25 Things You Need to Know About Online Local Directories

By Chik Quintans | Search Marketing

Jul 21

What is an online local directory?

An online local directory is a website that lists businesses, usually within categories. These directories allow business owners to list their business, get their name in front of the customers, and give customers the information they need to contact the business. It also narrows the World Wide Web down to local communities and places, and makes local businesses more accessible to the customers that use them.

The details provided in an online listing will vary from business to business and from directory to directory. Typical information includes:

  • The business name
  • Address
  • Telephone numbers
  • Product or service sold
  • Number of employees
  • The area the business services
  • Professional associations the business belongs to
  • Reviews, comments, and feedback (on some sites)

Are online local directories the same as search engines?

Online local directories often have a search function within them. This makes it easier for users to quickly find the business they’re looking for, without having to search through thousands of listings. However, this does not make these directories search engines.

Search engines can find just about any information you need and provide in-depth articles, pictures, and blog posts about very specific topics. Search engines list the actual URLs to websites and will take you directly to them. Online local directories will provide users with many different results, but each of those results will only be a business listing including very basic information.

Search engines will also pick up on the various web pages within a website, giving each a different page ranking dependent on things such as keywords and traffic numbers. Online local directories on the other hand, will provide only one URL, and it’s typically only to the home page of the website.

The way in which local directories and search engines work behind the scenes also distinguish the two. Online directories use people to manually review, proofread and approve each listing. Search engines on the other hand, because they’re dealing with so much more information, must rely on highly complex computer-generated indexes that determine which information is displayed.

Why is it important that my business be listed in an online local directory?

According to a study conducted by Burke, 8 out of 10 shoppers will use an online directory to guide them in the direction of where to go for whatever product or service they are looking for.

Of that group, 8 out of 10 shoppers who used a directory to find what they needed will end up buying something now or in the future from the business they found within the directory.

This is why it’s so important to have your business listed in an online directory. If customers are already using online directories, they already have a need for your business or service. And if your business isn’t listed in an online directory, the chances are good that the competition will be, and customers will turn to them instead of you.

This is why it’s so important to be listed in online local directories – so customers can find you!

Can small businesses profit from using online local directories?

When thinking about using online local directories, many small businesses make the mistake of thinking it only works for huge companies. Companies like Costco that have several locations, sometimes within mere miles of each other. However, it’s really small businesses that will benefit the most from online directories. Remember that these directories focus on local businesses.

The intent is that it will bring customers to actual brick-and-mortar businesses that are located near them, meaning that small businesses have the most to profit from being listed. And if your business isn’t listed, there’s a good chance that your competitor’s is, and that customers will go to them instead of you.

Is it difficult to sign up to an online local directory?

No! Signing up for a local directory usually just takes just a few minutes and is a simple process that includes only filling out some basic information about your company, then verifying that information via text, email, or phone.

Because business owners are often best served by registering with multiple online local directories, it can take some time, but it’s not difficult at all.

How much do online local directories cost?

This will vary depending on the directory that you’re using. Many of them are free, but there are others that will provide you with more than just a basic listing and typically these directories will charge a larger fee for doing so.

Many online local directories will also provide a basic listing for free, but will give you the option of upgrading to a premium account that will give you more features and options.

Is it worth paying money to be listed in a local online directory, when so many of them are available for free?

Marketing consultants often advise that businesses choose one or two of the paid directories (or premium packages) and use those as part of their online marketing. When doing so, it’s important that business owners do some research and make sure that they’ll see a return on the cost paid to use the site.

You need to make sure that the site is highly reputable and established and, if your better-rated competition is listed on the site, you should be as well. Confining yourself to free listings won’t cost you a thing, but it can mean you’re missing out on opportunities that in the end, would have multiplied your small initial investment.

What are the best online local directories to use?

