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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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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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