Updated: May 14, 2019
If we suggested you use a portion of your marketing budget to take an ad out in the Yellow Pages, you’d think we were crazy—and we would be. After all, nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore! But business directories still exist—this time digitally—and they’re just as important to your marketing efforts today as those massive yellow tomes.
How Online Directories Work
Online directories, also called web directories or citations, are essentially virtual lists of businesses and their contact information, including web addresses. Online directories take submissions from businesses, and most offer free basic listings, which include address, phone number, and web address. If you want to include additional profile information, such as your hours of operation, photos, description of services, or links to your social media accounts, there may be a fee, which can vary widely depending on the directory. Some directories, such as Yahoo Local and Better Business Bureau, charge for even basic listings.
If you don’t submit information, online directories will collect it from other sources and the information is often wrong, outdated, incomplete, or inconsistent. Not staying on top of your listings will cost you customers in more ways than one, which we explore below.
Why You Need to Use Web Directories
Submitting your contact information to online directories is tedious but absolutely necessary. Ensuring accurate—and consistent—listings is critical first because online users actually use the directories to look up businesses, and you don’t want even a handful of people choosing your competitor by default because you’re not listed or your information is incorrect.
Second, search engines such as Google use direct listings as part of their algorithms that determine your search engine rankings. Online directory listings are only a small factor in those calculations, but they still play a part. More importantly, however, is that incorrect, inconsistent, or missing listings can actually hurt your rankings.
Remember that search engines are computers and they are scanning massive amounts of data. If your hospital address is formatted differently in different web directories, those computer programs read that as two separate entities, effectively halving your reach. So if in one directory, you list your hospital’s address as 123 N. 8th Ave. and 123 North Eighth Avenue in another, search engines won’t recognize it as the same organization and will essentially make the two entries compete with one another.
Avoid errors and inconsistencies by keeping a log of your web directory entries and updating as necessary. And check your listings often. Some directories allow users to modify your company info or use algorithms that automatically update info it believes to be true.
Top Directories to List Your Business on Now
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online directory listings and you can’t possibly submit information to each individual web directory. Thankfully, there are some shortcuts.
The easiest way to update your directory listings is to use a paid service, such as Moz Local or Yext, to manage these for you. But if you don’t have the budget and need to handle listings in-house, we suggest you start with the directories listed below. (Note: We have not included social media accounts in our list, but you should have profiles with consistent contact information on all the major social media engines including Facebook and YouTube).
Start with the top three online business directories:
Next, hit the top general directories:
And if you still have time (and energy), grab these listings:
Bing (Bing is particularly important for seniors because the browser comes pre-loaded on many computers and seniors may not change it)
Yahoo Local (Unfortunately, Yahoo has chosen to team up with Yext, which requires you to pay for a listing. But you can get a free listing through its Localworks for small businesses, which allows you to put in multiple locations.)
There are tons more to choose from, and the more directories you’re listed in the more visibility you’ll receive. But you’ll also need to consider resource management, as entering listings can be time intensive. If you have the time to tackle more directories, check out Vendasta’s list of top 100 online directories—if you click on the directory in the list, it will give you a short description with a direct link to that directory.
However you decide to proceed, make listing your business with the top web directories a priority. Your competitors do.