Your authenticity has a huge impact on how search engines treat your website. Can your business name be mapped consistently to a physical location and phone number? Or does the Internet contain numerous business names that may or may not be associated with a single address and phone number? In other words, what picture does all that online information portray of your business?
Search engines are in the business of dealing with facts. They give priority to information that’s unequivocal. All the rest, all the bits of conflicting data, gets pushed down below that which can be trusted.
So, the first step in building your online presence is to make sure the information about you and your business – everywhere – is consistent, and that it can be verified. There’s one part of your digital footprint that you can control: Online directories, also called IYP or internet yellow pages.
Citations and your reputation
Verified directory listings start the process of establishing trust. The listing may appear in online search results, and may provide a link back to your website; these are called “citations” in SEO (search engine optimization) parlance. We’re going to help you track down and verify the data that counts.
Citations from reputable sources are good for your reputation as well; they communicate, “This business is legitimate,” to both search engines and your customers. For a new business or one that has moved, changed its phone number, or changed its website domain the sooner you update directory listings with current info, the better.
Step 0: Get NAP on every page of your website
Before you get started make sure that your website is in order. The Home page should contain the full name, address, and phone number of your business – referred to as NAP. The NAP can be anywhere on the page, but make sure it is not embedded in an image (search engines have a hard time parsing text within an image). Placing the NAP in the footer ensures that it will appear on every page of your website. Don’t skip this step!
The NAP you use in directory submissions should be identical to that on your website. Remember, this is all about being consistent.
It’s best to use your full street address, city, state, and zip. When I first started my business I used a P.O. Box, and this wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t know that search engines ignore P.O. Boxes, and that Google requires a street address for verification purposes. The goal is to be transparent and reassure everybody – people and search engines alike – that the business is legitimate.
Step 1: Set up an account at each directory
Next, go to each online directory and aggregator (an aggregator is a massive database that collects and supplies information to thousands of directories). As of our last update, getting listed in the following directories is free. Note: keep track of your username and password for each account.
Last updated 10/24/2017
- ExpressUpdateUSA (an aggregator)
- Acxion (an aggregator)
- Factual (an aggregator)
- Bing Business
- Angies List
- YP (Yellow Pages)
- Merchant Circle
- MapQuest (Yext)
- Biz Journals
- Best of the Web
- City Squares
- Magic Yellow
- Show Me Local
For those of you who decide to follow through, you’ll appreciate this directory listing cheat sheet from Pigzilla.
When people search for companies in your industry do they typically see several niche directories? In some professions directories dominate the first page of search results.
To find a relevant list, type [name of your industry]:directories in the browser. For example, a website developer can enter – web developer:directories – into the browser and see all the directories that list people and firms in this profession. A yoga instructor can enter – yoga:directories – in the browser. Check out the top results and consider whether you want to see your business listed. If it is listed ensure your profile is accurate and favorable.
Here’s a resource for getting ideas for your particular niche: Citations by Category.
Step 2: Pay attention to the verification process
Your submission should result in an email to you for verification or to activate the account before your business listing is accepted. (Check your spam folder.) Follow through on the instructions.
Step 3: Set up Google My Business
Now, for the mothership of directories: Google’s local business directory. You want Google to know yours is a legitimate business; otherwise, you could be doing many things right and still not show up in Google’s search results.
To get on Google’s map with a verified business, go to Google My Business: www.google.com/business.
(All of Google’s products are accessible with a single username and password, so if you do not have an administrative gmail account for your business, this is a good time to set that up.)
Follow the instructions for claiming your business. If you see a listing with your business name and phone number but the details are not exactly correct claim it anyway; you will be able to edit the information after you verify that you are the owner.
After you select categories and write a description of your company, follow the instructions to verify your business. If Google needs to mail you a PIN be on the lookout for a small envelope (don’t mistake it for junk mail). When you receive it, log back into Google My Business and enter it. Verification might be instantaneous or it might take several days.
Step 4: Check your listings
A couple of weeks after claiming your business in the various directories, see if your business is listed correctly. If you log back into your account you will likely have the option to add more information. But if your listing isn’t there, you can try again.
There are many services that will claim and update your listings for an annual fee. Two reputable and reasonably prices services are Moz Local and Whitespark. Outsourcing the directory listings ensures you complete this critical task while saving you time; however, the one task we recommend you handle in-house is setting up Google My Business.
Now you have the basics to make placeholders across the Internet that point back to your website. With imagination and effort, you could use directories as a marketing tool; here’s an article published by the online marketing agency Portent to get you thinking.
How do citations fit into your overall online marketing strategy? We can help you with that – just contact us for a free consultation.
We hope you have found this resource guide useful. We try to keep it updated, but we can’t guarantee its accuracy. Feel free to send corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.