There are hundreds of online local directories, but your best bet is to find quality sites that will boost your page ranking and get your business in front of the eyes of the most customers. The top 15 online local directories are:

  • Google My Business
  • Aabaco Local Listings/LocalWorks (formerly Yahoo)
  • Bing Places
  • Yelp
  • MerchantCircle
  • YellowPages.com
  • SuperPages.com
  • CitySearch
  • Mapquest/Yext
  • Local.com
  • Foursquare
  • LinkedIn
  • Angie’sList
  • CitySlick
  • Kudzu

What is a featured listing?

Featured listings are available on some sites for business owners that want their listing to appear higher in the search results. These listings also provide more information about the listing or the business than a basic listing will.

Featured listings do have a higher chance of being clicked on by the user, but they also come with an added fee and so, business owners should make an effort to track these listings specifically to determine whether or not they’re worth the added cost.

What are the different types of online local directories?

At first it may seem as though all online local directories are the same, but truthfully there are four different types.

  • Data-aggregators. These are directories that gather information and display it in a summary form. These directories are often based on categories and let users see results based on things such as what type of product or service they’re looking for. Neustar LocalEze is a good example of a data-aggregator directory. This site allows users to base their search on small businesses, chains and enterprises, or resellers and agencies.
  • Horizontal directories. These are directories that don’t focus on a specific industry, but instead targets people in many different industries, and the general public. Yelp is a good example of a horizontal directory because it includes businesses of many different industries and is meant for the general public.
  • Niche directories. The opposite of horizontal directories, niche directories do target specific industries. It’s advisable that you list your business in at least one or two niche directories to further target your audience, stay ahead of the competition, and get the biggest ROI from online directories. Avvo is an example of a niche directory.
  • Region-specific directories. These are online directories that focus on one particular area or region, such as http://nybizlist.com/.

How can I find a niche local online directory?

General online directories such as the Yellow Pages or Google My Business are easy to find because just about everybody knows about them. Even if you haven’t, a quick search for “online local directories” will quickly give you the results you’re looking for.

Online local directories that deal in particular niches however, can seem like they’re a bit more challenging to find. The good news is, they aren’t.

Start by searching for your keywords, but adding “directory” at the end. So if you’re a florist, you can search “florist directory” to find results. If one keyword doesn’t provide you with what you’re looking for, use another and another until you find the directory you think might be right for your business.

Remember that just like any other online directory, finding it isn’t good enough. You’ll have to investigate the site a little bit, and make sure that it works for you, and your business.

How can online directory listings boost traffic to my website?

Whenever your business, company, or company URL is listed on website, it helps boost your page ranking. And when that information is listed on an authoritative and established page such as Google My Business or Yellow Pages, Google uses that as an indicator that your website is also established and authoritative.

When you have your website URL listed on several of these authoritative websites, it has several different “votes” in the eyes of Google and the search engines. The more you have, the higher your website URL will appear within the search engine results.

Have enough and your website will even start to appear on the first page of search engine results, sending more and more traffic to your website.

How can online listings help me develop my business’ brand image?

When people think of online local directories, they often think of several typed lines of text indicating the business’ name, address, phone number, region serviced, and types of products or services sold. This is largely true, so how is a bunch of typed text going to help you develop your business’ brand image?

Easily. When you create a listing on an online local directory, you do more than just input your business’ contact information. Typically these sites always ask for a profile picture, which can be your business’ logo, which will help develop your brand image. Several sites also have separate sections for things such as photos and videos where you can upload commercials, YouTube videos about your products or services, and even just pictures from company events.

All of this will show your business through images that users will remember more easily, and they help develop your brand image.

Will online local directories help me target my business to relevant audiences?

Yes! In fact, that’s one of the biggest benefits of using online local directories for your business! When users search for your business using an online local directory, they already need something that you can provide them with – they just need help getting to you.

For instance, you’re a small business providing used baby and children clothing to the people in a small town in Texas. You list your business in an online local directory such as YellowPages.com. When people visit this online directory, they search for keywords such as “baby clothing,” “children’s clothing,” or “used clothing.” After they perform this search, your business will appear along with others (or not, if your competitors haven’t yet discovered the magic of online local business directories!) Once they find your listing, they either then visit the website to purchase the product or get more information, or they visit your store in person.

