As a business, you likely spend a lot of time, effort, and money reaching out and trying to draw customers to your brand. Whether it’s traditional or digital marketing, you’re always looking for the highest ROI possible for your efforts. And while these brand awareness and engagement campaigns are a vital part of your business’s growth strategy, you have to make sure that you’re not leaving money on the table by passing up the low-hanging fruit.
One of the highest-return SEO strategies is also the most overlooked–local directory optimization. Keeping your local directory listings current can help grow your business in two important ways. First, local directory optimization and clean-up boost your quality score with Google’s search algorithms. Secondly, properly optimized and correct directory listings make it easy for your target audience to find you when they’re looking for the services you provide.
The easiest way to garner new business is for customers to find and come to you. That’s why local directory optimization is so important for lead generation and business growth. Ensuring that your business can be easily found in the most popular local and industry directory listings helps put you in front of your target audience with relatively minimal effort.
We’ve pulled together this beginner’s guide to local directory optimization to give you a foundational understanding of how this tactic can support your SEO efforts, grow your online presence, and increase sales.
What Are Business Listings and Online Directories?
In past decades, we found our local businesses and services through word of mouth and physical directories like the Yellow Pages. And while we still trust personal reviews and certified directories, that information has all moved online. Instead of the Yellow Pages, we have Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and Angie’s List. Those are all “online directories.” And the contact information for a business listed in those directories is a “business listing” or “directory listing.”
Generally speaking, an online business directory is a searchable index or registry of businesses in which listings are grouped by type or category. A good business directory gathers and organizes key business information so people can easily discover, contact, and locate the businesses listed.
The listing information may vary depending on your industry and the directory, but generally, it will include:
- Your business name
- Your business address
- Your contact information (phone, email, text, etc.)
In more expanded listings, your directory listing may include information like:
- Your hours of operation
- Inbound links to your website
- Directions or a link to your GPS coordinates
- Reviews of your business/star ratings
- Links to your social media pages
Yellow Pages used to be the be-all, end-all of business directories. But now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of online directories. We’re all familiar with the Big Four: Angie’s List, Facebook, Google, and Yelp. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, especially when we’re talking about local businesses and locally-based SEO strategies.
The trick is to make sure you’re listed on as many relevant directories as possible. To gain traction with a local campaign, you have to work on appearing, not just in the big directories, but in the local and industry directories designed for your vertical. For instance, as a roofer or electrician, there likely isn’t a lot of value in appearing in a bridal directory. You’ll get a lot more traction in a remodeling or real estate directory.
Here is a very brief list of directories that work well for the home service industry:
- Google Business
- Yahoo Local Listings
- Angie’s List
- Better Business Bureau
Many of these sites also allow reviews, so you’ll want to make sure you put a management plan in place to monitor and respond to any reviews as they come in.
It’s also important to note that you’re likely listed in directories you’ve never even heard of. Many directories are now capable of skimming business information from larger sites and lists and automatically generating listings without you ever having to sign up for them. This can be a helpful tool, but it can also hurt your business if the information listed is old or incorrect.
The Top 3 Reasons to Invest in Local Directory Optimization
1. Visibility and Search Engine Optimization
Properly optimized directory listings are especially important for local businesses. If potential customers can’t find you on the first page of Google or within the first five seconds of a directory search, you may as well not exist. It sounds harsh, but with the average attention span online now at about eight seconds, you have to do everything you can to push your listing to the top of the search results–and that means investing in local directory optimization.
Luckily, the actual secret to optimizing your directory listings is simple. You just have to make sure that all of your information is correct and that it all matches exactly across every listing. We cannot emphasize the importance of this enough.
The reason it’s so important that your information is consistent and identical is that Google’s algorithms use these directory listings as a factor in your search results rankings and overall business quality score. Google’s number one priority is to give searchers exactly what they are looking for on the first try. They accomplish this by creating algorithms that take into account, among other things, the legitimacy of the source of information.
When all of your information matches across multiple trusted sources, Google takes this as a sign of legitimacy and places you higher in the search results because it’s more likely that you are what the searcher is looking for.
On the other hand, if you have listings with three different phone numbers, mismatched addresses, or misspelled business names, Google will see you as less legitimate and will push you down in the rankings to avoid giving searchers bad information.
2. Building Brand Awareness
Being listed in all of the local and significant directories is a little like investing in a billboard strategy–the goal is name recognition and consistency. When your customers see your name over and over in all of the directories they visit as they research local HVAC companies, it creates a subconscious level of trust. The more they see your company name and information, the more legitimate and successful your business appears.
Ensuring that your information is filled out completely and updated regularly sends a message of reliability and attention to detail that is attractive to customers. Most directory listings (like Facebook and Google Business) allow pictures, videos, social media links, and customer feedback. Make sure you’re taking advantage of the opportunity to further your brand story and engage with your audience.
If nothing else convinces you, think of it this way–would you accept a friend request on Facebook from someone with no profile picture and a misspelled bio? No. For exactly the same reasons, your potential customers don’t frequent businesses with no picture, no information listed, or who only have one review with no words attached.
These seem like small things, but they are powerful psychological indicators that we, as internet-age consumers, have learned to process in less than a second. And in a world whose attention span is rapidly shrinking, you may not get a chance for a second impression.
Backlinks are also sometimes called “inbound links.” Backlinks are links on other websites that lead to your main website when they’re clicked. Directories often allow you to list a link to your website so people can learn more about your business or contact you online.
The more backlinks you have scattered across the internet, the better. Search engines factor backlinks to your website into their legitimacy algorithms. The better known the site is (think Angie’s List), the more “points” you get for the backlink. As your points add up, your quality and trust “scores” increase, and Google pushes you higher up in the rankings. (The same is true for search engines like Yahoo and Bing, but for ease of understanding, we use Google as an example for all search engines.)
This improves your directory listing SEO as well as your website’s SEO, meaning you’ll be easier to find, rank higher, and–ultimately–attract more customers!
How to Manage Your Business’s Directory Listings
SEO Tribunal recently conducted a study that found 97% of people learn more about local companies online than anywhere else. And Hubspot released a study on marketing statistics which found that of consumers who did a local search, 72% then visited a store within five miles.
There’s no doubt that local directory optimization should be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy. But how do you get started?
First, you have to compile all of your current information. Then, we suggest Googling your business and checking the business page results. Make sure that you own your business’s page and that the information is all correct and current. Do the same for Facebook, Angie’s List, and the other major directories.
Most directories use their own private data management systems and compilation methods, which means you often have to claim your listing and/or page and fill out the information in their individual systems. This means that, while not difficult, the task of optimizing and managing your directory listings can be both time-consuming and tedious.
On top of that, mere search engine results often don’t allow you to dig deep enough to find every single directory listing your business has on the internet. And what happens when you change your phone number, move your business, or change your name? You have to ensure that you have an ongoing management plan for your directory listings to truly use them to your business’s advantage. Luckily there are businesses that specialize in local directory optimization and management.
The Surefire Local Marketing Platform offers review and listing management software designed to help you build a trusted, cohesive brand across 70+ sites and directories. Enter your information once, and it’s updated on all supported directory listings! You can also request and respond to reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp and publish content and special offers–all through one, centrally located platform.
Surefire built this specialized local directory optimization software to help small businesses rank higher in search engine results in a consistent, coordinated, cost-effective way. We’d love to help make your life easier by reducing your workload and consolidating your digital marketing efforts. Contact us for more information on how we can help you manage your online directory listings!