Have you ever wondered what’s replaced your phonebook? People still have a need to find a business, but the data sources and retrieval methods have changed. If you’ve got a business or non-profit, you might want to look into these local directories. You might think of them as internet yellow pages on steroids. All offer a free listing and many have additional services for a fee. Even if you don’t plan to use the pay services, you should verify your business listing is correct. Otherwise, your competitor may profit. (Includes resource spreadsheet)
More people appear to be finding local business information online, but I think their retrieval method is changing. The big changes I see is people are:
- using cell phones to get business information
- using more user-generated review services
Newer cell phones and wireless devices have removed the step of telling a service your location. A quick look at the iPhone app store shows a number of “location-based services” that combine business information with reviews such as yelp, Urban Spoon, YP Mobile and so on. Google’s new Android operating system for phones has included location-based service APIs. Even if a cell phone doesn’t detect your location, many directory services have mobile features that allow you to send info to a mobile device.
While there are a large number of local or neighborhood directories, I’ve outlined 9 you should review. Some of these services have relationships with others. All of them offer enhanced type advertisement or listing services for a fee.
Items of Interest
This weekend I spent time using all these services and seeing how they listed local businesses in my area. Some items that stood out:
1. Look for spelling errors in the business name. This is particularly important if your name is a plural or includes a word that can be spelled multiple ways such as “cafe” vs. “caffe”. In some cases, this misspelling may prevent you from showing if the prospect typed your name correctly.
2. Verify your business is properly categorized. This coding often determines whether you show up if a customer searches by a business type such as “restaurant”, “bookstore” and so on. Many services have predefined category lists. If you’re not sure which category to use, see how your competitors are classified. Some services only provide for a primary business category so figure which one is best for you.
3. In a few cases, I noticed where a competitor was listed, but the business had closed. If that’s the case, notify the service that the business is closed. This helps both the directory and you.
4. Some services such as Google allowed you to create fields. This is a nice way to distinguish you from a competitor. Add a field that your customers look for such as brands, professional associations and so on.
5. Have you moved? This presents problems for new customers as they will get incorrect directions to your business. The same goes for hours of operation.
6. Take advantage of the special fields if the service offers them. Some included fields for payment methods, hours of operation, brands offered, URL, photos and languages spoken. This doesn’t mean the user can search for your business by these fields, but they can make you stand out. Few businesses use these fields. Some fields may only show for a certain type of business like a restaurant.
Differences between Free and Paid Listings
Most vendors have a business model where they offer preferential treatment and support to businesses that buy their enhanced services. If you’ve opted for the free listing, understand that your listing may show below a business that has paid to be a “featured” or “sponsored” result.
Most free listings have fewer data fields than paid listing. This may also amount to fewer “call to action” buttons. These buttons add functionality like “Send to Phone” or “Place a reservation”.
With a free listing, you don’t always get a confirmation of your change request. Some services take the updated information, but don’t indicate when those changes will display. You can figure the vendor will have some sort of verification process.
Local Search Directories & Data Providers
InfoUSA – This company is one of the main data providers to other online directories and navigation systems. I didn’t realize this until I saw a misspelling of a friend’s business. That mistake rolled through to other services including: Spoke, Topix, CitySearch, MSN, Superpages and Yahoo!
If you’re not sure if your business is even in their database, you can enter your phone number through a sister site called Express Update USA. From there, you can use the section on the right to check your business or add a listing.
Localeze is also a major data provider to different information vendors including YellowPages.com and Superpages.com. Click the link to the right labeled “list your business today”. This page has a section called Merchant Profile Manager where you can add, edit or delete your business.
YellowPages.com – This company is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. It is also a data provider to services such as Microsoft. It is not an exact copy of your phone book as it’s more fluid and allows customer reviews. You can search for your business by name or phone number. If your business appears, you can click the hyperlink to see the full listing including categories. Toward the top of the profile page is a link titled “improve this listing”. If your business isn’t listed, you can select a free listing.
Superpages.com – This service from Idearc Media is another yellow pages type directory. It too provides business information to other services such as Lycos, About.com. Click411.com and Google Local. From the home page, you can enter your business name or use the search options link to enter your phone number. On the profile page for your business, you should see a link at the top for “Modify Business Details”. If your business isn’t found, you can use the footer link for Add or Edit a Business.
Google Local Search - To find your listing, type your business name followed by a space and your zip code. You should see your business show on the left side of the map. Click the “more info” link to the right of your business name. You should get an overlay with a series of tabs. You can click the “Add or edit your business” if you’ve claimed the business. Otherwise, you need to click “Edit” and then “Claim your business”. If your business doesn’t show you can add it through the local business center, but you’ll need a Google account.
Yahoo! Local – This is one of Yahoo!’s many web properties, but it is geared for local searches. In addition to user submitted info, they also get info from InfoUSA, Wcities & discoverourtown.com. Start by entering your business name in the first textbox and your zip code in the second text box. Click the hyperlink for your business to see the full listing. In the section titled Business Overview, you should see a link to Edit Info. If your business doesn’t show, they provide a link to add a business.
CitySearch – This company is part of IAC/Interactive Corp. It has designated guides for large cities as well as a national listing. To find your business, type its name into the first text box and the zip code in the second. Hopefully, your business appears because if it doesn’t, there is no free listing the owner can submit. Their preference is that you enroll in one of their paid services. However, if you’re not the owner you can submit a business here. If your business needs editing, click the link on the profile page labeled “Suggest a correction”.
Yelp – This is a very popular customer review service where people might find you by category or business name. To find your business, type the name in the first textbox and your zip code in the second. Underneath your address information, you should find a link for Edit Business Info and Is this your business? The first link allows you to change information, but not reviews. The second link allows you to claim your business. Yelp will call you to confirm. If your business doesn’t show ask one of your customers to write a review.
Local.com – This is another clean directory that depends on user reviews. Some of the reviews are pulled from other services like Yelp. One difference is that a reviewer has a chance to win money. To find your business, enter the name in the first text box and your zip code in the second. If you’re in the database, a business snippet appears. Click your company’s name to go to the profile page. Below the address, you should see a link titled “Enhance your listing”. You will need to have an account with them. If you don’t have a listing, you can add one here.
The list above doesn’t represent all local search directories as there hundreds. Some might cover a few towns such as SmallTown. And there are new services coming from providers such as Best of the Web. Still others are membership based like your local Chamber of Commerce. The bottom line is you should check out what these local services show for your business and competitors. Inaccurate or missing information may be costing you business. The spreadsheet below contains a list of these local resources and links. Feel free to use to track your changes and dates.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 April 2013 14:23)