The True Cost of Local Business Directories

August 24, 2015
Aaron Polmeer

By kristihines

Posted by kristihines

If you’re a local business owner, you’ve likely heard that you should submit your business to local business directories like Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, and similar networks in order to help boost your local search visibility on Google. It sounds easy at first: you think you’ll just go to a few websites, enter your contact information, and you’ll be set. Because all you really want to do is get some links to your website from these profiles.

But the truth is, there are a lot of local business listings to obtain if you go the DIY route. There are local business directories that offer free listings, paid listings, and package listings on multiple networks. There are also local data providers that aren’t necessarily directories themselves, but they push your information out to other directories.

In this post, we’re going to look at the real cost of getting local business listings for your local business.

Finding the right directories

Since one of a business owner’s most important commodities is time, it’s important to note the time investment that you must make to individually create and manage local business listings. Here’s what you’ll need to do to find the right directories for your business.

Directories ranking for your business

You can start by looking your business up on Google by name to see where you already have listings that need to be claimed.

These are the first directories you’ll want to tackle, as they’re the ones that people are viewing when they search for your business by name. This is especially important for local businesses that don’t have their own website or social media presence. Updating these directories will help customers get to know your business, your hours, and what you have to offer.

These are going to be the easiest, in many cases, because the listing is already there. Most local business directories offer a link to help you start the process.

Depending on the directory, you’ll need to look in several places to find the link to claim your business. Sometimes it can be found near the top of your listing. Other times, it may be hidden in the directory’s header or footer.

It’s important to claim your listings so you can add your website link, business hours, and photos to help your listing stand out from others. Claiming your listing will also help make sure you’re notified about any reviews or public updates your business receives.

Directories ranking for your competitors

Once you’ve claimed the listings you already have, you’ll want to start finding new ones. Creating listings on local business directories where your competitors have listings will help you get in front of your target audience. If you notice your competitors have detailed profiles on some networks, but not others, that should clue you in to which ones are going to be most effective.

To find these directories, search for your competitors by name on Google. You should be able to spot which ones you haven’t claimed for yourself already and go from there.

Directories ranking for your keywords

What keywords and phrases does your business target in search? Do a quick search for them to see which local directories rank in the top ten search results. Most keyword searches related to local businesses will lead you to your website, your competitors’ websites, specific business listings in local business directories, and categories on local business directories.

You should make sure you have a listing on the local business directories that rank for your competitors, as well as the ones whose categories rank. For the latter, you may even want to consider doing paid advertising or sponsorship to make sure your business is first for the category, since that page is likely receiving traffic from your target customers.

Directories ranking in mobile search

After you’ve looked for the directories that rank for your business name, your competitors, and your target keywords, you’ll want to do the same research on mobile search. This will help you find additional directories that are favorites for mobile users. Considering the studies showing that 50% of mobile searchers end up visiting a local store to make a purchase, getting your business in local business directories that rank well in mobile is key to business success.

Claiming and creating local business directory listings

If you think finding the right local business directories is time-consuming, wait until you start to claim and create them. Some directories make it simple and straightforward. Others have a much more complicated process.

Getting your business listing verified is usually the toughest part. Some networks will not require any verification past confirming your email address. Some will have an automated call or texting system for you to use to confirm your phone number. Some will have you speak to a live representative in order to confirm your listing and try to sell you paid upgrades and advertising.

The lengthiest ones from start to finish are those that require you to verify your business by postal mail. It means that you will have to wait a couple of days (or weeks, depending on the directory) to complete your listing.

In the event that you’re trying to claim a listing for your business that needs the address or phone number updated, you’ll need to invest additional time to contact the directory’s support team directly to get your information updated. Otherwise, you won’t be able to claim your business by phone or mail.

The cost of local business listings

Now that you know the time investment of finding, claiming, and creating local business directories, it’s time to look at the actual cost. While some of the top local business directories are free, others require payment if you want beyond the basic listings, such as the addition of your website link, a listing in more than one category, removal of ads from your listing, and the ability to add media.

Pricing for local directory listings can range from $29 to $499 per year. You will find some directories that sell listings for their site alone, while others are grouped under plans like this one where you can choose to pay for one directory or a group of directories annually.

With the above service, you’re looking at a minimum of $199 per year for one network, or $999 per year for dozens of networks. While it might look like a good deal, in reality, you are paying for listings that you could have gotten for free (Yahoo, Facebook, Google+, etc.) in addition to ones that have a paid entry.

So how can you decide what listings are worth paying for? If they are not listings that appear on the first page of search results for your business name, your competitors, or your keywords, you can do some additional research in the following ways:

Check the directory’s search traffic

You can use SEMrush for free (10 queries prior to registering + 10 after entering your email address) to see the estimated search traffic for any given local business directory. For example, you can check Yelp’s traffic by searching for their domain name:

Then, compare it with other local business directories you might not be familiar with, like this one:

This can help you decide whether or not it’s worth upgrading to an account at $108 per month to get a website link and featured placement.

Alternatively, you can use sites like Alexa to estimate traffic through seeing which site has a lower Alexa ranking. For example, you can check Yelp’s Alexa ranking:

Then compare it with other local business directories, like this one:

Instantly, you can see that between the two sites, Yelp is more popular in the US, while the other directory is more popular in India. You can scroll down further through the profile to see what countries a local business directory gets the majority of their traffic from to determine if they are getting traffic from your target customer base.

If you have a business in the US, and the directory you’re researching doesn’t get a lot of US traffic, it won’t be worth getting a listing there, and certainly not worth paying for one.

Determine the directory’s reputation

The most revealing search you can do for any local business directory that you are considering paying is the directory’s name, plus the word “scam.” If the directory is a scam, you’ll find out pretty quickly. Even if it’s not a scam, you will find out what businesses and customers alike find unappealing about the directory’s service.

The traffic a directory receives may trump a bad reputation, however. If you look at Yelp’s Better Business Bureau page, you will find over 1,700 complaints. It goes to show that while some businesses have a great experience on Yelp, others do not.

If you find a directory with little traffic and bad reviews or complaints, it’s best to steer clear, regardless of whether they want payment for your listing.

Look for activity in your category

Are other businesses in your category getting reviews, tips, or other engagement? If so, that means there are people actually using the website. If not, it may not be worth the additional cost.

The “in your category” part is particularly important. Photography businesses may be getting a ton of traffic, but if you have an air conditioning repair service, and none of the businesses in that category have reviews or engagement, then your business likely won’t, either.

This also goes for local business directories that allow you to create a listing for free, but make you pay for any leads that you get. If businesses in your category are not receiving reviews or engagement, then the leads you receive may not pan out into actual paying customers.

See where your listing would be placed

Does paying for a listing on a specific local business directory guarantee you first-page placement? In some cases, that will make the listing worth it—if the site is getting enough traffic from your target customers.

This is especially important for local business directories whose category pages rank on the first page for your target keyword. For these directories, it’s essential that your business gets placed in the right category and at the top of the first page, if possible.

Think of that category page as search results—the further down the page you are, the less likely people are to click through to your business. If you’re on the second or third page, those chances go down even further.

In conclusion

Local business directories can be valuable assets for your local business marketing. Be sure to do your due diligence in researching the right directories for your business. You can also simplify the process and see what Moz Local has to offer. Once your listings are live, be sure to monitor them for new reviews, tips, and other engagement. Also be sure to monitor your analytics to determine which local business directory is giving you the most benefit!

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