Targeting your business to relevant audiences is one of the biggest benefits your business will reap from online local directories, and one of the biggest reasons why you need to be listed in them.

Should I use keywords in my listing?

Yes! Remember that the listings you’re creating in various online local directories are a form of advertising. And any type of online advertising is dependent on the appropriate use of keywords.

You’ll have to be careful when using them, however. Some sites have designated sections within the registration forms for keywords, and they don’t want you to use them in other areas of the form or listing. Also remember that the directories are local, meaning that you want keywords that include your location.

What should I include within the description of my listing?

Just as using the right keywords for your business is important, having the right description is crucial. This is essentially the body of the listing and will let customers and users connect with you and get a better sense of you and your business.

Remember that descriptions have to be short (most local online directories have a cap around 200 characters,) and that they should be memorable. Include tag lines, slogans, and anything else that might stick in the mind of customers when it comes to buying your product or service.

What is the difference between citations and links?

At this stage of the game, it’s pretty obvious when you see a link to a website. It typically includes a URL address or a name, is underlined, and is clickable, meaning that clicking on it will take you to a different page or website.

Citations on the other hand, are just mentions of your business. They mean that people are talking about your business, and that’s exactly what the search engines look for when calculating page rankings. It’s for this reason that citations are often considered to be more valuable than links.

However, it’s important to know that not all local directories will allow citations.

Directories such as the Yellow Pages merely list the business’ information, while directories such as Trip Advisor and Facebook Pages allow interaction with the users and customers through reviews and comments.

You should always make sure that, along with listings-only directories, you’re also using directories that allow for citations and that direct interaction with your customers.

Should I respond to negative feedback or reviews on online directories that allow them?

The temptation to defend your business from an online review can be great, but it’s best that you don’t respond directly to the critique. This can often only result in an online shouting match where neither side ever comes out victorious.

But you also can’t have negative information out there about your business, especially if it’s false. Instead of responding to the review directly, instead contact the directory itself and explain the situation. Point out the errors of the initial comment or review, and allow the site to handle it in a professional manner.

What should I watch out for when checking out online local directories?

There are hundreds of online local directories on the web today and just like anything else, there are good directories and there are bad directories. The chances are good that you’ll be looking at many directories when it’s time to list your business online, so here are some things to watch out for when doing so:

  • Free listings not offered. Any reputable online local directory will at least have the option to list your business for free, even if this gives you only a very basic listing. If a directory doesn’t at least give you this option, there are plenty of great directories out there that will so you’re better off finding and using one of them.
  • Low page ranking. Remember that one of the biggest benefits of using online local directories is that they should boost your online brand and presence simply because you’re listed on them. If the directory has a low page ranking, being listed on it isn’t going to help your own ranking. Instead find an online directory with a high page ranking (there are lots!) to list your business.
  • Toxic links. Some online directories are simply set up with the intention of being a feed for backlinks. When this is done too often on one site, Google actually frowns on the practice and will lower the site’s ranking even further. Find out how links are being used, and how many are given to any particular listing to determine if the links are being used more as spam than anything else.
  • Forced backlinks. This goes along with the above but in this scenario, the online directory actually requires businesses to have a backlink to the directory placed on the business’ website. Truthfully these online directories are only looking to increase their own exposure, and they might not do too much for your business. Use directories that give you the option to place a link onto your website, but that certainly don’t require that you do so.

Should I list my business in every online local directory possible?

There are a number of directories out there, and it might seem that because these pages can increase your web traffic and get your name in front of the customers, you should appear on as many as possible. However, this isn’t true.

When you start to appear on every directory and have listings everywhere, it can start to seem like spam, and customers and the search engines will start to get tired. Instead, focus on quality directories and, if there are directories specifically for your niche, get listed on those first.

It’s also a good idea to implement tracking devices such as unique phone numbers or URLs, to see which directories are giving you the biggest ROI. You can them remove your listing from the directories that aren’t doing anything for your website or your business, and try another directory that might give you a bigger profit in the end.

