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 Tidings teamed up to map the Local Search Ecosystem for 2017 in the USA and provide a clearer picture of how information flows in today’s search environment.

Data Sources

In the United States there are four Primary Data Aggregators: Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar/Localeze, and Factual. 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, FourSquare, 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.

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Local Search Ecosystem

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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.

Resources Used


Relationship Classifications

  • 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.

New Design

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.

Core Search

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.

Other Key

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.

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