Local Directories and SERP Changes

How Local Directories on SERPs Changed SEO

The Study: How Directories Affect SEO

Recently, I had our engineering team at OrangeSoda perform a study of how all our SEO keywords were ranking on SERPs. The results that we found have changed SEO and our keyword ranking strategies.

  1. First, we pulled all of the keywords we were optimizing, but not any halo keywords. Using our ranking software, ZoomRank, we came up with the 100 top-ranking keywords.
  2. Out of those top 100 keywords, we took everything that made it to the first page, and categorized them. We chose organic keywords only, not paid results and not maps (even though maps are considered “organic” as well).
  3. Of those organic, first-page-ranking keywords, 65% of them were directories. We guessed that the majority of those directory listings would be national, big-name directories like Yelp and Yahoo. That wasn’t the case. In fact, only 13% were nationwide directories.

We wanted to know why this gap occurred, and how these results affect our SEO tools.

What This Means for National vs. Local Directories

As a whole, national directories only accounted for a small percentage of results. The rest were hyper-local, niche directories. So, you must know the niche directories for your business. Businesses will get more exposure in organic results by targeting a local consumer base, and not necessarily a bigger, national audience.

OrangeSoda is using this data to shift the way we use SEO tools. Now, we have developed an SEO product called LocalSync that will give local businesses exposure on niche directories for their specific business and industry (including multiple, big-name directories, in case you were wondering).

The Strategy for Targeting Local Business

LocalSync is valuable is because it allows you to list your business across a range of directories and update them simultaneously. It also allows you to submit multiple citations or NAPs (Name, Address, Phone number) with other third-party sources that link back to your business. This saves you the time of researching directories yourself, finding the best ones, and then submitting and managing your business listings across all of these directories one at a time. We need tools to make the process less time consuming.

If you are a local business, you must list your business with local directories. It will land your business on the first page more often. As a result, it will direct more local customers to your door and your site. Every business is striving for top SERP placement, and in the past you have probably done this with general keyword ranking. However, with the rise of local directories and other online directories like Google+ Local, many top-ranking sites are getting pushed lower on the SERPs to make room for directories.

How Keywords and Directories Work Together

You could make the case that your site will actually get more clicks when you list it in a local directory. This is because Google and other search engines are viewing directories as being more relevant to local search. Think about it: when users enter local search terms, or geo-targeted keywords, they are searching for a nearby business.

Local Modifier search terms


Take a high-competition keyword like “burger restaurant Salt Lake City.” If you’re familiar with the geographical area, then you know that Salt Lake City is a greater metropolitan area that encompasses dozens of smaller cities and towns, making that keyword highly desirable. It’s also going to be impossible for every burger joint within the greater Salt Lake City area to show up on the first page for that keyword. Instead, you can list your burger restaurant with a local directory and improve your chances of showing up higher on the SERP than a restaurant site that is currently ranking for that keyword (until the next algorithm update, that is). Burger restaurant SLC

In this example, the top five results are a niche directory, a couple of national directory listings, a local directory, and then a local newspaper article. Specific business sites optimized for that keyword didn’t show up until positions seven and nine. Thus, your business stands a better chance of getting traffic through hyper-local and directory results.

How to Optimize Your Directory Listings

Next comes the issue of making sure your business listing is optimized in all relevant directories. I’ll outline some of the most important elements:

  • Updated and accurate business information (description, store hours, contact information, etc.)
  • Enhanced listing with informative and engaging content (images, products, menus, videos, etc.)
  • A link back to your website
  • Making sure your business is classified with the relevant keywords, the business type, and geographical location
  • Asking customers to take some sort of action with a promotion or coupon

Again, you can save time and do all this simultaneously across multiple directories with a custom SEO tool. If you would like to learn more about our directory tool, LocalSync, follow this link to see our infographic.

Bottom Line

Find out now what local and niche directories your business needs to be on. Then list your business citation with as many relevant directories as possible, including nationwide, hyper-local, and niche directories. You should also optimize your site with relevant information targeted to local traffic.