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Lesson Three: Directories & Business Citations

In this lesson we explain why it’s important to find and list your business on relevant, quality business directories.

We explain how to find the best ones and how to identify the good from the bad.

We show some live examples and offer our expert insight into how to make business directories work for your business.

Watch the next lesson: Lesson Four: New Citations & Reviews

Video Transcription

Hello and welcome to lesson three of module two.

Now, to further establish your business and be seen online, you need to be included on resources where people search. That’s obvious, right? Well, you’d be amazed the amount of people that completely forget about this and focus entirely on Google.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Google is very important and where many people do turn to first, but not everyone. Many people will search their favourite trusted directory, be that a local one, a national one, maybe an industry specific one. We need to ensure that, wherever appropriate, your business is listed where those people will search.

I will be the first to admit that the whole idea of directory listings and citation creation for businesses, has a very bad reputation, and rightfully so, as the whole idea of directory listings has been spammed to within an inch of its life. The very idea of creating natural business listings on places where people do actually search, is 100 percent valid still. I’m gonna be showing you exactly how to do this properly.

If you’re wondering what citations or business directories are, these are often authoritative and established websites that list hundreds, or even thousands, of businesses across one or many industries or locations. It’s the online version of the Yellow Pages. There are literally tens of thousands of directories out there. It’s possible you may have already listed your business on a few of these.

However, if you have, there are two common problems. Firstly, there are a lot of spammy or suspect directories out there which we need to avoid. Secondly, there is a lot of directories out there that have businesses with out of date information. Maybe their business address has changed, the phone number, even the company name, and these are the sorts of things that we need to check and make sure if the directory is of sufficient quality, all the details are correct. We’ll be covering this more later on in this lesson.

For now, I want to talk about these suspect and spammy directories. The key, when considering a website directory, is to ask yourself, does this genuinely look like the sort of place that users, who are looking for your products or services, might visit online? Does this directory look as if it’s been considered or thought about, or does it look like it’s been thrown up online in five minutes with no real thought or consideration? A few other things to be mindful of when researching directories.

Any that state that they are SEO friendly are often anything but. Also, spend a few minutes to look around the directory. Are there huge banners splashed all across the website? If there are, it needs to be avoided. Also, the businesses themselves that are listed, do they have any connection or correlation? If it’s just a huge list of links that is, say, a doctor’s, a plumber’s, an accountant, a florist, there’s no connection between those businesses, and as such, that directory needs to be avoided. Ultimately, use your common sense when considering a website directory.

For now, I want to talk about these suspect and spammy directories. The key, when considering a website directory, is to ask yourself, does this genuinely look like the sort of place that users, who are looking for your products or services, might visit online? Does this directory look as if it’s been considered or thought about, or does it look like it’s been thrown up online in five minutes with no real thought or consideration? A few other things to be mindful of when researching directories. Any that state that they are SEO friendly are often anything but. Also, spend a few minutes to look around the directory. Are there huge banners splashed all across the website? If there are, it needs to be avoided. Also, the businesses themselves that are listed, do they have any connection or correlation? If it’s just a huge list of links that is, say, a doctor’s, a plumber’s, an accountant, a florist, there’s no connection between those businesses, and as such, that directory needs to be avoided. Ultimately, use your common sense when considering a website directory.

Ask yourself, would real users use this website? If you suspect not, then move on. It’s far better to be cautious than just list your business on any directory that you can find. I’m gonna hop onto my computer right now, and show you some of these spammy directories, or the suspect ones, versus those of quality, and how you can tell the difference.

Okay. Firstly, let’s talk about these spammy and suspect directories. Now, remember what I said, that there are dozens, in fact, hundreds of spammy web directories out there. When you come to create new ones for your business, it’s really important that you don’t list your business on these types of directories, as they will most definitely do more harm than good. Thinking about what makes a spammy directory is … I’ve got a few examples that I just wanna go through to show you the sorts of things to be looking out for.

