Before we had the internet, when telephones were king, it was essential for businesses to be listed in the phone directory and specialist guides like the Yellow Pages. However, in the era of the world wide web and with the advent of social media, those old-fashioned directories have largely become obsolete. The directory concept on the other hand, has not, and there are now many online business directories with large user bases. Taken together, these directories are just as important as the old Yellow Pages, especially for local businesses.In order to maximise a business’ visibility, it is imperative that it be listed on these sites. What follows is a quick explainer with everything you need to know when using local business directory sites.
Local business directories are indexes of businesses that exist in a specific geographical area or location. Directories list, collate and present information about those businesses and make it available to users in a digestible and accessible format. One can generally be confident that directory sites will feature listings created by businesses themselves, not by bots or users.
Essentially, there are two types of online business directory:
More particular distinctions may be drawn between various directories. Some are more prevalent in certain parts of the world, or are more popular with certain demographic cohorts. Some are linked to Google or Apple Maps, adding extra functionality for drivers. Others are adapted for non-English speakers and tourists. The key to using these local business listings is to sign up to as many relevant sites as possible. The word "relevant" is key here. As we shall see, it may not be necessary to spend time creating listings on every site around. It is likely to be far more productive to spend time on the directories that matter.
Before we discuss which local business directories are most relevant to a company, it's important to understand the benefits of being listed. While simply being there on the directory will mean users can find a listing, the benefits extend beyond this.
Firstly, having a business listed on the right directories can enhance its visibility by providing it with a search engine optimisation (SEO) bonus. Google is more likely to rank the business’ content highly if it has a genuine presence (and reviews) at major directories, as well as a Google Business listing. This SEO benefit can be particularly powerful if a directory listings contain links to the business’ main website (known as ‘backlinks’).
Secondly, a local business directory can help to build up a local business’ profile. A listing can generally include things like location information, contact details, customer feedback, promotions, social media links and even video or audio files. By making its profile as attractive and informative as possible, a local business can become more visible for web users in the area and can help them to engage with the company more effectively.
Finally, local business directory sites are generally well adapted to the era of smartphones, optimising the experience for users who access them on a phone. It is now well known that when people look for local businesses, more often than not they do so via smartphones. According to Google, smartphone searches about "where to buy" increased by 85% from 2015 to 2017, leading millions of people towards listings sites. Many local business listings are optimised to attract this traffic, and a local business can benefit from being part of the action.
Local business directories are undoubtedly beneficial for small and medium sized firms looking to maximise their local sales, The question is, which of these sites can offer the most productive return on investment for a given business? To begin with, there are the big directories, like Google Maps and Apple Maps. Businesses absolutely need a presence on these larger listings sites, whatever sector they are involved in. The same applies to 192.com, which has huge reach across the UK. These giants are not the end of the story, however.
There are also many less well-known specialist directories. These are often popular with B2B customers who have their own unique requirements, or shoppers in certain niches who want to zero in on the perfect place to buy. Sites like Business Network are ideally suited to B2B networks, with wide coverage among businesses like plasterers, glaziers, architects or plumbers. Just Landed is geared towards expatriates who have come to the UK to live and work, so is especially relevant for tourism and hospitality businesses. Other directories are connected to certain groups, such as readers of newspapers like the Sun or the Mirror.
All in all, there are around 50 directories worth considering in the UK, and each of them has its own unique focus and features. We know all of them well, and select the right mix for each customer. To help you get started, here are a few quick profiles of some of the most effective local listing sites.
Powered by The Local Data Company, Localdatasearch is a free online directory for businesses with a physical address. All listings need to be validated by one of the team’s researchers before they are displayed on the website and on the company’s partner directories. With your directory listing, you can choose to include business hours, your website and your Twitter handle along with the usual, basic information.
Tupalo allows its users to create lists of their favourite spots and places they want to visit in the near future. It is similar to a travel planner in that they can choose where they want to go or keep a record of places they have already visited. This business directory is particularly useful for bricks-and-mortar businesses in the restaurant, shops and entertainment categories.
Over 1.4 million companies are registered with Spoke, a business directory that lets you take control of your business information. It is one of the few directories that also lets you sign up via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is also unique in that it lets you include press releases, even those uploaded via sites such as PR Newswire.
UK Small Business Directory has around 225,000 businesses listed and has been operating since 2004. It is a no-frills directory which focuses on small businesses in the UK. A basic listing is free, however, you can upgrade to include social media information, a link to your website and more prominence over businesses with the basic membership.
