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Do You Still Need Directory Submission For Local SEO?

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Do You Still Need Directory Submission For Local SEO?

The primary goal of local SEO is establishing visibility for a local business in the Local Map Pack and/or the top three organic search results. These typically reside just below paid Google ads and the Map Pack.

As with all SEO, myriad factors (i.e., the (in)famous Google algorithm) come into play to determine which businesses get top billing and the resulting coveted organic search traffic.

One set of factors from a local SEO perspective is local presence, relevance, and authority.

In other words, and from a common sense perspective, local businesses need to prove to the search engines:

  • They are indeed physically located within close proximity to their customer base.
  • They provide services or products which fall into specific categories.
  • They are a trusted/authoritative content source and answer their customers’ questions.

Local directories, by definition, are a vehicle through which businesses can address all three of these factors.

As such, the simple answer to our introductory question is yes, you do still need directory submissions for local SEO.

However, not all directories carry the same weight or authority and should be reviewed relative to the value they can offer.

This becomes particularly important for those directories requiring a fee for inclusion.

Further, there are some best practices related to data and contact information consistency to consider during submission.

Finally, tools are available to make the directory listing setup and ongoing maintenance process quicker, particularly for businesses with multiple locations.

There are a lot of directories, and maintaining information and content across all of them can become a burden for a small business.

We’ll review how to address each of these factors and how directories can help or hinder local businesses’ efforts to get found.

Local Presence And Consistency

It should be fairly obvious that for a business to rank well in a particular location, it must be able to prove it exists, resides, or is otherwise able to provide services within its specified service area.

Two primary vehicles for establishing a business’ location are its website and its Google Business Profile (GBP).

A local business website, when applicable, will include its physical address details, which can be tagged with local business schema to make it easier for Google to find and index.

Many sites will also include a map (preferably a Google map), which will likewise be referenced for location validation.

Lastly, geographic details can be incorporated into the title and heading tags, where appropriate, to reinforce the local focus of the business.

Creating and optimizing a Google Business Profile is effectively the process of reinforcing the information and focus of a local business website. Or, for some businesses, the opposite is the case.

Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) information should naturally match across these two properties.

Service areas chosen in GBP should be within close proximity to the business location.

Service categories should likewise be consistent.

Local directories then become an extension of these two primary points of web presence and validation for search engines.

Here too, the goal should be consistency, particularly for NAP information along with website URLs

Pro tip: If you can include more than one URL in a local directory listing, you should look to include as many relevant locally oriented links as possible, e.g., a link to your GBP profile, your Facebook page, and listings in other relevant local directories.

Local Relevance

Establishing local relevance is all about making sure you and your content are appearing in the correct directories and appropriate categories.

Naturally, any categorization should align with how you’ve defined your services or products on your site and in GBP.

There are three types of local directories you can identify and consider submitting listings to.

The first type we’ll call “global” directories. These are services like Yellow Pages, Yelp, and the like, which offer local listings and reviews in nearly every location around the world.

Many of these offer free “listings” but then demand a fee for advanced features, functionality, and/or visibility.

One way to determine whether or not paying a listing fee is advisable is to conduct an organic search on the primary keywords you want your business to be found for, and see whether or not the directory ranks well (or better than you) for those keywords in local search engine results pages (SERPs).

You can also simply ask a rep from the directory whether or not they can provide stats on the organic/referral traffic your paid listing will be able to deliver.

If they cannot provide such stats, you can be wary of their ability to provide a return on your investment.

Screenshot from search for [Barrie autobody], Google, August 2022

The second type of local directory is a more industry-specific directory, like TripAdvisor for travel and tourism-related businesses or Houzz for construction and trade businesses.

The same evaluation methods may be used here to determine whether or not these services can potentially deliver value to your business.

The third and final type is the more locally specific directories offered by local Chambers of Commerce, Service Organizations, and other non-global players.

The first two of this type should certainly be considered, as they can have the effect of validating local presence in a less subjective way.

Small, local non-global directories should, as above, only be considered if they can likewise prove the value they will deliver from an organic visibility or referral traffic perspective.

The directories you choose to submit to, and the categories within which your products or services can be readily found, will help to define your business’ relevance within your local community.

Local Authority

Listings within local directories, particularly those with established authority of their own, can help to boost the authority and potential visibility of a business.

