Almost all businesses have built websites in order to be found easily by potential customers and clients. With a few simple clicks, visitors to a business website can buy a product, send an email to the company and even peruse the business' blog to learn valuable industry information. A well-built website services the company as well as the clients.
An official company website is great for people who already know about a business by name. But what about potential customers that have never heard of you? There are consumers that know what goods or services they want, but are not sure where to get them. Oftentimes these consumers do an online search for a particular product or keyword in the hopes of finding a company that can provide it. In most cases, these customers are most interested in local businesses that fit their need.
Including your business in online directories is a smart way to ensure that customers find you, especially if your name is new to them. Online directories are categorized in a variety of ways in order to serve a particular purpose. Some group companies of an industry together, like general contractors, physicians or clothing boutiques. Other directories focus solely on just one industry and visitors to the site can find the provider that fits their exact need. Every site obtains directory info in its own way and each one spells out what it needs from businesses for inclusion.
If you want to jumpstart your directory listings, here are a few places to start:
- Google. Yep, that's right. The search engine giant has a spot where businesses can submit the necessary info to improve the likelihood of being found when a customer does a search. The service is completely free but comes with a few rules, like the fact that all listings must have a physical address. Companies have the option to "hide" the street address information when searched, but there must be a physical address available for signup. If a business has several locations, a separate entry is required for each spot.
- Yahoo! Not to be outdone by its competitor, Yahoo! also provides a way for businesses to submit their information for free. Included in this free listing are options for phone number, address, website URL, hours of operation and a brief description of products or services. Yahoo! takes it one step further, however, and also gives businesses the option of paying for an enhanced listing that includes a company logo, up to 10 photos and a more detailed description of the business than the free listing.
- Business.com. The site you are on now actually has a unique online directory. "The Grid" provides side-by-side comparisons of goods and services so consumers can make more informed business choices. Every directory submission is reviewed by the editorial staff to ensure it is relevant. Business owners can choose between five options: pay per click, pay per lead, directory listings, premium grid listings or display advertising. The goal of this online directory resource is to connect buyers and businesses "at every stage of the purchasing cycle."
- Chamberofcommerce.com. This consumer-friendly site is more than just lists of business names and phone numbers. It offers visitors listings sorted by business category and location, and also has a keyword search option. The site is full of articles about current issues that affect businesses across the country, making it just as useful for business owners as it is for consumers. The intuitive directory system asks business owners simply for a phone number and then displays the information already available on the Internet about the company. Businesses verify the information and receive advice on how to improve their "online reputation."
- MerchantCircle. In a matter of minutes, business owners can enter their information and be listed in the directory for free. The site offers additional online support on items like advertisements, newsletters, blogs and coupons.
The great news about online directories is that businesses can list their information in as many as they want. A good way to cover all your bases is by choosing a few free directories, and a few that charge a fee. While free is always nice, those directories tend to be saturated with entries. By paying a little bit for an exclusive directory, consumers will have more guidance in order to find your business. Spend some time researching the directories available for your industry and start submitting your business information. The investment of a few minutes on your part may result in customer dividends.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in local business news.