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The Power of Online Business Directories and How to Get Started Fast

More and more small businesses today are using online business directories to their benefit. If you run a small business, you likely spend a great deal of your time thinking about your marketing plan. online business directories can be a great addition to your current small business marketing strategy. Those sites can help your small business expand its website traffic, increase the likelihood that your website will be found by interested visitors and increase your bottom line. If you haven’t taken a look at those directories and considered how your small business could use them to increase its market presence, then now is the time to start!

What Are Online Business Directories?

There are many different types of online business directories available on the Internet. Each of these sites serves a specific purpose and can be used by your small business in specific ways.

An online business directory is a website submission service that allows your small business’ website to be added to a specific category where it can be searched for by interested visitors. Listing your small business on an online business directory increases your website’s visibility on the web and helps to create inbound links to your business’ website. This places make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. These directories can be accessed from just about anywhere that has an internet connection. This means that people could find your business’ website from their home, office or even while traveling.

Every website that is submitted to an online business directory is placed in a specific category. These categories can range in how they are organized. Some are organized by business-related categories, some are organized according to personal preferences and others are organized by subject. Each category consists of several websites relating to a specific topic. Each website listing features the name of the website, a direct link to the website and a short description of the website. Interested Internet visitors will be able to browse through the various categories in the directory and locate websites like yours that they may be interested in visiting. Essentially, those places make it easier for any visitor to find your business’ website.

How Do Online Business Directories Work?

The concept of online business directories is actually a pretty simple one. These webistes are very similar to the Yellow Pages in the real world, only these listings are only online. (Actually Yellow Pages.com is now one of the largest online directories as well.) A directory is just a listing place for a number of websites. Any type of website could be listed in an online business directory. Some directories are huge and cover every topic that someone could create a website for, while others are very small and specific to a specific niche.

Let’s use an example. Say you are a model airplane enthusiast and you want to find some websites that cater to your specific interest. You could look through a huge online business directory such as Google My Business and find several dozen websites that are related to model airplanes. Or you could look for an online business directory that is niche-specific, which means that the entire online business directory would be based on hobbies such as model airplanes. With a niche-specific directory you may find even more websites that are based on your specific interest than what you could find on the larger directories.

Since online business directories are organized by categories, finding websites that relate to a specific interest such as model airplanes is very easy. You could find information and websites about model airplanes in your local region too, if you use a regional-specific online business directory. So if you live in Phoenix you could find websites that relate to both model airplanes and the Phoenix area. These places will direct you to websites that you want to find. All you have to do is perform a search in the online business directory for a specific topic or browse through the various categories until you find the type of websites you are looking for. When you perform a search you will be given a list of all of the websites that relate to your search term. You will be presented with a number of links to these websites and each link will have a short description of what you are likely to find on the website. You can read the descriptions and choose to click on the website that best suits you.

There are many different types of websites that you could find under a specific topic as well. For example, if you search several of those sites for information relating to model airplanes you may find websites that are about building model airplanes, flying model airplanes, creating historically accurate model planes, tips and instructions about how to fly model planes, websites that sell model airplanes and charters and associations that you could join regarding model airplanes. These are just a few of the examples you could find using an online business directory. There are simply too many topics to list them all here.

You can see how anyone can use an online business directory to find websites relating to things that interest them. As a small business owner you can see how potential customers of yours are using those web sites too. Now that you understand how online business directories work it is time to see how they can work for your business.

How Do Online Business Directories Benefit Small Businesses?

There are many benefits associated with listing your small business in an online business directory. The more directories you can use to list your business the more benefits you will reap. Here are some of the benefits of using online business directories:

  • Exposure

Exposure is important for all business marketing strategies. After all, the more people who are exposed to your business the more people are likely to utilize your business’ services. If online visitors aren’t able to see your website or even know that it exists, then they probably aren’t going to purchase your products or services. Listing your business’ website in those sites helps your website to gain exposure. Thousands of people use these websites every day to find things they are interested in. These are people who are actively searching for websites that are directly related to your products or services. They are already looking- all you have to do is make it easy for them to find you. These sites will expose your business to more online visitors, which could increase traffic to your website.

  • Increased Traffic

There are several ways that these directories can help you increase the amount of traffic your website receives. For starters, the more exposure your website has the more people are likely to visit it. But these websites offer more than just exposure from potential viewers. They also offer exposure to the various major search engine crawlers like Google and even YouTube. This increases the chances that your website will appear on major search engine results pages, or SERPs, which will allow more people to see the website when they perform a regular search. Both search engine optimization exposure and exposure to more people who are searching for your website could result in increased traffic to your small business’ website.

