How do potential customers find your business in local search? Do they use a search engine like Google or Bing? Do they use a directory like Facebook, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing Places or Foursquare? Do they use a niche directory like OpenTable, TripAdvisor or Zomato?
Local and niche directories publish business listings called citations that are mentions of your business name, address and phone number (NAP). Business listings can also include images, categories, operating hours, accepted payment methods, etc.
While citations have declined as a ranking factor over the years, free listings on authoritative local and niche business directories are still valuable. They put your business in front of more potential customers, legitimize your business (especially if you don’t have a website) and validate your company as part of a community.
In this post, I’m going to share how to improve your online presence with business listings.
1. Update Current Business Listings
Accurate listings of an organization’s business name, address and phone number (NAP) are crucial. If the information is inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or there are duplicates — potential customers may deem them questionable or irrelevant.
When listings are inaccurate, they obstruct potential customers from completing tasks (e.g. making reservations, ordering online) and may lead to problems. For example, businesses that have moved their location and didn’t update their address could upset customers who drive to the wrong location.
Update inaccurate business listings if…
- The business name has changed
- The business has moved to a new address
- The business has added multiple locations
- The phone number has changed
- Hours of operation have changed or change during holidays
- The website has changed from HTTP to HTTPS
- Accepted payment methods have changed
Incomplete Business Listings
Incomplete listings are missing essential information like a business’s NAP and, if applicable, website URL, images and categories. Categories describe a business and help prospects locate the best result. For example, a vegetarian fusion restaurant might be categorized as Fusion restaurant on Google My Business, but as Vegan or Vegetarian on Yelp.
Use Moz Local to locate the right categories for business listings.
Inconsistent Business Listings
Inconsistent listings only lead to confusion. For example, imagine how confused customers would be if a popular restaurant was listed on Google Maps as I Luv Bento, but listed on Facebook as I Love Bento. Inconsistent phone numbers, addresses and more could further confuse potential customers, especially if they move their search query from one directory to another.
Duplicate Business Listings
Duplicate listings contain more than one listing of the same company on the same directory. For example, if an employee accidentally created a second listing after a business moved to its new location, that listing would need to be merged with the original listing to avoid being listed twice.
Follow the steps outlined in each directory to remove or merge duplicates.
2. Claim and Verify New Business Listings
Have you ever seen a Business Profile listed on the search engine results page that asks, “Own this Business?”
Have you seen a Yelp page that asks, “Work here? Claim this business.”
How about a Foursquare page that asks, “Is this your business? Claim it now.”
If businesses don’t claim their listings in relevant and authoritative directories, potential customers may never find them, hostile competitors could attempt to display false information and good-intentioned customers might unknowingly enter incorrect information.
When claiming a business listing, the owner needs to verify that he/she owns the business. Google My Business and Bing Places send a postcard to the business address with a code that needs to be entered online. Other business directories like Facebook, Yelp and Apple Maps may use an automated phone call to verify the business over the phone with the code.
- Claim what’s rightfully yours — your business listing. If your audience has reviewed your business on a directory and you’ve never claimed that listing, you’re missing an ideal opportunity to connect with your audience online.
- In your contacts app, enter your company’s NAP and any additional business information. Refer to this contact card whenever necessary to keep your information consistent on your website and across all business directories.
- In the notes field of the contact card, add links to the business directories where your company is listed, but safeguard the login credentials in a password manager like 1Password.
3. Build More Business Listings
A website is a great start to be found online, but if your business isn’t listed in the most relevant and authoritative business directories, potential customers might never find you.
Just like link building, getting listed in authoritative business directories should focus on quality, not quantity. A high-quality business listing on Facebook and Google is given far more weight than a directory with low authority. Use Alexa or Moz Domain Authority to gauge how well a directory ranks.
Focus on relevant, authoritative listings in directories like Google My Business, Facebook, Apple Maps, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, etc. For an exhaustive list of niche business directories, visit BrightLocal’s Top Local Citations by Business Category or use services like Moz Local, White Spark and Yext.
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4. Routinely Audit Business Listings
Just as businesses should routinely conduct a website audit, listings should also be audited to ensure the most accurate and up-to-date information is listed in the directories.
In your calendar app, set a monthly or quarterly schedule to audit business listings and download the mobile apps for managing your listings on the go. Several top business directories publish apps like Google My Business (iOS) (Android), Yelp for Business Owners (iOS) (Android) and Facebook Pages Manager (iOS) (Android).
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You just learned how to improve your online presence with business listings. While an effective website with content marketing will improve on-page SEO, business directories will improve off-site SEO and build credibility.
Start updating, claiming and building your business listings today and help potential customers find and choose your business.