Online Business Directory Listings – Will they Help my Business?
Recently we have been asked about the effect of Business Directory Listings on the SERPs (search engine results pages) and the traffic generation potential of various directory websites. So, with Google’s constant algorithm updates and the resulting confusion we though it may help to put some thoughts out there. The desire to give a fresh perspective was also prompted by the news that the Yahoo! Directory is soon to shut down.
Maybe the guys at Yahoo know something we don’t regarding the future of business directories?
This directory was first introduced in 1994 and is often quoted – along with the DMOZ directory – as the most beneficial for SEO purposes and the most highly regarded. It’s a paid service and the last time we looked was $299 per annum. Not cheap initially but if you track the leads it creates you can then value its worth!
Yahoo’s directory will officially close on December 31st 2014 when advertisers will be given details on being upgraded to a new service. We await details on the new service but expect pretty much more of the same with a few more bells and whistles. More importantly it seems that business directories do yet have some mileage.
WHAT IS A BUSINESS DIRECTORY?
A Business Directory is a website to which you can submit information regarding your business. The extent of those details can vary from a simple NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) to details regarding the product range, photos, videos, employees, opening times etc.
Some directories will also automatically send your listing’s visitor data to you. If your listing isn’t being ‘seen’ by potential customers expect a telephone call offering upgraded services for a fee!
Importantly all directories allow you to place a back-link to your website. This may come in the form of a simple web url – usually the Homepage address – or sometimes as an anchor text link which further exploits SEO by using a keyword or phrase that you wish your website to rank highly for. For example I can leave a link like this: http://bigboommarketing.co.uk or I could leave an anchor text link like this: Best Internet Marketing Company in Cheshire The latter is not normally allowed by reputable directories as it just shouts SEO manipulation! And that just not fair is it? boo-hoo!
It was this back-linking facility that spawned 1000’s of directory sites. Companies would place links on hundreds, even thousands of directory sites in the hope that the back-links would transfer ‘link juice’ back to their website and result in a meteoric rise to the top of the search engine results. In the first decade of the ‘noughties’ this was an effective SEO tactic. Many directory sites carried a high PR (*PageRank) and a link from these sites back to your own website was seen as a vote of confidence. The search engines responded to this by elevating your website in the SERPs.
*PageRank is a quality metric attributed to each website with a value from 0 to 10. It measures a page’s importance and authority. It no longer directly affects a website’s search engine rankings. The PR of relevant sites linking to you can indirectly affect SERPs.
THE END OF BUSINESS DIRECTORY LISTINGS AS AN SEO TACTIC?
Eventually all ‘good’ things come to an end. Google is the most influential search engine here in the UK; it accounts for around 90% of the search market. In the USA, about 68%. Google’s noble intent is to purify their search results of all spam and any undeserved rankings so that the end user gets the best results possible for their search efforts.
So, the Google giant was rattled and the abuse of directory listings to gain artificially high rankings would not be tolerated!
Google has released a series of updates to its search algorithm in order to weed out undeserved high rankings for websites. The 2 most well recognised are the Panda update that penalised poor website content and the Penguin update that penalised sites using manipulative backlinking strategies.
As a result many directories themselves were penalised and some de-indexed (removed from the search results) completely. Blogflare, Pegasus, Nuoret, Directoryisland, AvivaDirectory, Linksarena, Freewebindex were all de-indexed and the list goes on!
The knock on effect was that the websites registered on these spammy link farms posing as directories also took a hit. Their rankings went into free-fall. If you play with the devil then you have to face the consequences.
Now Google regards the practice of excessive and irrelevant directory listings as manipulative. It is simply a ‘Link Scheme’. Any back-link that isn’t earned is frowned upon. This may include free and paid for directory listings.
Listen to Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam at Google, talk about paid Directory links:
SHOULD WE STILL LIST OUR BUSINESS IN AN ONLINE DIRECTORY?
Short Answer: YES ……… but you must be very careful in your choice of directory.
- If your purpose for directory listings is a direct effect on SERP’s, forget it. Many directory links are now ‘NO FOLLOW’. They do not pass ‘link juice’ to your website via your company link. By installing a ‘no follow’ tag many genuine directories protect themselves from Google wrath.
- Directory Listings are not just about being ‘seen’ online. They are an indicator that your business is around for the long term. 1000’s of listings is an indicator that you are a spammer so don’t do it. A free DMOZ entry for example may take 6 months or more to achieve as the applications are processed by humans and it may well be rejected. A Yahoo entry will cost $299/yr but most spammers will avoid this so the directory retains its standing. This is the standard of ‘general’ directory you need to aim for.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF BUSINESS DIRECTORY LISTINGS?
- The value in business directory listings comes from the search engine ability to cross reference NAP details (citations), giving more kudos to you business.
- If your listing is well optimised and complete it could rank in the SERPs if placed in a reputable directory
- Direct Website traffic can result from the listing.
- A degree of ‘Link juice’ may be passed from reputable directory sites only although this is regarded as minimal.
- Searchers can link to your website giving your SEO an indirect boost or even bookmark your site.
WHAT IS A QUALITY (REPUTABLE) BUSINESS DIRECTORY?
Directory advice – DO’s and DONT’s
- When listing in General Directories only use well regarded sites – eg: Yelp, Yell, DMOZ, Yahoo, Scoot, 192.com, BOTW, Thompsonlocal. We will not provide an exhaustive list of approved directories as circumstances change but if the directory has the option of editorial veto and comprehensive listing options it is usually OK. Do your research beforehand.
- Niche Directories are recommended (search for your business niche + ‘directory’). A listing in a directory relevant to your business niche is fine. Conversely if you are an electrician and list your business in a travel directory you are not doing yourself any favours. These directories tend to have better link value also.
- Local Directories are for local businesses (search for your business niche + ‘your location’). A listing here is fine and also tends to have better link value as there are are range of criteria to meet.
- Directories that compare services are regarded as better for the end-user
- Directories that contain a Ratings & Testimonial facility are preferred. Good reviews on directory websites may influence SERPs.
- List your business in a directory that has well organised content that is easily navigated
- Research on preferred directory websites would include Domain Age / PR / Authority / Backlink count
- Directories with human editorial / Confirmation process (email, phone call) are preferred.
- Max. 10-12 directory inclusions is sufficient.
- Do not automate the submission process.
- Don’t choose directories that allow you to choose your own anchor text
- Don’t choose directories that require a reciprocal link
- Don’t choose directories that allow every submission
REMEMBER – Google is not really tough to work out. Regard it as a parent that wants the best for its child. I know some of you may choke on that but it’s the best I can come up with at the moment! Google wants to return the best search results so you continue to use their products. It doesn’t like any attempt at manipulation. Business Directory listings are just one tactic that was employed to gain high page rankings. That door should stay firmly shut. Instead list your business online for genuine reasons but do avoid the fall out from the ‘link farm’ era.
Online Business Directory Submissions
SCORES: 0 – 10 (0 – no effect at all, 10 – Invaluable effect, essential for your business)
|SERP’S||0 T0 2||NICHE / LOCAL DIRECTORIES BEST|
|TRAFFIC GENERATION||0 TO 3||INCREASE TRAFFIC VIA PAID SERVICES|