If you’re a small business that relies on a local customer base, you already know that online visibility is vital to bringing those customers through your doors. In just a few short years, the entire world of small business marketing has turned topsy-turvy. Tried and true methods of promoting your business no longer deliver the results they did just 15 to 20 years ago. Local newspapers, which used to be the mainstay for local business advertising, have largely gone out of business or been gobbled up by enormous national media companies. The few local papers that remain have ever-decreasing circulation numbers – and advertising in the bigger newspapers is cost-prohibitive for most smaller businesses. Even the most basic of all local business advertising venues, the local phone directory, is little help. More and more households are opting out of land line phone service, and fewer and fewer even have a phone book in the house.
Today’s small business owners know that if they’re going to be competitive, they need to have an online footprint that makes it easy for potential customers to find them. It’s not enough to just create a website when you’re looking for local customers. The Internet is huge, and your business is competing with dozens, hundreds, thousands of other people offering the same products and services, and many of them have very deep pockets when it comes for paying for advertising. When you’re operating with a limited online advertising budget, you have to get strategic. One very effective strategy is to use local online business directories to increase your online visibility and your chances of being found by customers in your immediate geographic area. Here are five strategies that will help you attract more customers using an online business directory like FindUsLocal.com.
Inbound Links Increase the Visibility and Credibility of Your Website
First things first. It’s not absolutely necessary to have a website, but local businesses with websites are easier to find. It’s most effective to have a Web address that matches your business name, and a .com extension is still the easiest for most people to remember. On the other hand, ICANN – the authority that assigns domain names – has recently released a slew of new top level domains (TLDs), making it easier than ever to customize a business domain name that’s easy to remember. Whatever domain name you choose, though, your website should display, at the very least, your business contact information, including your address, telephone number and hours of operation. A professional website is the linchpin of your online marketing strategy, and the only piece of online real estate where you control every piece of content.
However, even the perfect website is just a pretty page if your customers can’t find it. That’s where online business directory listings come in. When people in your area search for someone to trim their trees, deliver Chinese food or take photos at their wedding, they’ll usually start their search on Google or another search engine. One of the major factors the search engine algorithm considers is how many other reliable, well-known websites link to your business website. Listing your business in a local business directory serving your city – or in several – increases the chances that your customers will see your website when they do a search for a business nearby to fulfill their needs.
List Your Business in the Right Categories
An online business directory doesn’t just provide an alphabetical list of businesses in your city. That would be pretty useless, right? Get listed in business directories that allow you to choose the categories in which your business is listed. Think about the various services your business provides, and list yourself under as many categories as apply. If you’re a photographer, for example, you’d obviously list yourself under Photographers, but don’t stop there. Do you do event shoots? Weddings? Graduation photos? Family portraits? List yourself under Wedding Services and Event Services. If you’ve done photos for real estate listings or catalogs, list yourself under Advertising and Real Estate. Each of those categories will generate another inbound link to your business website – and make sure that you’re not overlooked when customers are looking for a service you provide.
While you’re at it, make sure you list your business in all the towns and surrounding areas that your business serves. It only makes sense to let customers in outlying areas know that you want their business, too.
Use Multiple Directories
There are dozens of local business directory websites around. Most are pretty basic – even those that routinely come up at the top of the search engine listings. It’s still to your benefit to “claim” your business listing on those. Claiming your listing is nearly always free, and it allows you to make sure all the information about your business is accurate. That’s important, because even small inaccuracies – an outdated telephone number, for example – can damage your business’ online credibility. If you can add a link to your website or social media profiles, all the better. You’ll gain a citation and an inbound link.
Get the Perks of Geo-Location Services
Save your real effort for a local business directory that offers you extra benefits. Some directories are more than just directories – they also serve as online portals where people can get local news, learn about upcoming events in their area, and follow interesting local people and businesses. FindUsLocal.com excels at this type of personalized landing page, encouraging people to drop by their site frequently to check in on local happenings. The people who are most likely to walk through your door are more likely to see your business listing on a site they visit frequently.
Capitalize on Reviews
More than ever, people rely on reviews from former customers to help them decide which business to call when they’re ready to buy. Listing your business on a local business directory that allows customers to leave reviews gives you one more boost in the online marketplace. Encourage your customers to drop by your business listing and leave a review, and if you can, add links to other positive reviews in comments on your own listing. Good reviews will help convince potential customers to visit your website or call your business instead of your competitors.