If there are sites that have lots of banners, so this one has two big banners, and this site just … if you look at this, it doesn’t look considered. It’s just got a whole host of categories, pretty much everything you could think of. It hasn’t got that many listings. You can see the number of listings per category. This is a typical example of someone that has created a website directory in five minutes. They’ve thrown it up online, and it doesn’t really serve any purpose. I would be almost 100 percent sure that this doesn’t get any traffic, this website. It’s a spammy directory. You can see very prominently in the menu submit link. That’s the only reason this website exists, is so that people can submit their business website to it, and the owner of this site is hoping that they will earn money from people clicking on these banners, because they’ll have them set up as display advertising. A good example. I’ve got loads more to go through.

Again, this one, it just looks horrendous. It doesn’t really serve any purpose. Again, submit link. Any sites that is very prominently saying, “Submit your link. Add link. Add URL,” nine times out of ten, to be avoided. As we go through the web directory, and again, another telltale sign of a really poor web directory is the URL. Anything that is just very obviously saying what it is, if it’s just “The Web Directory,” or, “Add URL,” or, “Add Link,” or, “SEO Directory,” avoid them. Avoid them. Avoid them. Again, all sort of the same telltale signs. This one, again, it’s just listing all business sectors. It doesn’t look considered. You can’t tell me any real user is going to come to this website and think, “This is the site for me. I trust this website. I’m going to use it and going to find my business of whatever I’m looking for.” It isn’t going to happen.

As we scroll through, and you’ll notice that all of these are UK directories. If you do a simple search for UK business directory, these are all the types of directories that come up. There’s red flags, and you’d be amazed the amount of businesses that will think, “Hey, it’s on Google. It’s the first page. I’ve found this web directory. I’m going to submit my business to it.” Don’t, because these will do more harm than good. Same sort of thing, this one … this is probably quite an old directory. It may have been okay back in the day, but I absolutely would not recommend you submit to this. UKWebUK. UKWebUK. I mean, come on. It just looks poor. DeepLink Directory. Wow. Again, same sort of thing. Banner advertising. It even says from 2006 onwards. No. This, unfortunately, is the similar sort of telltale sign.

You’ll notice that this is a running theme running through all these directories. They’re all trying to encourage any and all businesses. There’s no real sense of quality. They’re all asking people submit your sites. Submit links. Again, another one. UK Small Business Directory. This is actually quite a … this is ranked fairly well, this directory. It does come up quite prominently. If you do a search for UK directories, this will come up. This one, you will see this. Again, avoid it. There are actually a lot of businesses on this one, but I’ve seen, and I know that this website has had penalty problems with Google because it’s just not serving a purpose. It exists purely to list business and referral incomes from it. It’s just not very good quality. As we continue down the list, Dot UK Directory. Same sort of thing. You’ll start to see trends here, and you’ll start to see that actually what we’re looking at is just a load of turd.

All the UK, another one. These are all sites that I just wouldn’t … you don’t want to be listing your website on, your business on. You’re better than that and yeah. This list, I could list a hundred of them. There are so, so many. The key things you’re looking for are, are they asking you to submit your site? Are they prominently saying, “Add link”? Are they a directory that serves no localised purpose or no real sense of quality, and it’s just a case of encouraging any and all businesses, regardless of whether they’re real or fictitious, just sign up, sign up, sign up? If it’s a directory like that, you don’t want it.

Also, use your own common sense. It’s what I do whenever I’m analysing directories for my clients, is I come on, I look at a website, I think, “If I was looking on a directory, would I trust this directory? Would I look at it? Would I take value from it?” If you can’t honestly say, “Yep, do you know what? This looks like a quality directory,” it is to be avoided. That should give you a good sense of the types of spammy and suspect directories we need to avoid.

Now I want to look at some of the more quality directories. As I say, the quality directories, and we’ll cover this more in the next lesson, but these generally fall into a few different categories. Either they’re localised, say, they’re set to a specific target area, target region, be that a city or a town or a county or wherever, even UK-wide, then we have the national directories, which are the big ones that have … that cover the whole of the UK or even further afield than that. They are the ones that will have all businesses, but they are reputable, authoritative, trusted websites. There’s nothing wrong with those. Then you have the niche directories, which are … you’ve seen them before. It’s the CheckATrade, for tradesmen, it’s TripAdvisor for travel and hospitality companies. Those kind of ones, all of those are great. I’m just gonna show you a handful of these right now.

