I can still here the thud it would make on our front porch growing up when the mailman dropped it off. Everyone had one and used it whenever they needed to find a service such as plumber, dentist, lawyer, transmission repair, etc.
Fast Forward to Today
Those books still exist but in much, much smaller distribution. Instead they've been replaced with online listings called Citations or Business Listings. These listings are very simple in that they define business card type information such as your business NAP (name, address, and phone number), website URL if you have one, and a short description of your service. Posting this information on listing sites such as Superpages, Yelp, Manta, Google, Yahoo, and other directories and is free. Some other examples are local Chamber of Commerce pages or business association pages.
Claim Your Listings
You just need to take the time to locate and claim your listings, then update them appropriately. Of course most of these directory sites also recommend you take advantage of their additional paid services such as posting images, coupons, and other potential lead generating items. And that's an option too but not mandatory, depending on your situation.
Although time consuming this process is a critical component of the ranking algorithms or ranking juice of the large search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. What this means is if your business is listed on many directory sites and your competition is not, you typically would rank higher during some searches, all other factors being equal. And higher ranking, especially front page ranking, places your information in front of more potential customers and ultimately can drive higher sales.
Other benefits of business listings are:
• Business listings from well-established and well-indexed directories such as Superpages.com help increase the degree of certainty the search engines have about your business's contact information and categorization.
• Business listings are particularly important in less-competitive fields online such as plumbing or electrical, where many service providers don't have websites themselves. Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find.
• Business listings also validate for the search engines and the potential customer that a business is part of a community. It's hard for someone to fake membership in a chamber of commerce or a city or county business index, or being written about in a local online newspaper or popular blog.
What if I Don't?
Many of these business listing directories create a listing for your business based on information they find from various sources, without your input. Because of this many times the listings can be inaccurate and/or conflict each other. This can be very confusing to both the search engines and potential customers, will lower your search rankings, and drive potential customers away.
That's why it's CRITICAL to your online presence that ALL of your business listings contain the IDENTICAL information, right down to the dotted "i" and crossed "t". (i.e. Let your O.C.D. nature win on this one...) That means that if your business is listed as "John's Heating and Cooling" in one listing and "John's Heating & Cooling" in another, the search engines may not recognize those as the same business and your rankings will suffer.
It's a simple task to find and update your business listings but due to the enormous amount of them (1400+) very time-consuming. Therefore, if you would like us to handle that for you so you can maintain focus on your primary business operations, we'd be happy to - just contact us today!
But regardless of whether we do it or you handle it yourself, make sure your business listings are identical and correct. Otherwise, your potential customers may never find you!