local media insider
Review

What's Yext? What digital agency resellers should know about this DIY competitor

Friend, frenemy or enemy? Selling against a top DIY presence builder

Alisa Cromer
Posted

Savvy local businesses checking online for a listing distribution platform often find  Yext; the company is one of the best known competitors to local media companies that offer listing distribution as part of a digital marketing program.

LocalMediaInsider saw a sales rep lose a $600 a month customer for a three-month package that included listing distribution after the customer found Yext online promising "$99 a year" for listings correction.

And Yext is well financed for the battle: It has received $115 million in funding ($50 mllion of it raised in June, 2014), signed up 250,000 businesses and was ranked  #20 in Most Promising Companies by Forbes in 2014.

Yext also aggressively partners with small digital agencies of all kinds, so sales reps wind up selling against this product without even knowing it. 

So what exactly does Yext sell, and how can media resellers of digital presence services compete?

This report focuses on how Yext compares to white labeled media partnerships such as  Vendasta. We also touch briefly on how Yext's own partnership program works.

From a competitive standpoint in the listings distribution space, there are four areas SMB's are interested in: Price, methodology (ie does it work and who owns the listing changes), integration (what else you can get from the platform) and speed (how long does it take the changes to load).

What SMB's typically look at first is pricing. Yext no longer starts with a $99 package; the new starting price as of July, 2014 is up to $199. Here's the promotion SMB's see when they go to the sign up funnel:

What SMB's actually get for $199 a year is a small partial list of directories, fed by API, so the corrections go live almost immediately. For SMB's the advantage is the promise of a low one time charge, and speed, but this package doesn't hit enough directories to get the job done. Yext partners do not even sell this option. The next package is $450 and includes 35 much better directories such as Yelp, Mapquest and Local.com.

Then there is a $490 option for both, plus a dedicated account manager. So this is really the most competitive package - think $500 a year.  The premium package includes review monitoring, analytics and training, raising the cost to $1,000 a year. This is the package that newly includes "aggregator services" - more on that below.

Vendasta's wholesale rate for listing distribution alone is so much lower, so unless there is confusion around price, it's easy for media resellers of Vendasta to mark up the platform and still charge 50% less than the $500 option.

But SMB's are notoriously whole dollar sensitive. So in the confusion over digital marketing packages, be careful that clients do not compare Yext's lowest  price to the price of a package that includes more Vendasta services.

Beyond price, a significant difference is that Vendasta's model updates directly to the four major databases that feed all other directories,  rather than correcting only  the top 53  directories by API. So Vendasta has been selling a more complete solution that takes longer - 30 to 60 days, in fact - to populate. SMB's hate waiting while paying one to two months to see the results.

Yext's faster posting time could be valuable to some multi-location businesses that make changes rapidly and often, but it is not complete. Yext is moving to the database - or aggregator distribution - model for the premium option, but will only include three of the four databases.

The biggest downfall of the API model over the aggregator model however, is the ability for SMB's to own the updates they purchased.

API's create 'locked' listings - literally data for the new listing is overlaid on the old listing, which is  locked so that the clients cannot update it themselves - with the exception of Yelp. So if the customer stops paying, all the information comes down, restoring the listing to whatever errors and omissions it originally had before the investment. Ouch.

It works like this: Yext finds and updates listings, then puts a lock around it and sets up a direct feed, preventing SMB's from changing the original data. When a client cancels, the lock gets shut off, the data reverts to the original listing, that still exist in a layer underneath the feed, and the SMB loses the changes they have paid for.

Yext's premium option that includes posting to three of the four databases still leaves 25% of the data uncleaned, but does make the company more competitive.

Additionally, Vendasta's platform has more features as the premium pricing kicks in.  Few businesses thrive on search alone, and media are getting much better at  packaging presence with other kinds of marketing further up the sales funnel.  Many of these are included  in Vendasta's dashboard, or media companies can use a separate platform that integrates Vendasta - ClickFuel or TapClicks - but not Yext.

Vendasta's premium buys include a variety of better marketing tools, such as a reputation monitoring tool (so does Yext, but only a few review sites, while Vendasta has them all), tools for one click social postings and creation of mobile or simple responsive sites all with a single integrated analytics dashboard.

