Once upon a time, the only way to reach a business was to look them up in the phone book. You could call them, send them a letter in the mail, or visit them at their address.
If you own a business, you can still get listed in the phone book. In fact, you should. It’s a trustworthy source of information.
But don’t expect it to bring you much business. Most people won’t have the patience to thumb through its pages when they can pull out their phone and find the business their looking for in an instant.
85% of consumers say they use the internet to find local businesses. On the B2B side, 68% of business buyers prefer to search online on their own instead of speaking with a salesperson to get information about a business.
In addition to a website, businesses have an opportunity to get found by listing themselves in local business directories. But getting found isn’t the only benefit of getting listed.
If you want your website to show up in the search results of people in your area, local business directories can have a substantial effect on your search engine optimization (SEO). They aren’t the only ranking factor you need to consider, but they’re worth pursuing.
Here’s how it works.
Local Business Directories and Technical SEO
In the early days, Google’s algorithms treated every backlink to your website more or less equally. It was easy to gain a lot of domain authority by getting listed in hundreds of business directories or by engaging in link schemes, either by using automated software or by hiding links in widgets that were spread across websites.
At the time, getting links from almost anywhere was a good thing. It made Google think you were a hot item.
Today, not all backlinks are created equal in the eyes of the all-seeing search giant. A directory listing doesn’t carry the same weight as a contextual backlink from a piece of content on Forbes.com, for example.
Links from bad directories and other unreputable websites can also hurt you. Instead, Google wants you to create links that are “editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner of the page,” which it refers to as “natural links.”
The best kind of natural links are what you’d typically refer to as “organic” backlinks. It’s when someone finds your web page, likes what they see, and links to it in their own content. Take a look at the statistics listed in the 4th paragraph of this blog post, for example, and you’ll see some organic backlinks (you’re welcome Search Engine Land).
If you go to Google Search Console Help, you can get a full listing of what they consider to be “link schemes.” Towards the center of the page, you’ll see “low-quality directory or bookmark site links” listed:
(Source: Google Search Console Help)
But this shouldn’t scare you away from getting listed in reputable business directories. Google is now smart enough to recognize that these links aren’t “organic” in the sense mentioned above, but they are still legitimate links.
Each listing acts as a “citation.” In the eyes of Google, each citation is a confirmation of your business’s contact information, such as your name, address, and phone number (NAP). If you have accurate information listed across multiple reputable business directories complete with backlinks to your domain, Google can establish that you’re a legitimate business with a relatively authoritative site.
Local SEO is All About Authority and Trust
Technical aspects aside, directory listings impact your authority, and they’re especially important for local business. That’s because they are a source of trust.
Anybody can build a website and say they launched a business. But if there’s no other trace of that business anywhere else on the internet — no page on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, no reviews on Yelp, no listing with the local chamber of commerce, no LinkedIn business page — it doesn’t make that business look very authoritative, both to humans and to search engines.
Typically, you can’t just sign up and post a backlink. The most trustworthy directories will verify your business information before putting you on their website. They may want to have a phone call or go through an electronic verification process before you get that listing.
In addition to providing you with a backlink, directories like the BBB may even rate your business and offer accreditation to help you build trust. Just look at this page for a Plumber in Irvine, California:
Anyone who sees this listing will know that this business knows their stuff. They have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, they’re accredited, and there’s a link to their website to provide referral traffic and an SEO boost.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot of legwork to get listed in a substantial number of reputable directories. In most cases, you’ll make inquiries, submit information, take phone calls, and wait for the confirmation process to go through.
You also need to do it right — every single time. A single typo could throw a wrench into your directory strategy. Furthermore, some directories will have different options than others, and you need to complete your profile on every site to be taken seriously.
For example, a surprising number of the plumbers we found on the BBB site didn’t even have logos:
Your logo may not seem important when you’re trying to get listed as part of a backlinking strategy, but neglecting it only tells visitors one thing: You’re lazy.
Some businesses don’t have a branded logo, but even a JPEG of your business’s name is better than nothing. Most businesses just don’t have the time to fully flesh out all their directory listings. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to fill out tons of forms and take phone calls.
That’s why many businesses who market at the local level reach out to an agency to take care of the directory listing process for them. With a small investment, an agency will get you listed quickly thoroughly, and accurately, and they can even offer other SEO services.
The Best Local Business Directories
If you’ve got the time an inclination, we’ve compiled a list of the 65 of the most reputable local business directories to help. All of these sites have a domain authority of 40 or higher, a metric invented by Moz that estimates how valuable a certain domain is.
Some of these you’ll recognize (yes, Facebook can be considered a business directory), but some of them may be new to you: