A strong digital presence on both desktop and mobile is vital to compete online. Today over 80% of consumers will start their search for local businesses online. To be successful businesses should have a website, local business listings, social media profiles and customer reviews. While all of these factors are important to ranking high in search engine results, local business listings are the foundation to any local SEO plan.

Local Business Listings Help Both Short and Long term

It’s true that having a well structured website with a responsive design is the perfect starting point for a business online. Once your website is established, there are limitless options on where to spend your time and money marketing your brand online. Typically I would recommend optimizing your website, and acquiring quality inbound links and creating local business listings. It’s becoming common knowledge these days that optimizing your website is a must for most industries to rank in search engines. Obtaining quality inbound links is certainly valuable, but it’s more of a longer term SEO tactic that requires relationship building and content marketing. For those who want to hit the ground running and see positive results faster, should heavily consider business listings in local directories. When your business is mentioned outside of your website, it creates more credibility for your company. Why is this important? Google works hard to return results to searchers that includes website that are trustworthy and provide valuable content. By creating local listings, you are creating more opportunities for your business to be mentioned in a shorter period of time, because getting listed (although a tedious process) can happen in a matter of days. It also increases the chances of a potential customer to find your online listing (I.E. on Yahoo, Yelp or Yellow Pages) and then contacting your company directly from that website directory.

Create uniformed local listings

One of the most important takeaways from creating listings in local directories is to enter your name, address and phone number (NAP) the exact same way on each directory. Now each directory may not allow for data to be entered precisely the same way, but you will want to make sure you stay as close to uniform as possible.

For example if you listings show up with different variations like the examples below, then you will potentially lose out on a number of possible customers.

Example Tanning Salon, 9000 Rockville Pike Suite B, Rockville, MD 20852 | 301-555-5555
Example Salon 9000 Rockville Pike Suite C, Rockville, MD 20852 | 301-555-5555
Example Hair and Tanning Salon 9000 Rockville Pike Suite B, Rockville, MD 20852 | 301-555-5555
Test International 9000 Rockville Pike Suite B, Rockville, MD 20852 | 301-555-5555

In this example there are lots of mistakes that can hurt your overall local SEO efforts.

1) The name is displayed in three different ways and one listing is associated with another company’s name.

2) The address is slightly different in terms of suite number because the company may have moved into a bigger or small office space.

3) The phone number is attached to another company in one listing, which possibly means the other company may have had occupied this phone number at one time.

It’s important to establish a uniform way you would like your company info to be listed and enter your NAP the same way on each listing. There is some leniency for address formatting (I.E. Avenue and Ave.) that search engines are smart enough to pickup on, but the easiest way to avoid any complications is to pick one format for your business.

Have a plan for duplicate listings

Like most small business in Maryland, Washington DC and Northern Virginia, you probably don’t have an in-house digital marketing strategist or a marketing director for that matter. Most likely the role of marketing is shared between business owners, trusted employees, an all-encompassing sales and marketing person or in some cases even family members. Early on it was hard to see the forest through the trees and determine what was an online fad and what to focus on with real marketing dollars. So it’s possible that your company created a listing years ago, logged in once and then forgot about it.

For whatever reason, you may have multiple local listings created on directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angies List or Google Places (to name a few) and this can become a problem. For example, say a former employer or college intern help you create a listing many years ago, and you forgot all about it or didn’t even realize it. Then you come to understand that creating local business listings for your company is a advisable idea. You or your marketing appointee creates a second listing without knowledge of the first listing and now you have duplicate listings.

Here are few reasons this can complicate your Internet marketing strategy:

1) Your business has multiple listings, which can confuse search engines.

2) Your business has an old listing with the wrong address or phone number, which can confuse customers.

3) You may not have the original login information for your older account, which makes it hard to remove or consolidate your listings.

Takeaways about local listings for businesses

As more and more businesses understand the importance of local listings in business directories, the more competitive this SEO practice will become. By adding this tactic to your monthly or quarterly Internet marketing plan now, you will see an increase is your company’s visibility online. This is an effective strategy to increase leads, conversions and ultimately sales for your business. So make sure your listing info like name, address and phone number are uniform and up-to-date. Also be on the look out for duplicate listings, so you can remove outdated information that could be standing in the way of you and your customers. If you have any questions about local business listings, please feel free to contact us for more information!

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