Should I keep my username and password the same on all online local directories?

The chances are good that your username will be the same across all sites, because it will either be your business’ name or something related to your business. However, it’s best not to use the same password for all sites.

Changing your passwords for various sites will make it harder to hack into them because hackers will need more than just one password. But you also don’t want to forget the passwords simply because there are so many different ones to remember.

Use a tracking system, such as Google Drive, for all of your passwords, where they’ll be stored securely but will be available for you when you need them. While keeping track of passwords, also keep track of all your login info for each site including your username and the URL of the site and your listing.

What if I can’t remember if my business is already located in an online local directory?

You should never register your business with an online local directory without thoroughly checking to make sure your business isn’t already listed. It’s much easier than business owners think to end up with duplicate listings, and these will be very negative for your site and your business.

They’ll confuse and frustrate customers, and they’ll add up to lost potential revenue for your business. Duplicate listings can even go against a site’s terms of service, which could potentially get you banned from the site, leaving you in the dust of your competition.

Before signing up for any local directory, search everything you can about your business on that site, including the name, phone number, fax number, email addresses, and anything else you can think of. If after searching all of these you still don’t come up with any results for your business, go ahead and claim it. However, if you do get results but they’re incomplete or inaccurate, make sure you fix the mistakes right away.

Is it necessary to read through every directory’s Terms of Service?

It is tempting to simply just check the box that says, “I have read and agree to the Terms of Service for thisonlinedirectory.com, especially when you’re creating multiple listings in many different directories. However, this is a mistake.

It’s crucial that you read through each site’s TOS, as these are the rules of the site and they’re often strictly enforced. If you find certain rules that you think are particularly relevant to your business or your listing, such as not having more than one URL displayed, make note of it for your own reference later. Should you break the rules, intentionally or unintentionally, you could be banned from the site, and customers won’t be able to find you as easily.

Can I hand off the task of listing my business in the many different online local directories?

There are hundreds if not thousands of different online local directories. Signing up for all of them and going through the registration process again and again can take an immense amount of time – time that busy business owners usually don’t have.

The good news is that online marketing consultants specialize in doing things just this, they do it every day. They’ll be able to get your business listed quicker, and they’ll likely already be familiar with the terms of all the major directories.

When hiring an online marketing consultant to take over this task for you, it’s important to know that you will still be needed for parts of the process. There are many sites such as LocalEze, YP, and ExpressUpdate, that require verification by phone and a consultant will not be able to do this for you. The directory wants to make sure that they’re dealing with you – the authorized owner of the business – and nobody else.

Do I need to do anything after my business is listed?

So you’ve found all the directories you want to be listed in, are signed up and verified, and your business listing is now viewable across multiple sites. There’s nothing left for you to do, right?

Wrong! It’s important to continually manage and edit your business listings to keep them as accurate as possible. As your business grows, the information might change, or information may just become inaccurate over time. Having a listing with the wrong information is worse than not having a listing at all because it can cause users and customers to become frustrated and turned off of your business.

It’s imperative that you or your marketing consultant is constantly managing listings to ensure that they are correct and up to date.

Next Steps

Thank you reading this post. We hope that you found it useful and that it has given you the information you need to help you better understand the importance of managing your online presence, reputation and visibility as well as the strategies to employ to help you do just that.

If you would like additional assistance, please contact us at: 206-745-6324 or email us at mailto:[email protected]  

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About the Author

Chik Quintans is a Digital Marketing Strategist with a passion for helping sales teams and businesses grow. As the owner of UnderGround Marketing Society LLC, creating a strong online brand and building a broad footprint online for sales teams and businesses are he and his company's areas of focus. Whether that be leveraging marketing channels and approaches such as social media, reputation, search engine optimization (SEO), video marketing and more. Chik Quintans can be reached on LinkedIn where you are invited to connect. https://www.linkedin.com/in/chikquintans