Google estimates that up to 97 percent of consumers use online search to research purchases before ever setting foot in a store. Although you may have a website to draw in those sales, you should also take advantage of the free business listings major search engines provide to their customers. These listings can really raise your profile online. Not only will you show up in search, you can garner reviews for your products and services. Some directories link these listings with social media sites, allowing consumers that do choose you to like, tweet, and share their experiences.
The real kicker is that your business will probably be on these sites whether you set up a profile or not. These sites often make listings for businesses based on public records and user input. They give you the chance to customize your own listing and you should take it.
There are more directories than you could possibly imagine. All of the major search engines–Google, Bing, and Yahoo!–have digital business directories. You can also check out sites specifically for reviews like Yelp or Insider Pages. That doesn’t include sites like Yellowpages.com, Just Click Local, and Super Pages. You could spend days going through each one. But don’t worry about trying to set up profiles with them all. Remember that these sites often pull information from each other. If you sign up with two or three that you like the most, the rest will follow.
It’s not just enough to stake your claim with these directories. Make sure your listing has all of the essential information, such as store hours, directions, and contact information. Some allow you to get more specific based on the industry you’re in. For examples, restaurants can add their menus or auto body shops might add what cars they specialize in.
You also need to make your listing look as inviting as possible. Upload images of your store when it’s looking its best. Consider showing images of your products on the shelves. If you have permission, you can take candids of your customers in your store being helped by your employees. All of these inviting images can draw in those shoppers undecided about whether to choose your store or the next one.
Don’t forget keywords, either. Keywords are what search engines uses to determine what to return in their results. As you complete your profile, the directory site will ask you to pick keywords relevant to your business. (Sometimes they do this by asking you to select relevant “categories”.) Choose wisely. This will determine when you come up in search results.
Don’t Think You’re Done
The biggest mistake physical stores make with online directories is thinking they are done just because they’ve filled out the profile once. Your business is a living, breathing entity. Things change all the time. You need to update your profiles to reflect it. A good rule of thumb to use is that if you should change your website, you probably should update your online directory listings, too.
Some of directories, like Yelp and Google Places, allow users to review the businesses listed. It is imperative that you periodically look at those reviews to learn what consumers are saying about your brand. Some directories allow you to address any negative reviews on the site. Others give you a way to contact those reviewers in hopes of resolving any problems they may have had with your store. That’s a lot of return on something that only takes a bit of your time and some information.
About the Author: Amanda Greene is author and Brand Manager for RHL, leading online supplier of dorm bedding.