Online listings exist beyond the big boys like Google, Yelp and Yahoo. There are hundreds of online listings sites out there that publish business information for consumers to find. Typically, you submit your business information to the site, and they publish it for you.

What you might not know is your business information may already be published in an online listings site without your knowledge or say-so.

Are you scratching your head wondering how that happens? Well, it comes from lots of different sources. Consumers, data mining firms, and even other listings sites submit business information to be published online every day.

Maybe you’re thinking, “If my business information is already showing up online, why do I need to claim my listings? I don’t have time to do all that.”

Here’s a tip. As the business owner, taking responsibility for your online presence has a huge impact on your ability to get found. Part of taking that responsibility involves claiming your listings, and here are 5 extremely good reasons to do it.

1. It gives you more control over what’s published online.

I mentioned earlier that various sources push your business information out to online listings sites. But how much of it is accurate? That’s the important question, because the last thing you want is wrong information polluting your online listings.

This problem is way more common than you think. And it can keep you from getting valuable business. If the information getting pushed out contains an outdated address, phone number or old business name, that’s bad news. You need to claim your online listings to exert more control over what information gets published. Then you can spot inaccuracies and fix them accordingly.

Here’s a quick example. I once had to address an issue with an online listing that displayed a business owner’s personal cell phone number instead of the business phone. The source of the incorrect info turned out to be a data aggregator.

Pro tip: Data aggregators, as their name suggests, collect business information and send it to hundreds of listings sites. Update your information on these sites, so you can make sure what they push out is correct.

2. You can respond to customer reviews.

Online reviews are a sore subject depending on who you ask. Even businesses that typically get glowing reviews can’t please everyone all the time. There are always consumers who leave unfavorable or flat-out inaccurate reviews just because they can. When this happens, it can leave you feeling helpless.

This actually highlights the need to claim your online listings, because that’s how you can respond to these reviews. If a customer sees negative reviews on your listing and notices you’re not responding, it gives the impression you don’t care if someone has had a bad experience.

Conversely, you can also boost your reputation by responding to positive reviews. Drop a note thanking customers for their business and positive review. Your attentiveness makes you look trustworthy to consumers. 68% of customers will review a business if asked to, so don’t be shy about asking. Those good reviews can help mitigate bad ones.

Regardless of how you feel about online reviews, you can’t escape them. So it’s important to respond promptly. Claiming your online listings allows you to do just that, and in the process build a reputation as a business who cares about customer experience. An online listings management software like Thryv can make the process easier by letting you read and quickly respond to reviews from different sites in one location.

3. It establishes trust with search engines.

Let’s piggyback off that last point for a moment. You’ve already read about the importance of building a good reputation with consumers by responding to reviews. But there’s another entity you need to get in good graces with — online search engines.

You want to show up higher in search results, right? Well, to do that, you need to establish a level of trust with search engines like Google. If you have incomplete or inaccurate online listings, it damages that trust. Search engines are less likely to show your business to searchers, leading to lost opportunities.

The higher your business shows in search results, the more likely consumers will see it. Because 75% of users don’t scroll past page 1 of search results, you’ll want to have favorable ranking. Keeping your business information consistent helps you get there. But you need to claim your online listings first, so you can get the information in sync.

4. You’re directing more traffic to your website.

Among the fields you can fill out when you claim and update an online listing is the website field. If you have a website (and you should), make sure you link to it. This basically allows you to promote it for free. Who doesn’t want that?

Consumers who land on your online listing after a search can now go directly to your website to take action easily. The traffic to your website from your listing is great for your search engine optimization (SEO). It establishes your website as a reliable source of information and helps it rank better organically on search engines.

5. It’s free.

Yes, you read right. You don’t have to pay most directory sites to simply claim or add your online listings. For most sites, you’ll simply submit your information in an online form. Some will take steps to verify your business to make sure it’s legit. A few may take longer than others to verify, but it’s worth the wait.

Claiming your online listings takes far less time than it does to correct inaccurate information later on. If you haven’t already done so, start claiming your listings so you can get the most out of them. Your online presence is an extension of your business, and it’s a good idea to make sure it represents you well.