Lately, everyone seems to be concerned with only content and social media marketing, but there’s a basic marketing tactic that should be done before anything else when it comes to online marketing: local listings.

It may seem flippant in the digital marketing age to be listed in a directory, but online local listings bring a whole new dimension to marketing plans.

The purpose of local listings, or citations, is to make local businesses more visible on the internet. Each new listing is a new webpage where that business can be found, as well as a place their website is linked to. Meaning more places a business can be found and linked to.

A high priority for small businesses is to be easily found in searches where over 59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a local business. Google’s goal, in particular, has been to provide the most relevant results to searchers. They reward local businesses who provide consistent and accurate information on directories, which aids Google in their goal, by increasing search ranking.

But making local listings the first part of any local businesses digital marketing plan isn’t just for search engine visibility. It helps ROI for multiple aspects of a business, simply starting with visibility.

Local Listings Compete

Local businesses have a lot of competition, between the big companies and the other small businesses around them their audience is being pawed at from all angles. Claiming a business online lets the owner control the address, content and products and services provided. The more consistent and complete a listing, the greater the visibility and more competitive it is.

One Parking local listing

Listings aren’t just for search engines, they provide information for people searching those directories or Chambers for services. 70% of Internet searches are for local business services, each directory a business has its listing on is another place it can be found. By having a complete and up-to-date listing, prospective clients can easily reach you, while 60% of local businesses don’t even have a phone number on their website, your business will be easily reachable.

Local Listings Boost SEO

You don’t have to be a genius at SEO (search engine optimization) to reap the SEO benefits of local listings. If a business is listed on 100+ directories online, they will have valuable links back to their website and local listings are critical to your rankings on Google Maps. And if each listing has consistent information, that authority and credibility will help the business rank better in search engine results.

Optimize each listing to get the most value from each backlink with Local Search which optimizes your Google My Business (Google+Local, Google Place) page.

Local SEO Tacking and ResultsGoogle Maps Rank Tracking

Local Listings Level the Playing Field

Did I mention local businesses have a lot of competition? Because beyond the other local businesses there are some huge companies that can seem really intimidating. It’s an actual David and Goliath story when a local coffee shop competes against Starbucks, and local listings make the competition a bit more fair. A local business can take more time to optimize the listing for the local area, appeal to local customers and drive more reviews (although we think multi-location businesses and franchises should do more here).  Most directories are free to be listed on and, as previously mentioned, provide the benefit of visibility, as well as links back to that local business’ website.

Bambi vs Godzilla

Those directories and backlinks mean that when someone searches “coffee shop” on any search engine, not only will the nearest Starbucks appear, but the local coffee shop will, too. That local shop could even be the first result on that page.

Reviews Play into Local Listings too

Google My Business isn’t the only directory that will link your listing to online reviews, many of the most biggest and most visited directories, such as Yelp, include reviews as well. 88% of people trust trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends meaning that they may be able to find a business through directories but if they reviews are bad, they may not go to your business. Supplement local listings with  responding to reviews for a powerhouse beginning marketing strategy.

A small change in a business’ rating can mean a big change. On Yelp a business with 3.5 stars versus 3 stars is 63% more likely to be full. 33% of negative reviews turn positive, making it possible for a business who may be a half star off to turn things around, all through responding to reviews!

Get started by claiming the local business listing beginning with Google, Bing and Yelp.  While those aren’t the only directories to be listed in its a good start in the over 130 main directories that should be targeted.

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Start converting 2-3x as many new web searchers all through local listings alone and then take things to the next level by responding to online reviews, enhancing each listing to show how great people think your business is! With prospects like that, why wouldn’t local listings be the first step in a local business digital marketing plan?