Remember back to your high school days and all the inane popularity contests, for everything from lunch tables to dance royalty. If your business is a student and your marketplace is the senior class, would you be voted prom king or queen?
Hopefully you don’t deal with everyday drama like we all did as teenagers, but your business is still in the popularity game. To win, you need to be easy to find, attractive and well-liked. You also need friends to talk you up, or you’ll never win the crowd.
The Hidden Value of Directory Listings
Before you can sit at the popular table, people have to know who you are. In the business world, that means they have to be able to find you quickly and easily whether they use apps, search engines or other directory and listing services.
At Online Image®, helping local businesses with online directoryFor Internet marketing purposes, directories are sites that aggregate the contact information and ratings of multiple businesses. These can be general, like an old phonebook, or specific, such as a site that shows all the practicing lawyers in a specific area. listings is one of our core services. We have seen again and again that having a strong directories profile is one of the most important ways to bring in new customers. Whether you hire us or take the time to do it yourself, it’s necessary for success. Directories are one of the easiest ways to climb the social ladder.
One reason to jump on your business listings right away is that many competing businesses have ignored them. We regularly see directory listings show up higher on search engine results than business sites themselves. If you aren’t listed, you may never get seen at all.
The Importance of Accuracy
In your quest to be prom king, imagine if people knew you by a different nickname in every class you attended. You probably wouldn’t get enough votes. It’s the same online. You need a consistent business name, address, phone number and website if you want to grow your business.
According to a 2013 study by email marketing service ConstantContact, most businesses get it wrong. A 2014 study by Placeable found that reputation can suffer, too.
- 70 percent of small businesses don’t have time to manage listings.
- 50 percent have seen listings for their business that are inaccurate.
- 73 percent of people lose faith in a brand when they see online listings with inconsistent contact information.
Having a consistent brand identity is fundamental to any kind of advertising, but especially for digital marketing. Web crawlers may pull your information for directories and indexes. They crawl for your site and then glean information such as hours, address and phone number (using the correct tagging can help them get it right).
If you aren’t 100 percent consistent with that information all across the web, the directories and indexes could think there are two businesses like yours in your area. You don’t want to compete with yourself!
Inconsistency could also lead to having your listing rejected by the search engines and directories. We see this every day during our submittal process, and resubmitting can delay things for weeks.
Get Your Name Right
Start with the business name as it is printed on your business license, since many directories check to make sure you’re a real business. Watch for even the smallest of things, such as misplaced apostrophes, articles such as “The” and “A”, spacing and capitalization. When you work with Online Image® or one of our partners, make sure you give the correct business name during the first call.
On another note, we don’t usually recommend using the name of your city or area in your business name listing. Many directories will reject listings for that alone. If, on the other hand, your business name includes the city, such as “Phoenix Plumbing,” use that name. You can easily include geographic terms in your business description or in other fields.
Expert Tip: Make sure you fill in all the form boxes for any directory listing or service. This will improve your search results and enhance your credibility with anyone who sees the listing.
Post an Accurate Address and Phone Number
Based on our experience with online search, we’re confident in saying that you should only post one phone number for all your directories online. Use a local number rather than a toll-free number for the best results. You also need an exact street address rather than a mailing address or P.O. Box.
The first and most obvious reason for this is that you want your customers to be able to find you. With mobile searches outpacing desktop searches worldwide, you also need to be found by maps applications so customers can get directions and travel times.
If you are a service business that travels to customers, you still need a street address. However, many directories and search engines let you choose not to show it publicly. Instead, you can show how far you’re willing to travel by ZIP code, city or neighborhood.
Business Hours are More Important than Ever
With recent updates to Google Maps and Google My Business, you need to include accurate business hours in your listings, and make updates immediately if those hours change. This is particularly important if your business is seasonal and your hours change a couple times a year. When potential customers search for businesses like yours on the phone, they will see not only directions but also travel times. If you won’t be open by the time they could arrive, they’ll be alerted. If your hours aren’t listed, customers could show up when you’re closed or might think you’re closed when you aren’t.
Get the Category Right
Another element of listings has to do with your business category. Each listing service and search engine is different, but it’s best to choose overarching categories about who you are than specific ones about what you sell. For example, don’t choose “financial services” if you’re a bank. Instead, just choose “bank.” Avoid redundancy.
Focus on the Description
Writing your description is your place to shine. Craft a compelling message about your business and your value proposition – why customers should choose you. Here, include your city name and neighborhood. It’s fine to use duplicated descriptions in multiple directories.
You can log into your Online Image® account to update your description and contact information, and our automated systems will make the changes across the web. If you see review sites or directories where you aren’t listed but want to be, let us know. We are always happy to add new listing sites to the hundreds we already have in our system. We especially like local or industry-specific sites, as these tend to have the highest click-through rates.
Photos and Branding
Finally, don’t forget photos. We recommend using a professional shot of your business that clearly shows your building and signage – make it easy for customers to find you. Also, choose images that match your brand identity. Download our G+ Page- Photo Guide for tips and a list of all the file sizes and shapes you need.
Directories Bonus: More Reviews
When Online Image® customers log into their custom analytics dashboard, it’s easy to see directory listings and reviews from anywhere on the web. We use these reports together for one very important reason: Directories often post customer reviews and star ratings, and more and better reviews mean more visibility and more customers.
Think of listings and business reviews as high school friends who go around talking up their favorite candidates. When people gush (or even offer criticism), everyone wants to know more. That can lead directly to gossip and popularity, if you’re in high school. If you’re in business, online reviews can lead to better visibility, a better reputation and, ultimately, more sales.
We help customers get listed on review sites and our custom software automatically responds to reviews on their behalf. We also offer these free templates that you can staple to customer receipts or leave on your checkout counter to earn more reviews.
We work to handle directory services for all our customers, and our goal is to take care of everything so they don’t have to lift a finger. If you are signed up with us, that’s great news. If not, contact us right away. You will be surprised at how much benefit you can get for the price. If you know of a business that could benefit from our services, you might be eligible for our referral program. Get in touch with your account manager or contact us online to learn more.