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Advertising in Online Directories

in Directories

In general there are five ways in which people find suitable businesses:

  • Search engines
  • Online directories
  • Printed directories
  • Directory enquiries
  • Word of Mouth

Whether to advertise in online directories is an important consideration if you want people to find your business. Without using this avenue, and with the decline of directory enquiries and printed directories, you’ll be mainly relying on search engines and word of mouth.

Online directories can be divided into two broad groups – those that people use to find businesses, often referred to as local business directories, and those used as part of a link building strategy, ordinary online directories. Yell.com is a local business directory whereas Best of the Web follows the usual online directory structure.

Local Business Directories

Popular online directories that people use to search for businesses can be excellent at generating high quality leads. Taking the example of Yell.com (stats from 2005-2006, Saville-Rossiter Base):

  • In July 2007 Yell.com had 6.6 million unique users (ABC audited)
  • Of those visitors 58% went on to contact the advertiser
  • Of those who make contact 53% go on to make a purchase

At a time when people are becoming increasingly alienated by mainstream forms of advertising, listing your business in a popular online directory ensures that your advertisement is only displayed to people who are actively seeking a service that you can offer. As a consequence users are receptive to your offer and more likely to be converted into a sale.

Online Directories

In order to improve its rankings system Google has taken a strong stance against paid text links. Initially Google focused on punishing websites that purchased links but it’s now starting to focus on punishing sites which sell text links.

The repercussions for online directories have been significant. Google tends to view these directories as simply listing any websites which are submitted, thereby not providing any assurance of quality. As a result many of these directories have been hand edited by Google, resulting in:

  • No Traffic – online directories tend to drive no traffic
  • Not Indexed – Google isn’t even indexing many of the inner pages of online directories
  • Low PageRank – even the PageRank of the most popular directories has been downgraded

Therefore the link building strategy for new websites of mass submissions to online directories needs to be reassessed. These days you want to focus on those directories which will actually send you traffic, even more so if you have to pay for a link.

To assess how popular a directory is you can use Alexa or Compete. As a general guideline directories worth considering are Yahoo! Directory, Business.com and Best of the Web. Always submit your website to the Open Directory Project, although it’s questionable whether anyone will ever get round to reviewing your submission.

In the UK one of the best directories is FreeIndex.co.uk, a high quality directory where businesses can have themselves listed for free. Also, unlike almost all other directories FreeIndex has evolved into an excellent community for startup businesses, offering a very helpful Business Advice Centre and an area where job vacancies can be advertised for free.

In summary, the role of generalized online directories has changed greatly. Nowadays mass directory submissions are a waste of time. Instead focus on quality directories which will send traffic to your website.

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