  • Cheap Advertising

As a small business owner you already understand the importance of advertising. You know that it helps customers to find your business and recognize your name and brand. You probably have little room in your budget for more advertising right this moment. That is one of the major benefits of listing your business’ website in an online business directory. Online business directories are inexpensive to join and they offer a lot of exposure for the price. Some of these sites will allow you to list your business for free, while others will charge a minimal fee. Either way, you are getting a lot of exposure for far less money than you would spend on a TV or radio advertisement spot.

  • Professional Appearance

You want everything about your business to look professional in the eyes of your customers. A professional appearance enhances your status and makes customers more likely to patronize your business. Online directories help you to look like a professional business. When an online consumer sees your business listing in an online business directory, they will consider your business to be an authority on the subject and a professional place to do business. Unlike a search that is performed on a major search engine like Google, where there is little difference between the legitimate websites relating to a topic and the less than useful websites, those places are mostly legitimate websites. Online consumers are more likely to trust what they see on such sites.

  • SEO Benefits

Online business directories offer several search engine optimization benefits as well. Firstly, these directories offer you more inbound links. When an online visitor sees your website link in an online business directory, they will be able to click on it and be instantly re-directed to your website. This is a great way to increase traffic. It is a great way to improve your status in the eyes of search engine crawlers too. The more backlinks that a search engine crawler can find, the more relevant they will rank your website. This is especially true of authoritative sites. Being linked to a major online business directory, such as Google My Business, will give your website more relevancy in the eyes of Google’s search engine crawlers. This will result in a higher page ranking on the SERP. As you know, a higher search engine result page rank you get, the more people are going to click on your website link.

  • Increased Revenue

When more people are able to find your website it increases the chances that they will visit your website. When people visit your website they are more likely to purchase your goods or services. This means that these sites can help you increase your revenue stream. Online business directories are good for your bottom line.

  • Increased Brand Recognition and Customer Interaction

When an online viewer locates your website though an online business directory, they are more likely to remember your business’s name and directly interact with it. Online business directories can help your business stand out to customers as well. Overall, listing your small business in an online business directory will help you to create a more comprehensive and effective online presence.

Listing your small business’ website with several online business directories will help more people find your website, whether they are specifically searching for it or if they are just browsing. In addition to gaining exposure, appearing on those sites will provide major SEO benefits, which will help search engines find your site. Increased exposure and higher search engine rankings will result in more traffic to your website, which will result in higher revenue.

There are many different types of online business directories, from large global directories to small, niche and location-specific ones. Some examples of other types of online directories can include reciprocal link directories, free directories, paid directories, Business 2 Business directories, theme-related directories, small business directories and many, many more.

Why You Should Consider Listing Your Small Business in an Online Directory

Apart from the concept that online business directories will increase the amount of exposure your website gets and help with your SEO strategies, they are also a very effective way to directly target potential customers. Places like those make it easy for online users to find something they want. According to a study performed by Burke, 8 out of 10 people will use a print or online business directory to find companies or products they are looking for. The same study also suggested that 8 out of 10 people who use these directories to locate a business do so with the intent to purchase a product or service from them. This is a very effective form of targeted advertising. The customer already needs or wants your product or service and you can directly target them by listing your website in an online business directory.

Another reason why you should consider listing your small business has to do with your return on investment, or ROI. Since the potential benefits of getting increased website traffic are great compared to how much you will have to spend to list your website in an online business directory, you can see a great return on your investment in the form of increased revenue. You also want to keep your brand and your company name in the minds of consumers at all times, which is something else that an online business directory can help with.

What Online Business Directories Should You Use for Your Small Business?

Even though listing your website in many online business directories will improve your website’s exposure and SEO ranking, it is not effective to just SPAM your website into every single online business directory you can find. You will want to take some time to consider which specific site will give you the best ROI. The best option is to find a great combination of directories to join. If you run a small business, the best place to start may be with a local directory. This is because most people will search for businesses in their area they can patronize. Local market and niche-specific online directories can offer extremely targeted advertisements to potential local customers.

After your business is listed in these directories you can take a look at the larger and potentially more expensive general-interest directories. You will probably want to consider listing with the top 10-15 online business directories, as these will be used by a lot of people and will offer higher relevancy and authority in the eyes of search engines. Google My Business and LinkedIn are large general-interest directories that you will want to list your small business in. If your website sells tangible goods you may also want to consider listing it in comparison shopping websites and product listings directories. Studies show that 42% of consumers will look at a comparison shopping website before they decide to purchase a specific product.

