Search engine optimization—or SEO—is all about boosting your business’s online visibility and credibility. You want people to find you and you want them to implicitly trust in your products and/or services.
However, most marketers often adopt a generally broad approach to SEO. And while there’s nothing wrong with generalizing, SEO strategies that are focused on global recognition don’t work too well for local appeal.
Thankfully, directory listings can help realign your current SEO marketing strategies to boost relevancy to localized searches.
But what exactly are directory listings, and how do they help your business?
Links vs. Directory Listings
There are two basic types of links: internal links and external links.
Internal links refer to hyperlinks that lead to areas on the same page or domain. For instance, the table of Contents section in a Wikipedia article is a good example of internal links.
External links, on the other hand, are hyperlinks that lead to a website or page outside the domain. Sticking to our Wikipedia example, the References and External Links sections of a Wikipedia entry all contain external links i.e. links that, once clicked on, will lead the user to a different website outside of Wikipedia.
Links are actually one of the top two most important ranking factors for Google search engine results. In fact, Google has confirmed that ranking without links is “really, really hard.” Links create a system of trust and credibility by pointing users towards great content. You’re also viewed positively when you give credit where credit is due.
And when other pages “mention” your business via a hosted link to your site, your site’s relevancy and quality improves in the eyes of a search engine.
Yes, it’s undeniably beneficial for all parties involved.
Directory Listings, on the other hand, are a little simpler.
Directory listings refer to any mention of your business name on any website, usually accompanied with key information such:
- A brief description
- Your industry
- Your physical address
- Your social media profiles
- Your contact information
… regardless of whether or not there are SEO citations links involved.
As something of a local citation, a directory listing can help any business achieve a higher SERP (search engine results page) through establishing trust and accountability. If you’re leaning heavily on SEO for your local marketing campaign, directory listings can definitely give you an advantage.
Types of Directory Listings
Local directory listings can be categorized into three types:
- major local business data platforms
- geo/industry-specific platforms
- the wider web
Let’s dive into each one.
- Major Local Business Data Platforms cater to local corporate citations found on specific data platforms that exclusively publish local business information. Specific examples of this sort of platform would be Google My Business, Localeze, and Even review-oriented websites like Airbnb and Yelp also count as major local business data platforms.
- Geo- and Industry-Specific Platforms host citations that help business owners appear to a more specified target audience or industry. Aside from identifying businesses as “local,” directory listings in geo- and industry-specific platforms can serve to put organizations in front of audiences specifically looking for their services.
Some examples of such platforms are chamber of commerce websites or university websites. Travel review websites like TripAdvisor and accreditation websites like HealthGrades.com also fall under this category.
- The Wider Web refers to supplementary directory listings mentioned on general websites that aren’t dedicated listing or citation domains. For instance:
- authoritative blogs
- news sites
- government databases
These citations aren’t the type you can simply list yourself or request a listing on. Most are earned through merit or public interest.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s finally address the bigger picture: why do directory listings matter, and how can they help with your website ranking?
Directory Listings: They Matter
We mentioned earlier that quality links boost your website’s visibility and credibility. This, too, is true for directory listings (which is why they’re always getting mixed up).
Local citations serve to inform others that your business exists, this is what you have to offer, and this is how you can be contacted.
Why the emphasis on local?
Because no one living in Tennessee is going to call a plumber from Florida to fix their pipes.
If any listing for your business doesn’t strongly reflect where you’re based or whom you’re catering to, your prospects won’t consider you an option. But if you are accurately and clearly listed as, say, a Florida-based plumber, then the chances of homeowners in Florida giving you a call during plumbing emergencies are quite high.
The Takeaway? For a stronger online footprint, citations on both major local business data platforms and geo/industry-specific platforms are needed.
Positive mentions of your business—like highly-authoritative websites accurately citing your business—can better influence these citations will have on your local SERP ranking.
That being said, it follows that directory listings essentially do more than just boost visibility and credibility. They increase your relevancy to the people who matter—aka your potential customers.
In other words (still sticking to the plumber example), you might not come up on the first page for a ‘best plumbers’ Google search. However, with enough high-quality directory listings, you could land in the top five search results for ‘best plumbers in Florida.’
Final Thoughts on Directory Listings
As with backlinks, there are good listings and damaging citations.
The number of directory citations a business has can certainly affect its rankings. However, if the accuracy of the data and the quality of the platform is questionable, the affect could be negative.
For instance, if website A says you don’t have a direct email address, website B says you have one, and website C lists two email addresses that are radically different from website B’s information, the inconsistency causes Google to question your legitimacy. Consequently, your rank goes down.
The same inaccuracy can also negatively affect potential customers who are trying to contact you. If different platforms list different phone numbers, all of which are disconnected or lead straight to voicemail, their prerequisite trust in you is already damaged. Hence, it’s important that you regularly check your listings for inaccuracies. If spotted, do whatever you can to correct the misinformation ASAP.