How do potential customers find your business in local search? Do they use a search engine like Google or Bing? Do they use a local directory like Facebook, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing Places or Foursquare? Do they use niche directories like OpenTable, Zillow or Zocdoc?
Local and niche directories publish business listings called citations that are mentions of your business name, address and phone number (NAP). Business listings can also include images, categories, operating hours, accepted payment methods, etc.
While citations have declined as a ranking factor over the years, free listings on high-quality, authoritative local and niche business directories are still valuable. They position your business where potential customers are searching, legitimize your company (especially for those without a website) and validate your business as part of a community.
In this post, I’m going to share how to build credibility with free listings on local business directories.
1. Update Current Business Listings
Correct listings of a company's business name, address and phone number (NAP) is crucial. If the information is inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or there are duplicates — prospects may deem them questionable, irrelevant or might never find them.
When listings are accurate, they help prospects complete a task (buying products/services) and may lead to unknown opportunities. For example, businesses that accept Apple Pay are listed on Apple Maps and prospects might be more willing to buy from them if their preferred payment method is accepted.
Update inaccurate business listings if your...
- Business name has changed
- Business has moved to a new address
- Business has added multiple locations
- Phone number has changed
- Hours of operation have changed or change during holidays
- Website has changed from HTTP to HTTPS
- Accepted payment methods have changed
Incomplete Business Listings
Incomplete listings are missing essential information like a business's NAP and, if applicable, website, images and categories. Categories describe a business and help prospects locate the best result. For example, a hair salon might be categorized under "Hair Salon" on Google My Business and Facebook, but as "Salon / Barbershop" on Foursquare. When appropriate and available, additional categories should also be added (i.e. Beauty Salon, Hairdresser).
Use Moz Local to locate the right categories for business listings.
Inconsistent Business Listings
Inconsistent listings only lead to confusion. For example, an inconsistent listing might list Salon Bento, Inc. (a fictional company) on one business directory and Salon Bento Hair (see image) on a different directory. Inconsistent phone numbers, addresses and more could further confuse prospects, especially if they move their search query from one directory to another.
Duplicate Business Listings
A duplicate listing contains more than one listing of the same company on the same business directory. For example, if a customer reviewed Salon Bento at its original location on Google My Business and an employee claimed Salon Bento's Google My Business page at its new location, the listings would need to be merged.
Follow the steps outlined in each directory to remove or merge duplicates.
2. Claim Business Listings
Have you ever seen a Business Profile listed on the search engine results page that asks, “Own this Business?”
Have you seen a Yelp page that asks, “Work here? Claim this business.”
How about a Foursquare page that asks, “Is this your business? Claim it now.”
If company's don't claim their business listing in relevant and authoritative directories, potential customers may never find them, hostile competitors could attempt to display false information and good-intentioned customers might unknowingly enter incorrect information.
When claiming a business listing, the owner needs to verify that he/she owns the business. Google My Business and Bing Places send a postcard to the business address with a code that needs to be entered online. Other business directories like Facebook, Yelp and Apple Maps may use an automated phone call to verify the business over the phone with the code.
First, claim what's rightfully yours — your company's free business listing. If your audience has reviewed your company on a business directory and you've never claimed that listing, you're missing an ideal opportunity to connect with your audience online.
Second, in your contacts app, enter your company's NAP and any additional business information. Refer to this contact card whenever necessary to keep your company information consistent on your website and across all business directories.
Third, in the notes field of the contact card, add links to the business directories where your company is listed, but safeguard the login credentials in a password manager like 1Password.
3. Build Business Listings
A healthy website is a great start to being found online, but if a company's not listed in the most relevant and authoritative business directories, potential customers still might never find them.
Just like link building, getting listed in local business directories should focus on quality, not quantity. A high-quality business listing on Facebook or Google My Business is given far more weight than a directory with a low authority.
Local Business Directories
- Apple Maps
- Angie's List
- Better Business Bureau
- Bing Places
- Google My Business
- Merchant Circle
- Super Pages
- YP (Yellow Pages)
Niche Business Listings
If there are any relevant and high-quality niche directories, company's should create listings for those as well.
Focus on relevant, authoritative listings in local and niche directories where your audience will be searching for a business like yours. If you're unsure where to build these listings, find out where your competitors are listing their business.
For an exhaustive list of niche business directories, visit BrightLocal's Top Local Citations by Business Category or use services like Moz Local, White Spark and Yext.
4. Audit Business Listings
Just as a company should routinely conduct a website audit, business listings should also be audited to ensure the most accurate and up-to-date information is listed in local and niche directories.
In your calendar app, set a monthly or quarterly schedule to audit your business listings and download the mobile apps for managing your listings on the go. Several top business directories publish apps like Google My Business (iOS) (Android), Yelp for Business Owners (iOS) (Android) and Facebook Pages Manager (iOS) (Android).
You just learned how to build credibility with free listings (citations) on local business directories. While an effective website with content marketing will improve on-site SEO, local and niche business directories will improve off-site SEO and build credibility. Start updating, claiming and building your business listings today and help potential customers find and choose your company.
Local Business Directories: How to Build Credibility with Free Listings first appeared on the Bento Sites Blog by Jeff Shibasaki.