local business russ and daughters nyc

For local businesses, letting a phone number or address go stale online is a bigger problem than they may realize.

Businesses lose $10.3 billion annually due to outdated online listings, according to the latest research report from Yext, a New York City-based firm that helps companies manage their online listings across sites like Yelp and WhitePages.

The data, which is based on original research by analysts Greg Sterling and Andrew Shotland, obviously helps Yext justify its business model. But it’s also an interesting look at one of the bigger problems facing local businesses.

If your information is inaccurate online, you’re practically invisible to local customers.

In a survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S., Sterling found that 42 percent of them relied on search engines as their primary method for looking up local businesses, while friend and family referrals came in second at 23 percent. That’s not exactly a surprise — what is surprising is the sorry state of online listings.

Sterling looked at 40,000 business listings on more than 50 sites and found that 43 percent of them had at least one missing or inaccurate address, and 37 percent had a missing name. He arrived at the $10.3 billion loss figure by calculating the number of people who said they would switch to a competitor (15.1 percent) or simply give up looking for a business once they found an outdated listing.

According to the survey, 47.6 percent of people had a negative reaction to incorrect online listings, 22 percent said they “won’t trust the source again,” and 10.7 percent agreed with the statement, “I feel angry because I’ve wasted my time.” 24 percent of people said they would simply try to find the correct information when they encountered errors, but who knows how long they’d continue to search before giving up.

“The lost revenue opportunity associated with  missing and inaccurate business information affects both online publishers and merchants alike,” Sterling wrote in the report. “The  toll, however, is heaviest on local merchants and retailers, which lose the chance to make sales.”

Yext just recently launched an improved version of its PowerListings product, which lets businesses add information like staff biographies and product descriptions directly into their online listings.

Yext raised $27 million in a fifth round of funding last June, bringing its total to more than $65 million from Marker, CrunchFund, Sutter Hill Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), WGI Group, and others. The company sold off its pay-per-call business last fall, and it’s now focusing entirely on local listings.

Photo: Daniel M. Silva/Shutterstock.com

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.