Local Directory Listings were developed along with the inception of the internet in the early ‘90’s by Yahoo, with the intent to help users more easily navigate the internet and find what they are looking for. This concept was the entire ethos of Yahoo and why it existed, long before it turned to news and email hosting offerings. It’s actually even what Yahoo stands for – literally: Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
When Yahoo came about, it was a time long before Google, Bing and other sophisticated algorithms that have been designed in the years since. Originally, Yahoo would manually categorize websites by type and niche and update it almost constantly. While it sounds crazy, remember that this was the dawn of the internet and it was the very first of its kind. Can you imagine?
What was once the only way of finding what you wanted on the internet, was all of a sudden the most underused tool to finding what you wanted on the internet. Think about it: have you ever once used Yahoo’s directory? All of a sudden came along sites like Google, which would automatically help you find what you need by crawling websites using any particular set of keywords that you might be using for search. Obviously, this became a whole lot easier than manually sorting through website categories and descriptions, which were also all manually entered. This is why three years ago, Yahoo decided to close this directory feature and graduate to the newer technologies being used by basically everyone else. They said in a statement:
“Yahoo was started nearly 20 years ago as a directory of websites that helped users explore the Internet. While we are still committed to connecting users with the information they’re passionate about, our business has evolved and at the end of 2014 (December 31), we will retire the Yahoo Directory. Advertisers will be upgraded to a new service; more details to be communicated directly.”
So, if the original directory of directories closed, then why are there still directory websites now? The death of the Yahoo directory luckily never lead to the death of directory listings in general, in fact, directory listings are still a super important part of a website’s place on the internet and are thriving now more than ever. Not necessarily because people choose to still use particular directory listings to actually find information they are looking for, but more so that it helps you overall with your consistency and relevancy on the internet. This all ties back to your online reputation, so keep on reading!
In the time between Yahoo’s directory inception and eventual close, other search engines were developed after catching onto the idea and worked to make it better. Needless to say, it was quickly discovered that the more links on the internet there were leading back to a particular website, the higher that website would rank on search engines. People grabbed on to this revelation and stuck their link in as many places as possible on the internet – most of all, directory listings. However, this eventually turned into an all-out link spam fest, and Google quickly put a stop to all the madness with their Penguin update.
The great link spam ban happened because search engines want to give you the most relevant results possible, rather than just show you whoever has the most links on the internet. This is how, and why, algorithms were developed. As a user, we want to be given what makes the most sense for the keywords we are searching for. If I am searching for a plumber in Los Angeles, I don’t want to see search results from a plumber in Detroit just because he has the most links back to his page. Cue the algorithms!
So, if Google has done away with the spammy link stuff, then what is the point of spending time (or money) on tackling all these directory listing websites and link building in general? Are they obsolete? No! As we mentioned, Google and other search engines want to give you results that are relevant for your search query and are not seen as spammy. They want you to keep coming back to get your information from them so that they can keep selling different forms of advertising, which keeps them valuable. If they keep giving you search results that have nothing to do with what you are searching for, then you will likely jump ship and go somewhere else. They want you to keep coming back, so this is why it is important to work with their algorithms and use directory listings in a meaningful way that makes the most sense for your business.
So now that you understand the basic point of what directory listings even are and why they are out there in the first place, it’s time to figure out how to use them in the most meaningful way to help grow your online presence. Remember that directory listings, and link building in general, are used nowadays not to fill the internet with your links, but rather to help your overall reputation and consistency online. Entering all your information and verifying all your listings can be time-consuming, but it will be well worth it in the end.
Depending on the type of business you own, there are a few different ways to go about this. It is important to not go ahead and tackle all of the link building strategies listed below, unless it is absolutely relevant to your business. Make sure you only tackle the strategy that is right for you. The last thing you want is to be seen as spammy, noisy link building to a search engine.
Local search engine optimization strategy is music to any digital marketer’s ears – this is because local businesses always reap the greatest rewards SEO has to offer, which means we are always able to give great results to our clients. We love seeing the smile on your face! There are a few simple tips and tricks that we use to growing your local online presence before you even submit to a directory listing.
First thing is first: Get on Google+ (yes, it is still very relevant!) and fill out all your information. Google might have attempted to make Google+ a “thing”, and it lasted for a few short months before it eventually fizzled out. Just because it’s considered not very popular these days and, clearly, you’re not using Google+ everyday for social media, doesn’t mean your business shouldn’t be there. In fact, this is probably one of the most important things you should do if yo own a local business. This is because all the information that pops up on the right-hand side of the search page when searching for a local business is being pulled from Google+ and Google My Business. If you aren’t giving Google any information to go off of, they won’t put anything up for your users and might actually ding you lower. They could actually try to guess what the user is searching for using other local businesses who have filled out information. Get on there and spend the time to fill everything out and verify your listing!
