Local business listings make it so your information is correct and you rank in the Google local pack.
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about local listings for business – what they are, how they work, and who can help you with them.
What Are Local Listings and How Do They Work?
This is the easy part: Local listings are exactly what you think they are.
They’re online portfolios or directories that contain information about a business, such as its name, address, phone number, business hours, etc.
Most of these are free for any businesses to use, though you do have to enter the information or “claim” your business.
Claiming is simply the process of verifying that you are in fact the owner of your business and have authority to manage the listing online. There’s no one way to claim, and the process will vary from site to site.
Often, you’ll find that your business is already listed in a given directory (don’t panic; this is completely normal). In that case, you’ll simply need to verify all existing information is correct and fill in anything that’s missing.
The verification process usually involves a PIN number and a phone call or email.
But of course, verifying and managing your listings can get extremely time-consuming. Luckily, with the prevalence of local SEO, many automated services now exist to handle the process for you. We’ll cover many of those in just a moment.
Why Are The Best Local Business Listings Important to SEO?
In short, local listings will help generate a lot more traffic for your business.
Traditional SEO relies on Google and its bots to crawl and index your site and displays your site when Google things it best fits a given search.
But local SEO works to return results based on location. So if a user types in a search for “pizza,” Google (and other search engines) will return results containing local pizza businesses near the user’s location.
Rather than pull results based on which business is the most traditionally SEO-optimized, it will pull results based on proximity.
Which is exactly why it’s so important to have updated location and business information in as many places as possible – including online listings. The more listings your business appears in, the more likely it is that your business will appear when someone searches for related services in your area.
Claiming your business in as many listings as possible is an important part of any local SEO strategy.
It’s equivalent to building up your external links in traditional SEO; rather than rely on links from other sights to signal your domain authority, local SEO relies on citations – any mention of your business on the web, with or without a link.
One of the most prominent forms of citations is the NAP citation. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. Coincidentally, all the information that appears in a local listing.
What Should Be Included In Your Local Business Listing?
For formatting and listing best practices, Google is the go-to.
Luckily, they provide a comprehensive set of guidelines to help you through.
Do note that Google deems the following ineligible for a business listing, including:
- Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public.
- Rental or for-sale properties, such as vacation homes, model homes or vacant apartments. Sales or leasing offices, however, are eligible for verification.
- An ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent.
With that out of the way, all eligible businesses should include the following in each and every listing:
- Business name – this should always be your full name and full name only; it should match your signs, marketing materials (both print and online), logo, etc. Do not include any location information unless it is part of your business’s consistently-used and recognized real-world representation
- Address – always use your real-world address; do not include PO boxes or virtual offices as they are not considered real-world. You must have a physical address of some kind to be eligible for a Google My Business listing, even if it’s only your home address.
- Phone Number – The phone number listed should always be a single, authoritative number; Google prefers local phone numbers, but support toll-free numbers as well. Often, citations sites will allow you to list an alternate phone number as well
- Website URL – Google specifies that a URL must go directly to a page owned by the business, not a third party site or social media page. For multi-location businesses, it’s recommended to use a URL for the website homepage, with links to separate landing pages to different branches or locations on the site
- Categories – Categories help customers find accurate information about your services. Generally, you’ll be asked to select between 1-10 categories. Google recommends you choose as few as possible, making sure each they are specific as possible and representative of your main business. While categories aren’t as significant on other sites, they can have an impact on rank in Google. Make sure you:
- Do not use categories solely as keywords or to describe attributes of your business.
- Do not use categories that pertain to other businesses that are nearby or related, such as a business physically contained within your business or an entity that contains your business.
- Description – This is where you highlight what makes your business unique. Think of it as your elevator pitch – it should signal to customers what your business is about and why they should choose your brand. It’s common to include the same description on all of your business sites. Google offers the following recommendations regarding your business description:
- Do not provide inaccurate or false information
- Be careful of misspellings or gimmicky content
- No links of any kind are allowed in the description
- Do not focus on special promotions, offers, or sales of any kind
- Tagline – the inclusion of taglines will vary by site, and they’re not necessarily to include if your business doesn’t already have an existing one
- Social Profiles – where applicable, always include links to your social profiles
- Images – guidelines regarding images will vary by platform, so pay special attention as you upload to each directory. That said, images tend to have a significant impact on overall rank, so it’s recommended to include a few where possible. Keep in mind that users are also often permitted to upload their own images, and should be monitored to screen for any inappropriate or unwanted images
- Fax Number – usually not required
- Certifications – any business licenses or certifications
- Attributes – this applies to your Google My Business listing and allows you to choose a few descriptions like “24 hour service”
Best Local Business Listings Tips
In addition to including as much as information as possible in each listing, make sure consider the following:
- Make sure your listing information is consistent across the board. Something as simple as an “Inc.” at the end of one listing and not another is enough to potentially harm your rankings. All spelling and formatting should be the same in every listing.
