Why are online directories helpful? For one – they’re free.

An important way to leverage these listing is to make sure your business profile and contact info are on as many of these free directories as possible.

Reason being – many clients clients do some sort of research about your business before they reach out about a job request. So the more your business is present across all these listings online, the more comfortable clients get that you’re a legit business.

In addition, as your business presence increases across many of these sites then this builds up your SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”), so that your business name has the higher likelihood of popping up high on Google search results when a client is doing a search for [service industry] in [city, state].

In addition, free listings give you a helpful platform on which to build public customer reviews and content, which will in turn help your business go viral.

 

What’s the deal?

Yelp is one of the more well-known websites when it comes to people searching for services.

Yelp has built a highly engaged community of consumers who are passionate about writing reviews on businesses. As a result, Yelp is very useful in terms of asking your own clients write glowing reviews to help you grow…that’s the magic here.

Once you set up a Yelp account, first – send every single client you’ve done business with in the past a link to leave a review on your profile. And don’t worry how your clients will react to this – this is not an abnormal request. Your clients won’t hate you for asking them for a review. Most customers know how helpful Yelp can be and just need to be asked directly to leave you a review. Your customers are busy with their own lives as well, so send follow up emails if clients don’t review you right off the bat. Send one, then another 1 week later, then one more 3 weeks later. Then stop. You want to remind clients to review you but 2-3 follow up emails is a good amount until emailed requests start becoming “spammy”.

Adding reviews to your profile is crucial because the more reviews you build on your Yelp profile, the higher up you show on Yelp’s search results. Essentially you’re leveraging your clients to help with marketing.

Yelp gives your current clients a voice to express their opinion of you, which puts you more prominently in front of new clients searching for services in your industry and location. Put some upfront effort in to really get clients to leave you reviews. Heck, even ask a few friends to leave you positive reviews to get the ball rolling. It depends on your industry and location, but the global rule is the more positive reviews the more likely you will reach that #1 listing…

The secondary effect in building up a Yelp profile is that many other (smaller) directories use the ratings data on Yelp as their own reviews. Yelp allows other platforms to tap into business reviews, and display Yelp reviews all over the web. So building up your brand and quality rating profile on Yelp will indeed pay dividends for you across the web.

How do I set it up?

Make sure to “claim” your business profile here: https://biz.yelp.com/  Search for your business – just so you know, sometimes Yelp will auto-add businesses to their site or clients will add businesses even without being asked by the business owner. If you do not see your business listed, then just tap on the “Add your business” link towards the bottom of the page…

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Setup takes just a couple minutes, and then you are free and clear to share your business profile link to all your current clients!

What are the risks?

Yelp has been known for its sketchy “fake review” strategies. That is, if you don’t pay to advertise on Yelp (we’ll cover that in the “Paid” section of this Handbook), then they’ve been known to sick fake 1-star reviews on your account to penalize you. This topic has been widely covered and has been consistently denied by Yelp management: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/yelp-extortion/

There’s no real way to fight this risk. The one thing I will say is to make sure you have your profile on other platforms (as discussed below) as well so in case the “review-extortion” happens to you, clients can see more legitimate reviews of your business elsewhere.

 

What’s the deal?

Google’s basic search platform has enabled local professionals to get discovered easily online. Google Local or Google My Business allows you to get listed and show up on Google search results in a more relevant fashion.

Google processes over 40k search queries every second, so it makes sense that your profile should show up in Google search results. Adding your business profile on Google will ensure you show up in the major search engine’s results list. Similar to previous free listing sites, fill up your profile with client reviews so your business can show up as close to the top of search results as possible.

Google is always a great place to appear because it’s just a box that can be checked – in the client’s mind – about your business’s legitimacy. Not to mention, setting up your business account will allow you to delve into other Google advertising products (as discussed herein) to evaluate their usefulness in terms of growth.

How do I set it up?

Set up your business to be listed on Google: https://www.google.com/business/  You’ll be able to find your business (if it’s already listed somewhere on Google), or add it yourself. In a matter of minutes you’ll have your profile live, and it’s up to you to start sharing it with clients to update reviews!

What are the risks?

Just like with many Google products, Google My Business has not seen a lot of active investment from Google (so it seems). That means the amount of information a client can find on your Google profile is rather limited. A screenshot below is an example of what your business will look like – not as content-rich as other listing platforms.

In addition (and the sad reality), your business is always listed next to competing professionals so the client can never really get a focused view on just you with a bit of distraction.

 

What’s the deal?

Facebook  (“FB”) is typically known as a place to simply share photos and comments with friends, but the FB team has spent a considerable amount of time and money building up its business ecosystem – specifically for small business and service providers.

