08Nov

Ep#16: Online Business Directories, Are they Worth it?

Have you been getting calls from online directories asking if you want to buy a premium listing?

In episode 16 I discuss online business directories and how you can get the most value from them.

Covered;

  • Online directory benefits
  • Potential negatives
  • Free vs paid
  • Where do they get their traffic from: why this is the most important thing
  • Tips for choosing a paid business directory

Mentioned in this episode;

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Nick: Welcome back to Episode 16 of the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris. This week, no guest, it’s just me sharing a great topic with you today, something that I’ve done a lot of research on, and I think I can provide some good value on, so let’s get straight into it.

Our topic this week is online directories and whether they’re worth it for your business. Now, it used to be that the Yellow Pages was all the rage, that’s where you needed to get your business put in so that people could find you and if you didn’t get it in there you’d probably lose quite a lot of business over the year but these days, most people use search engines such as Google to find local businesses when they want to go to a restaurant or find someone to fix their pipes or whatever.

You may have been receiving some calls from some online directories that have set themselves up and they’ve got various options like core businesses and ask them if they want a premium listing on their directory and you’re probably wondering, are these directories worth it? Should I be paying to get in this premium directory? They sound like a good deal, they seem pretty convincing. This episode is really to give you all the information you need to know about these online directories. Are they going to be worth it for you? What do you need to keep in mind, which ones are the best ones to go for, etc?

So we’re going to be covering in this episode the benefits of getting yourself into online directories, possible negatives and free versus the paid. So, you have free listings and paid listings usually in each directory. An important question to ask or to get the answer to, which is where do they get their traffic from? We’ll go through that and also tips for choosing a paid directory or a paid directory listing if you want to go down that route. So let’s get started with the directory benefits. Now, we’ve got 3 different sorts of benefits and we’ll also go through the possible negatives or the one possible negative.

The first benefit is traffic and customers. So obviously this is the main one, you’re going to get more customers for your business. It could be people that actually see your directory listing and see your contact details, such as your phone number, such as your email address or possibly a contact form on the directory. Your address for walk-in traffic or your website and people could actually see your contact details there and contact you directly from the directory or they could click through to your website and buy from you if you have a store on there or contacts you through there. There’s sort of 2 different ways you can benefit from that obviously. That’s sort of the main or the core benefit that most people would think about when they’re thinking of getting themselves into a directory but there’s some other benefits as well.

Now, there’s, one of them is local SEO. Now, just to give you a little bit of rundown on what that is. Google has got its own version of a directory which is called Google Places and you’ve probably seen this, if you go to Google and do a search, which is somewhat local, it could be something like restaurants or plumbers or something like that, something where Google thinks you’re probably looking for a local business and they automatically serve you up with what’s known as places, Google Place listings. Now, this is typically accompanied by a map on the right hand side of the screen with little check marks on it and they relate to listings in the search results which look a bit different from the normal results and their place results usually have an address there and possibly some information about reviews.

So, this is sort of Google’s own version of a directory. It doesn’t really work like a normal directory but you can think of it as kind of a directory but it is a way of sort of boosting yourself in the search results if you have a local business, specifically for people searching from your local area. It’s not really known exactly how, just like normal SEO, it’s not really, Google doesn’t put out a road map telling you exactly how to rank better in their search results or the local search results but some research has been done by various experts in the industry using co-relation data and using various tests and whatnot. They’ve discovered that it’s a language code structured citations, which basically means the number of times your business information appears throughout the web.

The number of structured citations you have can help increase your local or your Google Places ranking and a great way or an obvious way to do this is by having lots of directory listings, which have your business information on there. This means as well that you should make sure that when you put your business details out there, you’re always giving away the same information. So, always use the exact name business name, don’t add a PTY LTD on there or do something different with key words because you think it may be beneficial. It’s best to keep it the same. Also put the same phone number, don’t add 0 8 to the start of some and not others or don’t put like tracking phone numbers. It’s best to give your basic information and that can help you with your local SEO.

The last benefit I’m going to talk about is a more general SEO benefit. So just to go back to the basics of SEO, links are sort of the main way that Google uses to determine which websites deserve to rank higher than the other websites. So, they look at the number and quality of incoming links, that’s links coming from other websites to your website and using those signals, those link signals to determine where your website should rank. Now, pretty well the accepted directory links won’t give you much value, because it’s pretty obvious to Google that they can be created by a person, so it’s not really a strong vote but it would probably give you some value and you probably want to take all the value you can get. So, that’s one benefit, one sort of broader SEO benefit. Another broader SEO benefit is you just have more pages in the search results which relate to your business, so you just have more opportunities for people to click on a page and come through to your business and because they’re not on your website, there’s perhaps of a little bit higher chance of ranking up there. If you’ve already got your own business in there, it’s unlikely that many, many pages from your business or from your website are going to rank in the search results, but if they’re on different websites they’ve got a better chance of ranking because Google likes to have a bit of variety in there. Of course it’s all for your website, it’s going to be beneficial.

