In the early days of SEO, directories of any kind were the place to get listed, grab a link and boost your rankings.
Back then Google was a lot easier to game. Its algorithm was far less complex and the Internet was ‘smaller’ and less complex as a whole.
It was fairly simple to throw up spammy content in article directories, such as the now-defunct EzineArticles, Articles Factory or Amazines sites, and you’d pretty much be guaranteed to rank in Google.
But, one of the easiest ways to gain backlinks was by using web directories. And, for small businesses, free business directories was the place to go. You needed to enter little more than your business name and you could score a link back to your website.
It was simple, fast and it worked. But, it was never going to last forever.
In this post, we’ll show you how to decide where to list your business online, what results you should expect, what you should look for, what to avoid and discuss an alternative for the future.
Changing Your View on Business Directories
If the only reason you want to list your company in a business directory is to get a link to rocket your website up the rankings. You will be sorely disappointed.
Google caught onto that game years ago. And, whilst links are still a very important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. It has become far more sophisticated in HOW it evaluates backlinks.
In short, not all backlinks are created equal. Google can now decide if a link from another website to yours is worth anything and even choose to ignore the link entirely.
Business directories should no longer be seen purely as a place to get links. You need to evaluate them differently and look for other advantages.
What You Should Look For
1: Human Moderated
Browse the directory if you can. Take a look at the listings. Are there any that look like they shouldn’t be there or are spammy in nature?
If you find such listings the chances are that there is no moderation taking place. Directories without moderation can quickly get overrun by spam. For many various technical SEO reasons, you should avoid directories like this.
On ‘business only’ directories finding listings that stick out like this is usually pretty easy. Usually, you’ll see listings dedicated to ‘ray ban sunglasses’, ‘buy cheap Nike trainers’ or other random things opposed to actual companies.
2: Comprehensive Listing Information
Take a look at what information you can list. Can you add a decent description for your business? What about opening times? Can you add photographs of your work?
The more comprehensive your listing the better.
Why? Because it will add what is referred to as contextual relevance. This allows Google to more easily decide if the listing linking to your website is relevant. If it is, Google will attribute a little more value to the link.
In addition, your listing can act as a satellite to your main website. Showing off the best of your company when people search for your business by name. A sparse listing will likely not rank nor show any useful info on your company. You should consider your listing as a mini online-advert.
Think of this as added-value. For example, can your profile receive reviews? And, can you reply to them? Can you add posts or updates? All of these things help increase your online credibility in the same way that having a comprehensive listing does.
You might even find useful features on your listing that you do not have on your website.
What You Should Avoid
Spammed directories are quite easy to spot. They are usually laced with links referencing individual products. Such as listings promoting iPhones, Reebok trainers, weight loss and pharma products – to name just a few.
You’ll usually find that the listings have very little information on them and if they do it appears to read like nonsense. This nonsense text is spun content and it is computer generated content whereby hundreds of garbage articles are made from an original source article. Needless to say, this is something Google frowns on.
Lastly, avoid directories that ask for a lot of information during sign-up. Especially if they lack a clear (or missing) GDPR policy. Usually, these sites either sell your details on to everyone under the sun or relentlessly pester you to buy marketing packages off them once they have your details.
Whilst we don’t want to be too specific a large directory that begins with ‘S’ is notorious for this and should be avoided!
What Results Should You Expect?
The truth is you shouldn’t expect much from the humble business directory.
You might get a little bit of referral traffic and without a comprehensive SEO campaign you can expect the links you gain to have little effect on your rankings.
So, What’s The Point?
Whilst directories aren’t the bastion of online marketing they used to be they still serve a few useful functions.
The first is, as discussed above, they act as a satellite to your main website. Providing useful information and increasing your online credibility when people search for your brand. This is important since over 80% of people now search online for information on a business before deciding to buy from them.
The second is that they provide an easy route for small companies to do a little of their online marketing themselves. They are typically simple and fast to setup and can save a little bit of money when it comes to online promotion costs.
What is needed is to keep your expectations inline with what directories truly offer in 2019 and beyond.
An Alternative For The Future
It is clear that with the exception of the very big players (Yell, BOTW, Yelp etc) Google is falling out of favour with directories as a whole.
One of the largest, and to be fair high-quality directories in the UK (who we won’t name out of respect), has seen a marked decline in traffic over recent years. And they’re not alone.
The truth of the matter is, it’s not the early noughties anymore and we can’t keep relying on out-dated online marketing practices from that time.
And, as Google continues to change and improve, we can’t help but wonder if directories will be used at all in a few years. It won’t be the first time Google have decimated entire industries online because of a shift in their algorithm.
Even if business directories do die-off, small businesses will still need to market online.
Over the past year, we’ve been busy making an alternative that is essentially self-contained. It negates the need to keep Google happy (because it has its own internal B2B search engine) and is made purely for businesses.
The best way to think of it is as an entirely separate portion of the web where businesses can interact, network, sell and promote their businesses to other companies locally and across the UK.
It’s called ehuhb and its been made to remove all of the complications businesses face when marketing online. You can find out a little more about this platform here.