The best way to figure out which specific directories your small business should be listed in is to start with your competitors. Take a look at your local and niche-specific options and figure out if your competition is already listed. If they are you need to be listed too. If they are not listed you may want to list your website as a way to beat them to the punch. In some situations it may not make sense for you to have a listing in a specific online business directory, even if your competitors are listed in it. Your goal should be to be listed in every relevant and niche-specific directory you can find as well as many of the major directories, but no so many directories that you appear SPAMMY.

In addition to listing your business in online business directories, you also need to maintain these listings. It is important for your online business directory listings to be up to date and accurate, or else you could just be wasting your time. If your directory information seems out of date your customers will probably look elsewhere.

It will probably take some time to see the results of listing your small business’ website in so many online sites, but eventually you will see results. The best way to find the perfect combination of online business directory listings for your business is to use some sort of tracking or analytics system. You will want to be able to see how many people clicked on your website links from within the directory and if your website has shown increased traffic since then. You will want to stop wasting your time with online directories that are not producing results and increase the time and effort you spend on sites that are productive.

Best Practices for Listing Your Small Business in Online Business Directories

Now that you understand why your small business should be listed in online business directories and have started locating the directories that you want to be listed in, you are ready to begin creating your business listings for submissions. Here are some tips and best practices for listing your small business in those directories.

  • Start by choosing local directories and directories that are niche-specific. So if you own a model airplane hobby shop in Phoenix, make sure you find a local Phoenix business directory and a directory that is related to model airplanes. If you can find a model airplane hobby directory for the Phoenix area, you are all set.
  • Once you’re in local directories, start searching for larger and more generalized directories. Pick directories that get a lot of traffic and that are listed highly on major search engines like Google. A higher search engine ranking means that the directory will be considered as both authoritative and relevant in the eyes of search engines, making any links you get through these directories more valuable to your SEO strategy.
  • Include all of the relevant information regarding your small business in your website’s directory description. This should include your business’ name, location, telephone number, contact information and possibly reviews, business hours and anything else that is relevant. Add in photos, maps or other interactive features if the directory lets you.
  • Try to keep your information consistent across all of your online business directory listings. This will help your website to retain its credibility in the eyes of search engines and will assist with your SERP rankings.
  • Try to make your business stand out by offering an explanation of your business or any specific message the customer should know in your description.
  • Keep all of your information up to date. This may mean frequently updating all of your listings several times per month.
  • Allow customers to leave positive reviews and use them in your listing if the directory allows it.
  • Always be professional and consistent with your business’ listings and message. This includes any information regarding your brand.
  • If you sell products or services to a local market, make sure your business is listed in a local business directory. Include geo-specific keywords and information. An example would be: “Dave’s Model Plane Shop” + “Phoenix”.
  • Optimize your website for SEO purposes and include the relevant keywords in your meta titles and listing descriptions. Keyword research is important.

Get Listed in the Top 10-15 Online Business Directories

Now is a great time to get your small business listed in the Top 10-15 sites. There are few other Internet marketing techniques that will offer so many benefits for such a small investment on your part. Listing your business in an online business directory will increase your website’s online presence and help more people find you, which can help you increase your business’s revenue.

Online Business Calendar Helps Service-Based Businesses Automate, Improve Scheduling Procedures

Today’s tech-savvy customers know what they want out of their service providers. Obviously, good customer service, quality and value are important, just as they’ve always been. These are pillars that help small businesses grow and succeed. Another factor that’s becoming increasingly important for owners and operators, regardless of the type of services they provide, is the ability for their customers to interact with the business and conduct transactions online, specifically scheduling appointments and booking reservations. An online business calendar is the perfect tool to accomplish this.

ONLINE BUSINESS CALENDAR: THE BASICS

An online business calendar is a term many small businesses use when referring to online appointment-scheduling software, a cloud-based technology that offers owners, operators and staff functionality to completely automate, streamline and improve their booking procedures. Typically, these applications are classified as software as a service (SaaS) programs, “pay-as-you-go” services that usually don’t require contracts, expensive hardware, downloads or installations, or in-house or contracted IT support. All that’s necessary to implement and use the software is an Internet connection. You simply access the online business calendar just as you would any Web site.

Although functionality can vary among providers, standard features found in many online business calendar applications include:

• Online customer self-scheduling. Ask any small business owner that utilizes an online scheduler calendar what’s their favorite feature and most will say its online customer self-scheduling. This feature alone can completely automate the entire scheduling process, as it gives customers the ability to book their services at any time of day and when it’s most convenient for them. The system does the rest and automatically books the individual without any additional effort from the owner or his or her staff.

