When you think about business listings, you might not get super excited. But when you understand how they can help you get new customers, drive traffic to your website, and increase sales—it becomes a different story.
Let’s think about it: 46% of all searches on Google are local. Of those local searches, 88% are going to call or visit a business within 24 hours (if they searched on mobile). That means that if a result for your business is showing up for one of those local searches, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get a call or a visit. And when you look at the search results page for local searches, what do you see? That’s right: listings!
So what exactly are business listings, how do you find a business listing site, and how do you know which local listings actually matter?
We’re covering all that and more in this handy guide.
Table of contents
- What are business listings?
- Benefits of local listings
- Most popular free business listings
- More free listing sites
- What to include in your business listing
- How to optimize your listings
- The #1 free business listing site (+why)!
Let’s talk about getting your business listed!
What are business listings?
Business directories (also known as business listings or local listings) aren’t just a digital version of the Yellow Pages where users have to drag the book out of the cabinet and flip through thousands of pages to find what they’re looking for; they’re comprehensive platforms that enable potential customers to instantly identify, learn about, and contact businesses relevant to them.
If you’re not registered on more than a few sites from the below business directory list, you’re missing out on opportunities to get found by potential customers.
List of business directories
Looking for a quick list of the top listing sites? Here is a list of business directories to which you can add your business:
- Google Business Profile (this one’s huge)
- Angi (formerly Angie’s List)
- Better Business Bureau
- City Search
- Bing Local
- Yahoo Local
We’ll dive deeper into most of these business listings a little later.
Note: creating vs. claiming a local listing
Listing your business on these search engines, maps, social media platforms, review sites, and directories can significantly enhance your online visibility and overall growth. It’s important to note, however, that for many of these platforms, adding a listing is different from claiming a listing. When you claim your listing, you can edit your information and respond to reviews, ensuring your business is putting its best foot forward.
You can see here the difference between a claimed and unclaimed listing on Google Business Profile. They each have reviews, but only one business is actively managing those reviews.
The rest of this post goes over the importance of online business listings, which ones you should set up and claim, and how to optimize your local listings for maximum visibility.
12 benefits of business listings
Many small business owners know about online business directories but aren’t quite clear on how advantageous they are for marketing and customer acquisition. Online business directories are no longer a “nice to have;” with the sheer number of directories that exist today and the amount of trust consumers place in customer reviews, local listings are a must.
Here’s why it’s so important to keep up with your directory listings:
1. They help potential customers discover you
Consumers need a way to find your business online. Getting listed on local directories allows potential customers to discover you when searching for the services, categories, and amenities you provide.
2. Accurate local listings promote trust
Your business listing could be your first encounter with a customer before they even make it to your website. Studies show that people don’t just disengage with a business that has inaccurate or incomplete information; they lose trust in that business.
3. They can increase engagement with your business
The easier it is for a potential customer to engage with your business–whether it’s to make a phone call, submit a contact form, or even go to your location–the more likely they are to do so. Business directories create a channel by which potential customers can engage directly with your business or easily get to your website to do so.
4. They show in search results
Many business directories today (a) pull from other larger directories, (b) automatically create listings, or (c) allow anyone to add a listing. This means your business could be showing up in directories and collecting reviews unbeknownst to you (now, that’s a scary thought!).
The top five results for this local search all link to local business listing sites.
If you don’t have contact information in your audience’s go-to resources, how will they know you exist? If your contact information is wrong, how will you build trust? If you don’t know you have a listing, how can you manage your reputation on that site? In today’s digital landscape, it is more important than ever to manage directory listings for your business.
5. They amplify your online presence
Due to the fact that business listing sites tend to pull information from one another, getting listed in one directory can very likely mean getting listed in several more, allowing you to kill two (or more) birds with one stone (so long as you monitor, claim, and update your listings regularly).
6. They can help improve local visibility
Though they are massive, online business directories have advanced filtering and suggesting capabilities, allowing you to become highly visible to your local community and niche audiences.
If you’re in the sewing machine repair business, it’s worth it to be listed on these sites so people searching for your services can find you.
7. They can help you attract new customers
The typical online business directory allows users to search by specific criteria such as specialty, neighborhood, ratings, and more. By simply entering complete and accurate information in your listing, the directory will then connect your business to the people searching for it, even if they don’t search your business name explicitly.
