How To Market Your Small Business Online [Step 1]

Finding a Use for Local Directories

Finding a Use for Local Directories

Last week we talked about online marketing priorities for small businesses. In each of the 7 steps I provided you with an overview of what each entailed, and why it was positioned where it was.

Over coming weeks I would like to expand on each of these online marketing steps, going into more detail. Providing you with ideas on how you might plan and implement them.

So this week we are going to look at local listings for small business. The reason we cover directories and local listings first is because some can take time before you appear. As a new business for example getting into Google’s local listing can take 2-3 weeks.

By prepping the directories early on these can be working for you whilst you do other things. You can always come back and update your live listings with details like your website address when you have them.

The Importance of Local Directories

Especially if you serve your local market, you can’t ignore directories. In some market sectors even if you serve a national or international audience directories can still an ingredient in your initial marketing efforts.

As part of your business plan or business idea development you will have researched potential competition online and probably come across directories in your search. Some of the better quality directories dominate the search results for local search phrases such as, “car repair colchester”.

In this particular example 5 of the first page results for me on Google were directories:

Industry Directories

Although these common brand named directories may appear regularly, in some industries more niche directories can also be found.

A search for “independent financial advisor ipswich” on Google is largely dominated by directory listings. With the following specialist directories appearing in addition to some of the others mentioned previously:

Room For Little ‘Ol You

The results will vary dependant on whether you are logged in to Google, your search history, or if you are using a mobile device.

As a guide, these are the typical directories you can expect to see for the majority of sectors.

Combined with the Google+ Local results, which we will cover in a later post, this leaves very little room on the front page for your website to appear naturally.

In addition, if you are just starting out your website will have very little online authority in the search engines when compared with competing sites. This makes it even more difficult for your website to rank well, initially.

Leverage the Directories Search Position

This is why I recommend you take advantage of the directories that appear on the front page of the search results for terms related to your business, and consider listing in them.

Early on they can help your company get found and provide the initial enquiries you need to get a foothold in the market.

As over 90% of searches in most countries are performed on Google, and the first ten results attract over 50% of the traffic, it can be vital to appear on page 1.

Even if it is “piggy backing” off of someone else’s platform.

Getting More Specific

It is possible that more industry specific directories exist in your sector. These may not appear for the search terms you initially try but may appear for more obscure searches.

Try searching for a keyword and adding “+ directory”, as in this example search for directories of accountants.

To Pay Or Not To Pay

Some directories will offer a basic listing for free. They then charge for a more detailed, or prominent, listing. Whether you choose to pay will be down to your budget and personal preference.

Make sure your decision is at least based on the following:

  • Quality of the directory
  • It’s prominence in the search results for your sector
  • Percentage of your overall marketing budget

The First Step

Have in mind that directories are just the first step in marketing your business. They are not the complete solution and are unlikely to bring in hundreds of clients, regardless of what their sales rep promises!

Your sole aim here is to get found quickly, whilst other, more long term marketing takes effect.

Impact on SEO

We haven’t yet covered building your website, but many of you may already have one and even if you haven’t this is important!

Links from good quality directories can have a positive impact on your position in the search results, long term. Therefore even if you do not list your business in all of the directories you find at this stage, do keep a list of the relevant ones for possible use later on.

I will have a lot more to tell you about links when we get to the step on Search Engine Optimisation. For now just be aware that the quality of a website that links to you can play a factor.

So you should not list your website in hundreds of directories, free or otherwise, especially not using bulk listing services. You may feel tempted, but your business will suffer when your new website is excluded from the search results by Google.

Keeping It Local

At this point we have just covered local directories. We haven’t discussed Google’s local offering or other localised listings.

We’ll go into detail on these next time.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about local directories please feel free to leave a comment below.

If you would like help finding or listing your company in online directories please contact me directly by email or phone 07850957506

About Sean Clark

Building successful online companies since 1999, we help you market your business online. Whether you need help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Paid Search (PPC) or Social Media Marketing call us today on 01603 343477 for a free initial consultation.

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  • Sara Greenfield

    Thanks for mentioning thebestof in your blog, Sean. I own thebestof Norwich and really appreciate the mention. Each of thebestofs is owned by local people on the ground, and we often run networking events so that local business people can meet up. We do limit the number of businesses in each category so that our clients don’t compete against too many other people. We are very protective of our clients, and have even turned people away if they are too close geographically to existing clients.

    I think your blogs are fantastic, Sean – and not just because you mentioned thebestof!

  • Your welcome reference the mention of “bestof”, it can be a great resource for SMEs. Many thanks for the feedback on the blog, appreciated.

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