This is iHertforshire. You’ll notice that the URLs are much, they’re not as spammy, they’re not overkill, they’re not trying to force

directory in them, nine times out of ten. The website looks like it’s been considered. This looks like it’s been thought about, which clearly it has. This is a very reputable directory. And this is somewhere that, as a user, you could come into … this, most definitely, does have real users using their website. The layout’s been thought about, and it’s also part of the I family, for the local counties. Great website, definitely somewhere that users will be using to search for businesses, and services and products. So that is the sort of place, if, obviously, you are located in Hertfordshire, that’s the sort of place that you would want to list your business.

Another Hertfordshire directory. Now this one does have Hertfordshire Business Directory, and yet it is a quality directory, so this is where I say it’s not a one-step process which is absolutely foolproof and will always work. But, again, it’s about how to look. Does this look like a quality directory? Has it got some substance to it? Does it look like it’s been thought about? Is there real content? Is there current content listed on the website? Yes, this does have a few banners, but as you can see, the banners are very much secondary, a lot of them are going to be local businesses. So this is … I don’t think the visual aesthetics of this website is fantastic, no, it’s old, it looks a little bit dated, but it’s still a quality directory, somewhere which you could happily list your business and be confident that users would use that, Google will see that, and realise, “Oh, this business is located in Hertforshire and they’re listed on this and several other Hertfordshire-based directories.”

Moving on, these are some of the more nation-wide directories now. So touchlocal.com is the trusted local directory where you could happily add your business. You’re got a login, a home members area, you can see that people are leaving reviews, that it’s part of the Scoot network which, again, is important, let me show you a few more examples of that. A good directory. Again, it covers most industries. Yell.com, I’m sure you’ve heard of, this is probably one of the most well-known directories out there. Great to be on it. They have paid listings, they also have free listings. That is almost a given for any UK business, make sure that you’re listed on there.

Hotfrog is another one that is very trustworthy. Good site to be on. Does have a good user base within the UK, and a heck of a lot of businesses listed as well. You can see it’s very current, it’s been used within the last hour, the last four minutes, these are people updating their listings, adding their listings, getting reviews on their listings, all that sort of stuff. Good user engagement, great site to be on, almost regardless of your industry, as long as you’re in the UK.

Another directory. I wanted to include this one because I like this directory 192.com. It’s a little bit of an old-fashioned directory, as in it looks quite old. It’s not visually that appealing, but it’s a good site. It does get good user engagement, so, again … and it’s nationwide, and it’s all industries. A good one to be listed on regardless of your business.

A few more now. My Local Services, again, a good one to be on. They do allow customer reviews, and it’s, yeah … these directories are not going to move the needle alone, you’re not going to list your business on one, or a handful of directories, and suddenly that’s going to propel you to the top spots, no it’s not. But, as I said at the very outset of this lesson, it’s about putting your business where people who are looking for your products and services, may look. And a lot of them will turn to Google first, but a lot of people will turn to directories that they use and they trust. And these last half a dozen here, are good examples of good directories that people do use, and also, as well as the users it’s Google as well, because Google wants to see that your business is listed on some quality, trusted resources, because Google crawls and indexes these directories on a daily basis. So if it sees your business popping up here, there, and everywhere, as long as the sites are quality, that’s a good thing. It’s going to reinforce to Google, “Hey, this business is here. This is what they do. This is the area they service,” and the more they start seeing that, it’s going to all help towards establishing your business online.

Another that is Scoot, so this is part of the Scoot network. Scoot has several websites including all of these: The Sun, The Mirror, The Independent, so you can create an account, and it will list you on … you’ll get the option when you sign up to join all of these, so you could happily do that, because they’re all reputable. And, jus tone last one, which is Thomson Local. Again, this is on a similar vein as yell.com. Very reputable, you’ve probably heard of Thomson Local. Again, it’s nationwide, and it covers all business sectors, all business industries.

So those are just a few examples of how you can … when you’re doing your own research to find is this directory good or not, those are just a few examples of how you can tell the difference. So, yeah, like I say, if you find any, and you’re not sure, send me an email, but otherwise, best of luck finding the best directories for your business.

