AWS User Group Meetup

This week, Yext hosted the NYC AWS User Group to discuss techniques enabling migration applications to AWS. Education technology company Knewton, had their own unique perspective on the topic and joined in on the presentation.

We started the evening with drinks and networking. One of the guests was overheard joking about our idea of “light refreshments.” At Yext, there is never a shortage of good eats.

Speakers included Yext’s CTO, Sean MacIsaac and Knewton’s Director of Platform, Trevor Smith.

Sean MacIsaac, kicked off the discussion with a presentation on how Yext Engineering uses MySQL replication with RDS to enable Yext’s migration to AWS.

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Trevor Smith’s presentation on their migration from an in-house graph DB to Cassandra-backed Titan, raised a lot of questions.

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Trevor’s key advice for the evening, ”spend a lot of time understanding your problem.”

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Finding Local Love: A Tale of Two Robots

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we decided to share a beautiful love story that’s blossoming at Yext.

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As the best love stories do, it all started on Tinder. Boy Robot took a break from his hectic work day to do some swiping.

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He stumbled upon this profile and liked what he saw. They set up a date to meet at a great local spot, The Snack Kitchen.

Girl-Robot-TinderBoy Robot headed to The Snack Kitchen, but when he arrived his lady friend was nowhere to be found!

Reg-Kitchen

Boy Robot checked into Foursquare and discovered that there was incorrect geodata, and that the Girl Robot had accidentally gone to The Engineering Snack Kitchen on the other side of the office.

Robot Eng Kitchen

He raced off to catch her before it was too late!

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They ran into each other in the hallway and hit it off immediately.

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Time flew by and before they knew it, they were sneaking off to the Nap Pod for some “alone time.”

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 Don’t let bad geodata keep you from finding love! Happy Valentine’s Day from Yext.

Celebrating Our One-Year Anniversary On Madison Avenue

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Yext’s move from Chelsea Market to our new offices on Madison Avenue. As we all bundle up inside during this cold January, we can’t help but think back nostalgically to all of the fun we had during our office housewarming party last winter. As you can see below, Yexters love a photobooth!

Yext Housewarming Party

Yext Named #20 on Forbes’ Most Promising Companies List

Forbes-logo

We have some exciting news to share today: Yext has been named #20 on Forbes’ Most Promising Companies List!

Every year Forbes ranks America’s private companies based on variables such as revenue growth, quality of management team and investors, and market size – and this year we’re proud to be included among other great companies.

It’s been an incredible past few years thanks, in large part, to all of our partners who have joined us along the way.

You can see the full list of Forbes Most Promising Companies here. Also be sure to check out Forbes’ recent feature on Yext’s journey to success.

Onward!

Adding Citymaps and 7 Publishers to PowerListings Network

When your customers are looking for things and businesses locally they use different sites and tools to find different information. They’re looking for details that distinguish your business from the next based on more than just where it’s located (though that matters, too). And since each site, map or app offers its own context, your business needs to be everywhere.

To help customers find your business on whatever device and service they might be looking, we’re excited to announce eight new publishers in the PowerListings Network: Citymaps, Opendi, YellowPagesGoesGreen, Citybot, ABLocal, Pointcom, VoteForTheBest, 2findlocal!

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Citymaps is the world’s first social map.  Described as the “Pinterest for Places,” Citymaps is the fastest and easiest way to make maps of your favorite places, see your friends’ maps, and check out personal maps by celebs and publishers.  Discover the best places around you, wherever you are.  The award-winning logo map covers 15mm places in America — including real-time Instagram photos, menus, tips, navigation, and directions.

We’re excited to partner with Citymaps, another NYC startup right up the road from our office.

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Opendi is a local directory that contains over 6 million local businesses across the globe. Along with their business pages, there are thousands of reviews to help searchers find exactly what they are looking for.

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YellowPagesGoesGreen provides an environmentally friendly search engine while supporting the green movement and promoting awareness by helping consumers opt-out of the delivery of the printed yellow pages. As the original opt-out registry, their “going green” mission continues as they provide a simple and effective online alternative to print.

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Citybot is an app that makes travel planning easy for people who don’t just want to find one place but want a full itinerary including the best attractions, restaurants, bars, and other must-sees in a new city.

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ABLocal is a curated local business directory, which helps people find great local businesses they’ve never tried before. Their search algorithm favors businesses who have taken the time to curate their listings. They believe business owners who want to talk about their business, and what makes it unique, are more likely to run a cool, local shop.

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Pointcom has been offering great services to the world wide web since the 1990′s and as we venture further into the 21st century they have looked for new ways to expand on what this site has provided in the past and bring great websites to the forefront. Each site they review is given a stamp of approval that they have quality content that would be essential for any visitor to check out.