You can also use the SERP test mentioned above to identify these authority boosters.

In essence, any directory which outperforms your website or GBP page for a target keyword represents an opportunity to both be found via the directory and gain authority through it.

Some directories, a la GBP, enable content or links to content to be shared.

While this can be time-consuming, it may be worthwhile to distribute your content to these directories in addition to other places like GBP and social media, depending on the visibility and relative local authority of the directory.

Reviews

As noted, many directory services offer review submissions – and while Google reviews are naturally preferred from an organic authority perspective, Google and the other search engines are aware of reviews published on other platforms.

Similar to the local SERP test, you should pay attention to whether or not either you or your competitors have been receiving reviews in places other than GBP.

Keep in mind that your potential customers may be looking at these reviews as well when considering purchasing from your business vs. another.

Managing Multiple Locations

Setting up and maintaining listings across multiple directories will take time, particularly if there are ongoing updates to business details or services.

This is, of course, amplified for businesses with more than one location.

There are paid services and solutions like Uberall, Semrush, and Yext for centrally managing multiple locations, which will typically cover the first two types of local directories referenced here, along with mapping services like GBP, Apple Maps, and Facebook locations.

Some of these services also enable review and social account management.

How Are Your Directory Listings?

So, yes, it’s safe to argue directory submissions are still required for effective local SEO.

To this end, perhaps the best place to start is with the suggested SERP test to understand where your listings and the directories stand relative to your keywords.

Alternatively, many of the listings management services offer a quick auditing tool to help get a sense of what coverage a business has across the most common local directories.

Then you can decide on a submission strategy that fits your visibility and traffic goals, as well as your budget.

More resources:


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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

It was reported that OpenAI is working on a search engine that would directly challenge Google. But details missing from the report raise questions about whether OpenAI is creating a standalone search engine or if there’s another reason for the announcement.

OpenAI Web Search Report

The report published on The Information relates that OpenAI is developing a Web Search product that will directly compete with Google. A key detail of the report is that it will be partly powered by Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Apart from that there are no other details, including whether it will be a standalone search engine or be integrated within ChatGPT.

All reports note that it will be a direct challenge to Google so let’s start there.

1. Is OpenAI Mounting A Challenge To Google?

OpenAI is said to be using Bing search as part of the rumored search engine, a combination of a GPT-4 with Bing Search, plus something in the middle to coordinate between the two .

In that scenario, what OpenAI is not doing is developing its own search indexing technology, it’s using Bing.

What’s left then for OpenAI to do in order to create a search engine is to devise how the search interface interacts with GPT-4 and Bing.

And that’s a problem that Bing has already solved by using what it Microsoft calls an orchestration layer. Bing Chat uses retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) to improve answers by adding web search data to use as context for the answers that GPT-4 creates. For more information on how orchestration and RAG works watch the keynote at Microsoft Build 2023 event by Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, at the 31:45 minute mark here).

If OpenAI is creating a challenge to Google Search, what exactly is left for OpenAI to do that Microsoft isn’t already doing with Bing Chat? Bing is an experienced and mature search technology, an expertise that OpenAI does not have.

Is OpenAI challenging Google? A more plausible answer is that Bing is challenging Google through OpenAI as a proxy.

2. Does OpenAI Have The Momentum To Challenge Google?

ChatGPT is the fastest growing app of all time, currently with about 180 million users, achieving in two months what took years for Facebook and Twitter.

Yet despite that head start Google’s lead is a steep hill for OpenAI to climb.  Consider that Google has approximately 3 to 4 billion users worldwide, absolutely dwarfing OpenAI’s 180 million.

Assuming that all 180 million OpenAI users performed an average of 4 searches per day, the daily number of searches could reach 720 million searches per day.

Statista estimates that there are 6.3 million searches on Google per minute which equals over 9 billion searches per day.

If OpenAI is to compete they’re going to have to offer a useful product with a compelling reason to use it. For example, Google and Apple have a captive audience on mobile device ecosystem that embeds them into the daily lives of their users, both at work and at home. It’s fairly apparent that it’s not enough to create a search engine to compete.

Realistically, how can OpenAI achieve that level of ubiquity and usefulness?

