These days almost everyone has an internet-connected mobile device, so traditional printed business directories like The Yellow Pages have largely been consigned to history.
Instead, people use online search engines to find information on products and services. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore business directories completely; rather you should do some research so you can target the online ones that are relevant for you.
- Research your niche!
If you have something to offer online your first step will be to see what your competitors are using. You’ll need to identify who the biggest influencers are in your niche; more often than not this will be the well-established names. Check the links sections of their websites to see who they link to so that you can determine which online directories will also be applicable to you.
For example, if you own a hotel you’ll want add yourself to hotels.com and trivago.com because they are two of the biggest online directories on the internet for finding accommodation. You’d also want to consider others like travelocity.com because hotel listings are included as well as cheap flights, cruises, car rentals, and travel packages. Each specialty niche is likely to have their own directories so you just need to find them.
- Don’t throw money away!
Many online directories still use the traditional advertising model – the more you pay, the more information you can include in your listing and the higher your placement in rankings. You’ll need to exercise good judgement to determine which ones are worth the expense and which are not.
For example, if you’re offering a specialised niche product or service it probably doesn’t make much sense to pay for a subscription in a general directory – a wiser strategy would be to focus on search engine optimisation as customers are more likely to use Google or Bing to find you. In other words, don’t rush into expensive plans.
- Don’t forget local community!
If your offerings are of interest to the people in your local community then you’ll want to invest some time learning which local business directories are available. Many local directories include not only an online listing but also inclusion in print versions which are distributed freely within the community. Find out which ones get the best coverage and consider a trial subscription. At the end of the trial do an analysis of your sales or “hits” to see if the investment paid off or not.
- The big ones!
A quick search for “online directories” using Google or Bing is likely to give you countless articles listing where you need to be listed online. Refine your search to just include results within the last six months so you see what is most popular. Those lists will nearly always start by listing the same entries: Google, Bing, Yelp, and Yahoo!. That’s because they have become so big online that it’s where people start. Luckily, all of these portals have ways to get yourself included although sometimes you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find where to get started. Start with Google’s own business directory and go from there: www.google.com/business/
- Don’t forget the unconventional ones too!
Our digital world is evolving so fast it isn’t always easy to define what an online business directory is! Think outside the box so you don’t forget to include yourself in unconventional places too. Make sure you have a presence on Google Maps and Bing Maps. Create a channel on YouTube. And create pages on social networks like Facebook.
While search engines are undoubtedly the most popular way to find things online, business directories still serve an important role. If you include additional strategies alongside search engine optimisation you’ll increase your presence online and make it easier for your visitors to find you. The trick is to identify the ones that are most applicable in your niche.