Getting listed on business directories and social networks is the first phase of off-page optimization within engine optimization (SEO)… particularly local SEO. This can be implemented as soon as you register your domain through a registrar like GoDaddy or Namecheap; you don’t even need website to complete this project. This process is especially crucial for local businesses and national/international businesses get away with only creating social media profiles, but I prefer to also build business listings for companies that do not service customers in their immediate geographic area, such as eCommerce stores. In SEO, these links are called “foundational links” and the primary benefit is to build trust with search engines like Google because trust, authority, and relevance are all important qualities search engines take into account when evaluating you’re your link profile (links from other websites to yours are often referred to as “backlinks” or “inbound links”), which act as a vote of trust, authority, and/or relevance. To understand why this is a part of Google’s algorithm, let’s look at a real-world example… You are a newly minted doctor and mingling with 10 highly respected (authoritative) doctors in a room, when another doctor you do not know walks into the room and all 10 doctors tell you that man or woman is the best surgeon in the world. You are likely to believe them because they are trustworthy, authoritative, and relevant in your field. If Google does not return the best results when users type a term into their search bar, other search engines may capture more of Google’s majority market share. Therefore, Google has an incentive to favor businesses that put in effort to ensure they are accurately listed around the web, instead of favoring fly-by-night boiler rooms. With the explanation out of the way let’s look at the action steps:
- Save your logo and 10 photos of your business in a folder titled. “Branding Assets”.
- Download LastPass for free, which is a password manager that has a feature which allows you to save business information to autofill with the click of a button for necessary information to build social media profiles and business listings.
- Create a Google My Business listing and fill out all possible information. Be sure to use your business’s legal name.
- Benchmark – Once your Google My Business (GMB) listing has been created, check your Moz Local score as an overall metric to measure performance and record the score + date checked in the spreadsheet mentioned in step 3. To calculate this score, Moz considers incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings.
- Intake Forms – In the Business Directories + Social Media Profiles spreadsheet, fill out the all fields in the first 2 tabs: Business Listings Intake Form and Profiles Intake form. This information should serve as the official source of information for your business and should match what is on your GMB listing. For example, use the exact same spelling for how your business name appears on your Google listing.
- Audit Existing Listings – Check all top 50 generic business listings in the Business Listings tab and enter the information for each listing you find, in the corresponding cells.
- Remove duplicate listings – If a single directory has your business listed twice, create an extra row the spreadsheet to track this, followed by submitting a request, asking the directory to delete one of the listings, since duplicate listings are harmful.
- Create generic business listings – Create listings for each directory where you are not already listed, using one of the 2 following methods:
- Do it Yourself – Use LastPass and your branding assets folder to create business listings which take approximately 10 minutes each.
- Pay Yext – Yext is an online platform that charges a monthly fee to submit your business to major generic business directory and even suppress duplicate listings. These changes are likely to revert when you stop paying, but the benefit is, change including: creating listings and updating business information across listings are live within minutes.
- Create niche + local business listings – Follow steps 4-6 to create at least 5 business listings on the top directories for both your industry and local area. Examples of niche directories are Avvo for attorneys and WebMD for doctors. An example of a local directory is the Los Angeles Times directory for businesses in or located near Los Angeles.
- Check Moz Local score 1 month after completing all steps
- Audit existing profiles – Check all websites listed in the Social Media Profiles tab and enter the information for each listing you find, in the corresponding cells.
- Create social media profiles – Create profiles for each social network where you do not already have a profile. Each should take approximately 10 minutes to build. Pro Tip: for brand consistency, use the same handle/username across all profiles and modify the handle if not available. For example, my primary handle is benwynkoop and my alternate choice if not available is benwynkoop1. See how the handle is often used in each URL:
Pro tip: Local business should consider placing their business name, address and phone number in the profile biography to get a “citation” which is a mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citation are important, so remember that social media profile bios are another way in addition to business listings, to get a citation.
Business listings and social media profiles provide “submissions-based” links that point to your domain, so Google’s algorithm knows these are built and not earned, which is why the benefit provided from an SEO perspective and trust. Editorial links such as your business or figurehead being mentioned or the feature of an article on a major news site like Forbes or the most popular blog in your niche/local area can provide authority and relevance. Editorial backlinks are the “steroids of SEO”.