Consumers may not even notice that they are using local SEO directories, but they reference them all the time. Think about the last time you looked up a new restaurant you wanted to order takeout from — did you call directory assistance to get a phone number, or did you use a search engine via your smartphone?
Now imagine if that restaurant had minimal online presence or SEO. Unless you were truly determined, you likely would have ordered from someplace else — maybe a restaurant that came up instead in the search results.
Marketers should always be striving to maximize SEO. Local directories, whether it’s Google My Business, Yelp, or YellowPages.com, not only get businesses listed and linked but also provide local benefits to SEO that are invaluable in today’s marketing reality.
The benefits of using local SEO directories
In their humble beginnings, web directories aggregated businesses into one convenient online location so that the general public wouldn’t need to slog through search engines or guess at a web address to find the business they needed. Twenty-five years ago, plugging in “coffee shops in my town” might have returned coffee shops in any town. Web directories, particularly local directories, could cut through these weeds.
Eventually, search engines got better at recognizing users’ true intentions, while some directories became less reliable. Even reputable websites such as Yelp and Angie’s List found their direct traffic being bypassed — instead of typing in the sites’ basic URL, consumers would run an internet search on “coffee shops” or “plumbers” and maybe get the directory high up on a search engine result page (SERP).
In this way, the linking benefits for individual businesses became less important, but the local SEO stakes shot far higher. When a potential customer searches for a random business, ideally, your client comes up early — if not directly, then at least through a directory result. Therefore, web directories, as antiquated as they in some ways seem, still matter in initiating or reinitiating people on a buying journey with a business. The following tips can help maximize the local SEO that such directories produce.
Tip No. 1: Be picky
Not every directory will be a perfect fit for every business — in fact, some won’t make sense at all and can actually hurt SEO. You wouldn’t list a restaurant on Angie’s List, nor would a plumber be found on Zomato. These are extreme examples, but you get the idea: The directories chosen should be relevant to the business and boost its online profile rather than appear, well, desperate to search engines.
Moreover, directories with a lower domain authority (DA) can stifle SEO goals and not produce the SERP placement you might be hoping for. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid local directories with a middling DA, but rather, just temper expectations.
That said, some local directories are practically mandatory to claim and/or pay to appear on:
Google My Business
With apologies to Bing and Yahoo, Google remains the king of online search, with 91.1% of all mobile searches as of January 2020, per NetMarketShare. Google My Business (GMB) most thoroughly links your company with a local audience and provides the greatest SEO benefit of any directory. Whether you’ve yet to claim your Google My Business page or are looking to optimize what’s already online, this channel expands your local digital reach better than any other listing.
Over the years, Facebook has become more than social media — it’s now an important element of a business’s local marketing strategy. Claiming and managing a Facebook page opens opportunities because some leads may not bother searching for you on Google but will check you out on social media.
The number of Apple devices in use hit 1.4 billion in 2019 — and all those devices connect users to businesses via Apple Maps. With a high domain authority, this listing can’t be ignored (no matter how much you prefer using an Android), thus making connecting to the service a priority.
Bing Places for Business
Bing pales to Google in terms of search engine usage, but even at a distant No. 2, it carries significant SEO potential. Bing Places works with Bing Maps for a service similar to GMB, and setting it up is just as simple — and just as important.
After these four, the possibilities for directories are almost endless. This list, broken down by vertical, will get you started:
- Yellow Pages
- Yellow Book
- Yahoo Local
- HERE WeGo maps
- City Insider
- Yellow Page City
- Insider Pages
- Judy’s Book
- Business Local Pages
- Local Edge
- LinkedIn Company Directory
- Better Business Bureau
- Merchant Circle
- D&B Credibility Review
- Dr. Oogle
- Mechanic Advisor
- Financial Service Directory
- Big i
- Insurance Agent Link Directory
- Trusted Choice
- Insurance Guide Local
Tip No. 2: Pay attention to the details
The information you list on a directory affects SEO as much as the fact just being listed. Consistency and accuracy matter. If a potential customer finds your client’s hours of operation from a directory listing, and then goes to the store only to find it’s closed, that’s a problem — lost business, potential bad reviews, and a negative impression that permanently shuts out a lead from becoming something more.
Inconsistency across listings is even more damaging to SEO. When search engines try to reconcile a business’s information across listings, descriptions and info that vary by the slightest discrepancies — for example, “Street” instead of “Avenue,” having a “1” in front of the area code, or basic typos — might dissuade algorithms from believing the business actually exists and is reputable.
Most critically, the name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be uniform in every digital usage, from your website to directory listings to “about” descriptions on social media. Unique phone numbers, which are great to manage offline leads via call tracking software, can still be included; for example, Google Maps lets a main line be listed as an “alternate number,” thus maintaining NAP consistency no matter the tracking phone number displayed to the user.
Other basic details you can/should include with your directory listings:
- Website address
- Email address
- Hours of operation
- Social media handles
- Forms of payment accepted
- Services offered
- Brands carried (if applicable)
Including a short description, perhaps with a few keywords for good local SEO measure, is also a best practice, but don’t go overboard. You want leads visiting the website or calling in for more information, plus you should be careful about not sending people too deep into the digital weeds.
Tip No. 3: Don’t forget about your listings
Local SEO directories exist off the business’s domain, so understandably, you can easily forget their existence, merely assuming that people are finding your information through these channels and proceeding to your client’s business accordingly. However, directories are not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy.
Your listings will benefit from occasional optimization, and perhaps more importantly, any updates to your client’s business — phone number, hours of operations, service offerings, and so on — require an adjustment to every directory on which the business appears. This, admittedly, can become a pain, but again, consistency and accuracy are critical to realizing the best search results as well as maintaining a reputation as a business that prospects and customers can trust.
Tip No. 4: Your website’s SEO still matters
Maintaining your key directory pages and interacting with reviews and comments you might find there is obviously critical to getting the most from them. However, the website itself remains perhaps the most important driver of local SEO, and the best directory strategy should only supplement the tools and actions that optimize your site and drive organic traffic. Some of these tactics include:
- Smart keywords: Determine which keywords drive the most traffic, and recognize the power of long-tail keywords.
- Purposeful title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs: Everything a search engine potentially crawls should be optimized to boost SEO value. In other words, don’t just randomly type in a title tag or blow off a meta description — put some thought into the task and include impactful keywords.
- Think locally: Improve local SEO by emphasizing the unique local nature of the business in web copy and any content produced. For example, instead of a webpage header highlighting “Quality plumbing services,” use “Quality plumbing services in Capital City.”
- Use schema markup: Schema.org is a collaborative effort to standardize microdata, which, in turn, can lead to better SERP placement. Schema markup isn’t difficult to use — just a few extra steps to give webpages a little more search zing.
Dish out the data
Many local SEO directories suffer from a reporting problem — as a web source outside a business’s domain, accurately tracking how many leads are emanating from a directory can be difficult. Your website may be getting visitors, and your phone may be ringing with callers, but how do you know where those people saw you first? And then, how do apply that knowledge toward future marketing and local SEO strategy?
CallRail delivers marketing intelligence and data from a range of offline sources, including web directories. Check out our guide to digital campaigns to learn more about multi-channel digital campaigns and how to measure the effectiveness of all your clients’ marketing activities.