Online directory listings are important for local businesses desiring prominent exposure to prospects on the Internet. You are familiar with “directories” even if you don’t know what to call them. Some of the more known directories are Yelp, Manta, YP, and Kudzu. There are literally thousands of directories. Directories are seldom the pathway that a new prospect takes online to find a business, but the location of a businesses NAP (name, address and phone number) repeated consistently across these directories, particularly the most important ones, adds online authority, meaning the search engines will rank a business better that do directory listings (what we often call “citations”) correctly.
There are two types of listings. Most, like those named above, are general directories listing all local businesses with some sort of search function on its platform to maneuver through types of businesses. Others are directories for particular types of enterprises. Examples of these are Healthgrades for medical providers and AVVO for lawyers. The advice given in this article generally applies to both directory types.
Two simple rules to follow. List your business in FREE directories. But, never pay to list your business in a directory.
Almost all directories offer free listings. Take advantage of these. The search engines do not notably distinguish between free or paid listings. You’ll get credit for your listing as a ranking factor.
The directories will push your business to pay for a listing. The “carrot” for the payment is that they will advance your business listing ahead of competitors and maybe allow you to enhance your listings with more details like additional photos or more content.
Don’t bite. I have, on occasion, met a devotee to particular directory who begins local business searches on a directory like Yelp. Those searchers are most unusual, and it is certainly not worth your money to pay in hopes of finding this person – or having that person find you.
Most searchers for local businesses begin on the search engines, most on Google. Local business have a separate “breakout” of listings (the Google My Business) with maps, hours of operation, etc. Directories do not appear in these local listings, only actual local businesses.
If the directory appears anywhere, it is in general listings in the search results, listings we call organic results. Again, here, Google prefers to show the actual local businesses first, but sometimes the directories figure out how to get ranked well for certain search terms.
Say a typical searcher begins in Google. If the directory listing appears, searchers will skip it since they want a particular business, and they don’t want to “begin again” the search. The likelihood of your business being found is low.
In trying to get secure a paid business listing, or even worse, paid advertising, on its directory, a salesman will try to overwhelm you with data about how often searchers use the directory. Don’t believe it. Question the search data because so many factors can skew results, from “bots” hitting the site to Russian hackers.
One final note. The single most important free listing for your business is its Google My Business listing. See our blog for recent articles on how this Google listing works.