Many people look at an online directory when in need of a particular service. These directories are submission-based online services. They are also called citations or citation sites. Over 90% of consumers use a search engine to shop locally but these directories are not just an online version of the phone book. The focuses of online directories are customer reviews, enabling side-by-side comparisons, GPS/map location, and industry specific niches. They allow you to share essential information about your products or services and support instant search of an industry or occupation.
Online directory listings also provide opportunities to gain consumer reviews. Customer review components provide a channel for word-of-mouth references and can increase traffic to your website. They provide social proof of your trustworthiness and the value of your products or services. It is important to regularly check listings for customer reviews and to respond to both positive and negative reviews in a professional manner. This practice will strengthen your reputation and help to build trust/customer loyalty.
It is also important to check for accuracy across all online directories that feature your business. Data entry should be exactly the same for all directories and should match what is on your website. You want all listings to match so Google bots, and other search engines, will pull your business for search result lists. Even small differences such as “W” instead of “West” on a street address will make Google think the entries represent different businesses.
Citation sites can help owners find new customers and diversify traffic sources. Multiple interactions are required to gain new customers so even if someone simply sees your company name, it may help gain future business. Many are free or have free components but it is well worth the money to unlock extra features and/or an enhanced profile.
Listing your business in online directories improves your online visibility. It helps people find your business, expands your reach, and allows you to have an online presence anywhere consumers might try to discover you or a business like yours. These directories are an opportunity to build your brand and increase brand awareness and recognition.
They are an effective way to target prospective clients because they can focus on an audience based on profile categories, product or services. You can be discovered through categories even if the consumer is unfamiliar with your business name. Online directories are an inexpensive yet effective means of advertising. Your business is promoted through indirect marketing and the links provide easy engagement opportunities for consumers.
Listings in online directories boost your search engine ranking – the URL to your site is a valuable inbound link. Directories, for the most part, are trusted by search engines as a legitimate source. The more places your company is listed, the more you are validated in the eyes of Google, et al. Your listings also legitimize your business for the general public and give it a professional image which helps develop your business reputation. You can also attach social media profiles for cross-promotion.
Use only reputable directories that market themselves to consumers, have high editorial standards, and focus on offering businesses true value by connecting them to customers not just boosting SEO. Your business may already be listed on a search engine but it is still important for you to claim your business page. Claiming your online directory listings allows you to edit company information, customize your business profile, and respond to customer reviews.
Google, Bing and Yahoo have the largest online directories but being (accurately) listed in other, smaller directories will give the big three search engines more reason to show your business in search results. Many of those smaller directories automatically pull from the larger listing sites. This is why it is doubly important to ensure that all listings are identical. It is highly recommended that you track your listings for an easier time of checking for accuracy and updating when needed.
Google My Business (GMB): is a local directory. Listing here ensures that locations are correctly displayed on Google Maps. GMB lets you post pictures and special offers and allows you to respond to consumer reviews. Many other listing sites pull from GMB and a majority of searches are done on Google so it is important to claim your GMB page.
It has been found that the top three Google Maps search results get a majority of clicks. Factors used to pull search results are the number of listings a business has on other sites, consistency between listings, the number of Google reviews and overall ratings, and your website. Google checks to see if your site is mobile friendly, how much content is on the site, and how relevant the content is to the search.
Facebook for Business: a business profile is similar to an individual profile on Facebook. If you have an actual location, you should also get listed on Facebook Places which provides consumers with the ability to check-in, like, “I’m shopping at …” or, “Getting my nails done at…” As with other directories, you should claim your Facebook Place listing to maintain control over the information posted there.
Yelp: provides customer feedback opportunities as well as the ability for companies to respond to the feedback. These reviews provide social proof of the trustworthiness of your business so be sure to create and claim your business listing. Yelp also provides a reporting tool that tracks trends.
Yahoo Local: has maps and reviews. This directory can be a free option although premium services and cross-listing on Yahoo’s network require a fee.
Bing Places for Business: was created to help small businesses be found by Microsoft’s search engine. Bing lets you add up to ten categories to be found under, has map locations, photos, and reviews from Yelp. You have to claim your Bing business listing to be able to verify and add information.
Foursquare for Business: lets users share information about their favorite businesses. This directory also allows comments via Twitter and check-in locations.
Angie’s List: provides extensive feedback/review opportunities. The reviews are certified and can’t be anonymous. Angie’s list is great for service-based businesses.
When deciding what to include in your directory listings, be aware Google research reports that customers frequently search for hours of operation, product information, location and directions, reviews, and coupons or special offers. It is recommended to include your business name, physical address, main phone number, email and website. You should also include your hours of business, a brief description with embedded keywords, your logo or picture, and social media links. Be thoughtful when choosing business categories for search purposes as most directories limit the number you can have attached to your listing.
The more sites that correctly list your information, the more likely it is your business will be found as part of a search. If you are ready to find out more about online directories, how to get started, or how to more effectively manage your existing listings, contact us today.