Before the internet – yes, there was a time when searching online was unheard of! – if you wanted to find a business or organisation, you looked it up in a directory. We’re not talking about a list on the screen of our laptop or mobiles; we’re talking about a physical directory that was heavy enough to use as a flower press or to hold open doors! 
The days of a physical Yellow Pages or Thomson directory are long gone. Now, business directories are online and are proving to be a great way to drive traffic to websites and build trust with potential customers. 

What is an online directory? 

Online directories are similar to social media channels and websites in that they highlight your business to your target market, particularly for small businesses. Your business is more visible, more accessible and directs users to your online products and services. That said, appearing on too many directories could dilute your message. 
An online directory is a database of businesses that are able to connect with internet users. Unlike the old-fashioned physical directories, businesses are able to include more detailed information about their business, such as product comparisons and customer reviews.  
Here are the key benefits to having a presence in an online directory: 
Improves visibility – directories amplify a business or organisation’s online presence and can connect them with their target area, particularly in a local area. 
Better discovery – appearing in an online directory can enhance the opportunity of being discovered. Directories have a range of search options, such as location, service or product, and industry. Users may not know the name of your business but they are more likely to discover you with tighter search criteria. 
Utilise customer reviews – the majority of online directories have a customer review facility, such as Google My Business. It is a known fact that potential customers put a lot of faith in customer reviews and often trust them. Positive reviews can be a major factor in a buyer’s decision to purchase. This trust translates into customers being more confident about a business, particularly if it is local. 
Increases brand awareness – enhanced visibility equals better brand awareness. The more times your business appears in the search results of an online directory, the greater the brand awareness for your business. The higher the customer’s awareness, the more engagement. 
A boost for SEO – linking your online content, such as websites and social media channels, with an online directory presence can help significantly boost your business’s SEO ranking. The more information a user can gather about your business in an online search, the higher and more consistently your business will be ranked, and therefore appear online. 
Better potential to appear on Google’s first page – SEO is key to being ranked by Google and appearing on the first page, but it can take time to build that reputation with Google. However, most online directories are already trusted by search engines and that’s very much the case with Google. Being listed in an online directory will greatly increase the chances of your business appearing on the first page, particularly if your SEO is up to scratch. 
An online directory shouldn’t be confused with search engines. They have different functions and outcomes. A search engine helps users to find your website or social media channel. An online directory helps users find your actual business. Without a listing in an online directory, and despite excellent SEO, it will still be harder to achieve a page one Google ranking, particularly on a local level. Being listed in a local online directory will greatly help improve your business’s chances of appearing on page one of a Google search. 

Popular online business directories 

There isn’t any one online business directory that is better than all the rest. Which online directory to choose largely depends on your business or organisation and the area you are located. However, there are a group of local online directories that are consistently respected by the business community and online users. 
Google My Business – this online directory is probably the most well-known and the most popular. You can add photos, a description, reviews, opening times and other relevant content. 
FreeIndex – a local online business directory, Googlebots regularly crawl the directory which can lead to your business appearing in Google searches within 24 hours. Complete FreeIndex’s profile questions and your business could rank higher. 
Lacartes – a relative newcomer to online directories, it is considered highly by Google. Businesses can add a header photo to their listing as well as keywords in their Offering section. 
Yelp – a large global online business directory, Yelp allows businesses to include website links, opening hours and images. – a comprehensive online business directory, Yell features regularly in Google searches and Yell’s mobile app. This directory allows businesses to include keywords in the Services/Products section as well as social media links. 
Yahoo Business Listings - Now partnered up with and is offering a connection service to multiple business directories. They have been around forever therefore have some standing in the online community. 
Bing Places for Business – this is a popular online business directory as search results are good on Windows based PCs, as you would expect. 
UK Small Business Directory – this online business directory is slightly different in that it is a human edited directory presented in a microdata format. Whilst it may take longer to be listed on this directory, it is a popular one for small businesses. 

What to include in an online directory listing 

Depending on the online business directory of your choice, there are several important elements that must be included to enable the best search results. Not only that, it creates a consistent brand presence that can be linked across all your online content. 
Business name 
Website address 
Physical address (if there is one) 
Phone numbers – landline (if there is one) and mobile 
Opening hours 
Company logo 
Images of products and other images that are relevant to your business 
The key to appearing in online business directories is to remember less is more. It’s very tempting, particularly for small businesses, to be listed in as many online directories as possible but ultimately, that could have a negative effect. The other factor to remember is that nothing happens overnight; it takes time to build brand awareness, business reputation and customer relationships. 
It is crucial that any updates to your business, product line, contact information, logo or any other branding changes are updated on your business directory listing as soon as possible. This tells the search engines that your listing is up to date and should be ranked above any older competitor listings. 
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Tagged as: Online marketing, SEO
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