- Be strategic in the listings you pick. You don’t necessarily have to stress yourself over claiming every list in existence; instead, focus on the major ones (like the ones listed below)
- It’s not all online. Depending on your target audience and the type of media they consume, print directories and local Yellow Pages can be a good option, as well as completed listings on all print marketing materials
Cleaning Up Your Local Listings
So, remember how we talked about the fact that you probably have listings all over the place, you just have to claim them?
While it’s cool that it’s out there, it can be a pain (to say the least) to not only manually find each listing location, but clean up the existing information.
Remember, consistency is absolutely key to successful listings and local SEO, and you can’t afford to overlook even the minor details.
For now, let’s focus on finding all your listings. But first, a word of warning.
The Danger of Duplicate Listings
Duplicate listings work like duplicate content: it’s bad for business. In Google’s own words:
“Do not create more than one page for each location of your business, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”
To be clear, a duplicate listing is not a similar listing that runs in separate directories. A duplicate listing is one that is listed multiple times platform. Every business should have only one listing on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, etc.
Sometimes, a duplication is simply an accident. Other times, it can be caused by spam or over-aggressive automation.
Worst case scenario, a duplicate listing leads to a penalty from Google. Or, a customer could report a violation, which could also lead end in a penalty or removal from a platform.
Other than that, your ranking could suffer due to multiple listings receiving traffic rather than just (the right) one, your reviews may land in the wrong listing, or confusing information could lead to a loss in traffic.
In a nutshell: duplicates are dangerous business.
To deal with them, you have the usual options: shut them down yourself, or a hire a service to do it for you.
The good news is that you can identify your duplicates as you gather all your existing listings, thanks to services like Moz Local.
Moz Local Tool for Best Local Business Listings
This is a very cool tool that will help you uncover your local listings across the web. Note that to use it effectively, you’ll need to have a verified Google Maps or Facebook page that matches your correct NAP.
To use it, go to moz.com/local/search and type in the name of your business. Moz will return the listings it has most closely associated with your business.
When you click on your business, Moz will show any citations that are incomplete or inconsistent, as well as list the platforms where your business is located.
You can also see any platforms that contain a duplicate listing. Simply click on the Duplicates tag to see which listings could cause concern.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Moz Local’s abilities.
If you choose to sign up for the service, Moz Local will automate the listing process for you. Rather than manually adding your business to each platform or directory, Moz Local will pull the information from either your Google Maps or Facebook NAP and distribute it to their partners.
For a full list of Moz Local partners, read here.
Yext PowerListings. Are They The Best Local Business Listings?
Yext is another service that automates the listing process for you. It will discover and update your NAP on 80+ websites across the internet.
Yext also provides a service to deliver more prominent listings in some directories called Yext PowerListings. Through it, your business can enhance listings with photos, descriptions, and photos, and track all local search results.
The idea is that by adding these enhancements to your listing, your business will stand apart from the crowd and rise in rank.
The general process works similar to Moz Local: you provide a detailed set of information, and Yext will upload and update all your listings.
What sets it apart is the PowerListings, and Yext claims to be the only service that allows you to add enhanced elements everywhere, and provide analytics on how many people see and click on your listing.
But before signing up with Yext, beware of one thing. Like most listing services Yext is subscription-based. But if you decide to cancel your Yext plan, the enhancements you added through Yext will begin to disappear, causing a decrease in your listing rank.
However, if you’re a large corporation or business that can handle the fee, the added enhancements may be well worth the investment.
BrightLocal for Local Listings – Are They The Best Local Business Listings?
BrightLocal is another well-known local SEO service.
It will handle the creation and updating of your local listings, including:
- Manual citation clean-up (fix NAP errors)
- Build new, accurate local citations
- Distribute data via Local Data Aggregators
- Create Google My Business + Bing local listings
- Remove duplicate citations
BrightLocal boasts over 1,600 local, national, and niche citation sites. Which sites your listing appears on is up to – you pick the sites most important to your business, and BrightLocal will deliver the citations.
What Are The Best Directories for Local Listing?
With all this talk of citations and directories, you’re likely wondering which sites are most important.
The truth is that you ultimately want your listing to appear in as many directories and platforms as possible. After all, the more places your business is listed, the more chances it has to be found.
Take a look at some of the best online directories for your local listings:
- Yahoo Local
- Insider Pages
- Best of the Web Local
Wrapping Up Best Local Business Listings
Local SEO isn’t something to take lightly.
It’s not your average SEO, and should be treated accordingly.
Luckily when it comes to local, brands have an extra trick up their sleeve: local listings. By now, you should have a handle on why they’re so important to your overall strategy, and already be thinking of how best to approach your online citations.
Just remember, whether you go it on your own or hire a service to help, it’s crucial to keep your information consistent and available in as many directories as possible.
Increase your citation game, and you’ll soon increase your customer base as well.