You might have heard from your Maryland internet marketing person that Yellow Pages are dead. And they sure are if we are talking about the traditional phone book advertising. Those bulky yellow artifacts are now serving as door stops and kindling aid—you are not getting any business from them anymore! However, the Yellow Pages have evolved, diversified, moved online, and are now an entirely new player in the search engine marketing game. You may know them as online directories.
What Are Online Directories?
Online directories are sites like YellowPages, Manta, Yelp, Merchant Circle, etc., that maintain a searchable database of local businesses. Users can enter their location and the type of business they are looking for and then browse the results. So when someone searches on YellowPages for “web design company in Westminster, MD” our listing comes up.
Most online directories allow you to submit the following information about your business:
- Name, address and phone number
- Website address
- Business description
- Business categories
- Hours of operation
- Links to social media
Types of Online Directories
There are thousands of online business directories out there, but most of them fit into one of these categories:
- Search engine business directories—this is where you list your business on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
- Review communities—these are membership sites that encourage community members to submit reviews about the businesses they use (think Angie’s List).
- Data aggregators—these companies (mainly Axicom, Factual, InfoGroup and Localeze) gather data and distribute it to other online directories.
- Social networks—most social networks, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare have an option to list your business.
- Hyper-local directories—these are directories, such as Patch.com, that include only local businesses that operate in your state or town.
- Maps—sites like MapQuest gather location data about businesses and help users get directions.
- General business directories—these sites list all kinds of businesses and allow users to search.
Will I Get Customers from Online Directories?
There are a few membership sites, such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor, that allow customers to contact you directly for a quote. However, the majority of online directories don’t provide this type of service. Moreover, from thousands of online directories, maybe a dozen are well-known and actively searched by your potential customers. When people have access to powerful search engines like Google, they don’t need to look anywhere else.
At this point, you may be doubting the value of online directories—is it worth getting your business listed if no one will see your listing? The answer to this question is yes, because there are some hidden indirect benefits you should consider.
Online Directories Help Local SEO
If you want to rank high for location-based keywords, such as “Eldersburg plumber” or “Owings Mills law firm,” you need to be listed in online directories. And not just listed, but have your NAP (name address and phone number) consistent throughout different sites.
Google and other search engines look at the information provided by online directories in order to verify your business location and ensure the legitimacy of your business. Search engines want to provide users with the most relevant answers to their queries. If someone is searching for an “Ellicott City landscaping company” and Google sees that your business is listed with inconsistent address and phone number, they may not include your site in the search results because they may be unsure of your location.
Get Links Back to Your Website
The majority of online directories are well established sites with large amounts of traffic and high domain authority. Google will see the links pointing from these business listings back to your site and will count them in its ranking factors. However, keep in mind that while links from high-authority sites may help you, links from spammy sites can equally hurt you. It’s important to have a strategy and be selective when it comes to getting listed in online directories.
Dominate the Search Results
Another benefit of online business directories is that your business gets a full dedicated page on a high-authority site. Your business listing on Yelp or Yellow Pages can show up in search results below your primary website. This allows you to take up more digital real estate in the search results. Also, if someone searches for your company name, they will see an entire page of results populated with your business listings on different sites. Not only does it add credibility to your business, but also allows you to push down competitor sites with the same or similar names.
How Do I Take Advantage of Online Directories?
Are you a believer in the power of online directories yet? Good, because they can make a noticeable difference for your online rankings. To take advantage of this opportunity, you need to actively manage your online business listings. This includes adding listings to the sites where you aren’t listed, removing duplicates, updating information and ensuring consistency.
Sounds time consuming? Well, it is in fact time consuming, and 70% of business owners agree with you—who has the time to manage listings on all the sites consumers use? While there are some services that help you automate this, a real person can manage the details better. If this sounds overwhelming, or you simply don’t know where to start, give Advantage Internet Marketing a call. We have worked with many clients to find and claim their listings, clean up inconsistencies caused by changing addresses, and get their business name out there!