Long gone are the days of searching through phone books and stopping at gas stations to ask for directions. In today's digital world, all a consumer needs to do to find a new local business is conduct a quick search from their desktop or mobile phone.
To reap the benefits from consumers' ability to discover new places at any time, business owners must take the right steps to make sure their company is visible on the Web. The first step in doing so, of course, is ensuring visibility on Google. While SEO initiatives are constant, business owners can take the first step in increasing their business's visibility by listing it on Google Places (now Google My Business), as this increases the likelihood of the business being found across other Google properties, such as Search, Google+ and Maps.
In addition to Google, however, business owners should identify what other local listing platforms are important for their businesses to be visible on. For help with the research process, Website Magazine has put together a list of essential local directories for everyday merchants below:
Visibility on Google is typically the top priority (and for good reason), but it is important that business owners don't overlook establishing a presence on Bing. To get started, they can claim their listings on Bing Places for business. In doing so, business owners have the ability to manage their listing profile, including adding important information like hour of operation and services offered, as well as photos of their business.
Facebook is not only the world's largest social network, but it has also become a popular local directory thanks to its Graph Search feature. To ensure visibility in searches, business owners should establish and manage a presence on the social network. This includes making sure their business Page features the correct brick-and-mortar address, is listed under the correct category and posts engaging content because actions such as "likes" and "check-ins" can influence ranking.
One of the most important virtual places to list a business is undoubtedly Yelp, which is visited by millions of people every day who are looking to make spending decisions. Fortunately it is pretty easy for business owners to claim their listing on Yelp, and by doing so owners can manage their listing, respond to reviews, upload photos and even create a Yelp deal. Business owners who want to take their Yelp presence up a notch can also purchase ads on the local directory as well as leverage other paid features, such as call-to-action buttons, slideshows and more.
To show up in the search results on Foursquare and sister-app Swarm, business owners need to first claim their listing. By claiming a listing, business owners can customize their profile with images, ensure their info is up to date, add links to their profile as well as offer Foursquare Specials and monitor analytics.
Business owners can claim their listing on Merchant Circle by searching for their business and clicking the "claim business" call-to-action (CTA) that is flagged at the top of the listing. It is free to claim a listing and enables owners to manage their reputation by updating their blog and photos and providing the ability for owners to respond to reviews.
By claiming their listing on Yellow Pages, business owners have access to listing management tools, including the ypPresence Starter dashboard that offers a view of the business's information and reputation across the Web. Owners are also able to make sure their listing is accurate, have their listing start appearing across other top sites and directories and will receive a monthly summary of their business's online health. That said, Yellow Pages' listing management solution starts at $69 a month.
Business owners can visit Yahoo Local to get a free scan of their business listings on the Web. In addition, owners can sign up for Yahoo Localworks, which starts at $29.99 a month, to get their listing on more than 50 local directories, including Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, MapQuest, Superpages and more. Localworks also enables users to enhance their listings with offers and photos, s well as track their business's performance.
Local.com is an online directory that enables consumers to find local businesses, events and activities. Business owners visit the site to list their business (through Yext) as well as get a free scan of how their business listing appears online.
Manta helps consumers find small businesses (SMBs) anywhere in the United States. The website sees about 20 million visitors a month and has around 1,000 SMBs join every day. The good news is that business owners can add their business to the platform for free to increase its online visibility, drive traffic, make business connections and view stats on who is visiting their profile. Plus, owners can build custom showcase pages on the site that include links to their website.
SuperPages makes it simple for consumers to find information about local businesses. Fortunately it is also simple for business owners to claim their listing on SuperPages (for free). In fact, owners simply need to click the "Get your Free Listing" CTA and then complete two steps - selecting and editing their listing. Additionally, owners can advertise on SuperPages, including paying for placement in the platform's search results.
LocalPages is a local business directory that helps consumers find local businesses, brands and services, as well as local deals, coupons and news. To ensure that their business is listed correctly on the site, however, business owners must use Yext to control their listing not only on localPages, but also on other sites like Yahoo, MapQuest and Yelp.
MapQuest is a mapping service owned by AOL to help users find driving directions. While business owners were previously able to list their business with the basic version of the MapQuest Local Business Center, that service shut down in 2014. Moreover, MapQuest Premium Listings by Yext has become Yext PowerListings. This means that in order for a business owner to manage their listing, they must do so through Yext.
Citysearch is an online city guide that offers information about businesses in a variety of categories, including dining, entertainment, retail, travel and professional services. Business owners can list their business on the site for free, which enables them to add images, a welcome message and business hours to their listing. In addition, owners can offer specials and deals to their customers after claiming their business's listing.