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VotefortheBest is a straight-forward business directory that ranks businesses in every town in the country based on a simple yet powerful voting system. VotefortheBest is quickly becoming the go-to destination to find out what businesses are popular in any city.

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2findlocal is a local search directory that helps consumers make big finds from small businesses. Made in New York, 2findlocal connects consumers to businesses in their towns selling the products and services they need. Consumers can even see what searches are trending in their town, providing them with another way to find local businesses.

In addition to these eight sites, maps and apps, we’re adding new ones all the time to help your customers find you. You can learn more about each one in our PowerListings Network here.

Yext Launches “Pages” & International Support for 75 Countries

Yext - International World

Yext today launched Pages, a new product that allows marketers to publish their geo content from Yext Cloud to their own websites.   Yext also launched address support for 75 countries in native languages.

Pages lets marketers easily publish dynamic local info in their web and mobile sites.

Marketers can embed five kinds of widgets – calendars, menus, bios, product lists and social posts – with a snippet directly in their web sites.  Updates they make to their geocontent in Yext Cloud simultaneously appear in their listings, social networks, and now, their web pages.

“We created Pages to bring the local web page back to life.  There’s no reason why a local page shouldn’t be as current as a social network page,” said Howard Lerman, Yext’s co-founder & CEO.

“Today’s launch of Pages makes it possible for marketing organizations to deliver their geomarketing from Yext Cloud to the three most important local channels: listings (local search and maps), social, and now their own web and mobile pages.”

Pages: Social Posts appear on Facebook, Google+, FourSquare, and on a Web Page

Pages: Social Posts appear on Facebook, Google+, FourSquare, and on a Web Page

In addition to Pages, Yext today launched international address support for 75 countries, including 150 native languages.

Geodata for China & 74 Other Countries Now Supported in Yext Cloud

Geodata for China & 74 Other Countries Now Supported in Yext Cloud

“The world is local.  Today we take a major step towards enabling marketing organizations with a global footprint deliver their local message everywhere – regardless of borders or language.”

Both Pages and global address support are available immediately.  Log in or contact your Yext representative for more details.

 

Local Marketing Tips for the Holiday Season

The best way to attract customers this holiday season is to show what makes your business unique and why they should choose you over the competition. With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday already here, shopping is on everyone’s mind.

With millions of customers heading to stores to shop for holiday gifts and to take advantage of seasonal deals retailers need to use every marketing tool possible to get people into their doors. So here are a few tips for ensuring customers can find your business and make it to your front door.

  • Seasonal Categories

    • Most people don’t have a specific business or location in mind when they search. Relevant categories will help them find you in local search.

    • Instead of just “clothing” “hardware” “flowers”, try adding a seasonal keyword like “gift” “holiday” or “decorations” to return in more results.

  • Updated Hours

    • Chances are you’ve changed your hours for the busy season. Make them easy for your customers to find.

    • Update your hours across everywhere customer might be looking – local listings, social media profiles and even your website.

    • Just remember to change them back after the season is over!

  • Holiday Ads and Messages

    • Show your customers you’re as prepared for the holiday as they are. If you have new products, limited-time sales, or other holiday messages share them where your customers are looking, like in local search.

    • Yext subscribers can update their Featured Messages and change them throughout the season to continue to attract new customers.

  • Product Availability

    • The best way to get a customer to your door is to let them know what’s in your store. Whether it’s the must-have toy or the latest tech tool, your products distinguish you from the competition.

    • Share up-to-date product availability for each individual location or circulars that show your customer what to expect, like with Yext Content Lists.

Your customers are already out there researching businesses like yours. Make it easier for them to find you online and off this holiday season.

 

Yext and Go

The engineering team at Yext is working with a new and exciting programming language called Go. We last hosted the Go community at the Yext HQ when one of the senior members of our engineering team, Rob Figueiredo (AKA RobFig), presented on a framework he created. On October 21st, we opened our doors once again to engineers interested in Go.

This time, we invited the Go Language Meetup Group to come by our offices with their computers for a casual hack night.

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We had a great turnout of engineers with a great variety of projects to work on.
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The attendees worked on Macs, PCs and one hacker even brought his own Raspberry Pi.
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It was a great night of coding, exploring new technology and socializing. In addition to dinner and beer, we also played some ping pong.

This will certainly not be the last Go language event we host at Yext!

 

The Yext Quarterly: Local & Mobile

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Mobile and local and inherently linked. Mobile allows us to step away from our computers and experience the world around us through technology. By 2020 there will be 50 billion ‘connected things’, so local is only becoming more important for marketers – and that’s why we chose to focus on local and mobile for this issue of the Yext Quarterly.

We’ve already discussed the state of location, social in previous issues. For this issue we again worked with Greg Sterling and Andrew Shotland to bring you some useful articles, insights, and original research about local and mobile, including:

  • How to do mobile keyword research
  • Demand for wearables
  • The trend of going to mobile first for local information
  • An infographic about growth of mobile local services over the past year

Take a look, read it through and let us know what you think at YQ@yext.com. We hope it’s a useful resource for you and your teams as you think about local and mobile.

