There is no way you can have a business today and not have it show up online. Even the small mom-and-pop corner shops have a digital presence. If you don’t want to make one for your business, don’t worry — other people will. Unhappy customers will look for places where they can vent, and often enough they will find or make them online. So, it’s better to take charge of your business’ online presence than let other people do it for you.

Building a top-quality website isn’t a necessity, but it helps. A decent website is an option that’s more affordable and still very effective. But the thing you really need to worry about is establishing a presence on online business listings websites. These websites might not make or break your business, but they will have a significant effect on your business’s online presence.

Why Are Online Business Listings Important?

You can find business listings on online directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, or Manta. These websites are what pop up when someone looks up your business online. They will host information about your business, including name, address, and phone number, and they’ll also often show what people have to say about your business.

If you don’t take care of the information that’s posted about your business in these directories, you’ll soon become a victim of information inconsistency. If people cannot discern where your business is located, or how to get in touch with your business, they will be likely to find other businesses whose information they are able to find reliably.

Importance of Local Search

Another reason why these online listings are important is that they help your business be found online. In the era of local search, it’s becoming paramount for businesses to use digital technologies and the internet to become more discoverable.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything to sell online. People will search for what you offer when they need it, and if they are in your area they will be more likely to stop by your shop. That’s why local search is so important — it helps you catch customers at the point when their purchase intent has already been established.

Taking Charge of Your Listings

Now that you know why your online listings matter, let’s see how you can make the most out of them. The very first thing you need to do is perform a Google search of your business. If there’s a listing of your business out there, it will more than likely pop up when using the world’s most popular search engine.

Don’t be surprised by the fact that you didn’t make some or all of these listings. What’s important for you to do is to check for an option to claim the listing or take ownership of it. You would probably have to provide proof that you are the owner of the business. At the very least, you need to make sure that information provided in these listings is consistent with your business’ real information and change it if it’s not.

Do Some Reputation Management

Directories that also serve as review websites deserve special attention from you. The reviews people leave for your business can be a great boost, as long as they are good reviews. The bad reviews will do damage to your business if you just let them sit there. Either way, reviews will provide feedback you can use to grow your business.

Replying to bad reviews is an important part of online reputation management. There are many schools of thought on how you should do it. Generally, they all agree that the worst review is a bad review without an answer. Saying that you’re sorry when your business is clearly at fault and offer to make amends will often work. If someone is trolling your business or is generally being rude, calling them out on it might have a surprisingly good effect. Especially if you are otherwise polite and measured in your responses.

Finally, you should document all the directories where your business appears. You don’t want to search for your business every time you think about checking what are people are saying about it, although you will have to do it periodically. Document your listings, even those you can’t claim, and keep track of them.