Getting your business noticed online is becoming harder and harder, especially for local businesses.
One tried-and-true way to attract the attention you’re looking for is through local business listings.
In this article, we’ll discuss what local business listings are, why they’re important, and how to make them work for you.
What You’ll Learn:
- What Are Local Business Listings?
- How to Set Up Your Local Business Listings
- What Does Google Look for In Local Business Listings?
- Key Elements of a Local Listing
- Keep Your Listings Consistent
- Which Directories Should You Target?
- Automate Citation-Building for Directories
- Local Business Listing FAQs
What Are Local Business Listings?
Local business listings, also known as local citations or local business directories, are any online profile that mentions a business NAP (name, address, and phone number) and other key details for brick-and-mortar businesses.
A local business listing on Google looks like this:
Sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple Maps, TripAdvisor, Nextdoor, and more all offer ways to promote your business through a local business listing. They help users discover and connect with the local businesses that offer the goods and services they need.
Local business listings also play a major role in local SEO performance by providing an opportunity for businesses to boost their rankings and respond to location-specific searches.
Different Types of Local Business Listings
When it comes to local business listings, there are a few different types:
- Organic Search Result: The first is an organic search result. The example above is an example of an organic search result. The business did not create this listing, rather Google did because of the business’ website’s strong SEO tactics.
- Paid Search Result: The second is a paid search result. You’ll notice these listings say something like “ad” or “sponsored” above the result. This means that the company paid for their local business listing to appear first on the list.
- Google Business Profile: The Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, also produces local business listings. In the example below, you’ll see one listing has the word “sponsored” above it and one does not. The sponsored listing is a paid Google Business Profile ad, whereas the one below it simply created a free Google Business Profile listing.
- Google Guaranteed: Google also offers Google Guaranteed listings, which are an entirely different aspect of Google’s paid local business listing offerings. These listings are smaller than normal local business listings and only contain the business name, their reviews, their hours of operation, and how many years they have been in business.
They are valuable for brick-and-mortar businesses because they appear at the very top of the SERP. They are also valuable for consumers because these businesses have also passed a Google verification process. In some instances, Google may reimburse a customer if they are unable with the work provided by a Google Guaranteed company.
Why Do Local Business Listings Matter?
Local business listings have long been an SEO staple for local businesses. They remain an important part of any local strategy, even in the wake of the many recent Google algorithm updates.
Local business listings are an essential tool for helping users find businesses in their area–be it a “Mexican restaurant near me” or the “best San Diego dentist.”
For business owners, local listings are a powerful SEO tool that allows them to build credibility with search engines and potential customers alike.
It’s also worth mentioning that local listings have a direct link to SEO rankings. Crawlers scan local listings and use them to validate the legitimacy of local businesses to determine how to rank them for location-based keywords.
Setting Up Your Local Business Listings
If you want your business to start appearing in your local business listings, here are the actionable steps that you can take to get started:
1. Set up your Google Business Profile. This is a free online tool that you can use to increase your visibility and create your own local business listing. Of course, as mentioned above, there are also paid opportunities that come along with your profile but you can start with the free option.
2. Be sure to optimize it for both your audience and Google crawlers. Add videos, photos, and updated information such as hours of operation, respond to reviews, and include FAQs. Don’t forget to use well-researched keywords here.
Google Business Profiles have the best success rate when they are accompanied by real-life reviews so now is the time to solicit reviews from your regular customers. Seeing the social proof will help other consumers make the decision to come to your business.
3. Even though your Google Business Profile is very important to your local business listing SEO, it’s not the only platform you should use. Once you’ve set it up, transfer the information to other local platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. The more exposure, the better!
4. As you’re updating your local business listings across the internet, be sure to check that your NAP is updated. Every listing should have your correct name, address, and phone number. This is especially important if you have recently moved. If your business has a suite number, be sure to include it every single time you type out your address. Consistency is key!
