When you hear the term, “online presence,” what do you think of? You probably think about things like social media, websites, or SEO. If you’re a business, one thing you may not think about is online business directories.
Online business directories such as Google My Business, Bing for Business, and Yelp can be extremely auspicious for businesses, and are much more than just an “online yellow pages.” Online business directories can not only list your business info, but can also feature reviews, comparisons, images, and real time visibility of your business. Also, many of these online business directories are used to retrieve and feed data into other websites and online platforms. One way to tremendously improve your online presence is to ensure your business has correct and accurate info on various business directories. While this might sound easy, it is actually quite challenging and time intensive.
As you start the process of improving your business listings, you’ll likely come across online brand management platforms which offer the ability to manage all your online business listings for you. Companies like Yext offer to update and manage all of your brand and location details across many digital platforms. The challenge with using companies like Yext is that once you’ve ended your subscription with them, they will literally un-do all the updates and management they’ve done for you, putting you back at square one. If you decide to pay the substantial fees to one of these firms and get locked into the service, you can sit back and let them do the work. Or you can do this yourself and save money with a little planning and hard work.
If you go this route, one thing you’ll discover is there are a TON of online business directories; so you’ll need to decide which ones matter the most to you and why. Below you will find the directories we focused on for one of our clients and the reasoning behind our decisions.
Google My Business: Google owns the market share of search engine and mobile map use. Naturally, it made sense to make sure business listings on their platform were correct.
Bing for Businesses: Bing is the default search engine for Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge, which is the default web browser for Microsoft products. Analytics were able to give us insight that our client’s customers were heavy Microsoft and IE users, so we decided to ensure their business listings on the Bing platform were correct.
Yelp: During our investigation, we discovered that Yelp feeds data to Apple Maps and Amazon Alexa (as well as many other products). To ensure that our client’s business data appeared correctly on these platforms, we made sure our Yelp listings were correct.
Yellow Pages: Yellow Pages has been a long-time leader in online business directories and feeds data to thousands of other websites. It was an easy decision to make sure our client’s data was correct on this platform as well.
Once you’ve identified the online directories you want to improve, you’ll be ready to start the process of updating your listings.
Step one - claim your listing: Whether your business already has online listings or not, you’ll need to “claim” your business before you can start claiming your listings. Each online business directory has different methods and requirements for claiming your business. If you’re a small business owner with one or two locations - you’re in luck, as claiming a few locations is pretty easy. If you’re a larger organization with several locations, you’re in for a challenge, as many online business directories are going to require all sorts of info in order for you to easily claim all your business locations.
Step two - make sure all your business info is correct and accurate: While being listed in an online directory is good for business and SEO, it can easily lose or frustrate customers if the information listed is inaccurate.
Step three - get a grasp on reviews: Find out what your customers are saying about you, and encourage them to write reviews. We’d also suggest that you respond to all your reviews, both good and bad, as it lets your customers know that you care and are concerned about their experience. If you have multiple locations, you’ll find there are a lot of online platforms that can help monitor, aggregate, and delegate reviews for response; or you can also utilize APIs to help you retrieve the review data.
Step four - add pictures: Use pictures to help tell the story about your business, the location, and the services offered. Encourage others to post their pictures too, but be prepared for moderate submissions.
Step five - maintenance plan: While it’s beneficial to perform all the steps listed above, it’s more advantageous to maintain your listings going forward. This has potential to become challenging and time intensive, especially depending on the online business directories you chose to improve.
While the steps listed above might seem simple, truthfully, they were not easy to accomplish, and are difficult to maintain– especially if you’re a business with several listings or locations. If you’re a big business, you’ll likely find yourself having to “bulk verify” your locations, which typically involves gathering all your locations and data into a spreadsheet and sending it to the online business directory. Additionally, if you find yourself wanting to take control over the reviews and photos that customers submit, you might become coerced into a paid subscription for some online business directories. Lastly, companies like Google are now crowdsourcing data about businesses, and allow anyone to ‘suggest an edit’, which gives the general public the ability to change details about your business. Part of the ongoing maintenance involved with online business directories is monitoring and addressing these changes to ensure accuracy.
For our clients, online presence is critical, and we partnered with them to improve their business listings. If you’re interested in improving your online presence, contact us and see how we can help.