Have you ever read about online listings and seen the terms “data aggregator” or “data mining” somewhere in the text? If you’re like most business owners, it’s probably happened at least once or twice. And you’re probably asking, “Exactly what are data aggregators?”

Data aggregators aren’t often talked about in depth. Even the phrase itself kind of sounds a bit uninteresting and techy. But small business owners should know what data aggregators are because they play an integral role in a business’s online presence.

Who they are and what they do is shrouded in some mystery. This frustrates business owners trying to fix incorrect online listings. So it’s time to lift the veil on data aggregators and reveal how they’re a potentially powerful ally for your small business.

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What are data aggregators? (In a Nutshell)

The role of data aggregators is to collect and share information online. Data aggregators typically “mine” for it via public records as well as other online sources. Then, they circulate it across many online directories and listings sites.

How many? Take a look at the graphic below and see for yourself.

How do data aggregators work? Check out this map to see how they work in the local search ecosystem.

©2009-2014 David Mihm, Inc. and SEOMoz, Inc.

If you’ve ever spotted your business information on an online listings site and said, “Wait a sec — I didn’t put this here!”, it’s very likely it came from a data aggregator. What are data aggregators thinking doing this?

Unless you do business under a rock on a deserted island (and of course you don’t), it’s impossible to prevent data aggregators from gathering and sharing your information.

Some business owners delete their listings from online directories and later find they come right back. Data aggregators automatically resend the information to the directory site, which is why this happens.

Trying to stop data aggregators from sharing your business information usually ends up being a major time suck because of the steps involved. Instead, center your data aggregator strategy around ensuring the information they spread about your business is correct.

What Are the 4 Major Local Data Aggregators You Need to Know

There are 4 data aggregation heavyweights in the U.S. Here’s some brief information on each one.

  1. Infogroup — Infogroup’s reach is significant due to the number of databases it owns. Its ExpressUpdate database houses business listings, which are then shared with major listings sites like Yelp, Yahoo, and Superpages.
  2. Axciom — Acxiom touts transparency and accuracy in their listings, so their verification process when claiming your listing is stricter than most. Their partners include social media giants like Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Localeze — Localeze is the only data aggregator that charges a fee to give a business owner control over their listing. Some of their listing partners are Apple, YellowPages.com and Nokia.
  4. Factual — Factual requires business owners to go through what they call a Trusted Data Contributor (TDC) to add or update listings. They focus on geolocation data and their partners include Uber, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

Pro Tip: Ever wondered how your mobile GPS apps and car navigation systems know what restaurants, hotels or gas stations are near you? Some data aggregators provide that information in real time to manufacturers, so you can then get it while you’re on the go.

How much of that information is correct?

Now that you can answer the question, “What are data aggregators?” and you understand how they get your business information online, let’s look at how much of it is accurate.

How are data aggregators different from advertisers? Data aggregators get their information from many different sources, so unfortunately, it’s not always correct. If data aggregators have it wrong, the online listings sites they push your information to have it wrong too.

Picture this: You’re hungry and craving a burger while out of town on business. You whip out your smartphone and search until you find a local burger place that looks good. You check their hours and location, and head down there only to discover they’re closed today. (Grrr!)

Now you’re hungry and probably ticked off too. You’re also tempted to leave the place a Google review complaining about the incorrect info and how they wasted your time. And that review will stay out there for everyone to see. See where I’m going with this?

A business with inconsistent online information doesn’t exactly look trustworthy to consumers. 97% of people search online to find local businesses, and 80% of them lose trust in businesses with incorrect online listings. With those kinds of numbers, the potential for lost business is something you can’t afford.

Search engines also don’t take too kindly to businesses with bad information. They’ll penalize you by showing your business less often in search results, which tanks your SEO ranking. If they don’t show your business, you aren’t going to get found. And what gets affected by that? You guessed it — your revenue.

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So what can you do about data aggregators?

What data aggregators are great at is gathering and sharing information. But they aren’t directly invested in your business. So they’re not going to perform checks to make sure your information is accurate. That responsibility falls to business owners.

Don’t fret, though — taking control of your business information doesn’t have to be hard.

  1. Start by searching for your business on Google. Pay attention to Google listings as well as the organic search results just below them. Can you find your information, and if so, does it look correct?
  2. Check links to online listings sites containing your business information. If you find inaccuracies in online listings sites you know you weren’t responsible for, that’s a good sign those might be due to data aggregators. You might even find duplicate business listings. Those usually occur because of a past business name, address, or phone number changes.
  3. Look into citation-building providers like Yext. They update your information across online listings sites and directories. Citations are online mentions of your business name, address and phone number (NAP), which impact your SEO. Some citation builders will send business information to data aggregators for you.
  4. Update your information through data aggregators directly. Don’t worry about them being uncooperative, because they’re surprisingly not. They want the data they send out to be accurate. So what better way than to get information directly from a business owner?

But it’s time-consuming to create and manage multiple accounts with data aggregators and citation builders. Instead, look for an do-it-all tool like Thryv that uploads your information, pushes it online (including to data aggregators), and locks it down, keeping it accurate until you need to make changes down the line.