Now that you understand the difference between quality and spammy directories, and how to identify them, we’re going to look at applying these to your own business. We’re going to look at how to check if you have any listings on spammy or suspect directories, and then we’re going to get rid of those. We’re also going to check the quality ones, and make sure that all your business information listed on them is correct and the same across them all. You’d be amazed how simply consolidating all of your listings, and getting everything 100 percent the same and correct, can have a positive impact on your rankings and your traffic. Oh, and by the way, throughout this lesson, and the rest of the course, you may hear me refer to NAP, that’s N-A-P, that is an acronym that stands for name, address, and Phone number, and they’re the three key components for any directory listing or citation.

The first step is to audit your directory listings that already exist. Now, depending on the age of your business, and when you first created these directory listings, you may be incredibly organised like me, and have a spreadsheet with all your login details and where you’re listed. If you have, great job, as you’ve saved yourself a lot of time. What you need to do is login to each of those directories, and check all the information is correct. The company name, phone number, address, email, website, make sure everything is a hundred percent correct.

Even little things like with your company name, if you have some listings which just says your company name, and other listings that has company name, and then Limited, or Ltd., make sure you choose one defined version, and have that across everything, because directories and Google will associate a company with Ltd., and then a company with Limited, as two separate entities, and you won’t get the full benefit from those directories. What I do, and what I suggest you do, is create a spreadsheet, and list all of your business details in this one sheet. Then, as you go through all the listings, you can cross-reference, and, if necessary, copy-paste all the information to ensure that everything is exactly the same. If you then record all the listings that you create, all those you update, in the same spreadsheet, you’ll have one file going forward, from where you can manage and update all your listings, and it’s nice and simple.

Now, if you can’t recall where you may have listed your business over the years, no problem. We can use Google search console to find many of these websites. And I’m going to show you how to do that, right now.

So the first thing we need to do, is come onto Google’s search console. You can access this by going to google.com/webmasters/tools. Once you’re on there, click into the website, or your live website, if you’ve added both the www and the non-www version, make sure you click on whichever one you use, and then on the left-hand side we’re going to click into search traffic, and then links to your website. Now, remember that I previously said the search console has many, many benefits, and it tells you a lot of the more technical information. One of the key things it tells you, is links to your website. And this is what we’re going to use to find directories you may have previously listed your business on. To do this, click into more, and you’ll see you have three options along the top. We’re going to click on download latest links, and then OK to download the CSV file.

What this will do, is it will generate a spreadsheet that will show all the links to your website. Now, it’s likely, and hopefully you’ll recognise many of the websites listed in this file, as these will be linked from other websites that are out there linking to you, maybe your suppliers, your partners, people that you know, other website owners, whatever it is, you should, in most cases, recognise quite a few of the sites. What you’re going to do, is work through this list, now it doesn’t matter how many links you have, you may have a few dozen, you may have a few hundred, you could even have a few thousand. It really doesn’t matter. What you need to do is look, scan through this list by eye, and look for websites that you don’t recognise, and those that could potentially be directories. So you’re looking at the URL strings to see if lists your business or your business name, any that, say, categories, anything that you think that could be a directory listing. If you see anything, copy the URL and paste it into the browser bar and look if it is a directory or not. If it is, or those that you find that are, maybe highlight it in a different colour, and then establish whether that directory is a spammy directory, or if it’s a good quality directory.

If it’s a spammy directory, or something you suspect could be spammy, or it’s suspect, or you’re just not sure, you think, “You know what, I’m just not happy for my business to be listed on this website,” then look on that directory for an option to remove your link, or a way to contact that directory and request that your details are removed. Nine times out of ten, directory owners are pretty good, and if you submit your request, or fill in a form, however they do it, they’ll get your details removed. Maybe make a little short list of the directories you contacted, so that you know you need to follow up with them a week or two down the line, if they haven’t got back to you, and you can also go back to the sites and check, do a search, on those directories to check if your business details have been removed, maybe after two or three weeks.

If you only find a handful of directories that are spammy, and you’ve got more good quality links than bad quality ones, then it’s not a huge problem. I would still recommend contacting those directories to try and get removed, but it’s not going to be a massive problem. If, on the other hand, you come into this and you open this file, and you’re seeing a heck of a lot of spammy directories, and you think, “My gosh, what’s going on here?” It’s unlikely, but it is possible, you could have been subject to sort of a negative SEO attack. If that’s happened, or if you think, “Blimey, this could have happened, because I’m seeing hundreds,” and it won’t just be a couple of dozen, it will literally be hundreds of spammy sites. If that happens, send me an email, and let me know, because we may need to run through some additional steps, with regards to a disavowal submission to get those links discounted.