8. They can help strengthen your business’s reputation
The fear of negative reviews prevents many businesses from getting listed online, but this shuts them off from getting positive reviews too, which are essential for a good reputation. As long as you know how to properly handle one (like, by responding to it!), the cost of one negative review is outweighed by the benefits of many positive reviews. Plus, a mix of reviews can even strengthen your reputation, as it shows that you are a genuine company with nothing to hide.
9. They foster word of mouth
Word of mouth has always been a trusted source for consumers, and now predominantly takes the form of online reviews. With apps and mobile devices, customers can now publish reviews more quickly–even during their experience. Getting listed in online business directories equips happy customers to spread the word about your business.
10. They can increase brand awareness
When a user performs a search in an online business directory, it will display a list of relevant results, each with a brief snapshot so that you can decide which one to click on to learn more. This means that even if a user doesn’t click on your listing, they still see your business. Every encounter a person has with your business increases their awareness and familiarity with your brand, which makes them more receptive to future outreach.
11. They can improve SEO
Online business listings improve your SEO by sending signals to Google about your online presence and helping to validate your trustworthiness. Google wants to be trusted by its users, so the more information it can obtain about your business online, and the more consistent that information is, the higher you can rank.
12. They show up on the first page of Google
It is possible to get on the first page of Google through SEO practices, but it can take a few months to start seeing results. Popular online business directory sites, on the other hand, have been around for a while, have high amounts of traffic, and are trusted by Google. This means that your profile page on, say, Yelp has a high chance of showing up on the first page of results for relevant searches.
The top results for many local searches are often business listing sites like Yelp.
Online business directories have immense benefits, and neglecting them can actually hurt your business. So get started today with creating, claiming, and updating your listings online.
What are the most popular free business listing sites?
Here’s a breakdown of the best free business listing sites your business can and should get listed on:
1. Google Business Profile
Consumers use Google on their desktops and phones to find just about everything they need, including products and services near them. A Google Business Profile enables your business to show up on Google Maps and Google Search, where potential customers can easily learn about and engage with your business.
Google reviews even show up for maps results on Android devices. Google data shows up in a lot of places, so get on this free business listing site asap.
Related: Find out how to protect your Google Business Profile from unwanted edits here.
Yelp is a free business listing site where small businesses can personalize their profile, communicate with customers, and even advertise their business. Yelp’s customer reviews don’t just show up on Yelp; they appear on iPhone Apple Maps, and Yelp-curated lists often in appear in search results for relevant searches.
Yelp reviews are crucial in establishing credibility for your business. Did you know that Siri and Alexa also rely on Yelp information when looking up and suggesting local businesses?
Yelp is free, but there is an option to become a certified business for increased profile views, better visibility, and leads who are ready to purchase
3. Angi Business Listing
This free listing site, formerly known as Angie’s List, is mainly for home and healthcare services. Angi’s online comments policy filters out anonymous, low-quality reviews, making the positive reviews more credible.
Also, Angi doesn’t just draw attention to your business but also facilitates business transactions. The Message Center allows for communication with customers and tracking job requests submitted through the site. Another perk is that the Angi team is always there to give guidance on increasing your exposure on their platform.
Facebook is a social media platform, but can also function as both a general and local business directory. To take advantage of a free Facebook listing, create a Facebook business account and business page where you can post updates and pictures, collect reviews, add CTAs, and gain insights on page engagement.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, change the category on your Facebook page to local business or place. This will enable your business to show up for searches where users filter for place (as opposed to people or posts). You can also add your location to Facebook so people can check in to your business.
Facebook’s ability to allow customers to find social posts about your business, see reviews, and engage with you makes it a great free business listing site (not to mention a great free way to drive website traffic!) indeed.
More free business listing sites
Here are some additional free listing sites you should consider for your business.
Instagram isn’t exactly a review site or directory, but with hashtags and filters, users can perform location-based searches and discover businesses that are near them and in line with their interests.
Not only is an Instagram business account free, but also, consumers love sharing their positive experiences through photos–the food they order, their favorite local shops, etc. When customers tag your business or location in their posts, they are marketing for you.