OpenAI is facing an uphill battle against not just Google but Microsoft and Apple, too. If we count Internet of Things apps and appliances then add Amazon to that list of competitors that already have a presence in billions of users daily lives.

OpenAI does not have the momentum to launch a search engine to compete against Google because it doesn’t have the ecosystem to support integration into users lives.

3. OpenAI Lacks Information Retrieval Expertise

Search is formally referred to as Information Retrieval (IR) in research papers and patents. No amount of searching in the Arxiv.org repository of research papers will surface papers authored by OpenAI researchers related to information retrieval. The same can be said for searching for information retrieval (IR) related patents. OpenAI’s list of research papers also lacks IR related studies.

It’s not that OpenAI is being secretive. OpenAI has a long history of publishing research papers about the technologies they’re developing. The research into IR does not exist. So if OpenAI is indeed planning on launching a challenge to Google, where is the smoke from that fire?

It’s a fair guess that search is not something OpenAI is developing right now. There are no signs that it is even flirting with building a search engine, there’s nothing there.

4. Is The OpenAI Search Engine A Microsoft Project?

There is substantial evidence that Microsoft is furiously researching how to use LLMs as a part of a search engine.

All of the following research papers are classified as belonging to the fields of Information Retrieval (aka search), Artificial Intelligence, and Natural Language Computing.

Here are few research papers just from 2024:

Enhancing human annotation: Leveraging large language models and efficient batch processing
This is about using AI for classifying search queries.

Structured Entity Extraction Using Large Language Models
This research paper discovers a way to extracting structured information from unstructured text (like webpages). It’s like turning a webpage (unstructured data) into a machine understandable format (structured data).

Improving Text Embeddings with Large Language Models (PDF version here)
This research paper discusses a way to get high-quality text embeddings that can be used for information retrieval (IR). Text embeddings is a reference to creating a representation of text in a way that can be used by algorithms to understand the semantic meanings and relationships between the words.

The above research paper explains the use:

“Text embeddings are vector representations of natural language that encode its semantic information. They are widely used in various natural language processing (NLP) tasks, such as information retrieval (IR), question answering…etc. In the field of IR, the first-stage retrieval often relies on text embeddings to efficiently recall a small set of candidate documents from a large-scale corpus using approximate nearest neighbor search techniques.”

There’s more research by Microsoft that relates to search, but these are the ones that are specifically related to search together with large language models (like GPT-4.5).

Following the trail of breadcrumbs leads directly to Microsoft as the technology powering any search engine that OpenAI is supposed to be planning… if that rumor is true.

5. Is Rumor Meant To Steal Spotlight From Gemini?

The rumor that OpenAI is launching a competing search engine was published on February 14th. The next day on February 15th Google announced the launch of Gemini 1.5, after announcing Gemini Advanced on February 8th.

Is it a coincidence that OpenAI’s announcement completely overshadowed the Gemini announcement the next day? The timing is incredible.

At this point the OpenAI search engine is just a rumor.

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

Unpopular opinion alert: Adding new blog posts may not help your site.

(No matter what that content marketing company told you.) 🙄

So many of my new clients — especially subject matter experts — don’t need new content (immediately).

They HAVE content — scads of it scattered across various platforms.

(Maybe that sounds familiar.)

What they DO need is someone to review their content and customer persona, pinpoint opportunities, and develop a baby-step approach to leveraging those older content assets.

Because there are always opportunities. 🔥

Before writing another word, ask…

  • Are you repurposing the content you have? Or are you writing it once and forgetting about it (which is so common)?
  • Is your customer/reader persona still accurate, or has your target audience changed post-COVID?
  • Do your sales pages showcase your benefits and speak to your customers’ pain points? Or are they flat and dull?
  • Does your content sound like YOU with a point of view? Or is there a massive disconnect between how you talk to clients and the words you use on your site?
  • When did you last take a peek at your old sales emails and email welcome sequences? Could updating those assets make you more money?
  • Isn’t it time to save time (and budget) and leverage your existing content?

If you need help untangling your content and messaging, let me know. I love creating content order out of chaos.

After all…

 

Warning Unpopular SEO writing opinion

 

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads, enforcing policy changes in March.

  • Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads.
  • Policy enforcement starts in March.
  • Violators will be banned from Google Ads.

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