Knowing the difference between the paid business directory listings that help and those that hurt is invaluable. The best brands can use this to help be sure they are getting the first chance at high-value inbound searches/traffic.
Three Quick Signals To Tell The Good From The Bad
- Built and Managed By Brands: Genuine professional directories (not to mention sustainable and scalable) allow the brands to build and edit their own listings/profiles. Paying to be part of a directory that you can’t edit is an immediate red flag. It may not be a directory at all. You may actually be paying for a link. Google penalizes sites that are associated with paid link building. Google knows the difference from a true directory and sites that are low quality. A lot of brands (especially for local search) have to spend good money on cleaning up inconsistent web presences (and having helped a good number of brands through this headache) – I’d opt to pass on paying for profiles you cannot edit yourself.
- Name, Address and Phone: To be a valuable directory the listings/profiles must at least include a place to add and edit your Business Name, Business Address, and Business Phone. It’s even better for paid directories to have fields that allow brands to add and edit Business Hours, Business Description, Category, and Payments Accepted. If you’re paying for a listing that uses a unique phone number and call tracking – I recommend brands reconsider. This practice can hurt the consistency of your web presence.
- A No-Obligation Link: Good directories allow brands to add and edit a no obligation link to their website. There was a time people sought out directories that allowed do follow links rather than no follow. This criterion should be ignored – we’ve helped and watched brands be rewarded for having high-quality web presences (without do-follow links). In fact, for local search, I see the lower quality and spammy links come from do-follow sources. Also, worth noting, no-obligation does include no requirements of linking your brand’s website back to the directory (via text or a badge) – this shows the directory is using your dollars to build their own web presence, not yours.
Two Bonuses of Great Directories
- Bonus 1: Some directories allow brands to add links to social profiles. If you’re paying for a directory that has this feature – take advantage of it. Of course, you want people directed to your website not social profiles, but you also want your social profiles to become more authoritative (in the view of search engines) than competitors social profiles. An increase in the authority of your social profiles only makes your brand and its ability to get rank and get found via inbound search better.
- Bonus 2: Some directories even allow
Judging the Value of a Directory
- Membership Perks: Sometimes a directory is just a part of a membership. Like a chamber of commerce. If the other perks are valuable to your brand take that into consideration.
- Where Are Your Competitors?: Does your brand’s top competitors have listings in the directory? If yes, then the listing is more valuable to you. This is local search optimization. And you don’t want your competitors to get any authority or relevance signals you aren’t.
- Does it add authority or social proof?: The National Pest Management Association is a good example of a directory that helps brands build trust with consumers. The association not only gives you a directory but you can get certified as a “Green Pro” or “Quality Pro” and you can display those certifications on your website. People trust brands that have a big variety of “social proof” – high rating average, lots of reviews, lots of social shares/followers, and have badges to show off their memberships, certifications, and awards. Take the potential trust and social proof into account when considering the value of a directory.
Conclusion – Don’t Lose Sight of The End Goal
Search engines don’t want to send searchers to directories (another search engine). They don’t want to send people to Yelp or Angie’s List or The Better Business Bureau. They want to replace all directories and search engines. They want to immediately provide people with the best results. With reviews, directions, phone numbers and of course websites – all in one place – their place. And what you want to do is be the brand at the top, with the most and best reviews, and with a blazing fast website that converts visitors to buyers. Don’t lose sight of that! That’s where the big reward is. Don’t let tiny paid listings get in the way of that reward! Once you’ve made it their you’ll understand why.