September 3, 2015

Best Practices to Use Online Directories

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Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]


Online directories took a hit a few years back when Google changed its algorithm. The change made most of them seem like link-baiting websites of no value. However, being displayed on the best online directories can be useful and profitable. Local directories especially are a great source of targeted traffic.

One of the biggest online directories is, in fact, Google Maps. They list numerous local businesses on their search engine, which can be a huge lead generator. However, they are not the only directory you should focus on for attracting business.

In this article, we want to discuss the best practices for using online directories.

First, a Warning about online directories

Online directories can help your business in a lot of different ways. However, do not just use them as a way to get backlinks for your SEO efforts. That is what burned a lot of sites in the past. The value of their links for your search engine traffic is a secondary benefit. Instead, focus on getting your website listed on the best online directories that can promote your brand across the internet.

Improve your listing on Google Maps

While we do want to speak about the other directories, we want to take a moment to discuss specifically how to improve your rankings on local Google search. The reason for this is simple. While it works similar to other directories, the massive search engine component makes it a separate animal in the directory business.

Therefore, make sure you do the following when working with their local directory.

  1. Get quality reviews

This can be tough for new businesses looking to get their first review because it is so confusing to leave the first review on Google. That is also why it is so important.

Consider the search we did below for shoe boutique Melbourne. If you were a consumer, which store would you be the most likely to check out and review?

The answer for most people would be Cosmopolitan Shoes. The reason is they are the ones with the most reviews on their page, and you can clearly see they are rated 4 out of 5 by their customers.

While Sole Mate Sneaker does have 3 reviews you do not see the ratings. The other listings have no ratings at all. This is a significant disadvantage that will only increase over time.

  1. Fix any algorithm violations

Currently, Google separates websites that violated their Panda and Penguin algorithms from their local listings. Therefore, it is important to start optimising your site, and correcting the errors Google mentions to you now.

That is because changes are in the air. Google used to show what was called the 7-pack. These were 7 local websites whenever someone typed in keywords Google showed local stores where you could find these goods.

For example, if you type in the word plumber you receive a list of 7 plumbers. Recently, Google shrunk this list to the 3-pack. While it is great for the top three local listings, it puts a lot of pressure on local sites to get listed.

This could create a lot of competition to get to the top. Those at the top benefit greatly, but cannot be complacent. More than likely local businesses should have a mad scramble to the top in the next few months to stay in the top three.

Further complicating this is the possibility that Google might be switching the local 3 pack to something akin to the old school yellow pages pay to play model.

That is partly why you need to focus on improving your Google searchability and focus in on other directories as well for traffic. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.

How do you know what the best online directories are?

  1. Good directories and bad directories

Like anything else in life, you can find good business directories and bad ones. For example, good ones like Yelp, Alexa, Yellow Pages, and Hotfrog provide immense value to users.

Sites like Yelp receive over 90 million visits directly every month. All four of the directories above are ranked highly by Google, because of the value they provide. Getting listed on the best of these online directories can be beneficial.

  1. How do you know if the directory is legit?

You have a few tools at your disposal to verify the legitimacy of specific online directories. First, check out The Better Business Bureau shows open and closed complaints against businesses.

Second, perform a Google Search. Use Google to search for the company with the word scam after it. It is the largest search engine in the world. It only makes sense that they have information you are looking for on Google.

Third, contact the FTC. A few years ago, the United States government had a full-blown epidemic with scammers getting millions of dollars from unsuspecting customers that were allegedly using their directory services.

The directory scam problem became so bad that they needed to file several lawsuits against them as well as write a book on directory scams to stop future attacks.

Since then they have kept closer tabs on the industry.

  1. Should you pay?

Why would directories be a scam? Because they got paid and in many cases did not list the companies. While not all paid directories are scams, be aware that some are.

The question is a bit broad for this article, but here are a few options you should get if you pay for a directory listing.

  • First page placement in the directory
  • Improved placement (e.g. an ad with more exposure)
  • Analytics to track traffic

You might not get all three, but should get some combination thereof.

  1. What type of search traffic do they get?

 One easy way to tell if they are legitimate is to check how much organic search traffic they receive. Go to SEMrush to check how many organic searches the website had last month.

The reason is very simple. If Google kicked out their site, they will not have any searches. Valid sites get organic search. This is a quick way to weed out the directories that Google thinks are spammy.

  1. Is your category active?

The final question has less to do with the validity of the site, and more to ensure you receive the traffic you need for your website. If your category is not active, then it is probable you will not receive a lot of traffic as well.
Active categories mean more competition, but also more eyeballs on the directory.

Final Thoughts

The best online directories can become a valid source of traffic and referrals for your business if you grow them properly. This means you need to focus on the best directories to use, and what steps you need to take to maintain your traffic and leads from that directory.

If you have any questions about what directories would work best for your business, then give us a Shout!

Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

    Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

      Shout logo in grey

      As Founder and Director of Shout Web Strategy, Michael Jenkins is at the forefront of digital marketing. Since it’s inception in 2009, Shout has built a strong reputation as one of Australia’s leading strategic SEO agencies, assisting online businesses to formulate, implement and track successful marketing strategies. Michael is a respected thought leader and digital strategist, specialising in online strategy, corporate SEO, Google retargeting, email and conversion rate optimisation, and online reputation management. Follow Michael on Google+, connect with him through LinkedIn or visit the Shout Web Strategy website.

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