Now, one possible negative which I should definitely mention for adding yourself to directories, something to keep in mind for sure, is that some people have abused the directory model by just creating thousands and thousands of really low quality directories, ones that you would never visit them and they don’t really have any value for people. The primary purpose is to, just sort of create links for some of these websites. It’s really just manipulating Google’s rankings and that’s all they’re for, and Google is not a big fan of these sorts of schemes and if they discover many of these directories linking to your website.

So, if you were to go out and sort of link your website with the thousands of these or even many of these directories, Google might mistake your website for being low quality or spammy and give you a penalty or deduct your rankings. So, that’s certainly something you should keep an eye on when you’re adding yourself to directories. Also, if you have a web designer, an SEO or marketing person doing some work for you, you should make sure they’re not doing anything like this a well, or always use good quality directories, ones that actually provide value to people, not just for search engines.

Alright, our next section is sort of looking at free versus paid listings. Now, most directories operate on a “free-mium” model, so they’ll basically give you a free listing with probably, usually some pretty good business information. Most of your business information, a description, a link to your website often, and some other things, possibly photos or videos or a map showing where your business location is. It depends on the directory but most free options give you that and then, they have some sort of premium option which will usually give you a more prominent ranking within their categories, within their directory and perhaps maybe less advertising on or around your listing and maybe some more additional features as well, and you pay extra for that. It depends on the amount you pay, it depends on the different directories.

I would say that for the free listings, I should say they’re not completely free because there’s obviously some time associated with adding your business in there and you should be writing unique descriptions for each directory and that could be up to say 400 words. That can take a bit of time to get that done and it might take sort of 5-15 minutes depending on the directory to add the business in there. So, it’s not completely painless but it’s not too difficult. So, if you have the time, I think it’s definitely worthwhile to add your business to these free directories, keeping in mind that you want to stick to high quality directories because you don’t want to get any of those negatives I just mentioned, and another thing is, you probably want to stick with local directories. There’s some directories out there that are sort of international in nature and when you think about these, probably unlikely to really provide that much value to people because they’re so broad and they don’t really relate, a specific location for a specific directory really provides much more value than these really broad international directories, so I would stick with local directories. We’ve got plenty in Australia for you to focus on.

In the show notes, I’m going to put, we’ve got a big list on Wicked Cow Marketing of up to about 50 or more free Australian directories that you can add your business to and some tips there for how to do that and what you can use to make the process much easier. So, I’ll put that link in the show notes.

Now, the other option of course is the paid option, which is the one you’re probably getting calls about from these directories, trying to get you to pay for their program, for their premium options. It’s very difficult to know if a directory is going to be worthwhile unless you actually get in there and test it. You should definitely tread very carefully because in my opinion, the money you could spend in a premium listing in a directory is probably often could be better spent on other marketing initiatives. So, what you’re going to make sure, if you’re going to be thinking of going with one of these directories, you want to do some research and really make sure it’s going to be worthwhile and it’s the best use of your money.

The other thing to think about with paid directories is that sometimes, they won’t ask you for money but they’ll ask for something else in return. And I lump these in under paid as well because it’s not completely free and often this will be a link back in return. So, what it will say is, we’ll give you a place in our directory but you have to give us a link in return from your website and I would pretty much in all cases, I would not do this.

The reason for that is it might sound like a kind of a good deal for you but the reason is that this sort of link exchange arrangement is a common way of trying to manipulate Google’s rankings and they’ve really sort of come down on the last couple of years and it’s a very sort of dubious way of getting links. I think just to be on the safe side, you should avoid that at all costs. It also means you have to put up a page on your website with a link on it, and it’s somewhat counterproductive. It probably isn’t worth it for you and it could have bad, sort of negative connotations to it, so I’d leave it alone.

So, this next section is about why it’s a great question to ask where these directories get their visitors from, if you’re going to be thinking about going for their premium or paid options. So, basically, there’s probably about 3 different main ways that these directories get their visitors and traffic. Now, those ways would be, number 1, organic search, so, that’s through the search engines, the free listings, you might call them, people just making a search and clicking through. Number 2, through advertisements, so that could be Google Adwords ads, so that could be ads within the search results, paid ads or it could be ads on other sites. There are various other ad websites out there where these directories could advertise, and the third option is by actually having built or building a community of people that come back to that site regularly to get great information, perhaps from a blog or something or interact with each other on a forum and these people are sort of coming back to the site anyway and they’re using the directory as a resource.

So, this is really the one you want to pay attention to because the other 2 traffic sources, the organic search and the advertising is something you can actually just do yourself and you can probably do it cheaper because there’s no middle man. The directory is the middle man if it’s going to them. If the search is going from the visitors, wherever they’re coming from to them and then to you, that’s sort of a middle man situation, whereas you can use these techniques yourself, use the money you might be spending on a directory to get organic search to your website, to get advertisements to your website.