Opendi was founded in Germany but the UK version lists more than 1.8 million businesses. Over 9 million people from across the world use Opendi every month to find business profiles, their URLs and reviews left by other customers.
Misterwhat business directory is one of the few directories that is 100% free. It does not charge for upgraded listings, so there is no need to worry about that dreaded upsell phone call. All listings have the opportunity to add a variety of features including:
More than just an online-only directory, businesses registered on Scoot can also be found on its extended network which includes touchlocal.com, ask.com, The Sun and The Independent. It is free to list your business on the Scoot directory and a range of paid services are also available to enhance your online presence.
Chances are you’ve used Foursquare to find recommendations for places that your friends already love, but don’t dismiss the fact that this is actually a business directory. Not only can users leave reviews of their favourite businesses, they can also ‘check-in’, which creates a social aspect to the directory. Foursquare registers over 12 billion check-ins and 3 billion place visits per month.
Operating out of Sydney and Perth in Australia, Hotfrog has websites in 38 different countries including the United Kingdom. As well as the usual business information, you can also add coupon codes to your profile, which is free and simple to create. Another advantage of Hotfrog is its simple-to-use reporting tools that can help you understand which keywords are successful and find similar keywords to further enhance your performance.
192.com is the most awarded directory in the UK and has over 700 million records. Users can search for local businesses friends and family. The website also acts as a means to research family history. Your business may already be listed on the website, but if you find that it is missing, you can add a listing free of charge.
Go Find Local offer a mobile-optimised listings site which is clearly organised and accessible, making a local business that much more attractive to potential customers. Listing a business on Go Find Local is free of charge.
2FindLocal styles itself as free, friendly and local. Resembling Craigslist in appearance, the site allows users to search by town, postcode or business type, so finding you won't be difficult. Businesses can also claim free ads, which are then displayed on affiliate sites, with highly-rated listings being displayed more often. 2FindLocal is a platform where investing time in your profile pays off.
Featuring global business listings, Brownbook has a thriving UK section where businesses can present their profiles for free. What's more, adding videos and photos is free of charge, and businesses receive automatic updates when reviews are posted. It's all optimised for SEO as well, and promises to drive traffic effectively to users' websites.
Another free local listings site, the Business Network is set up to cater for B2B customers above all else. This relatively new site features a responsive mobile-friendly design, promises future tools to optimise your listing to fit in with other digital assets, and seems to be ideally suited to trades and specialist technology companies.
Mixing local marketing and business listings, Call Up Contact claims to give local companies "super powers" by connecting their presence on sites like Facebook, Bing Places, Google Maps and Yelp. The directory itself is clearly laid out by sector and location, and connects up well with mapping services to offer handy directions for customers.
Describing itself as a "multilingual business directory", Cybo has genuinely global reach, and would suit local businesses that rely on visitors from further afield. The listings look a little like TripAdvisor, and rank listings according to their quality, so having a curated profile is recommended.
Dubbed the "world's largest business directory", Find-Us-Here claims to have over 18 million members. It's a little rough around the edges, but has a large user base. Listing your business is totally free and should come with a significant SEO dividend. Paid premium profiles are available too, offering longer descriptions, keyword tags and generally higher visibility.
First Directory (or 1stDirectory) is all about B2B selling. Aggregating more than 4 million B2B companies in the UK, the site offers free marketing insights, as well as tools to help customers make contact and maximise their SEO. It's a valuable place to be.
Fonolive specialises in classified ads, but also offers a free service for local businesses in communities from St Albans to Londonderry. It started out as a US-based service trying to invigorate local communities, but has expanded quickly in the UK, and now offers a great way to reach people in your neighbourhood.
Fyple brings together businesses and local customers in all parts of the UK. With categories stretching from dentistry to roofing, there's a niche for most companies. Moreover, users can easily reach any company via the "What" and "Where" search fields, a feature that is ideal for mobile users.
Now that we’ve explored some of the best directory options available, the question is, if a business is not listed in the right places, is it failing to maximise its profitability by missing out on customers? The answer is almost certainly yes. At the very least, a local business’ SEO performance will surely be suffering by not being listed on major directories, so claiming these is a must.
We know all of the leading listing platforms inside out, as well as a few that many people wouldn’t consider. We can help you create the ideal combination of listings and make sure that your profiles are in great shape. We'll take care of reviews and check location details, and take advantage of whatever SEO tools the listing sites provide. So, get in touch and talk to our team. Now is a great time to start harnessing the power of the web to drive local traffic to your website and physical locations. Business listings directories are a key part of the mix.