But, for the most part, you’re just going to look through and see how many links you’ve got, or how many directories that you’ve got that are those you want to get removed, or those that you want to discount. Then, the important part is then to go through and establish all the directory listings which are of good quality, all the really good directories. You need to take those and shortlist them into this file here. So just list all the good quality directories into here. And then, once you’re done that, come into here and fill in all your business information. This spreadsheet is going to be downloadable just below this lesson. So download it, and fill in all your business information. I put in a few base fills here, so your business name, website, are of business, address, phone number, email, your contact role, and your contact name, those kind of things. You may want to expand upon this list and add more basic information abour your business, as I absolutely find this is just the bare minimum of what you need.

Fill all this in, and then go back and reference every one of the directories you previously listed your business on, and cross-reference to check that all of these business information here, are exactly the same. So it’s exactly the same name, exactly the same company name, the URL’s exactly the same, everything is on point and the same. It’s really important that you do that, because where it comes to business citations, as long as they’re quality, you need to make sure that everything is … if it’s not the same, it will count against you, and you won’t get the full benefit of there being x number of mentions of your company name across the web. So really, really important, and it’s one way you can ensure that everything is accurate and is exactly the same. And crucially, if your business changes, say down the line if you change your business’s phone number, or your email address has changed, or your company name changes, or you move address, you then have one point of reference where you can update this, and then go back and cross-reference all of your directories and update all the information.

Also in here, I record, and recommend you record, your login details for each directory. If you’re going through this list, and you find directories, it’s likely that you may need to re-submit, or request a password reset, or something along those lines, if you do, that’s not a problem, just get that done, but once you have your new password, be sure to pop it in here along with your email address that signs you in, that way, you’ve got one point of reference going forward, and then you’re … once you;’ve checked everything, and you publish that, or you’ve submitted it for publication, once it live, pop all the live links in here, because, again, it’s about keeping things nice and organised, where your citations and your directory listings are concerned, and you’ll have one point of reference going forward.

Now, crucially, with directories, make sure that you update, or that you … all your directory listings are of good quality. All too often, I see directory listings where it’s got the minimum information, the NAP information, the name, address, and the phone number, and maybe the website as well, and then a one-liner which says what they do, and that’s okay. If you do that, you’re doing the minimum, and you’re going to get the minimum amount of value from that directory. Instead, take the time to cherry-pick the best information. So, write a more detailed description about your business, add pictures, add your logo, do internal links within a copy of tat description, off two pages on your website, not just linking to your home page, but maybe a couple of your services pages, or a couple of your product pages, or your about page, maybe even your blog. Something that adds more value to your listing, and shows that you’ve actually taken the time.

You can do this, because we’re not going to be just submitting your business to dozens of directories. We’re going for quality over quantity, and because of that, you can take more time because you’ve got less of them to do. We’re not submitting your website to a hundred directories, and, as I say, we’re going to be stretching these submissions out, so you may only be doing a couple of submissions, two or three submissions, that month, so it’s worth spending 10, 15 minutes, and making that submission absolutely spot-on.

So, one other thing to add, is if you can go through this list, and you don’t see directories that you think you possibly may have listed your business on, then remember that this list isn’t an exhaustive list, so there may well be sites out there that you think, “You know what? I seem to recall I may have listed myself on a given directory, but I’m not seeing it.” If you can recall the name of that directory, simply look it up online and then once you’re on that directory, do a search for that listing to see if you can find your business. If your business comes up, you’re listed, and you can then re-submit your password and gain access. If you don’t come up, then it’s fairly likely that your business isn’t listed on that directory. So, like I say, go onto your search console, download the links, and go through them, and just any that you’re not sure about, pop into a web browser, and check them. Any good quality ones list in here, and then save this file somewhere safe so that you’ve got this spreadsheet for all your citations, both now and going forward.

So there you have it, a NAP audit explained in just a few simple steps. Now, just below this video, is the spreadsheet that I mentioned earlier. If you download and fill that in with all your business details, you can use that as your single point of reference going forward. So get that filled in, audit all your existing directory listings, and in the next lesson we’re going to be finding and creating new ones to propel your business even further up the rankings. I’ll see you there.

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