So, those 2 options you can really do yourself, and probably cheaper and more efficiently, whereas the third option is much difficult to do yourself, which you can do, and you definitely should try and build a community if you can, but it could take quite some time and if the directory has already done that for you, this might be a good reason to actually go with the premium option and you could get some good benefits from it. So, let’s go into the last section for this podcast, which is how to choose a directory or for some tips to ask, things to ask, information you should consider, if you’re sort of towards the stage where you really want to figure out if a particular directory is for you or it’s going to be worth it.

The first thing or the main thing you want to be doing is getting data and the directories probably get this question all the time if we’re going to have this data ready to give you. There’ll be, the data they’ll likely to have on hand is the number of visitors their directory receives overall, the number of visitors you receive in your particular local area and also the number of visitors that get to particular categories that they think that you should be put in. That information is useful, but there’s probably some other data I think you should chase up as well, and they may not have this on hand but you should certainly try and get it.

The first one is which we’ve just talked about, which is where do they get their businesses from and this is very important for sort of knowing whether they’re really going to be worth it or not. The second thing is, how many visits are you likely to receive on your listing? They’re going to tell you perhaps how many visits their website receives, and how many visits each category receives, but it really depends on how many different businesses are in that category that you’re competing with and what’s the location, sort of distribution like. So, asking them how many visitors you’re likely to receive from your listing is kind of an important number.

The last thing of the data that I think you should try and collect is try to get an average conversion rate for visitors to your listing. So, that is the rate, or the number of people who convert by either contacting you through one of the methods on the directory or through actually clicking through your website and they should have some of this data there if they’re good and this is really important data because you want to know how effective their directory is going to be for actually driving customers your way. If it’s going to be really low, a really low conversion rate, then maybe you’d be better trying to send them to your website where you have bit more control.

Like I said, they’re going to have some data on hand, but those last 3 they probably won’t so here’s a few ways that you can try and get that information if they don’t have it for you. Number 1, look for signs of a community. So, if they don’t really have that information on hand, of how much of the traffic comes through the different methods, look around on their site to see if they look like they might have some sort of community going on there.

You can look for, if they have a forum, or they have a forum that has lots of activity going on, that’s a pretty good indication that there‘s some sort of community there. If they have a blog, look at their comments on their blog posts. If there are frequent comments and lots of back and forth, that’s another good indication. Look at their social profiles, their Facebook page, a little bit of Twitter profile, see if they have any activity and if they have many fans, if they haven’t got any, then that’s not a good indication.

Now, for trying to figure out how much, how many views your listing is likely to receive, you can usually ask them to give you the data for a comparable business in your area. You want to make sure that they are comparable obviously and that they are in your local area because obviously, with the population distribution, the number of people that are going to see your listing will be very different if you are in the middle of the city or you’re right down in the country, on the outskirts of town or whatever. So, this is certainly something you should be aware of and should be probing about and they’re probably not going to give you the business name, like a competitor and how much business they get but you don’t need to know the business name, you just need to know some basic details and the number.

The last thing you can do for finding is to find some comparable businesses yourself in the directory and actually just contact them directly. So, depending on your industry, your competitors, probably aren’t going to be that willing to help you but if you have something like a, a very similar business to yours in a different city, is one idea because they’re likely to, as long as you can sort of match up the populations pretty well, that’d be a pretty similar business or you can look at a non-direct competitor of yours in the same city, that’s in a similar business as well, so that’s just another way you can go.

I’ve just got a few more tips to finish off to help you out with this thing of getting a premium directory listing. So, try and negotiate a pay by the month arrangement or some sort of trial period before you get locked into like a year long contract, because you want to be able to test it out, get an idea if it’s actually going to work and if you find that it’s just not going to work for you, then you want to just get out of it without having to pay for a whole year, which would be a waste of money and also just to test these things.

You should get Google Analytics and put it on your site or you can use another analytics package if you have one, or if your web developer has already put it on but Google analytics is sort of the industry standard, your web developer or your SEO guy should easily be able to put that up on your website for you and that will give you also statistics about where your traffic is coming from, how long they stayed, etc. Another more advanced tip for using Google Analytics is to set up goal tracking. So this will allow you to actually track when people convert in some way on your website.

So, that could be buying a product, is the most simple way of thinking about it, but it could be also filling in a contact form or even just visiting your contact page, which is the strongest indication that they may contact you or it could be joining a mailing list or something. So, you can set that up in Google Analytics you can actually see, okay so these people have converted and where did they come from. These ones came from Google, these ones came from some other website and these ones came from the directory and then you can sort of work out whether it’s going to be worth it for you.

Another good idea is to keep in mind that you should probably ask people who were calling you or people who foot-traffic into your business, where they heard about you and this can also help you capture some of these people that may have seen your directory listing and have come, not to your website but called you directly or have come in directly. So, that will also help you to track within your trial period and decide whether this directory is actually working for you.

Alright. That pretty much brings me to the end of all the information I had for this episode. To get notes, some links, more information about the stuff that’s been mentioned here, you can check out the show notes for this episode, for episode number 16. We’ll have some links up there, links to my list of business directories in Wicked Cow Marketing, and also a link to an article which has a lot of this information up on our blog coming up this week.

I hope that was good information and I will see you all next week.

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