Foursquare has fizzled out as a social platform, but having a Foursquare business listing is still important. Foursquare’s Places technology powers location data for Apple, Uber, Twitter, Microsoft, Samsung, and 100,000 other developers. When your business is listed on Foursquare, it’s automatically included in thousands of local apps and services.
Citysearch is a popular city guide to all things food, entertainment, shopping, and pampering. Consumers use the mobile app to find businesses and post reviews, and you can use your listing to promote events and deals. The site’s visitor tracking features allow you to see where they came from on the web, the length of their stay on your page, and so on. With that information, you can optimize your page to get the most out of your listing.
Glassdoor is a review site geared for job seekers, but that doesn’t make it less effective as a business listing site. Your Glassdoor profile can show up in a Google search and have an influence on consumers researching your business.
After all, happy employees are at the root of good customer service and are indicators of a company’s leadership and overall health. Use Glassdoor to attract top talent, and the photos, status updates, and review responses may just help to attract new customers as well.
An alternative to Yelp, Manta is specifically tailored to small businesses. This free business listing site offers business owners education through news, advice, educational resources, as well as tools for promotions and getting customers to act. Manta offers paid marketing services as well.
Customers can leave ratings and reviews directly on YellowBot, but the site also pulls your reviews (and business descriptions) from other sites. This allows your listing to be more robust and attract more customers. YellowBot also has digital consultants on hand to offer advertising advice, as well as a premium membership option offering sponsored results, reputation management, and promotional material.
What to include in your local business listing
If your business is listed, that’s great! But is it listed correctly? If it’s not, you’re limiting your ability for potential customers to find you. Make your business more easily found online by ensuring that your business is listed with all of the relevant information fields.
While the name of a business may seem like a fairly straightforward element to a directory listing, we frequently find businesses listed under inaccurate names. Keep your business name consistent to avoid confusing your customers and potentially losing sales. For example, if you list your business as “The Sweet Spot Bakery” on Google My Business, don’t list it on Yelp as “Sweet Spot Bakery.”
Keep all your business information consistent across the web.
It is important to have an accurate address in your business directory listings so you can show up in local results. If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location, get listed as a service area business. Make sure to include every detail of your address, including floor or suite number.
Include your hours for each day of the week, and also be sure to update holiday hours. You can’t benefit from being open on holidays if no one knows! You also want to avoid a customer showing up at your business only to find it is closed. This is a poor experience that will hurt your reputation.
4. Phone number
Many sites today have a tap-to-call feature which makes it easier for customers to reach you, so having a phone number is important–even more so when considering the number of searches that are performed on mobile phones.
Local telephone numbers provide added security to potential customers that you are a local business. Plus, search engines like Google do not like toll-free numbers. Remember, a good business listing and online presence is all about trust.
5. Website URL
Some potential customers will want to contact you directly by phone, but others will prefer to look at your website to learn more about your business before contacting you. Listing your website accurately allows your potential customers to get in touch with you the way that they prefer.
Wherever possible, uploading a photo helps associate a face with your business, which can increase the chances that someone will want to contact you. Add photos of the business itself, the customers, employees, and even products and services. The goal is to give potential customers an idea of what it’s like to be at your business and to stand out among your competitors.
7. Business category
This is especially important if your product or service is not a part of your business name. Customers don’t typically search for business names, but rather for the product or service they’re looking for, so be sure to select categories and subcategories whenever possible to help get your business listing to show up for people who are browsing.
8. Business description
For platforms that ask you to write a brief description of your business, keep them concise. Also, use language that potential customers would use to search for information related to your business.
How to get the most out of free business listing sites: 8 tips
Here are specific actions you can take and habits to get into to help optimize your presence in online business directories.
1. Claim and manage your listings
For many review sites, consumers can create a listing for you, but this doesn’t grant you control over it. You need to claim your listings in order to update and control the information shown about your business. The steps required to claim, change, or update a listing will vary across platforms, so it’s best to seek out instructions from each directory separately. Here are some resources:
- How to claim Google Business Profile listing
- How to claim a Yelp profile
- How to claim Bing business listing
2. Fill out all fields
In order to optimize your listings, you need to start with complete ones. Not having enough information about your business makes it difficult for a potential customer to feel confident and able to engage with your business–not to mention frustrated or annoyed with your negligence.