• Automated e-mail and text message reminders. Reminders continue to be an important tool in keeping open time slots full. In fact, studies show that reminders of any kind can decrease the “no-show” rate by over 50 percent. However, reminders can require a considerable amount of staff time and resources, especially if done manually. Some online business calendar applications take the effort out of this important task by automatically sending out e-mail and text reminders prior to a scheduled appointment or reservation. Owners or operators simply select when they want the reminder sent, such as one or three days before the customer’s appointment or reservation, and the system does the rest.

• Record-keeping and reporting. Another benefit to an online business calendar is data management and storage. In short, the software can centralize all customer and appointment/reservation information in one easy-to-access location. Before implanting online scheduling software into their operations, most owners and staff would record appointment and customer information in multiple paper appointment books, spreadsheets, folders and other documents. Not only is this manner of scheduling time-consuming, it forces one to juggle back and forth between pages, files and documents to locate details on a specific customer or appointment. It can also make it a hassle to compile all of this information for a report. An online scheduler calendar makes it easy to quickly locate data on an individual or details about his or her appointment. Many also allow users to effortless create and download standard reports.

• E-marketing solutions. Reaching out to customers through e-newsletters and messages keeps them the loop on discounts, specials and other news. Keeping track of their e-mail contact information, however, can be tedious. Since an online business calendar centralizes all data in one spot, customer information is easy to access, including e-mail addresses. Some online scheduler calendars even allow users to send messages right through the software, instead of having to download it into an Excel or other file (although this option is usually available as well).

Other popular functionality available in some online business calendars include online customer payment options, repeat customer reminders (sent to individuals after a specific time of inactivity), gift certificates and package bundles of several service appointments.

HOW IT HELPS SERVICE PROVIDERS IMPROVE OPERATIONS, SAVE TIME AND MONEY

In addition to making it easier for customers to book appointments and reservations, an online business calendar can help a business save time and money and, ultimately, even help it grow. Although one of the main reasons many small businesses implement online scheduling is to provide a convenient way for individuals to schedule online, they soon find out that many of the features are beneficial to overall operations as well.

When properly implemented, an online business calendar can:

• Save time. Besides being convenient for customers, online self-scheduling can dramatically reduce the number of appointment phone calls and e-mails that must be answered by the owner or staff. This, in turn, frees them up for more important tasks. In cases where a business schedules a large number of daily appointments and reservations, an online scheduler calendar can eliminate the need to bring in a new staff member solely to handle scheduling.

• Save money. As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” The time savings from an online business calendar quickly equates into monetary savings, when you factor in employee salaries or an owner’s time. Additionally, automated e-mail and text message reminders, as mentioned above, can help reduce “no-shows”. This means fewer time slots will go unfilled…and more revenue from services rendered. And since the scheduling software provider typically oversees the maintenance of the software, an owner or operator does not to budget for any IT support, since all updates, upgrades and technical issues are addressed by the provider.

• Keep a business open 24 hours a day. An online scheduler calendar can keep a service provider open 24 hours a day, even if its business hours are only 9 to 5. Many people these days simply do not have the time to book a service appointment during the day, and instead conduct most of their daily transactions in the evening or early morning. And they’d much rather book an appointment instead of leaving a message requesting one. A service that offers 24-7 booking will undoubtedly see an increase in scheduled services.

• It makes a business more competitive. In addition to those individuals who are unable to make an appointment over the phone during normal business hours, there are those who simply do not want to pick up the phone and prefer to conduct all of the daily transactions online. In some instances, an individual may not even consider a service provider if it doesn’t offer online scheduling. Not providing an online option for booking a service can put a business at a major disadvantage, especially if its competitors do offer it.

Implementing a new technology into a small business operation need not be a frightening endeavor, especially if it’s SaaS application such as an online business calendar. Online scheduling software providers have made it easy to add this technology into any service-based business with a minimal amount of effort and cost. It’s an affordable and smart solution that both customers and business owners will appreciate.

Find a Legitimate Online Business

Online Scams & How to Identify Them

There are quite a few online scams yet there are also many legitimate online marketing businesses. So as with anything we decide to become involved in, care should be exercised. So how do we spot online scams? What are some of the things we ought to look for to help us spot online scams?

