It so often astounds me how quickly people lose track of what their goal or objective is. A restaurant wants to be fully booked. A plumber wants to get leads. An online store wants to sell products.
this I am often contacted by people who start with "I need to rank in Google for this keyword" or "I need to make a PPC campaign work" when, if they took a step back, they would see an alternative answer was right under their nose. Directories.
I've talked about how people who are selling products should consider going to the market rather than trying to get the market to come to them. On my How to SEO site I point out that only around 50% of people find what they're looking for online through search engines.
These points are important because many potential clients or customers beat a path to a certain door via directories - whether its to choose a place to eat or headhunt for a great job. For many individuals and companies achieving their actual goals can come through the proper use of the right directories.
Aren't directories evil?
If you've been reading around in the SEO world then doubtless you will have come across numerous references as to how directories can get your site banned from Google and such like.
These refer back to the days when directories were created purely for the purpose of providing links. Thousands of directories popped up, many were completely unaudited and filled up with spam and rubbish.
They became known as Link Farms and Google decided that if you had links from them they wouldn't count anymore. If you had gone wild and paid some far east company to list you in thousands of these directories Google might also have given you a slap via the Penguin penalty.
The general panic caused many SEO amateurs to flee the entire directory scene in panic and you still find them around the web saying "Directories? Ooh. You don't want to do that!"
In reality, as with so many online marketing activities, its not what you do its the way that you do it. Listing in directories is not effective. Listing in the right directories is.
What is the right directory?
Its really a common sense approach using the following steps for each directory you find.
- Do your competitors use it?
- If you search the directory name do you find real, everyday people recommending it?
- Are entries to the directory audited by humans?
- Do you see any spamming in the listings?
For most small or local businesses this comes down to the likes of Google Places, FourSquare, Yellow Pages, perhaps even controversial Yelp! But don't forget other opportunities such as legitimate directories for your local area.
There are also numerous niche directories. Designers, for example, use Behance or thewindow. Programmers might use Upwork or StackOverflow. Every industry has one or more directory service so track them down.
Ironically many people find, when they start looking, that they are already listed in many directories. Does that mean "Job done" and let's move on. Not quite. You need to make sure your listings help, not hinder, in achieving your goals.
How to make a directory listing that works?
As the old saying goes "If you're going to do something, do it right" so make your listing as comprehensive as the service allows.
- Upload as many images as you can
- Make the description as long as you can without waffling
- Don't forget the detail (opening hours, location, services offered - whatever the directory will allow you to add
Just remember that a half-hearted directory entry can be more damaging to your business than no entry at all.
Paying to promote yourself in directories
Why not? All online marketing activities come at a cost, whether that's your time or your wallet.
But if you are going to pay to promote your listing then as with any marketing activity make sure you can monitor what happens so you can make an educated decision as to whether the promotion is worth the spend.
The most important step is to always ask customers how they found you and keep a tally. If the directory sends people to your website:
- Make sure you have Analytics set up with Goals defined.
- Once the directory has referred 100 visitors look at how many converted by meeting your goal.
- Calculate if what you earn from those conversions is worth the cost of promoting yourself in the directory.