Do you still need a directory submission for local SEO?
The main goal of local SEO is to establish the visibility of a local business in the local map pack and/or the top three organic search results. These usually reside just below the Google Paid Ads and Map Pack.
As with all SEO, a myriad of factors (i.e. Google’s (very) famous algorithm) come into play to determine which companies get the best billing and the coveted organic search traffic that results.
One set of factors from a local SEO perspective is local presence, relevance, and authority.
In other words, and as a matter of common sense, local businesses need to prove to search engines:
- They are indeed physically located close to their customers.
- They provide services or products that fall into specific categories.
- They are a trusted/authoritative source of content and answer questions from their customers.
Local directories, by definition, are a vehicle through which businesses can respond to these three factors.
As such, the simple answer to our introductory question is yes, you still need directory submissions for local SEO.
However, not all directories carry the same weight or authority and should be reviewed for the value they can offer.
This becomes especially important for directories requiring a fee for inclusion.
Additionally, there are some best practices related to data and contact consistency that should be considered when submitting.
Finally, tools are available to speed up the directory listing setup and ongoing maintenance process, especially for businesses with multiple locations.
There are many directories out there, and managing the information and content in each one can become a burden for a small business.
We’ll look at how to address each of these factors and how directories can help or hinder local businesses’ efforts to get found.
Local presence and consistency
It should be fairly obvious that for a business to rank well in a particular location, it must be able to prove that it exists, resides, or is otherwise able to provide services within its specified service area.
Two primary vehicles for establishing a business’s location are its website and its Google Business Profile (GBP).
A local business website, where available, will include details of its physical address, which may be tagged with the local business schema to facilitate search and indexing by Google.
Many sites will also include a map (preferably a Google map), which will also be referenced for location validation.
Finally, geographic details can be incorporated into title and header tags, where appropriate, to reinforce the local focus of the business.
Creating and optimizing a Google Business Profile is actually the process of building information and focus on a local business website. Or, for some companies, it’s the opposite.
The name, address, and telephone number (NAP) information should naturally match between these two properties.
Service areas chosen in GBP should be close to the location of the business.
Service categories should also be consistent.
Local directories then become an extension of these two main points of web presence and validation for search engines.
Again, the goal should be consistency, especially for NAP information with website URLs.
Pro tip: While you can include multiple URLs in a local directory listing, you should seek to include as many relevant locally oriented links as possible, for example linking to your GBP profile, Facebook page and listings in other directories relevant premises.
Establishing local relevance is about making sure you and your content appear in the right directories and the right categories.
Naturally, any categorization should match how you have defined your services or products on your site and in GBP.
There are three types of local directories you can identify and consider submitting listings to.
We will call the first type “global” directories. These are services like Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc., which offer local listings and reviews for almost any location in the world.
Many of them offer free “listings”, but then charge a fee for advanced features, functionality, and/or visibility.
One way to determine whether or not paying a listing fee is advisable is to do an organic search for the main keywords you want your business to be found for, and see if the directory ranks well. (or better than you) for these keywords. in local search engine results pages (SERPs).
You can also simply ask a directory representative whether or not they can provide organic/referral traffic stats that your paid listing will be able to provide.
If they cannot provide such statistics, you may be suspicious of their ability to provide ROI.
The second type of local directory is a more industry-specific directory, such as TripAdvisor for travel and tourism-related businesses or Houzz for construction and trade companies.
The same valuation methods can be used here to determine whether or not these services can potentially add value to your business.
The third and final type are more locally specific directories offered by local chambers of commerce, service organizations and other non-global players.
The first two of this type are certainly worth considering, as they can have the effect of validating local presence in a less subjective way.
Small local non-global directories should, as above, only be considered if they can also prove the value they will bring from an organic visibility or referral traffic perspective.
The directories you choose to submit to and the categories in which your products or services can be easily found will help define the relevance of your business within your local community.
Listings in local directories, especially those with their own established authority, can help build a business’s authority and potential visibility.
You can also use the SERP test mentioned above to identify these authority boosters.
Essentially, any directory that outperforms your website or GBP page for a target keyword represents an opportunity to both get found through the directory and gain authority through it.
Some directories, a la GBP, allow sharing of content or links to content.
Although it may take some time, it may be worth distributing your content in these directories in addition to other places like GBP and social media, depending on the visibility and relative local authority of the directory.
As noted, many directory services offer review submissions – and while Google reviews are naturally preferred from an organic authority perspective, Google and other search engines are aware of reviews posted on d other platforms.
Similar to the local SERP test, you need to pay attention to whether or not you or your competitors have received reviews in places other than GBP.
Keep in mind that your potential customers may also see these reviews when considering buying from your business over another.
Managing multiple locations
Setting up and managing listings in multiple directories will take time, especially if there are continuous updates of company details or services.
This is, of course, amplified for businesses with more than one location.
There are paid services and solutions like Uberall, Semrushand Shortly for centralized management of multiple locations, which will typically cover the first two types of local directories referenced here, as well as mapping services such as GBP, Apple Maps, and Facebook locations.
Some of these services also allow the review and management of social accounts.
How are your directory listings doing?
So, yes, it’s safe to say that directory submissions are still necessary for effective local SEO.
To that end, perhaps the best place to start is with the suggested SERP test to understand where your listings and directories rank in relation to your keywords.
Alternatively, many ad management services offer a quick audit tool to help get an idea of a company’s coverage in the most common local directories.
Then you can decide on a submission strategy that fits your visibility and traffic goals, as well as your budget.
Featured Image: LightAndShare/Shutterstock