Business Listings: What’s in a Number?

A lot, actually. Though, the perspective by which we choose to view those numbers is often arbitrary, or at least skewed. When looking at business listings, a number can be very misleading.

Numbers don’t mean anything without context. When we give a number as a percentage, the context is inherent. People know that the top achievable score is 100%, and that if you receive a 90%, you are 10% away from attaining perfection.

With numbers outside a percentage, the context is not always obvious, and the same weight may not be placed on each variation. For example, sometimes a small change can make a big difference. What’s the difference between 81°F and 82°F? Not a lot—if you walk outside in either temperature, you’ll know it’s hot, but that one degree won’t make a noticeable difference. Same with -17°F and -18°F. What about the difference between 32°F and 33°F? Same thing, right? Actually, in this case the difference is not the same—when there’s precipitation at 33°F, it’s rain. When you drop down to 32°F, that precipitation becomes snow. One degree, huge difference.


In our Reputation Management product, we provide a percent score in the Listings tab.

The Listing Score provides businesses with an overall percentage to evaluate how they are doing within the context of their industry. We measure their presence against their accuracy, and provide the number as a percent. We make calculations like so:

Presence = (# of sites SMB is listed on / # of sites the SMB could be listed on)

Accuracy = ( # of sites without errors / # of sites the SMB could be listed on)

Total Listing Score is calculated the following way:

Presence = (# of sites SMB is listed on / # of sites the SMB could be listed on)

Accuracy = calculated for each site based on the info that is accurate and then averaged.

Listing Score = 60% of Accuracy and 40% of Presence

Incorrect listing information on a social or search engine source will each deduct 15% off the accuracy portion of your score, as it is much more vital you are accurate on these source types.

But that’s complicated and misleading. When you were in school and tested on the subject matter, you could get a percentage as an evaluation because there was a finite number of questions and materials to answer. A score of 87% meant that you correctly answered 87% of the topic in question. With listings, however, the number of listings isn’t finite—it’s infinite.  

Problems with the listing score

A percentage score with listings is misleading. The business listings eco system is complicated and in constant flux. What it might mean for a business to have a 90% listing score in our system today, could be different tomorrow. There are a few problems with measuring the listing score this way:

  • Each time we add new business listing sites to our product, the listing score of a business goes down. This is a completely inaccurate view of what is happening for the business. Instead of portraying the added opportunity—woohoo, a new listing source!—the business thinks they’ve done worse. What’s more, is that we’re working with exciting new technology, and have added nearly 40 sources in one foul swoop (see the press release on Listing Sync Pro, you’ll love it). In our current scenario, this would make the business’s listing score plummet rather than portray the world of new opportunity. There is potential for an influx of business listing sites in the future, and we want to ensure we give businesses a better, all encompassing view of their listing context.
  • The false cap of 100% makes it difficult to show the work our partners do on the behalf of their local business clients. Our partners work hard to achieve the top possible listing score for their clients, yet each time we add a new business listing site, the listing score decreases. So instead of highlighting a new opportunity for site claiming, all the local business sees is a decrease in their percentage. We want to be able to better show the work our partners do on the behalf of the local business.
  • Tracking as a percentage doesn’t take popularity into account. When a local business has an accurate listing on Google, that’s much more valuable to their online presence than, say, a directory site that is only big in Panama.     
  • Our current score doesn’t show the full benefit of being accurate with the major data aggregators. Unstructured citations are hugely valuable for SEO, and that currently isn’t taken into account in the score. Having correct listings on these four data aggregators—Neustar/Localeze, Factual, Acxiom and Infogroup—can build/correct citations on up to 300 other sites. With Vendasta’s Listing Distribution product, businesses can claim their listing with the four major data aggregators, which can generate numerous citations and measureable SEO benefits.

The solution for the business listings score

We’ve grappled with the conundrum for awhile, and have finally come up with a solution that will better reflect the intricate environment of online business listings. And the solution is...a bigger number!

Are you excited? We are. Why? Because bigger is better. Or, um, at least more accurate. Moving forward, there will be no cap on the listing score a local business can achieve. This will better reflect that complicated business listings ecosystem, and allow businesses to work to attain more listings, creating better potential to be found by customers online.

Think of it like a credit score: it accurately reflects a business’s performance and is influenced by their actions. Instead of being influenced by paying bills on time, the listing score is affected by a business creating and claiming business listings and other citations. However, unlike a credit score, there is no finite limit. Instead, there are benchmarks that are unique to each industry, such as the industry average and the 95th percentile.

new online business listings score

The initial release of the new Listing Score.

With data from reputable sources such as Alexa and Similar Web, we identified the Top 100 Online Business Directories in the US. We then assigned scores to each site based on its popularity. For example, popular sites like Google Maps will have a greater influence on the listing score than lesser referenced sites.

The industry benchmarks are based on data from over 500,000 businesses in the Vendasta platform. These averages provide relevant goals for each local business in their own vertical. Our partners can encourage clients to keep their score in the top 5% in their industry to greatly improve their chances of getting found in local searches.

online business listings score

Our vision for the new Listing Score.

Local businesses will want to overcome the industry average and should strive to be in the top 5% of their industry. This new functionality will help to better represent their progress while reflecting the dynamic nature of the industry. Businesses can increase their score by creating new listings and fixing errors highlighted within our Reputation Management product. Presence and accuracy are both weighted heavily.

Why it’s a big deal for business listings

Almost everyone in the industry calculates listing score as a percent. Making this change is not simply an algorithm update—it changes the way we fundamentally look at business listings. This will change the way agencies sell listing management.  

Perception plays the biggest role in how we internalize a number. With a different point of view, a number can have much more meaning than it did prior. Many of our competitors, and formerly us, provide a certain lens with which to view business listings. We’re bringing transparency to the complicated world of online business listings. We’re making the change because we are an advocate for local businesses. We have their back, and we want to do everything we can to help them understand the numbers.

About the Author

Nykea is the Director of Brand + Experience at Vendasta, where she leads the charge on brand storytelling and data driven marketing.

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