Beware: Are You Paying for a Local Business Directory Listing?

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by on May 29, 2012

Are you paying for a local business directory listing to attract customers on the Internet. Does it also include a nifty phone number with online tracking and reporting? If so, it might not be as beneficial to your business, as it appears.

Most business owners know that Internet search companies have pulled a huge share of lead generation services away from companies that sell printed telephone directories and ads. To survive, these older, offline corporations had to shift their services to the Internet and, of course, still need local businesses as customers.

Like most advertising companies, they justify and sell their services by encouraging online tracking and reporting of the phone calls and clicks delivered to a business website. You may have received a solicitation by mail or phone or email, and signed up for a paid listing. You may have purchased this service because it seemed similar enough to their offline publications, plus you had a prior business relationship that delivered results.

The big traditional directories, however, are no longer the dominant forces that drive new customers to local businesses. Now search engines determine the visibility of businesses, via keyword search rankings, in local search results.

How Your Business Rankings Are Affected

Let us look at why it is important to your business. Your online business identity is defined by its name, address and phone number, known as a NAP, since it uniquely brands your business. Publishing your NAP on various websites creates a citation to it, often including a link to your website.

Your NAP can and should be used consistently in all online directories, profiles, websites, blogs, and videos, among others, since each adds trust and authority to your online footprint. These citations are one Internet marketing strategy that builds the reputation of a local business.

The number of citations your business has, and authority of each website that hosts them, are deciphered by search engines. They, and other Internet services, use them to gain confidence that your online business is who it says it is, so it is a major ranking factor that impacts how often and where your business appears on the Internet and mobile networks.

As you probably now guess, when a citation uses a substitute phone number for tracking phone calls, it creates inconsistent NAPs, damaging the trust and transparency of your business with Google, Bing, Yahoo and others.

What Actions Can Your Business Take?

How this call tracking conflict is resolved, depends on what results your business needs. The first step is reviewing your phone call tracking reports:

  • Are you getting many calls or clicks from this paid advertising service?
  • Are prospects making the phone calls converting into paying customers?
  • Do you care whether you receive the call tracking reports?

Based on this information, you can weigh the costs and benefits of the call tracking number, and make a decision. Your options may include:

a) Make no changes to your paid advertisement and its call tracking feature.
Continue receiving phone calls and tracking reports, but it will retard your rankings in local business search results.

b) Remove the call tracking feature and use your business phone number.
You will likely no longer receive call tracking reports, but may receive reports tracking clicks to your website. Phone calls from prospects should continue, and the same charges are probably still due.

c) Cancel your paid listing at its next renewal date, and request a free listing.
This choice assumes the listing is of unknown or dubious value, and that your cost does not justify the results. If asked, many directories will still provide a free local business listing.

What successes or issues have you faced when paying for local business directory listings? (Write a comment below!)

If you found this useful or interesting, two related posts are:
Local Business Listing Problems
Internet Marketing Strategies and Techniques.

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