It is also just as equally important to do this for Bing as well. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t use Bing, or even know anyone who uses Bing!” However, if you have an iPhone, then you are absolutely using Bing. This is because a little-known fact is that Siri is powered by Bing. That’s right – when you ask Siri for directions, or any question really, she is giving you search results populated by Bing. The running joke in digital marketing is that Bing stands for “Because It’s Not Google”, since Google and Apple aren’t exactly on the best of terms – but that’s a whole other blog. Moral of the story: Don’t ignore Bing!
Now that you’ve done the simple stuff, it’s time to dive into the directory listings. There are endless local directory listings you can use on the internet – an easy way to find them is one of our partners, Yext. Yext is a New York City technology company that helps businesses manage the public facts about their brands that they want consumers to see online. We work closely with Yext to make sure everything is done correctly and consistently. They offer a wealth of directory listings (we’re talking hundreds) to help your online presence, because you want it all to be consistent across the board.
As they say, consistency is key. Directory listings tend to pull information from each other, and often times this is done manually, so it is important to make sure you are in charge of getting your own information out there. This is what SEO geeks like to call NAP Consistency. NAP stands for Name Address and Phone. If even one digit is wrong somewhere along the line, this could ding your placement since Google or Bing will look at you as inconsistent, and therefore, irrelevant. This is especially important for local businesses to make sure is correct across the board at all times. You don’t want to have any information conflicting with each other when you’re waiting for people to walk in the door!
Let’s say you’re a B2B dog food company who wants to stock their dog food in as many pet stores as possible. You don’t necessarily have a store front, so a local SEO strategy wouldn’t work for you. You want pet food stores calling you, not the customers themselves. So, how do you reach them? Enter category (or niche) listings!
Instead of putting all your information across the web to a bunch of irrelevant places, stick to the dog food business. Anything in the pet industry would be your focus, because this is how you would get the most relevant traffic to your website. This is the best way to be placed among other quality, relevant websites.
As we keep saying, you want to make sure your website is showing up in as many relevant places as possible. If you list your dog food company in a fitness category, you will most definitely be hurting your placement in the algorithm. This would have worked fine in the early 2000’s during the link spam fest we talked about earlier, but this type of thing is exactly what search engines want to avoid these days. More links does not necessarily mean better – relevancy is king online.
If you’re the type of business that offers a special – such as 25% off for first time customers – directory listings are a perfect opportunity to spread the word about that and get your phone ringing. Let’s say you’re a medical professional, such as a dentist, with that 25% off for first time customers special. Posting that special in all your local listings will help get the word out, and it will ensure that your special is listed everywhere that your NAP (pop quiz – remember this?) is as well. Studies show that users would more often than not choose to go with someone who offers some type of discount rather than one who does not. This also goes hand-in-hand with the rest of your online reputation. Strong NAP consistency + an SEO friendly website + strong social media AND an offer on top of it all? You’re already head and shoulders above your competitors.
Directory listings also allow the opportunity for event listings. While your mind might automatically go to a business such as a theatre or other type of venue that has events all the time, it could be useful for local businesses as well. For example, you could use event listings if your business is having an open house, open enrollment, Black Friday sale, a grand opening or a yearly buy-one-get-one-free sale coming up.
However, it is important to commit to event listings once starting. Listing all your events will obviously help spread the word about your event, but it will also make it more enticing to users to want to choose you. Seeing that you consistently are having events will create long-time customers. However, the other side of the coin is that it shows how up-to-date (or not!) you are with your online presence. If you have event listings that are years old, users might think that you’ve stopped offering sales or other types of events. This could be particularly damaging if you still might be holding these events, but just simply not posting them on the directory listings. All in all, this could ding your placement as well so keeping up with this is important once beginning.
The entire point of directory listings and SEO, in general, is to drive traffic to your website. That is why the most important part about getting a great search ranking is, of course, your website. While this particular section of this blog could easily go on for a very long time, we paired it down to a handful of simple rules you can follow to make sure your website is able to work with SEO and directory listings in the first place.
Websites are a tricky beast, and a lot of business owners tend to get hung up on the details of the design. Design is definitely important, but when working on your website, it’s important to also remember that a beautiful website doesn’t automatically mean a rush of traffic. Website design has been deciphered into a science called User Experience – or UX – and a lot of design elements have a lot of meaning behind them. This is especially true for word placement (aka SEO!). Having a website that is SEO friendly will help you much more in the long run than an extremely beautiful non-SEO friendly one. However, it is particularly helpful to have both if you are able to trust your website design team.
Navigating the particulars of SEO-friendly website design and keeping up with directory listings can be a daunting task for business owners. That’s why we step in and work closely with our partners at Yext and Google to make sure you are getting the most out of SEO as possible.