As a business owner, you likely understand that the majority of your customers use the internet to discover new businesses and local products. But most business owners aren’t sure where to start when it comes to pushing their business up in the search engine rankings. According to Forbes, 93% of searches on Google and Bing never get past the first page. And with ad space, videos, and informational snippets taking up more and more valuable real estate at the top of the results page, there are only about eight spots available on that first page.
Enter business directory listings – the unsung hero of search engine optimization (SEO). Scott O. Hirsch, CEO and founder of Media Direct and digital marketing pioneer, explains how business directories can take your business from obscure to the front page in a relatively short time.
What Are Business Directory Listings? Scott O. Hirsch Explains
Business directories, according to Scott O. Hirsch, are exactly what they sound like. Just like businesses used to list themselves in the Yellow Pages, the White Pages, and other locally recognized listings of businesses, you have to make sure your information is accurately and prominently displayed across the internet’s directories.
Google Places, Facebook, LinkedIn, YellowPages.com, and Yelp are all perfect examples of big, generic business directories, although there are hundreds more, including industry-specific ones like HealthGrades for medical professionals or Allmenus for restaurants.
Scott O. Hirsch Explains How Business Directories Can Help Your Business
“As a small or medium-sized business, you just don’t have the marketing budget available to you that huge corporations like Facebook and Google do,” says Scott O. Hirsch. These corporate giants have so much organic and paid clout in the digital marketing space that they are basically guaranteed to rank high in organic search. So even if your business is not currently ranking high for the search terms you’re after, your business directory listing may still appear in the directories with more SEO power.
Scott O. Hirsh tells us that Google ranking algorithms are symbiotic and hierarchical. If a site that is more trusted, newsworthy, or established (think Forbes, NYTimes, CNN, WebMD, etc.) links to your site or mentions your business, you’re going to get a huge boost in SEO juice. Google’s number one goal is to provide searchers with the most relevant and useful information possible. This means they work hard to verify valid sources and leave out completely unheard of sites and businesses. In other words – business directory listings give you a look of legitimacy in Google’s eyes.
How Do I Get Started? A Few Tips From Scott O. Hirsch
“The first step you should take with business directory listings is to Google your business,” says Scott O. Hirsch. “See what pops up. Make sure the information looks correct.” Just like good listings can help your SEO score, incorrect, duplicate, or messy listings can bring your SEO score down – drastically.
This is an especially important step if you recently moved locations, changed phone numbers, or have undergone new ownership or a name change. When listings don’t match across the internet, Google flags them as being unreliable and reduces the risk of giving searchers incorrect information by pushing your business down in the rankings. Make sure all of your information is correct on Google Places, Yelp, Facebook, SuperPages, YellowPages.com – anywhere you’re listed.
After you’ve cleaned up your presence as much as possible, the next step is to start listing your information in as many relevant directories as possible. The more presence you have, the more legitimate your business for SEO purposes. However, warns Scott O. Hirsch, you should try not to get caught in the trap of listing yourself in every single directory available, which could take hundreds of hours for negligible ROI.
Instead, hit the big guys (Google, Facebook, YP, etc.), and then focus on specialty directories for your business’s specific niche or location. City directories, local business associations, and sites that review your industry (i.e. Yelp or RateMyDoctor) are a great place to start.
Too Busy for Hours of Directory Listings? Scott O. Hirsh Says There’s Another Way
While it’s a joy to aggregate your data into a flawless spreadsheet (just us?), it can be less thrilling to spend hours and hours copying and pasting that data into all of your chosen platforms. Even if you’re willing to do the work, there are often much higher value tasks you could be attending to as a business owner, which means directory listings get left on the to-do list for far longer than is healthy for your SEO rankings.
That’s why certain companies like Scott O. Hirsch’s Media Direct offer automated solutions for location data management. Most of these types of programs allow you to fill out a single form that is then circulated amongst the platforms of your choice. Many also offer options for continuous monitoring and reporting on SEO progress and changes in ranking. Often, the best route is a combination of automation (for the big platforms) and a personal investment of time (for lesser-known industry and geo-specific options).
Using a service or company to help you with your business directory listings lessens the burden of work, saves time, reduces the likelihood of human error, and frees you and your employees up to focus on projects that require more critical thinking and less data entry.
Scott O. Hirsch is a well-known digital marketing guru and a pioneer in his field. He helped to dream up and implement many data-based technology concepts still used in the field today, such as opt-in email, e-appending, affiliate marketing, and SEO directory listings. You can find his work in Forbes, Time, Huffington Post, INC, and Entrepreneur, among others.