There are a number of challenges when running a website that contains a business directory.. I’m going to focus on one challenge which we run into daily. We get dozens of businesses signing up to claim or add their profile on Bizyhood. But are the people signing up legitimate?
You might think it would be crazy for somebody to create or claim a business that isn’t their own. But it happens with alarming frequency. Recently, the NY Times ran an article about Locksmiths and the large amount of “online locksmith scams” that exist. The article describes this scenario – you are locked out of your car or home, and you hit “locksmith” in your search bar on your cell phone. The phone number you call may likely end up as this:
They are call centers — often out of state, sometimes in a different country — that use a high-tech ruse to trick Google into presenting them as physical stores in your neighborhood.
Crazy, right? Well, we have seen this first hand. You may be familiar with how Bizyhood works – hyperlocal digital publishers partner with Bizyhood to offer up engagement and discovery services on their websites. And this all starts with an authoritative local business directory. This directory has been created by accessing some of the best known (and highest quality) directory listings of businesses in the United States.
And yet, locksmith spam is wildly apparent. Part of the Bizyhood solution allows the publishers to show a list of business categories in their community, sorted by quantity of businesses. In several of our partner publisher communities, Locksmiths is in the Top 5 business category. And in a few cases, they were #1. You read that right – more locksmiths than restaurants in a given community!
In one extreme example, we’ve been working with Shawn Hogendorf from Stillwater Current in Stillwater, MN. Shawn has been one of our “early adopters” and working closely with us as we roll out new features. He was one of the first people to work with us to curate the listings in Stillwater. Shawn knows his community intimately, and he was able to highlight several updates to our directory in short order.
What was most shocking was that he told us that there is just a single legitimate locksmith in Stillwater. And yet, there were thirty eight locksmiths in the directory for Stillwater! We are in the process of removing all these “rogue” locksmiths from his directory. Many of them signed up using legitimate addresses in town that are occupied by other businesses. And of course, the majority of business names were “ABC Locksmith” or “123 Locksmith” so they will naturally come out on top of alphabetized business listings.
Bizyhood’s process to confirm a business listing has a major key step: we need to hear directly from the business owner themselves. For Marketing SEO’s, this presents an extra step for them, since many of them will create a temporary email address to sign up all their clients to the hundreds of directory sites online. They can do this on Bizyhood as well. But these listings never get confirmed, and thus do not get listed on our site. For local businesses signing up through their local online publisher, if the publisher knows them, they can skip the email step. This is not a foolproof system by any means. But it’s a lot better than the wild west process that most sites allow – where literally anybody can claim or add a business with little to no verification.
For consumers, this does present serious security and authenticity issues. Of course, our suggestion is to rely on your hyperlocal digital publisher – their site is curated, authentic, and truly local. And next time you need a locksmith, you’ll actually get a local business owner answering the phone, not a call center.