The days of thumbing through a phone book like the Yellow Pages to find a local business are over (at least for most people), and the age of online business directories has begun.
Whether your business is purely online or you run a small local outfit, online business directories have a role to play in your marketing strategy and can be a powerful tool for increasing your business’ reach.
This guide discusses the role of online business directories - how they work and some of the advantages they can offer to businesses. We also take a look at some of the differences between the various directories, and offer some tips for getting the most out of one of the largest directories of all: Google My Business.
A business directory is a searchable online registry or index of businesses, where listings are grouped according to a category or type.
Business directories collate and present, in a readily digestible format, the key information of the businesses listed within the directory. The purpose of business directories is to provide the user base with the information they need to become aware of, contact, locate and otherwise interact with businesses.
The information shown in a directory regarding a given business will normally include the business name, address and contact details, opening hours, photos, inbound links to the business website, and directions. Depending on the directory, listings may also include user functions such as the option to review the business, or share information about it on social media platforms such as Facebook.
While features and functions may very from directory to directory, the principal function of all business directories is essentially the same.
Online directories operate by receiving business listing submissions, usually from the business owner. This information is then listed in a searchable format.
The best way to capitalise on the benefits of business directories is to have a business listed on as many quality, relevant online directories as possible. The first thing to do is consider which directories are going to be suitable to a particular business. There is little value in listing a wedding dress business, for instance, on a directory that specialises in manual trades.
Once the appropriate online directories have been selected, a business should be registered with them. It is important to carefully select a suitable category for the business. Next, all of the business’ relevant data should be provided, including basic contact and address details, the website name and URL, as well as a brief description of the website. Be sure to think about keywords that correctly describe the contents of the website — you’ll want to include these in your description.
There are many advantages of having a business listed on an online business directory. Here are four of the most important.
Online business directories are an excellent way of amplifying a business’ visibility. Not only does it mean that business is available to be found in more places, but search engines like Google typically treat businesses listed on directories favourably when producing search results. A business is more likely to rank highly in search results if the Google algorithm can see that it has a genuine presence (and reviews) on quality online directories. In plain English, Internet users will be able to find that business more easily when they search for it.
Online directory websites are generally optimised for the smartphone experience. The benefit of this is that more and more people are searching for local businesses using smartphones. Optimising directory websites for smartphone users makes businesses more visible by attracting more traffic to the listing and increases the likelihood of users staying on the website for longer.
Having business directory listings in a local business directory can help to strengthen your brand profile. Online directory listings can include much more than just the business name, address and phone number (NAP); content such as social media links, photos/videos, customer feedback options and promotions are an excellent way of helping customers interact with a business more meaningfully than just viewing its listing. An attractive, interactive listing enhances a business’ local visibility by helping users do some of the marketing. Additionally, listings on quality directory sites helps to build trust in consumers that you are a genuine and reputable business.
Inbound links (also known as backlinks) are links which lead towards your main website from other websites (such as business directories). Having more of these in more places on the Internet is a great way of boosting a business’ popularity and reputation with search engines. This in turn can enhance a business’ search engine performance. Online directories provide a great place for inbound links that direct people to your main website and improve its SEO.
In addition to their individual benefits, all of these advantages help to boost a business’ SEO performance.
Online local business directories, as the name suggests, are online business directories which focus on local businesses with a specific physical location. Generally speaking, local business directories only list small or medium-sized local businesses that service a specific, immediate location (such as a local hairdresser or plumber), and will not list businesses that exist solely online.
A local business directory may feature listings across a broad range of business categories, or may be concentrated within a specific industry niche. We discuss this distinction in more detail below.
Local directories compile and list local business information to make it easy for consumers to find local products and services, and to interact with the businesses that provide these.
Below is a list of some of the best and most effective local business directories:
Broadly speaking, online business directories take two forms:
There are advantages and disadvantages of each of type of directory, and a business should not necessarily choose only one type to be listed on.
General multiple niche directories like Google My Business garner a huge overall amount of traffic, and — as discussed further below — are often the starting point for people searching for businesses online. Because of their size and reputation, they often rank highly in search results.
On the other hand, specific niche directories can generally lay claim to better expertise, as they focus on one or only a few specific areas . These directories might provide content or information that is pertinent to businesses in that particular industry, which a user wouldn’t find on a general business directory. Serious consumers are therefore more likely to place greater faith in specific niche directories over a broad directory that simply lists everything. For these reasons, specific niche directories can offer a status and reputation that only comes with being listed in their database.
Also, while specific niche directories might receive less traffic overall, the quality of the traffic is often better. Internet users who search on specific niche directories are more likely to make a purchase (or have a specific need to fill), so the conversion rate is likely to be higher.
The importance of all these factors will vary depending on the business niche and type, and the behaviour of consumers in that industry. An industry-leading B2B directory that specialises in casting agencies, for example, might be the place for production companies to source casting agencies. In that case, production companies are likely to assume that all reputable casting agencies are listed there — if a company is not, it’s not worth talking to.In that instance, it might be far more important for a casting agency business to be listed on that directory rather than Google My Business.
The best advice, generally speaking is that it is wise for businesses to take advantage of each type of business directory by ensuring they are listed on the big directories, as well as a few more specific niche directories relevant to their industry.
Google My Business is the single largest online business directory and in many ways the most important. It regularly serves as the starting point for users searching for a business online. While it may not provide the detailed information that could be found on a specialised directory, it is very often the first port of call. For this reason, Google My Business really is the first place to start for businesses entering the world of online business directories. Here we discuss how you can do just that.
To get started using Google My Business, head to the website here.
Once there, you need to register your business by following these steps:
You will then need to select a verification option. Normally this needs to be done by post, in which case Google will send a postcard with a verification code to the business address. Other options are available but only for select businesses. Click the ‘Learn More’ button for more information.Alternatively you can opt to verify the business later by clicking the button.
Google My Business is a great way to increase your business’ profile and to entice more people to visit your business. To do so, it’s important to ensure that your Google My Business listing contains accurate and complete information. Ensure that basic information such as contact details, address and opening hours are correct, and that any changes to your details are updated as soon as possible.
Adding more detail or content to your listing is also beneficial. Make sure your location is specific and include other content such as photos that improve the overall experience and understanding a user can gain from the listing.
Being active on the listing also helps. Keep a regular eye out for reviews left by users and ensure that you respond to them. Make sure you capitalise on positive reviews. This improves the overall customer experience and by extension, your listing’s popularity.
Online business directories are a key component of the marketing strategy for businesses. They improve a business’ overall visibility, enhance its performance on search engines, and serve to create a better experience for potential customers.
If a business is not taking advantage of these, it is surely missing out on reaching potential new clients and the greater return on investment that follows.
If you want to learn more or are ready to get your business out there, get in touch with us and we can show you how to get the most out of online business directories to take your business to the next level.