The U.S. Local Search Ecosystem
Get a better understanding of how data providers, search engines, and directories exchange and access business data. The Local Search Ecosystem (LSE) is your resource to identify the most important sources for correct and accurate business information online.
This resource is dynamic. Hover over each segment to see the specific relationships and how information flows. Click segments to lock them.
The Local Search Ecosystem is the brainchild of David Mihm and was first developed in 2009. The LSE shows how business information is distributed online, who the primary data providers are, how search engines use the data, and how it flows.
Whitespark and David Mihm teamed up to map the Local Search Ecosystem for the USA and provide a clearer picture of how information flows in today’s search environment.
In the United States there are four Primary Data Aggregators: Infogroup, Neustar/Localeze, Factual, and Foursquare (*previously Acxiom, however, with the business directory closing at the end of 2019, we believe Foursquare is in a position to take it’s place). These companies collect local business information and have massive data-sets in which they validate and vet the information provided. Search Engines like Google, Bing, and Apple license the primary aggregators data.
Other Key Sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellowpages, CityGrid, and Dun & Bradstreet, also play a role in sending data feeds to Search Engines.
Search Engines manage their own databases, however, they utilize the information provided to them through the above mentioned sources. If the business data on any of these primary sources is incorrect it can override the information that is already available in the Search Engine’s database, this can lead to either new listings being created or changing existing listing data. Bad NAP data can negatively impact your ability to rank in Google and Bing.
There are many Geo and Vertical Directories that are valuable citation sources that can drive traffic to your website and ultimately bring in more business. These directories also access the information from the various primary services and display the data on their sites. Which further increases the importance of having correct business information (Name, Address, and Phone Number) on all of these sites.
The LSE By Data Source to Display Platform
Interactive images are rad, but sometimes it’s also nice to see data in text format. Below is the flow of data from the source to display platform. Filter the data by Source, Type, Display Platform, or Relationship to see how the data flows.
|Data Source||Source Type||Display Platform||Relationship|
|Infogroup||Data Aggregator||Merchant Circle||Likely|
|Infogroup||Data Aggregator||Yahoo! Local||Likely|
|Infogroup||Data Aggregator||CityGrid Media||Confirmed|
|Acxiom||Data Aggregator||Magic Yellow||Likely|
|Acxiom||Data Aggregator||B2B Yellowpages||Confirmed|
|Acxiom||Data Aggregator||Chamber of Commerce||Likely|
|Acxiom||Data Aggregator||Neustar Localeze||Unconfirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||YP||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||EZlocal||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||HotFrog||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||MagicYellow||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Merchant Circle||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||LocalStack||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||B2B YellowPages||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregators||ZipLocal||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Apple||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Bing||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||HERE PrimePlaces||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||mapquest||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Yellowbook||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||YaSabe||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||Yahoo! Local||Confirmed|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||YellowBot||Likely|
|Neustar Localeze||Data Aggregator||TripAdvisor||Unconfirmed|
|YP||Key Site||Yahoo! Local||Unconfirmed|
|Dun & Bradstreet||Key Site||Manta||Confirmed|
|Yelp||Key Site||Yahoo! Local||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||EZlocal||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||InsiderPages||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||Bing||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||CitySearch||Unconfirmed|
|CityGrid Media||Key Site||mapquest||Unconfirmed|
Cleanup Your Business Data in the
Local Search Ecosystem
Don’t let bad data hurt your local search campaigns. Our Citation Audit & Cleanup Team will analyze your citations on the most important sites, fix inconsistencies, remove duplicates, and help improve your local visibility.
Analysis & Methodology
There have been quite a few changes to the LSE, from the data collection process to the new design and relationship classifications. To fully Understand the Local Search Ecosystem and why these data sources have made the cut, read this in-depth article by Nyagoslav Zhekov; you’ll get an overview of the history of this resource, implemented changes, and important observations made during the study.
- Distribution lists from aggregators
- Published attribution lists
- Whitespark’s Data Aggregators Study .
- Citation Audit & Cleanup Service Reports generated in-house.
- Direct contact with the Top 50 Most Important Citation Sites.
- Confirmed – through empirical studies, data aggregator lists, or from business directories.
- Likely – not tested, but reported on attribution pages or directly from the sites we contacted.
- Unconfirmed – these relationships are reported by data aggregator’s, but we could not confirm them in our empirical study.
We updated the design to reflect an eco-wheel that summarizes the data sources, relationship connections, and how information is pushed and pulled throughout the local search environment. The placement of Google is a very noticeable change, as it is not central to the image. We made this change because Google is a receiver of business information, rather than a provider, so in this sense its role is similar to that of any other business directory. A huge thank you to our amazing design team, Avenir Creative, for being so awesome to work with on this.
Primary Data Aggregator
These are businesses whose business model consists of collecting and regularly updating and enriching business data, and then selling it to other companies, including business directories. They have the most influence in the ecosystem.
The core Search Engines are Google, Bing, and Apple Maps. They are the most important display platforms that receive information from a multitude of different sources.
These are sites that serve either as actual data providers of lesser significance (Dun & Bradstreet, Foursquare, CityGrid), or as important display platforms (Facebook), or in some cases both (Yellowpages, Yelp).
Geo & Vertical Directories
These are all other important business directories in the ecosystem that either receive, or (much more rarely) provide data from and/or to other sites.