3. Be meticulous
The importance of consistency in your online business listing cannot be stressed enough. This ensures that the listings you create yourself are accurate and reliable, and also that your information stays as intact as possible when platforms generate automatic listings. Be sure to make every bit of information in your online business listing identical. Pay attention to details such as:
- Apostrophes (e.g. “Kims” vs “Kim’s”)
- Abbreviations (e.g. “street” vs “st” vs “st.”)
- Business name spellings (including “The” or appending with location name)
- Suites vs floor numbers (suite 1000 vs 10th floor)
Inaccurate business information will cause Google and consumers to stop trusting you. Make sure to include all specific information, right down to floor or suite within the same building.
Not only will this build trust with potential customers, but it also helps with your Google ranking. The more consistent your information is across the web, the more Google will trust your business, and the higher it will rank it.
4. Get reviews
Get as many reviews as possible on the directories that support them such as Google My Business and Yelp. Not only will this make your listing more attractive and your business more trustworthy, but it may also affect how you rank in directory search results.
5. Create listings for each business location
Having multiple locations can be confusing for search engines and people. Find out from the platform whether you can create multiple listings under one account (such as with Google Business Profile) or if you’ll need to create separate listings for each location.
This ensures that current and potential customers know exactly which number to call or where to go, without having to dig through information. It’s important that your listings eliminate as many barriers to learning about and engaging with your business as possible.
Related: Get our top tips for better multi-location SEO.
6. Optimize for search filters
For each listing or profile you have on social and review sites, make use of categories (for some sites you can add multiple) and attributes (payment methods, parking information, etc.) that help get your business included in specific searches. These searches are likely being performed by your ideal customers.
7. Monitor your reviews
Bad reviews can hurt your business reputation, but responding to them appropriately can mitigate their damage and even result in a positive review. Stay on top of what customers are saying about your business to prevent unanswered negative reviews from lowering you in the ranks.
8. Update your listings regularly
Perhaps worse than having incomplete information is having inaccurate information. If a customer wants to pick up an order, make a return, or stop in for an appointment, the last thing they need is to show up only to find that you’re closed. Even worse, inaccurate information tends to cause consumers to think that you’re either not competent, not reliable, or unaware of your customers’ needs.
It’s essential to do a regular audit of your business listings and update them as needed.
So what is the best free online business listing site?
Much likely not to your surprise, it’s Google Business Profile. Here are just a few reasons why a Google Business Profile is the best free listing you can create for your business.
Google Business has a local focus
Google is a worldwide platform, but not at the expense of its local capabilities. In fact, part of what makes Google so popular worldwide is its local capabilities. Google uses IP addresses and user behavior to deliver the most refined and relevant results for its searchers. Even if a user does not type in a location-based search, Google will still show a local section in results if the data exists.
It shows up in Google results pages
Another reason why Google my Business is the best free business listing site is that Google’s search engine results pages are becoming more and more advanced. Google provides answers via answer boxes, directly in the search suggestion drop-down list, related search suggestions, “people also asked” section, and via a side knowledge panel. Plus, when you perform a local search on Google, your first results will likely be the Google 3-pack — three Maps results — above the rest of the search results.
There is increasingly more information available through the results pages themselves, making Google more of a second homepage for your business and a direct channel of engagement with your business.
Google Business has increased visibility
Not only does your Google My Business listing enable you to show up on Google Search and Google Maps, but many other listing sites and business directories pull their data from Google. Get listed on Google My Business to increase your visibility on the world’s most popular and trusted search engine, and elsewhere on the web.
Prioritize these top free directory listings to increase your visibility
Online directories are a key player in your small business growth. Your business listings help to develop your reputation, increase your online visibility, and place you in local search results. There are a number of websites and mobile apps available today that provide business listings based on industry, location, niche, and more. Create and claim your listings on these free sites–with Google Business Profile as your top priority.
So, there you have it. The 18 most important free directory listings to prioritize in your local SEO strategy today. They include:
- Google My Business
- Better Business Bureau
- City Search
- Bing Local
- Yahoo Local