Download the full issue of the Yext Quarterly: Local & Mobile here

 

There’s No Such Thing as a “Permanent” Local Data Record

A common misperception in the local search and data industry is that publishers have a single “permanent” or “master” record for a given business listing.  The misconception goes deeper: many people think that claiming a business causes a publisher to update a permanent record for that listing.

However, if publishers have a single permanent record, how come so many people have problems updating listings?  It’s because there’s actually no master record.

Publishers consider many different signals and sources when deciding which information to show in their experiences for a particular business.  Claims are just one source of many.

Let’s take a look at how local data works at most of the world’s major publishers.  It’s actually pretty complicated.

We’ll start with a simple example of a fictional local search publisher called Bingo that uses 5 local data sources: an aggregator, a government data file, results from crawling the web, claims, and consumer signal.

Source
Aggregator
Government Data File
Web Crawl Results
Claims
Consumer Signal

Bingo stores all the local data from each of these 5 sources.  For each data element, the sources are ranked by “trust”.  Here are Bingo’s rankings for 5 elements: Name, Address, Phone, Web Site, and whether the business still exists:

Source Name Address Phone Web Site Open
Aggregator 5 2 3 4 4
Government Data File 4 3 1 2 3
Web Crawl Results 3 4 2 3 5
Claims 1 1 5 1 2
Consumer Signal 2 5 4 4 1

Periodically – let’s say weekly – Bingo runs a process to conflate these 5 sources to build a current “view”.  That is, the local data file that actually appears on their live site.

Let’s say the conflation process is running to decide what info to show for a local business called PizzaLand.

Here’s the data that’s contained in each source about PizzaLand:

Source PizzaLand
Aggregator PizzaLand
212-123-0000
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
www.pizzaland.com
Gov’t Data File Pizzaland, Inc
44 Broad Street Suite #75
New York, NY 10011
212-123-0000
Incorporation Date: 4/30/2013
Web Crawl Results PizzaLand
800-321-1234
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
www.pizzaland.com
Claims PizzaLand
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
888-331-3110
www.pizzaland.com
Claim date: 5/14/13
Consumer Signal 1 user marked business as closed on 5/17/13

The bolded elements are those that are ranked highest and will therefore show in the next generated view.

(Side note: To simplify the illustration, I’ve skipped the first step, which is to actually match up the PizzaLand locations across each source.   This is actually super hard!  What if there’s no consistency identifying elements across sources to match them up?  Or what if there are multiple PizzaLand locations in a source?  Entire companies like Locationary have built sophisticated matching technology to handle this.)

Assuming Bingo’s algorithm can actually match up these locations correctly, the next challenge: which data sources do they choose to actually show in the view on their live site?

Most publishers use a ranking algorithm that includes factors like source quality and recency of update to determine which fields to show.  Typically this happens at the element level – so a phone number could come from one listing, whereas an address from another.

In this case, Bingo ranks claims that have occurred in the past 3 months as the trusted source for name and address, but since a lot of businesses use tracked phone numbers in their claim (which Bingo tries to avoid), they rank the government source highest for phone number.

But, a consumer marked it as closed!  Should Bingo trust a single consumer?  Maybe it’s PizzaLand’s arch nemesis down the street who marketed it as closed.   Bingo’s algo does not consider if a single user vote is sufficient to mark a location as closed.

So the final output in the view might look something like:

PizzaLand
44 Broad Street
New York NY
212-123-0000
www.pizzaland.com

As data in the sources change, or Bingo tweaks their trust rank, whenever Bingo runs their process, the info that appears in the live view changes as well.

A great advantage of this approach for a publisher is that they can easily pull in new sources (or remove sources) and rebuild their view without an archeological dig.

But the key point is that “claims” are not the permanent record.  They are just another source of many, often ranked highly in the beginning, but losing trust quickly over time.  Claims are a tricky business for publishers.  Many of them come from brand new businesses.  Brand new businesses fail at an astounding high rate.  And how many of them notify publishers when they close?  Basically none.  So, for publishers, claims are a double-edged sword.  Primarily, they are used as a lead generation source for their local sales efforts.

Furthermore, this is a vastly oversimplified example.  In the real world, publishers take in hundreds of sources.  They deal with many duplicate listings.  They deal with closed locations.  They deal with fake claims.  They deal with constantly changing data.  They re-rank sources.

Simply put, the entire process is a mess, which is why we invented Yext – an overlay on top of the madness.

An Overlay isn’t a Problem.  It’s the Solution.

Yext is not a permanent solution” or “Yext is just an overlay”, critics say.   These critics are 100% correct about one thing – Yext is an overlay.  But this is by design. A trusted overlay is exactly how you solve the madness.

