While Google is undoubtedly the world’s most popular search engine, there are a host of other listings websites which work in a similar fashion – and can be really useful for local businesses. These are called online directories.
Online directories are websites which work in a very similar way to more traditional printed directories (like The Yellow Pages). You can add your business details to different categories of an online directory, often for free.
The directory is then used by potential customers and Google to find information about your business when people search for relevant words or phrases online.
Often business directories will automatically gather information about businesses from wherever they can find it across the internet, and present it to people who are searching online. If you don’t take ownership of listings, it means that potential customers might get incorrect information about you and your business.
You can get huge benefits from claiming and updating your online listings, so it’s well worth taking the time to do so.
1. Increase your website traffic - An online directory links to your website, so with the right profile and the right people searching for businesses like yours, you’ll increase the number of visits you get.
2. Help Google find your business - Google ‘crawls’ millions of websites on the internet trying to find information about a subject when people search for it. When you add business information to an online directory, it makes it easier for Google to find because the information is already in a format it understands. This means Google is more likely to display your business information when people search for words associated with it, especially if all your online listings display the same information.
3. Show your customer service skills - Most online directories allow customers to rate your business – the most well-known examples are Yelp and TripAdvisor. Having a presence on these sites, responding to customer comments and encouraging customers to review your business all show other users the quality of your customer service.
4. Link your business with trusted brands - Many people are used to the printed directories of The Yellow Pages or Thomson Local and will trust these brands to be honest and transparent. Both companies now have online listing sites where customers can review your business, so being associated with these established brands can help improve your credentials.
There are a huge number of national and local online directories which you can add your business details to. It’s up to you how many you choose, but remember that they will not automatically update your details if your address or phone number changes.
We recommend setting up a simple spreadsheet with a list of all the directories you’re going to add your business to, then setting a reminder every few months to make sure they are all updated if necessary.
Whichever directories you choose, make the most of the free options you’ll get while still keeping the information you present consistent across every directory you use. This might include photographs, video, key words (words associated with your business which potential customers might search for) and business information. Use the same information on every directory with the same key words to help Google ‘recognise’ your business. The more information you can present, the better it is for your business, and regular updates show customers that your business is active.
If the online directory you use encourages reviews, remember to ask your customers to rate your business online. Give out flyers or cards with the web address of where they can leave a review (for example, your company page on TripAdvisor or Yelp) and offer a small incentive for rating your business, such as entering them into a prize draw each month.
Using free online directories is a great way to start marketing your business on the internet, and another way for potential customers to find out about you. Pick a couple of the biggest ones to start with, and see what adding your details does for your online marketing.
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