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Official Guide to Building an Online Presence for Your Local Business

7 Chapters

Local business owners have always taken special care to make sure they are listed correctly in the phone book, their local Chamber of Commerce directory, or through the Better Business Bureau. These resources are still widely trusted, and many now offer digital directories to accompany their traditional products and services. Newer review websites and directories may also be a strong part of your customer’s buying cycle. But how do you know where to start?
In Chapter 6, we’ll show you:

  • Which online directories you should use to list your local business
  • How to find industry-specific review sites
  • How to promote your listings

What are the most popular online directories and review sites for a local business?
There are a few directories where most businesses would benefit from a listing. In many cases, a listing may be created for your business without your participation. In those cases, you will need to claim an existing listing. If a listing does not exist, you will need to create a new account and go through each site’s verification process.

Here are a few of the most common directories used by local businesses:
Yelp. This is a site where people commonly leave reviews on a variety of local businesses.
YP.com (aka Yellow Pages). This is the digital arm of Yellow Pages phone books. Local businesses should make sure they are listed in both the paper and digital version of YP.
TripAdvisor. This is a popular review and recommendations site in the hospitality or tourism industry. People can also book trips through their system.
Angie’s List. This site is used primarily to review contractors and service providers. Highly rated people can also advertise specials through the site.
Chamber of Commerce. If you choose to join the Chamber of Commerce in your area, you will likely be listed on their digital and print directory for community members to see.
Better Business Bureau. If you become an accredited business according to the Better Business Bureau, they will listed your business on their website alongside a letter grade and any consumer reviews.
How do I find industry-specific review sites and directories?
Along with these popular sites, it is a good idea to create accounts on directories and review sites specifically designed for your particular industry. To find these sites, Google the term “Reviews for [your service] in [your location].” For example, if I were a lawyer in Toronto, my I would search the term “find a lawyer in Toronto.” The results would show me these key sites:

It’s a good idea to go through at least the first two or three pages. You should also widen or narrow the scope of your search a few times to make sure you are finding every possible directory your potential customers could be using. For example, a search for “Find a Lawyer in Canada” gave me these additional sites to consider:

How do I promote my listings?
Most directory sites (except “membership-based” sites like BBB) offer free “basic” listings and charge for “premium” listings. Premium listings include features like placement above organic search results, being featured in bold print, or expanded content in your profile.

It may be worthwhile to consider these advertising options. However, you should ask the following questions before signing on:

  • How many people from my area searched for my product/service on your website in the last month/year?
  • What is the average cost per click for a business in my industry?
  • Can you show me how paid listings perform versus how free listings perform?
  • Is there a way to test the premium listing over a few months rather than committing to one or more year(s)?

A final word on online directories
Whether you pay for a listing or not, it is imperative that your profile looks as inviting as possible to potential customers. In the online directory world, that means encouraging people to leave you of recent, positive reviews.
It also means adding helpful images and keeping the information on your profile up-to-date. As we mentioned in Chapter 1, keeping a list of your key contact information, well-written business descriptions, and all your account details can help in the creation and maintenance of your online presence.

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