5. Speaking of your address, be sure that it is listed on your website. This will help to tie your website back to these local business listings that you’re working so hard to build. If Google can clearly see that you’re a law office in San Antonio, it is more likely that you will rank highly in the SERP when someone searches for “law offices in San Antonio”. However, do not keyword stuff your address. You do not need to list every single town within a 50-mile radius of San Antonio on your website. Just listing your actual address is enough.
6. Next, add schema markup. This structured data is added to the backend of your website and helps search engine crawlers better understand the details, including the location, of the business in question. There are many different types of schema you can use to boost your local SEO.
7. Targeting local keywords will also help your local SEO. Do some keyword research on what your targeted audience is looking for and sprinkle them throughout your website and your local business listing in a way that makes sense to the reader. As you’re sprinkling those keywords around, don’t forget about your homepage’s meta title and description! This information is what will populate first so be sure to include words and phrases that relate to your business and will capture the attention of the searcher.
Once you’ve done all of this and you’ve gotten the rest of your technical and off-page SEO elements in place, it’s time to consider paid ads or Google Guaranteed placement. Do not explore these options until your organic local business listing is optimized and ready.
What Does Google Look for in Local Business Listings?
Google still ranks its local results by looking at the following areas:
- Relevance–Relevance refers to how well the search results reflect the user’s query. Taking the time to complete your local listing profiles (particularly GMB) helps Google better match your business to the right audience.
- Distance–Google also considers proximity when determining local rankings. If users don’t specify an exact location, Google will use existing data about your business to “guess” where your business belongs on the map.
- Prominence–Here’s where citations start to enter the mix. Prominence, per Google, refers to how “well-known” your business is. More entries on more (reputable) directories can help improve your rankings, but the effects are even more pronounced on directories with local review features.
For a deep dive into local ranking factors, I recommend checking out this Moz post, which breaks down the top ranking factors for the Local Pack, Maps, Organic, and other local-specific features.
Local Business Listing-Specific Ranking Factors:
- Number of citations–the number of structured and unstructured citations associated with your business.
- Consistency and accuracy–checks that NAP info matches across all listings and that the information provided accurately represents your business.
- The quality of the domain where your citations are listed–looks at the domain authority on sites featuring both structured and unstructured citations (similar to how Google might evaluate backlinks).
Structured Markup & Local Business Listings
Local Business Schema Markup offers brick-and-mortar businesses the ability to use schema to enhance the appearance of their GMB profile and highlight specific website features.
You can find the complete list on Schema.org, but here are some of the more common local markup options:
- Postal Address
- Ratings & Reviews
- Business Hours
- Currencies Accepted
- Price Range
Key Elements of a Local Business Listing
Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Yelp, or any of the countless niche directories out there, submitting to business directories is a tedious process.
Each NAP listing will likely ask for the following information–and it’s in your best interest to be as detailed as possible while filling out your profiles.
- Business Name
- Physical Address
- Phone Number
- Business Description
- Social Profiles
- Images of the interior, exterior, and products/services you provide.
- Additional media–videos, testimonials, etc.
- Brands Offered
- Payment Options
- Alternate Phone Numbers
Consistency is Huge with Local Listings
In addition to providing all of the information I’ve just rattled off, it’s also super important that every citation you submit contains the same information.
A few things to keep in mind:
- A slight discrepancy such as a typo in your address or business name can result in a confusing search experience for your users–as they may see multiple listings with conflicting information.
- It’s also worth mentioning that consistency extends to the use of variations such as “Street” vs. “St.” or “Suite B” vs. “Ste. B.” Or whether you use an “LLC” or “Inc.” after your business name.
- Another thing you’ll need to be aware of is, that inconsistencies between your Google Business Profile listing and your social pages can have a negative impact on your rankings–and hurt your chances of appearing in the knowledge graph for local queries.
If you’re manually managing your citations, you’ll want to make sure that you keep track of your activities using a detailed spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets should include at least the following information:
- Date submitted.
- Email and password associated with the profile.
- Listing status.
- Links to profile.
- Any subsequent update.
Which Directories Should You Target?
Most local business directories are free, so it makes sense that you might try to create a profile anywhere you can. That said, there aren’t enough hours in the day to add, monitor, and maintain hundreds of local listings.
