SEO for Business Directories: How to Optimize your Business Directory for Search
What is a Business Directory?
An online business directory is a searchable list of businesses, typically grouped by niche, location, or category. In today’s internet age, a listing in the business directory is usually included when you join your local chamber or membership organization. Being included in online directories is a great way for local businesses to get found in online search.
SEO for your Business Directory
So how can you optimize your directory to bring traffic to your website and boost visibility for your members as well? As you may or may not be aware, the Google search algorithm uses over 200 signals to deliver search results. That and the fact that Google tweaks their methods several times every year, can make SEO seem overwhelming.
Links & Content Rule!
The good news is that links & content are still the top 2 most important ranking factors in the Google algorithm. (Google’s Andrey Lippatsev,)
If you are using WordPress there is more good news. WordPress is SEO friendly by default. [ CAUTION WILL ROBINSON… this does not mean that all of the work is done for you. ] It simply means that the basic settings and structure of WordPress have been optimized for SEO. One of these optimizations is that even pages that are dynamically generated are indexed by Google, which means that the slugs for individual business listings can be read by search engines.
One of the main signals that Google uses to determine the popularity of a site is the number of inbound and outbound links to a site. If the links are found to be ‘trustworthy’, the site is considered more popular and therefore will rank higher on SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages).
New to SEO?
(Check out SEO for Beginners by wpbeginner.com)
There are basically two types of links:
Internal Site Links:
These are links you can create yourself. They link one page of your site to another and help organize your site so that Google’s crawlers can find and rank important pieces of information on your site that someone might be looking for. Internal links also help your visitors find their way around your site, so they are definitely worth spending some time on.
External Site Links:
External links occur when other sites links to yours or vice versa. When other sites link to yours, this is called an inbound link. These are the most valuable type of link because they are the most difficult to get. The best inbound link is one from a site that is considered trustworthy and is linked to relevant content. You are creating these for your members by linking to their website. An effective strategy might be to ask new members to link back to your site as well, creating valuable links for both of you.
Link Building Strategies
Use caution when building inbound links. In some cases, too many links can actually hurt your site’s performance. You should never buy links. You also do not want to add too many at once. Basically, Google is looking for links to your site that are editorial and naturally placed links, not purchased or spammy.
Be selective. You’ll want to build links from sites that are:
- Relevant to your organization.
Link to quality content.Your goal is to link to high quality content that you’ve created on your site. Because ultimately although inbound links may bring in visitors, if the visitor finds zero value, they will bounce right back off your site.
Rand Fishkin shares a useful breakdown of the 2018 requirements for quality content here:
So, what can you do to optimize individual listings for search engines?
Create quality content
One of the easiest ways to create high quality listings is to let your members update their own listings since they usually know their businesses better than you do. Encourage them to create a robust description of their business that will be of interest to your members. Note: Simply copy/pasting their About Us page from their site to your directory will not help and can actually hurt your search rankings.
Encourage your members to add media such as images or videos as well as outbound links to their website and social media pages from their listings.
Included interactive features in your listings. Typically if you are using a Business Directory plugin, some interactive features will be included, like a map with directions.
Use headers and lists to make your content easy to digest. Breaking up topics with relevant headers creates content that is easier for the user to quickly review to find what they are most interested in. Convert at least one paragraph to a bulleted list if you can for a similar effect. Be sure to include key phrases that are relevant to your listing!
Screenshot of Business Directory plugin by Chamber Dashboard
Include descriptive keywords
Chambers of Commerce and local visitor bureau sites have the advantage of of being hyper-local. You don’t need your site to show up in every search across the US, but you do want it to show up in searches relevant to your area. Adding the city’s name and other identifying details can help your site show up as visitors narrow their search.
For example: A search for ‘things to do’will return millions of results.
Narrowing the search to ‘things to do mytown’ will give much more useful results. Although Google typically shows you the closest results first.
Taking it a step further, ‘things to do mytown arts camp’ will give you exactly what you are looking for…assuming arts camp is included in the site’s content.
Stick with it!
Moving up in search rankings can take some time. Developing quality content takes time as well. So if you are not showing up as #1 in search rankings right away, don’t give up. You don’t necessarily need to hire an SEO expert right away.
Do some research, assign someone on your team to become the SEO specialist, create a methodology you plan to follow and put your plan into action.