Numerous people are working in jobs that leave them desiring something more. More cash, more free time, more creative freedom and the reasons could go on. These people may be bored and wanting new challenges. Perhaps they’re tired of their current occupations and just want change or new challenges. These people frequently turn to the internet in searching for new opportunities. Many of them find online scams instead of online opportunity. So how to start looking for a legitimate online business becomes the first order of business.

Many people love the idea of operating their own business as the thought of independence and freedom is an appealing one. The harsh reality though is that in most instances people just don’t have the capital that’s needed to start their own business. The risk factor involved in beginning a business also scares many people. The idea of leaving a steady job and giving up a guaranteed income can be frightening as it’s a well known fact that about 9 out of 10 of all new startup businesses fail in the first year. A legitimate online business can be the key to this ideal dream.

Advantages of Online Marketing

Online marketing is a way to get around the starting capital and risk of starting a new business. Online marketing expenses are small as compared to starting a bricks and mortar business and the risks are also minimized. Many legitimate online marketing businesses cost zero to very little to join. In online marketing a person gets payment according to how well they perform and their earnings are not dependent on how well the company is doing.

Many people turn to seeking legitimate online business opportunities but the internet is filled with online scams. So how to spot online marketing scams becomes a key factor when the decision has been made to seek out an income opportunity online.

It’s an unfortunate reality that this is a time of business and internet fraud. Endless people pour large sums of money into online marketing scams. It would not be plausible or possible to list all the ways to spot online scams but there are certainly some key factors that would help to spot online scams. These factors won’t always mean that the company being looked at is one of these online marketing scams but they’re worthy of careful consideration. To find the legitimate online businesses it’s a necessity to wade through the scams.

Spotting the Online Scams

One factor that has provided many people false senses of security concerning online marketing programs is that the program is free to join. People feel that since they’re investing no money that they have nothing to lose so it must be a legitimate online business. In fact they’re losing one of their most valuable commodities, the commodity of time. As with any business, bricks and mortar or online marketing, time to build the business to a level of success will be the largest requirement. So when investing time to build an online business it’s key to make sure that it’s legitimate and not one of these online marketing scams.

Requesting testimonials from the company is one of the first steps that an interested person can take in an attempt to spot online scams and differentiate them from the legitimate online businesses. It’s a mistake to rely on the testimonials that might be posted on the company’s, or one of its affiliates, website as anybody can create these. The fact that it’s posted on a website doesn’t make it true. Asking the company for names, addresses and phone numbers of real people that you can contact is best. These contacts can let you know how the program is working for them.

Putting the company name with the term “scam” into a search engine box is another means to spot online scams. It is a given that if the company has been around for a while that there will be complaints, yet this doesn’t always indicate that the program is really a scam as not every program is for every person. Many people don’t want to take responsibility for failure even if the program is a legitimate online business and working for others. Reading reviews, talking to other members, looking at testimonials all very carefully and weighing the good against the bad is the best approach anybody can take when trying to spot online scams.

Another great indication that the company is a legitimate online business is the ease factor in contacting support. What type of contact ability does the company offer? Do they give phone numbers, physical addresses, a contact form on the website? Before joining, or as soon as joining, a good test is to contact the company with a question or issue and see how soon they respond and to what level of satisfaction. Companies that are operating as online scams generally won’t respond back if at all or they may only send out a standard auto reply.

A live support forum is a excellent indicator that the company is not one of these online scams but rather a legitimate online business. Checking out the forum as a visitor to see what kind of support is available, how fast members receive help, looking for proof of income postings are also great ways to ensure that the company is not one of the online scams programs.

Lack of information on the company should also raise a caution flag. Online marketing companies that have been around for any length of time should have a track record. Many online scams or new legitimate online businesses attempt to draw in new members with an offer of urgency so resistance to this is suggested. If the company is honest they’ll still be around several months down the line. If the product or service that the company offers is worth buying into then there will still be plenty of money and profit to go around.

Final Consideration

This brings up one last factor to look for when attempting to spot online scams. What type of service or product does the company offer? A reputable, legitimate online business must offer a core product or service. Joining a program that only offers affiliate links to a replicated affiliate web page and only pays its members for bringing in new members is a mistake made by many. A reputable online marketing program will always offer a core product or service for its members to profit from.

Many people are drawn to the idea of owning their own business. But the reality of all that is involved stops most people before they even begin. Online marketing is a method for many to work for themselves without facing the financial risks. Legitimate online marketing business opportunities are plentiful and there are many honest online marketing companies. But there are also many fraudulent online marketing scams too. So when considering an online marketing opportunity it is important to do the investigation needed before jumping on board.