How to use online directories to attract customers

White keyboard white a blue 'Online Directories' key

Online business directories can be a low-cost way to drive potential customers to your website. But which ones you should be advertising in, and how do you convince browsers to choose your ad above the competition?

Online directories help you reach audiences who are browsing in that particular index or directory, as well as improving your search engine rankings. They can be a low-cost method of increasing sales.

Choosing which directories to advertise in

So how do you know what sort of directories you should advertise in? Until a few years ago, online directories, such as or Yelp, tended to be index-based, simply listing the name and the contact details of the business.

Costs for these can be reasonable, and many smaller, local index-based directories are often free to advertisers - although well-known, national sites are likely to charge a couple of hundred pounds a year.

Bigger "stand-out" adverts will cost extra, and being listed in multiple sections will also bump up the price.

While using these sorts of directories can be worthwhile for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes, advertising in this way will not necessarily attract new customers.

Create a Google Business Profile

These days, most people will start by searching online when they need a specific product or service. Make sure you set up a free Google Business Profile. It will help customers find you when they look for a business like yours in their area. Not only can customers find you online, previous customers can leave you a star rating helping to reassure new customers about your business.

Make sure you add the key information customers will need to know: your business name and address, opening hours and contact details. To help your profile stand out, you can add photos too. Include a description of your business that includes relevant keywords that potential customer might use. If your business is local rather than national, make it clear where you operate.

Ratings and reviews in online directories

Browsers have moved towards more social types of websites that combine business listings with reviews, enabling people to share their experiences. Rated People and Checkatrade are two example of sites that combine a searchable, local directory with consumer reviews.

It is essential to consider your target audience when choosing where to get listed. For example, if you're going for a national or global audience, it's unlikely that a listing in a local directory will be much help. On the other hand, if you're trying to attract local users, local online directories may be worthwhile. Another benefit of local directories is that they are unlikely to cost much.

If you operate in a niche sector, you should look for a sector-specific site, for more targeted results.

Writing your directory listing

When it comes to writing your advertisement, always ensure that you communicate as much as possible about your business. Some sites may require only your business name, which will act as a link to your website, while others may offer more space.

Make sure you clearly communicate what problem you can solve for customers, and why they should choose you instead of a competitor. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and consider what problem they will want you to solve. If your unique selling point is 24-hour service or a quick response time, make sure it's promoted clearly.

Lastly, it's important to track web traffic to measure the effectiveness of your listings. Don't just rely on directory figures. You can use Google Analytics, which is free, to track where visitors to your site came from, to see if your listing is paying off.

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