Local Search and On-line Directories

While competitors are paying hefty fees for traditional search engine optimization (SEO), businesses that have discovered the secrets of local directory listings often do far better, with relatively little effort and expense.

Local listings on major search engines

When it appears that you are searching for a business in your area, major search services such as Google, Yahoo and Bing (Microsoft) display a block of local businesses in a prominent position on the search results page. These listings are big and in your face, and include information such as the address and phone of the business directly on the page.

Because local listings are limited to businesses located within small geographic area, it is much easier to be included, if you have a physical location in that area.

Adding or updating search engine listings

To learn more about the local listing services on major search engines, use the links below:

Local listings from independent on-line directories

In addition to the major search engines, there are hundreds of independent on-line directories, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large international companies while others are mom and pop operations. Some offer broad-based coverages of all businesses, while others cover specific industries.

Most directories offer basic ‘free’ listings, but they support themselves by offering ‘enhanced’ listings, for which they charge a monthly fee. Others may sell these listings on a pay-per-click basis. The upgraded listings may include a more prominent position, boldface display, as well as the ability to add pictures and other additional content.

If you search for your type of business on Google, Yahoo and Bing, you will probably notice that many of the organic listings included in the search results are for on-line directories, rather than actual businesses. Many directory companies invest heavily in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click services in order to drive traffic to their websites, so that listings on their websites will become more valuable. This has the effect of crowding out actual businesses, making it more costly for you to compete.

Independent on-line directories have economies of scale, and you may find it to be more cost effective to piggy back on their marketing efforts, rather than competing with them for the limited space on the Search Engine Results Pages of services such as Google.

Adding or updating independent directory listings

To learn more about the local listing services on independent web directories, use the links below:

How to be included in local directory listings

If you have an established business, the chances are that it is already listed with the major search engines, as well as many local directories. Most on-line directories obtain basic company data from telephone directories and other sources, which enables them to offer broad (if not very useful) coverage of a wide universe of companies from the start.

Although the procedures for individual directory services vary, it usually involves ‘claiming’ your listing using a verification process. You then have the ability to update/correct the listing and add other information such as business hours, website address and business description.

With the notable exception of Google and Bing (Microsoft), most directories will try (usually quite hard) to sell you a paid upgrade to your listing. While few of these will deliver real blockbuster results, the better ones may contribute a steady trickle of qualified leads.

The trick is to discover where your leads are coming from, so that you can determine which ones produce the most useful results. Some directories provide lead capture and tracking themselves, making it easy to measure their performance. Others simply provide statistics, or no tracking at all.

Tracking leads to their source

In some cases, you may have some success by asking callers where they found you. However, we have found over the years that it is much more difficult than people think to consistently collect accurate information this way. Even worse, many people who search for businesses on the Internet have no idea where they found you, other than ‘on-line’.

There are several ways to determine the effectiveness of different on-line directories. One is to set up a tracking service such as Google Analytics on your website. We normally do this as a matter of course on the sites we develop for our clients. It is free, and it will provide you with a rich set of data that can identify the number of visitors from each referral source, with some useful information about the follow-on activity of those visitors after they reach your site.

The only thing that most tracking services won’t provide is the means to identify the source of specific visitors. For that, you will have to use enhanced tracking tools such as those included with SalesProTM, our sales and marketing automation application.