Once upon a time, there was this archaic device called a telephone book. Depending on where you lived, the size of this directory could be unwieldy. As a business, if you didn’t make it into the directory for it’s annual publication, you were out of luck until next year.
Thankfully, those days are over.
Today, businesses depend upon online directories to make it easy for customers to find out everything they need to know. The premise of directory listings is simple, but the impact on local SEO can’t be overstated.
Just how important are directory listings, you ask? Well, let’s take a deeper look.
First, What’s a Directory Listing?
A directory listing is a local business listing that includes your NAP (name, address and phone number), along with some other information that can be very important to the success of your local SEO. There’s a practically endless list of online directories at your disposal, and most of them are free.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, LinkedIn or YP.com? These are just a few of the most popular directories for your business. But, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out there.
Unlike those old, archaic versions, online directories are more than a tool for a customer to find your phone number. They’re platforms that allows users to find out crucial information about the businesses they want to engage with.
Think of your directory listing as an introduction. The customer is there, looking for something specific, and you show up to say hello. It’s a first impression, and we all know how much this matters.
By optimizing your directory listings, you can win customers over instantly.
Directories Amplify Your Visibility
The effect of directories on your online visibility is exponential.
With some directories, you need to take the initiative to claim your business. Take for example, you Google My Business (GMB) listing. GMB offers businesses the opportunity to shape their online directory presence and keep it current with regular updates and customer reviews. The only thing you need to use GMB is claim your business on it.
Then there are other directories that rely on customer feedback. Take Yelp, for example where it’s important to have accurate information, but customer reviews are what the platform is built around. Then, there are directories that don’t count on business or customers directly. They just pull information about businesses from whatever sites they can to complete their own directory.
Basically, once you’re in a directory or two, expect that number to grow. This is why you might find yourself in directories that you’ve never even heard of. With each directory entry, your visibility grows.
Generally speaking, this is great for your business. The more people that see you the better. Except, that with each new directory you’re listed in, it becomes easier to lose track of what’s being said and reported about your business. This brings us to our next point.
Accuracy Is Everything
Let’s say you’re looking for that great vintage décor store that you’ve heard a few people talking about. You turn to Google and find a listing for it pretty quickly. You note the location and hours, but before you back out, you glance down and see a few reviews on Yelp.
Cool. Now you can see what others are saying before you make the trip.
You like what you see, but wait. The hours of operation say they close at 5pm, but Google said they were open until 7pm. You look at the time and realize with traffic, you’d never make it there on time, so you don’t even bother. The fact that they can’t get something as simple as their hours of operation right across the board leaves you questioning them.
You might try again tomorrow, or you might never try again at all.
This is what happens every time a customer encounters inconsistent information about your business in directories. It could be that your details are different between one directory and the next. Or, maybe what the directory says doesn’t align with what’s stated on your site. Either way, it’s confusing to the customer. Why should they need to dig for accurate information, when you’re the one that wants their business?
To optimize the potential of directory listings in your local SEO campaign, you need to be making the effort to regularly check your listings for accurate information. This includes directories that you know your business is listed on, along with a search to find the entries you might not be aware of.
This is especially important every time there’s a change of information for your business. This includes a new location, phone number, email, website, hours or even a change in services like a seasonal menu. You want your customers to have accurate information, wherever they are when they find you.
Taking the time to check for accuracies means more customers landing at your doorstep, and there’s nothing better for your business.
Don’t Forget About Google
Google. If you’re shoulder deep in developing a local SEO strategy, you’re probably a little tired of hearing about the search engine giant. It might even feel like Google is controlling your fate, and the truth is that in a sense, they are.
You have the fact that you’re a local business going for you. Google wants to please its users, and prioritizing local businesses is just one way they do this. Google also has complex metrics that they use to determine your “worthiness” of a page one ranking.
A big part of this is what the search engine finds in directories.
There are two things, commonly found in directories, that are key for your ranking. The first is consistency. Like we just mentioned, customers want consistent information. When Google looks at your directory listings, if inconsistencies are noted, it’s going to lend an air of untrustworthiness to your business. This counts as a Google strike against you.
Secondly, ratings and reviews matter too. People want to see them, all of them. This includes the good, mediocre, and the ugly (which hopefully there are very few of). Honest reviews found in directories are important. But, don’t try to create the illusion of something that doesn’t exist. Purchased reviews can hurt your image more than a few negative ones. Work on building up your reviews through customer engagement instead.
It’s time for your business to get noticed. A presence in business directories is an important component of a strong local SEO strategy. We would like to help you build your digital reputation. Contact Knowmad today to learn more about local SEO and what it can do for your business.
Diona is a managing partner at Knowmad. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing strategy, project management, brand management, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising, inbound marketing, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, social media marketing and website design.