The other day I was having a conversation with a father and son family owned insurance business. The two openly admitted that two generations of experience didn’t prepare them for today’s business landscape. If you’re in the 30+ age bracket, and unless you’ve been forced to learn, been taught or possess a well-developed curiosity paired with a lot of free time, chances are you also don’t really understand how digital marketing works.

Marketing is all about getting people to know you and your business exist. A huge part of that is simply being on the business lists that people are using. Like the father here mentioned, no one really goes to the Yellow Pages anymore. Most people now Google local services, which makes it important for you to make sure you’re doing your part to get a higher ranking.

But there’s another way people are accessing business resources and that’s through lists. Tons of potential customers, including myself, rely on trusted directories to offer listings of relevant businesses. The question is, how do you get on there?

Getting on the right lists requires thinking small to big. Start with any local directories you may have. I would run a regional search, such as Googling your city + “business directory” to see which directories are popping up. If you’re in a bigger city like New York or Los Angeles, you’ll probably have pages upon pages of search results. Don’t waste your time with all of them; instead, stick with about the first half to the first page – stopping when you get to a listing that has a less than 3 page rank. It should go without saying, but don’t forget about Yelp.

On a bigger scale, there are some very powerful directories you need to be on if you expect to a) attract bigger fish and b) be a trusted and credible business source. Hoovers, which I discussed at length earlier, is one of the top portals.

And then there’s foursquare, an obvious one that boasts sky-rocketing users but is often overlooked as a business directory. Setting up your page used to be a process that ended up limiting participation to only the big dogs. Luckily it’s been simplified since then so that anyone can do it now. But once you’re listed, you have to make sure you…

  1. Link your page to Twitter and Facebook
  2. Add a profile image and a banner
  3. Include a business description that summarizes what others can expect from you (in other words, offer value)
  4. Opt-in by giving foursquare permission to feature you.

Some other top business lists include…

Universal Business Listing (UBL) gets a special kudos. While most directories are free, and UBL requires a minimum of $75/year, it offers a composite business listing service that does it all for you. It gets you listed across all major search engines/directories and ups your ranking through consistent entries.

Before you invest the money, check out In one easy step that just requires you to type in your business name and zip code, getlisted gives you a snapshot of how your business is performing across search engines and business directories. It also provides you a breakdown of what you need to do to fix the problem. Perhaps you just need to add a photo or claim a listing, but whatever it is, getlisted offers a clear plan of action. If you’re ranking really low for listings, then I’d considering saving time and letting UBL do the work.