Use Local Business Listings to Grow Your Online Presence

Local business listings (you might know them as directories) are great ways for business owners to stand out in the crowded online marketplace. On listing websites, visitors search for a particular service based on location, category, or user rating. Users receive aggregated lists containing the information they requested, which helps them make decisions about particular services or products to pursue.

Joining a listing site is like asking another business to display your own business card in their store — you become a part of their business community in exchange for expanding your reach to wider audiences. Of course, this isn’t a replacement for your business website (a critical element that bolsters your brand’s voice and gives fans a place to learn more about you). Local business listings produce website visitors who wouldn’t have otherwise found it.

So how do you find a place to list your business, and what kind of listing is right for you? Consider the following information before getting started.

Ponder the pros and cons

The benefits of using a listing service include heightened online visibility, increased website traffic, and a healthier bottom line. Listings can also keep niche businesses (like a custom-sock designer or a specialty candy-floss maker) from being buried in the landslide of mainstream eCommerce by bumping their search-engine results closer to the top of the list.

There are some drawbacks, however. Although many listing websites are free to join, some come at a price. Others encourage you to purchase a paid plan that comes with enhanced tools like intuitive advertisements, optimized search-engine results, or more control over your user ratings and comments. Weigh your options, read the small print, and calculate the return on investment to determine if a listing site is right for you.

Attract shoppers from near and far

Plenty of folks search online for places to satisfy their food cravings. If you’re a restaurateur, baker, ice cream vendor, or B&B owner, you’ll need a strong online presence to guide hungry patrons and travelers to your table or takeout window. People rely heavily on the web to explore options for local entertainment and other leisurely activities. So, if your business appeals to out-of-towners and locals alike, look into listing your business with your city’s tourism website. Official tourism websites are popular places for anyone looking to see what’s going on locally.

If you’re in the food industry and want to improve your business’s online visibility, there are a number of well-established online restaurant reservation services (such as OpenTable). Patrons will often migrate from reservation websites to the sites of particular establishments, giving you a chance to wow audiences with your unique content, images, and overall online presence.

Find your niche

There are plenty of industry-specific listing websites available outside of the restaurant space. For example, consider the home-improvement industry. If your business is involved with any kind of home repairs, listings on HomeAdvisor will guide homeowners to your services. Meanwhile, websites like Homepolish will connect homeowners to interior design businesses, and will connect them to cleaning services. Conduct an online search to find a local business-listing site tailored to your specific niche.

Speaking of niches, if you’re a freelancer you probably spend a lot of time searching for gigs that fit your area of expertise. Local business listings can help with that too, as you can promote your services and bid on available jobs through sites like Freelancer.

Don’t discount the phone book

Remember the days of flipping through the yellow-paged business section of the phone book to find pizza deliveries, lawyers, or snow-removal companies? Well, telephone directories of the past have gone digital. Today’s Yellow Pages and similar directories feature popular online components that people use to find services. It’s even better to list your business with the site that has all but replaced the phone book: Google. Search engines like Google are where people first turn to when looking for local business listings, so listing with Google will almost certainly increase your reach to wider audiences.

Once you decide which listing services are right for you, you’ll have access to a powerful toolkit to improve your business’s visibility, boost site visits, and drive your sales.

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Lorna Hordos

Lorna Hordos is a home-flipping business owner and freelance writer.

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