At first glance, an online business directory may not look like much more than a glorified phone book. However, the best sites will reveal a whole social fabric, linking similar businesses together while using local search techniques and dynamic media to captivate an audience. For small businesses, this is yet another way to run with the big dogs and gain exposure.
A 2008 ComScore study reported that US internet business directory searches have increased 25% over the last year. The search engines are still the first source a third of Americans use for local business information, with another third turning to print Yellow or White Pages. Another 19% use the internet yellow pages and 11% use a local search, although industry analysts anticipate the number of people turning to local searches will increase over the coming year as the sites add functionality and improve their interfaces. A whopping 90% of users say that internet business directory listings are a valuable source for local business information.
Mobile phone access to an online business directory is another major trend we’ll see throughout 2009 as well. The ComScore study also noted that 1 out of 5 local business searchers with an internet-accessible cell phone used it to search for local products, services, addresses and phone numbers. With the growth of smart phones, like the iPhone and the Blackberry, more and more people are viewing their phones as mini-computers. “There are 228 million mobile subscribers in the US, up 6% from August 2007 to 2008,” comments Serge Matta of ComScore. “Also, we are seeing tremendous growth in mobile browsing, up 45% over the same time period.”
Good links from an online business directory are a good starting point, but the end goal is always targeted traffic that can be converted into sales. Local businesses should have good websites with a clear call-to-action, prompting visitors to call or stop by. A good way to retain traffic is to create a rewards program, offer printable coupons or publishing a survey to track referrals. With a little bit of know-how, local business listings can be the start of a beautiful thing.
And one other thing to keep in mind is the study mentioned earlier has proved accurate in that there has been even more of an increase in the use of the internet to find a local business. Today, almost everyone “googles”. That is why all small businesses need a website presence that would make them easy to find. For example, if someone wanted to find me they could simply enter Lance Williams seo consultant into a search engine and I’ll be easily found.
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