Facebook just recently launched it Facebook Services search product: https://www.facebook.com/services. FB users can now search, browse and book local service professionals direcly on Facebook (albeit they are in the early stages of this search directory). Translation: you want your business to have a Facebook Business page ASAP.

Similar to Yelp, once you set up your FB business page, start filling it up with content. First off that means reviews. Send your FB page to clients and friends (either email them your link or message them your link through FB messenger) and ask them to post reviews on your page. That not only will make you look like a higher quality business to prospective clients, but will now boost your ranking on the new FB services search…

Other “content” (as I mentioned above) means photos and posts. Show off your personality, build your brand – post pictures and any relevant articles or announcements that are relevant to your business.  Even post deals or coupons. Show visiting clients that there is indeed activity and engagement going on on your FB page. Let prospective clients know that there’s a person behind that business name.

The great thing about FB is that clients can like, comment and message you – loads of ways to engage with current clients and show off engagement to leads. Not to mention – the average American spend 40 minutes a day on Facebook, so you’ll be showing activity where your future customers are spending tons of time.

How do I set it up?

Setting up is easy and free. Just go to “Create a Page” FB. Choose “Local Business or Place” as your entity, and then choose the correct “category” and sub categories…these and also your location are important so that you show up on the relevant search results when FB users are searching for service professionals around them.

One other crucial setup piece is to make sure – once your FB page is live – is to give clients a CALL-TO-ACTION on your page. That means giving them something to do once they arrive on your page, read your content, and are ready to reach out. FB added a “Book Now” call-to-action. You can link to your website or any nifty booking tool you have already set up (e.g., like an FB booking link).

What are the risks?

Facebook requires a good amount of time to keep investing in. If you set it up and don’t continue to post status updates, announcements, photos, etc., then your business can look a bit dull and inactive. That might reflect on your very brand – inactive, not particularly caring, unresponsive even. Now, that’s probably not true (since we know that most professionals like you are simply busy), but with so many professionals to choose from and so many platforms to search through, prospective clients have the ability to be picky and jump to conclusions.

Get in the habit of posting at least 2-3 times a week some sort of relevant content to make your clients feel comfortable that you are the man or woman for the job!

 

What’s the deal?

Craigslist used to be one of the highest trafficked sites across the internet. It was the place to go if you want to buy or list any services, products, etc.

It still is highly trafficked although not as “professional” (per se) in terms of purchasing and offering local services as its peers. But don’t get me wrong – interested clients are still on the platform.

Clients can go on and search the Services section of Craigslist:

So depending on the industry they are searching for, prospect clients can search in an industry section and browse the postings of those people who offer the requisite services. Searching for a music lessons? The choices are plentiful of local folks willing to help – each posting can be clicked on with your – the professional’s – details.

As you can probably see for yourself, the marketplaces and directories today are enhanced versions of this type of model with better design and offerings. But at the end of the day, this is commerce at in its most basic form, and a place where you can absolutely meet interested customers.

How do I set it up?

Go to the account creation page on Craigslist, and all you need is an email to set up an account. No one can browse your profile – people can only browse classifieds (that’s what Craigslist calls job posts) that you post. So go create one.

Go to your home screen and tap on the top left where it says “Post to classifieds”, then choose the “Service offered” option so your post fits in the proper category.

There you’ll be able to fill out the specifics of your skills and offerings. You can post as much or as little detail as to the services you provide in each posting – totally up to you. I would try to appear as legitimate and detailed as you can, since Craigslist doesn’t have reviews or other types of fancy content posting ability like other directories. You can of course share your business information and sources to other places where potential clients can find out more information about you.

What are the risks?

Craigslist unfortunately can be known for some sketchy dealings. There’s limited oversight so posting can definitely filter into the “adult services” bracket, which generally attracts sketchier types of folks.

Due to this risk, some people advise hiding your contact details on the postings on Craigslist at the risk of you getting low quality or sketchy people calling you. Craigslist supports hidden email addresses so clients can reach out to you via the job posting, but they can’t see your actual email address.

The site is declining in overall traffic so you can attract some potential clients on it today, but 3 years from now I’m guessing this won’t be part of your overall lead generation strategy.

 

Overall Free Business Listing Platform Thoughts

Yelp, Facebook and Google really are the “Big 3” when it comes to listing your business online to get consumers to find you.

Some other directories include Yellow Pages, Porch.com, Manta, Merchant Circle, and the Better Business Bureau. A good resource if you want to dig deep into online directories can be found here.

If you have the time, set up profiles on all these websites – it can build your SEO as you can link back to your website or Facebook Business page. That means you will show up organically when people Google for specific services (in your industry) at a U.S. location (near you).

The goal here is to just attack that low hanging fruit. You’re doing your business a disservice actually by not being listed on these directory platforms, as these provide potential clients with the easiest ways to find you. Don’t make that step difficult – you’ve already got enough things to worry about!