reviews are enabled for at least some businesses that are currently open.  Those businesses that are marked as "Temporarily Closed" still cannot receive new reviews.

What's going to happen with reviews that were caught in limbo?  Reviews that were left prior to the shutdown but didn't post may suddenly appear at some point, but for now only brand-new reviews seem to be posting.

Economic Fallout Hits the SEO Industry

The unprecedented economic slowdown stemming from the Coronavirus is hitting the SEO industry hard as clients cut back on spending.  

BlueArray SEO of London made the difficult decision to furlough some employees as clients have cut back drastically on their budgets.

Local Businesses Adapt to New Circumstances

There has been a lot of discussion lately about how some local businesses are adapting to survive in the pandemic economy.

Carrie Hill and Erin Jones talked through some of what they're seeing on the CommunityKarma podcast.  They mentioned a variety of creative workarounds, such as virtual mould or plumbing inspections via Facetime, and restaurants providing take-home kits (think BlueApron or HomeChef).  

Local Search Clinic with Jason Brown

Jason Brown and Brightlocal held a fairly lengthy video session (over 70 minutes!) packed with a lot of interesting info.  Jason covered a lot of ground, including the current state of Googe My Business and how edits and reviews have been frozen, and the outlook for the future in GMB.  

Spam fighting efforts, such as flagging duplicate GMB listings, are on the back-burner for Google right now.  The "suggest an edit" and redressal forms are unlikely to lead to a response from Google while the pandemic is ongoing.  

All that said, however, Jason shared some tips for collecting supporting information in a Google doc, and submitting that link on the redressal form.  Jason stressed that putting together evidence (such as the spam listing not existing on your Secretary of State's website) can help the Google support team verify your claims.

See you next week

I'll be keeping an eye on what happens during the next week, so stay tuned for another local SEO recap!