Bundling these services, however, can create confusion by eliminating pricing transparency. Essentially, the discount on the listing distribution is hidden in more expensive bundles. The SMB may select the lowest price, such as the $199 a year option, as opposed to the $300 to $400 a month annual plan pitched by the media reseller which includes additional marketing tools and services.

Keep in mind that the competitive landscape for listings distribution options includes  SMB's attempting to update manually themselves; using other tools found online, asking an employee to do it or hiring a different professional or media company.

This analysis of the options from an SMB perspective, created by Marc Prosser, Publisher of fitsmallbusiness.com, shows how the "free" DIY model in reality involves 10 to 20 of someone's time. Vendasta is not on here, but beats both of these paid options in terms of price and completeness.

Yext Review Versus DIY


DIY
Professional
Yext
Cost
Free $200 to $500 (one time fee) $500 (annual fee)
Time (Effort)
10 – 20 Hours Less Than 2 Hours Less Than 2 Hours
Number of Listings
30 – 60 50 – 120 47
Google + Local Listing Page Creation
Yes. No. Google requires address confirmation using a calling in a code sent by postcard. No.
Benefits For Google Local Search Rankings
Yes. Having 20 or so structured citations from high quality sites will help. Yes. Having 20 or so structured citations from high quality sites will help. Yes. Having 20 or so structured citations from high quality sites will help.
Yahoo Enhanced Local Listing
No. It costs $9.95 per month. No. No.
Time For Listings To Go Live
Greatly Varies from a few hours to several weeks. Greatly Varies from a few hours to several weeks. The majority go live instantly.
Ability To Update
Manually Manually Yes

Here's Prosser take on "When should I use Yext?" from the standpoint of a business.

●    If I had a grand opening or was going to be moving my business in the near future.
●    If I had multiple locations which frequently changed hours and/or specials.

Also, when bundling presence, keep in mind that other DIY platforms that competing marketers use price more aggressively than Yext. For example, MOZ is a DIY competitor that charges only $49 a year for basic listing distribution on the aggregator model, but does not include the full analytics until the next level. 

Synup, advertises as "Yext alternative" key word "Yext" takes you to this landing page, onto their website. The pitch: Why spend $500 when you can get the same for $50?

It looks to us like the pricing for listing distribution will inevitably fall below the $500 Yext charges, but that there will be more inexpensive options.

The safest way to navigate a competitive terrain changing this rapidly is to stay focused on the needs analysis and act as an educator of options. Let SMB's know they are saving money on listing distribution because it has been "built in" and is a "negligible part of" the price of their new proactive digital marketing plan. If the competitor is Yext you may want to disclose the actual price difference, it will typically be substantially - 50% or more - less.

Finally, keep in mind that Yext also has an array of ugly online reviews. Issues include lack of pricing transparency and aggressive sales people, but what SMB's really hate enough to talk about online is that they don't own the changes they paid Yext to make.

About Yext's partnership program: It seems scaled for much smaller companies. Breaks come at 5, 10, 20 and 50 licenses (that is per address), while the price breaks for Vendasta start at 250 licenses.

In fact, every DIY business that goes through Yext's online sales funnel is offered the opportunity to become a reseller, and, if they click "yes", taken down another sales funnel.

Partners are not allowed to sell the $199 option. Premium accounts include duplicate suppression (this allows you to manually correct duplicates) and the aggregator's solution, which was set to launch July 14, and includes posting to three of the four major databases, Infogroup, Axiom and Factual, but not Localeze/Nuestar. For those interested, here is the partnership program pricing:

The pricing charged to partners by Vendasta, for listing distribution only, is a fraction of this number. Another downside of partnering with Yext is that multi-location companies that have 25 accounts or more are reserved for their own enterprise team.

For partners, the fear of losing data changes may seem to provide a certain stickiness for customers. But as shown above, the aggregator model is stronger and the "truth" about presence services eventually trickles around the web anyway.

User-reviews on companies mentioned may be found in the links below to MediaExecsTech.com.

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

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