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18th April 2016

6 Key Steps to Using Online Business Listings for Marketing

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As a local business, it’s important your customers can find you online easily and quickly. As well as search engine marketing (such as Google) and making sure your website is up to date, you can use online listings and business directories to help improve the likelihood of your website appearing in search results.

Business directories are websites that list information about local businesses (a bit like an online Yellow Pages). They’re useful for improving where you appear in search results as the information on them is already categorised in a way that Google understands. This means Google can ‘read’ the information quickly and is more likely to include it in search results.

If your business is near the top of the results when a potential customer searches for words associated with your business, it’s much more likely they’ll click through to visit your website, or try and find out where your store is.

So keeping your online listings up to date is very important – both for your potential customers and to help Google! To get you started, here are our six key steps to using online business listings for marketing your business.

  1. First, search for your business online

The best way to get started is to search online for your own business name, and then see where (and if) you show up on Yell, Yelp and other listings.

As a small business owner it’s important to check that all your business information across different sites is up to date so potential customers are being given the correct details. If the details aren’t right, each directory will give you an option to update the information. Some take longer than others so it’s best to follow up in a week or two to make sure that the information has been changed.

It may seem like a long and tiresome activity, but there are tools out there that can make the process simpler by giving you one place to claim and update all your listings like Bright Local, however you usually have to pay for these services.

  1. Make sure your local business listings are comprehensive and consistent

One of the most effective ways to be found online as a local business is to make sure that your listing information is consistent across a range of online business directories. This is important because Google and other search engines constantly scan these sites to develop a stronger understanding of the local web and your business.

When your business isn’t listed, or your information is incomplete or inaccurate, it can have a negative effect on your place in search results. For example, if Google ‘sees’ your business listed on different sites with different names, addresses and phone numbers, it will think that each of those is a different business and the likelihood of you appearing in search results will go down.

Be sure to check and update your listings information whenever there are changes to your business details.

  1. Take ownership and claim your business

While you’re working through step two, check if there is an option to claim, manage or take ownership of your listing. In many cases you probably won’t have submitted your business information to these directories yourself – they’ll have picked it up automatically from other websites or by searching online themselves.

Wherever you can, claim your own listing, update the business information, and if possible add a link to your own website. By claiming your listing, you have complete control over what information is displayed and can update it whenever you want.

One place to make sure you claim is Google My Business. This is Google’s own business directory, which it prioritises in search results relating to local businesses. Therefore claiming your business on it can improve your position in search engine results.

4. Make sure your listings are descriptive

Lots of online directories have the option to enhance your business listings with images, descriptions and even video. Use these options wherever you can to add information and make the listing more attractive and interesting to potential customers.

Some ideas for improving your listing could be:

  • Including photos of your team
  • Adding video tutorials
  • Adding links to blog posts
  • Including case studies
  1. Review and update your listings regularly

Once your listings are live, you should review and update them regularly. The reason for this is that Google and other search engines prefer ‘fresh’ listings (ones which are updated regularly), so they’re more likely to be included in search results. It’s also good for customers, as it shows you’re up-to-date and professional.

  1. Keep track of where you’re listed

It’s a good idea to keep a spreadsheet of all your listings and the name and password you use to sign in (although do make sure this spreadsheet is password-protected and secure). This way, if you change any important details for your business, such as phone number or your address, you can keep a track of which ones you’ve updated very easily.

Keeping track is extremely useful as you’ll have a reference for which listings you’ve taken ownership of, and it’ll help you make sure you don’t forget any when it comes to updating and regularly reviewing them. Making a note of the last date you made an update will help you to keep track of progress, especially if you have lots of listings and aren’t able to review them all at one time. If all this seems too time-consuming, there are services out there like Moz Local that can do the job for you, updating all your listings in one step.

Whichever way you choose to maintain them, one thing’s for sure – business listings can help improve the visibility of your company, so now is the perfect time to make them part of your marketing plan.

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