Historically, to manage a business’s local data, experts have advocated a “spray and pray” approach.  The strategy behind this approach is that, since the public has no real idea which sources any given publisher uses, and no idea how those sources are ranked, the best idea is to simply “spray” your local data to every known aggregator, update your web site, claim your business, file with all gov’t agencies, etc.  Then you “pray” that you guessed every source a publisher uses, that their matching process works, and there is no idiosyncrasy that causes your listings to show wrong data.

But with an estimated 20% of searches returning wrong data, and numerous complaints rampant throughout the industry, it’s pretty obvious there’s a huge problem here.

For clarity, I do not fault the experts for advocating this approach.  In the past, it has been the only logical approach.  But Yext has invented a better way: an overlay.

Going back to our prior example, let’s say Bingo is in the Yext PowerListings Network and accepts local data from the Yext Cloud.  And PizzaLand signs up for a PowerListings subscription.

As an overlay, the Yext data source is ranked highest for every element.  It short-circuits the rest of Bingo’s process.  Here’s the rank by element:

Source Name Address Phone Web Site Open
Yext 1 1 1 1 1
Aggregator 6 3 4 5 5
Gov’t Data File 5 4 2 3 4
Web Crawl Results 4 5 3 4 6
Claims 2 2 6 2 3
Consumer Signal 3 6 5 5 2

Here’s how the data from Yext looks in their Bingo’s source database waiting for their next build:

Source PizzaLand Location
Yext PizzaLand
212-123-0000
www.pizzaland.com
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
www.pizzaland.com
Aggregator PizzaLand
212-123-0000
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
www.pizzaland.com
Gov’t Data File Pizzaland, Inc
44 Broad Street Suite #75
New York, NY 10011
212-123-0000
Incorporation Date: 4/30/2013
Web Crawl Results PizzaLand
800-321-1234
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
www.pizzaland.com
Claims PizzaLand
44 Broad Street
New York, NY 10011
888-331-3110
www.pizzaland.com
Claim date: 5/14/13
Consumer Signal 1 user marked business as closed on 5/17/13

When it’s time for Bingo to work on the PizzaLand location, since PizzaLand appears in the Yext source, and Yext has the highest trust for every element, all the data Yext supplies shows up in the view.  It doesn’t matter if the data is present or not in the other sources.  It doesn’t matter if Bingo didn’t match up PizzaLand’s locations correctly when running their local data build.  It doesn’t matter if a rogue consumer marks something as closed.  PizzaLand’s data in Yext shows up in the live view.

The overlay approach wins.  The “spray and pray” approach is not necessary because as long as the business maintains an active subscription with Yext, the data in the other sources is not important.

When a business leaves Yext, we don’t delete their listing.  They are simply no longer active in our cloud and so the overlay no longer short-circuits a publisher’s data compilation process.  It’s back to the “spray-and-pray” approach.  With few exceptions, usually whatever was happening before starts happening again.

An Active Subscriptions Proves Existence and Ownership

We created Yext to put businesses in control of their own data, give publishers a trusted source of local data, and to get users the right data in their local searches.

The authoritative objective data about a business is known by the business itself.  So, the key for a publisher is to make sure the business actually is real (existence) and that they are receiving information about a business from the authoritative source (ownership).

The best way to knock out both of these goals is with an active, paid subscription from the business itself or an agent of the business.  A reasonable, ongoing paid subscription proves continued existence of a business.  It proves ownership.  It eliminates fraud.

A “claim”, even when properly validated, is insufficient to solve the existence and ownership problem.  It solves the problem at the exact point in time when the claim is completed.  But what happens if the business changes owners?  Or moves completely?  Or runs out of business – which a huge percentage of claims do.

I’m not trying to make a moral argument that businesses should have to pay for their listings.  Rather, I’m saying that an ongoing subscription fee to keep listings updated solves a huge structural problem in the industry by proving continued existence and ownership.

Conclusions

Publishers don’t have a master database of locations.  Typically, they pull in hundreds of sources, which they store.  They try to match locations across sources, rank sources at the element level, and periodically rebuild their dataset for their live search based on their trust levels.  Claims are not a permanent record.  They are just one source among many.

Any listings management requires ongoing work.  Whether you do it manually or use Yext (or some combination of both), an active effort is required to keep ongoing existence and ownership of the business locations you’re managing.

I will leave you with a controversial idea: I actually think Google could solve a lot of their problems by implementing a similar program to the Yext Cloud and charging a reasonable monthly amount for businesses who wish to directly control their data.  Who wouldn’t want to pay Google a bit every month to guarantee that their listings were up to date?  If a user reported something different, this could initiate a challenge for the business to respond to.

In this way, businesses would have control, Google would have continued proof of existence and ownership, and most importantly, end users would always find the right info.