As such, you’ll want to be strategic about selecting directories to deliver the most ROI for your time investment.
In other words, you’re better off seeking out directories with high domain authority that are relevant to your audience. Hubspot offers a list of 57 business directories with high DA scores, which you can check out here.
Biggest Local Business Directories to Focus On
- Facebook Pages – Even with the rise of many other social media platforms, Facebook still remains king when it comes to local business listings. A lot of people, especially those using their smartphones, are going to look up your business on Facebook so it’s best to ensure that they’re getting the most up-to-date and accurate information possible.
- Instagram – Instagram is another huge social media platform that people turn to when looking for local businesses. In fact, 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business on the social platform.
- Apple Business Connect – Apple Business Connect helps businesses engage with customers and keep an up-to-date local business listing that will appear on various places throughout Apple products, including the popular Apple Maps.
- Yelp – It’s free for your business to be listed on Yelp so why not take advantage? A lot of consumers use Yelp to search for local businesses so it is beneficial for you to ensure that your information is up to date here. You can also receive and respond to messages and reviews on this site.
Once you’ve updated all of the bigger local business listing sites, you can turn your attention to more “niche” options like Lawyers.com or Psychology Today, and so on.
In case you’re curious, you can find niche citation opportunities manually by searching for the following:
- (niche) + directory
- (niche) + business listings
- (niche) + business directory
Your Google Business Profile Should be the Priority
It doesn’t matter if you own a gym, a restaurant, or you’re the local handyman–any business with a physical address needs a Google Business Profile account.
Why does this matter? Well–for starters, an estimated 88% of users performing local searches from their smartphone visit a business they found there that same day and 97% of people go online to find local businesses.
Google, of course, has over 90% of search market share, which means that local businesses must learn the ins and outs of optimizing for GMB to drive traffic both online and off.
A GMB account is required for any business that wants to appear in the local 3-pack, Google Maps, the Knowledge Graph, and other SERP features that increase your visibility to local users.
Non-Google Local Listings Are Important for SEO
Creating citations with high-ranking business directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, the BBB, etc. is a great way to build backlinks to your business’ website and improve your SEO performance.
While these sites are far from exclusive, Google considers many of these platforms to be trustworthy websites. As such, many of these directories often show up on the front page of Google, which offers more opportunities to reach local searchers.
Let’s say I run a basic Google search for “restaurants in Los Angeles.”
At the top of the page, you’ll get a handful of popular options, per Google’s rankings, and then, there are several posts like “10 Best Restaurants in LA” or “X Best Restaurants for Celebrity Sightings.”
However, you’ll also see front-page results coming from online business directories–TripAdvisor and Yelp come up first since we’re looking at restaurants.
Consider Automating Your Citation-Building Efforts
There’s a reason our brightest minds are working hard to make manual tasks like data entry a thing of the past.
It’s boring and prone to human error.
Traditionally, SEOs were stuck filling out every local directory page manually–a process that can eat into time better spent on other activities.
Automated solutions you might check out:
- Moz Local.
- SE Ranking
While each solution offers a slightly different suite of tools, each of these options allows you to maintain consistency by filling out a single form and distributing that data to the directories and websites that matter to your business.
If that still sounds like more than you can handle, you may want to look into working with a local SEO company.
Bottom line: local business listings continue to be an important part of local SEO. There’s a direct link between the quality, consistency, and reach of your citations and your search engine rankings–which in turn drives more foot traffic, sales, and if you play your cards right, reviews.
Because local listings are so critical to the local SERPs, it’s worth the effort to ensure that every listing is complete, accurate, and when appropriate, marked up with local schema.
Local Business Listing FAQs
1. How do I appear on local listings?
Appearing on local listings starts with establishing a free Google Business Profile. Optimize it and copy your listing to a variety of other online local business listing directories such as Facebook, Yelp, Apple Business Connect, and more.
2. How do I get my businesses at the top of search listings?
Local business listings require the same sort of SEO tactics as any other link looking to appear at the top of search result listings – consistent and accurate information.