Not so very long ago, phone companies urged their customers to let their “fingers do the walking” as they searched for businesses in the yellow pages. Times have changed. Fingers are still doing their fair share of walking, but nowadays it’s most likely on a keyboard or telephone screen.
The Island Directory has been a trusted source of business information and residential telephone numbers for residents of St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island for more than 34 years, but this year is going digital. Instead of receiving a phone directory in the mail, all the same business information, plus a lot more, will be available online, at no charge to users. Residential phone numbers will no longer be included.
According to Beth Lane, director of operations for the company, the new online business directory will benefit both advertisers and users.
There are certainly other ways to look up businesses online, but The Island Directory has painstakingly curated their listings so that users won’t be bombarded with click bait and other annoyances. It’s what sets them apart.
“We are local and vested in our community,” she said. “We only allow local businesses, (there are) no outside ads, 1-800 numbers , or ugly distractions.”
The Island Directory is a completely local company, and active with the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.
The new Island Directory will be a smooth connection between businesses and local residents and visitors.
Lane said users will have fast access to the closest restaurants, bars and attractions, as well as a showcase of the top local accommodations in the Golden Isles all in the palm of their hand.
“We’ve added an app as well! she said. “Now users can find the best businesses in the Golden Isles with the touch of a button.”
There will also be insider information so people can go “where the locals go,” and tons of reviews and ratings for businesses so people can know which ones are actually the best.
There are other websites and apps that allow customers to rate businesses, but Lane said she is reviewing all posts and making sure there’s as little “trolling” as possible.
“I approve the reviews as well,” she said. “Because, you know, I’ve had disgruntled employees try to bash their former employers. You’re always going to get trolls and troublemakers, but we’re able to weed out a lot of that.”
One of the huge advantages of the website for visitors or those people new to the area is that menus and operating hours are all in one easy-to-find place.
And, taking it one step further, users will be able to find those businesses taking the most stringent precautions against COVID-19.
There are multiple advantages for advertisers as well, beginning with a streamlined mobile experience that makes it easier for customers to find them.
Other advantages include:
• GPS-enabled search feature with current location finder
• Enhanced real-time Google Maps
• New category and filtering system
• Instant updating of mapped listings when filtering
• More robust landing pages for premium listings
• Improved search engine optimized listings
“It’s current, useful; there are no squirrels to chase,” Lane said. “There’s just good information, and when a paying customer changes their information, it’s instant.”
Advertisers can post videos, photos and current information themselves, and users can access the advertisers simply by clicking on the phone number in their listing.
“It’s a great snapshot, and provides a nice micro-landing page,” said Lane. “A lot of contractors have not put a lot of time and energy into their website, and it shows; and in this day and age, there’s no excuse for it.
“We provide everything a mom-and-pop would need to get their business represented.”
Another advantage to The Island Directory is that having multiple micro-landing pages on their website allows them to go to the top of search engines in many categories.
The change wasn’t entered into lightly. “We spent months trying to come up with the best and most update features we could find,” she said.
“Everybody Googles now,” Lane said. “The challenge is getting people to adapt to not using a paper telephone book.”
Google My Business is a national platform with similar features, but it’s not localized like The Island Directory, and therein lies The Island Directory advantage.
“We’re different … because we’re a one-stop-shop location for local businesses in the Golden Isles, while Google My Business relies on someone going to Google and doing a general search and hoping that they find something good to come up under Google search results,” she said.
Lane also said that unless the business owner is relatively tech savvy, creating and managing their Google My Business account, its SEO, the reviews, updates, et cetera, can be challenging when trying to top the competition in searches.
“The Island Directory is a specialized platform that gives the business owner full control over their business listing, its reviews, photos and information,” she said. “It also gives each business the opportunity to upgrade and elevate their business within the directory, just like in the yellow pages, as opposed to relying on search results.” Filters will help users narrow down exactly what they want, give them directions, hours, phone number and business profiles.
Finally, with dedicated assistance from The Island Directory staff, customer service is quick and helpful so questions don’t go unanswered as they do with Google.
“You’ve got a local answering questions and fielding requests, you won’t get that with the major sites,” Lane explained.
With so many people using the internet to find businesses, the reach that this website has far exceeds the limitations of the printed directory, she said.
“Not only will locals be able to find them, but people who are moving here or coming for a stay will be able to find them before they leave home. So now their advertising dollars go so much further. And in this day and time that is so important.”
She added that the good news is that customers who have an ad in the last printed directory will have a longer exposure as well.
“It’s such a beautiful publication, that those who still want to use it will have it for years to come,” Lane said.
With COVID and everything else, she said, many people are doing everything online.
“We saw a real shift in which devices they were using,” Lane said. “It used to be about 75 percent desktop, and now it’s about 80 percent cell phone devices.”
It’s all about helping local businesses reach the highest level of success they can.
Lane said that when the local business community is doing well, her business benefits. She’s motivated by helping people, she said.
“I love to help people,” Lane said. “If I had all the money in the world, I would just go around and help people. The more I help folks, the better I feel.”