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The importance of being listed: Online and print directories for small business

Owning your own business can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time! With so much already on your plate, you want to engage in marketing and advertising that is proven and effective so you’re not wasting your time with promotions that don’t benefit your bottom line. This is where business directories, both online and offline, come should play a role in your marketing plan.

Why business directories for small businesses?

When researching a product or company, 8 out of 10 people will use a directory or an internet directory (Gold Book or Yellow Pages), according to a study conducted by Burke on behalf of the Local Search Association. Of those who use directory searches, 8 out of 10 of them result in purchase or intent to purchase.

Business directories are a great form of targeted advertising. Generally, when someone is using a business directory they already have a specific need for your service. All you need to do now is position your listing or ad in appropriate directories and design it so it catches the attention of your target customer before the competition grabs them.

For online directories, it helps to pick ones with high traffic volume and large ones with a high Google Page Rank (an algorithm that Google uses to determine the relevance and importance of a web page), it can help your listing appear higher in Google Search Results, thus increasing the likely hood of the user finding your company.

For print directories, look for regionalized or local directories and/or ones pertaining to your niche market. Look for advertising opportunities in the business directory section of a local popular magazine or newspaper, or in an industry/association directory.

Are business directories profitable for small businesses?

Maintaining your online listing or directory can bring a great ROI. A Patek Analytics Study found that businesses who maintained their print directory listing saw an average of 20% in growth over 2010-2011 (with 70% of respondents reporting year-over-year gains in call volume directly related to their directory ad). “Home service” and “emergency repair” businesses saw the highest average increases. The same study also found that 36% of customers who purchased after seeing a print directory ad are new, never having used the used that business before.

Ninety-seven percent of consumers research a product or business online, looking at an average of 7.9 difference sources, including directories, before making a purchase decision. As marketers we know that if we want to turn a prospect into a conversion, we need to remain front-of-mind to the consumer so when they are ready to buy, they think of us before our competition. This suggests that if they see your name often, for example in online directories, your conversion rates could increase.

Where can I find online and print directories?

It’s generally not effective to just “spam” your business into every directory you can get your hand on. You still need to ensure you are choosing ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and for your time.

For small businesses, first look for directories in your niche and local markets. This is most likely where people will start to look for your services. Then, depending on your budget and resources, consider larger, more general-interest directories (like the yellow pages).

It’s important to find the right mix of directories for your business. More and more directories are appearing every day. Some are free, some require a subscription or fee. Also consider directories like Google Maps and Google Places, so you can take advantage of people searching for local businesses using other Google services. If your business offers tangible goods, consider adding them to comparison shopping websites (42% of consumers use a comparison shopping website before making a purchase), and product listing sites.

Can online directory listings increase my web traffic?

Listing your company and company URL on online websites not only helps your ROI, but can also help your website appear higher in search results for certain terms. The more quality web pages that you can get your site listed or mentioned in, the more authoritative Google will begin to think your website is. When Google chooses where your webpage will appear in search results, Page Rank (the authority of the webpage) is one of the factors that can significantly increase your chances or being ranked first, or at least on the first page, for a particular search term or phrase.

What does my business need to do now?

Your small business should consider directory listings and advertising in their on-going marketing plan. First, look at your directory options based on your business niche and region. Also look up your competitors to see where they are advertising and see if it makes sense for your business to have a presence in these directories too. Aim to stay top-of-mind to the consumer as much as possible, without appearing “spammy.”

It may take some time to find the right mix of directories to advertise your business in. Implement some sort of analytics or tracking system to see which directories are giving you the best return, either in click throughs to your site, in direct revenue, or in call volume. This could include using special tracking campaign links for online directories, or a unique phone numbers or URLs for print ads. Over time, cut the zero- or low-performing directories and re-invest in new ones until you find a good mix of print and online directories that perform well for your business.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that listing your company in directories isn’t just a one-time project. It needs to be maintained and your strategies adjusted based on what your competitors are doing, and based on your changing business goals. However, studies are proving the maintaining business directory listings as part of your marketing plan can be a profitable business strategy for your small business.

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