Without question, your business’s website is the foundation of your Internet marketing efforts, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Online business listings (also known as local citations or directory listings) play an integral role in how people discover your business.

Simply having online business listings isn’t enough though; they should be properly filled out and optimized. Here are three reasons why:

1. Incorrect Business Listings Offer Very Little Value

Many of the online directories share data with each other, which is why your business has so many listings in the first place, they just sort of create themselves (sometimes they even create duplicates). However, that also means that if the information is incorrect, inaccuracies can spread like wildfire.

If your business listing has the wrong phone number, physical address, or even some strange variation of your business name, it won’t be very helpful to potential customers. But even beyond that, variations in business listings can dilute your own local SEO standings. The value of their local signals won’t be passed on to your site if search engines cannot determine that the two are connected.

According to a 2015 Moz ranking factors survey, citations and external location signals (ex. business listings) are the 3rd most important ranking factor in local search.

2. Potential Customers Find Incomplete Business Listings Lacking

Auto-generated business listings, and hastily created ones, tend to only include the most basic information like the business name, phone number, and address (otherwise known as NAP). If all three of those items are correct then you’re at least off to a good start, but you know what would also be helpful to potential customers, a link to your website or perhaps the hours of operation.

Incomplete Yelp Business Listing

Incomplete Yelp Business Listing

Optimized Yelp Business Listing

Optimized Yelp Business Listing

If there is a field for it, fill it out. If possible, include anything and everything that could help sway a potential customer to become a paying customer. Post photos and videos, share coupons, list the accepted forms of payment and make the parking options known.

Information fields vary by site, but make sure to make the most out of what they offer.

3. Business Listings Appear Prominently In Search

While sites and apps like Google Maps, Yelp, YellowPages.com, Angie’s List and Urbanspoon function as search portals, their listings are also indexed and appear in searches conducted on more traditional search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Hence the reason it’s important to have properly optimized business listing for Google My Business, Yahoo Local, Bing Local and any other directory relevant to your area and industry.

Not only do these listings offer your business additional online assets and increased visibility, but often times the local results take up prime page-one real-estate as they tend to be positioned above traditional organic results.

Just take a look at the results page for the search query “dry cleaners near me”. The first organic result is Yelp, then there are three Google My Business Listings, followed by another Yelp listing, businessfinder.nj.com, and angieslist.com. Also on page-one are those industry specific sites I mentioned earlier like findadrycleaner.net and laundrapp.com.

SERP Example part 1 SERP Example part 2

The influence of local is even more pronounced on mobile. With much smaller screen space, top spots are even more important. After all, users aren’t going to scroll forever to find you. I did a quick search for ‘bike shop’ and as you can see, after the paid ad there was a map, then three Google My Business listings with the option to view more, and then a couple of broad and industry specific business listings sites. That’s three full screens worth of page-one results and I’d yet to scroll by a main site for a bike shop, how much further do you think a customer is going to look?

Mobile SERP Example Part 1 Mobile SERP Example Part 2 Mobile SERP Example Part 3

Page layout and screen space isn’t the only reason you should optimize your business listings though. A recent study sponsored by Google found that 88% of smartphone users and 84% of tablet owners conduct local searches, and that 56% of on-the-go searches had a local intent.

People are looking local, are you ready to be found? If you want your business’s local SEO strategy to work, you’ll need to show a little TLC to all of your online assets, starting with your business listings.