Online directories are an efficient and cost effective method of making your enterprise visible to a wider audience. Unfortunately, this fact gets lost among business owners who have their own preconceptions and distractions to worry about.
Whether it be their affiliation with print directories like the Yellow Pages or a general misunderstanding for how the field works, there is no familiarisation with the platform. With many of these individuals, you’ve seen one directory, you’ve seen them all.
This could not be more off the mark.
However, engaging with online directories happens to be only step number one. A large portion of those that fail in this domain stumble in the second part of the equation where diligence and maintenance must be applied.
According to ConstantContact, a staggering 49% of small to medium businesses (SMBs) do not update their listing whatsoever.
This is not on a monthly or yearly basis – it is never. Once the listing has been formulated, it is left to its own device in the hope that it will return sales.
Partly down to a lack of interest, understanding or motivation, the benefits of a well formulated business listing provides compound interest. By operating in space through an online directory, you manage to secure more impressions, click-throughs, sales and recurring customers.
They are commodities that operations pay good money for, but this asset can be executed with little to no investment required. Simply occupy that space, make adjustments where necessary and see the results look after themselves.
Here are the key benefits to utilising online directories for businesses:
What is online marketing if not about exposure? That is what this field boils down to as online directories push your agenda to the market that you are attempting to influence.
Directories also happen to carry a genuine local flavour where business and customers can connect based on their geographic location. Local SEO researches bank on this form of marketing as a means of accelerating traffic and growing a brand’s presence online.
As an example, a local landscaper in the Hunter region of New South Wales would be much better placed promoting themselves on Gumtree than relying on word of mouth.
Established landscapers in the Newcastle region might have a strong reputation from years of experience, but that only carries a certain shelf life. New home owners from outside the area and young families will source their landscaper via an online directory.
According to Business 2 Community, they discovered last year that 89% of users search for a local business on their smartphone once a week. 58% of those same people do so on a daily basis. To ensure that your enterprise becomes visible and remains that way, it is best advised to occupy this space.
Most popular online directories:
- Crazy Domains
- Australian Business Directory Online
- Google My Business
- Yellow Pages
Builds Brand Awareness
“Brand awareness” is that great intangible term thrown around marketing lectures and textbooks. Does it really have any value? Those in the know argue that this revolves around the human subconscious.
We see a logo and name enough times from enough locations and suddenly the message sinks in. Before we even realise it has taken place, the message is absorbed. There might be zero action taken by the user to make a purchase or enquiry at the time, but the seed has been sewn.
This is where online directories can be incredibly powerful assets to become long-term investments. As an example, a health retailer might be on a weekly search for performance supplements and utilise online directories to make their enquiry. The first week sees the name Berocca emerge. They do not act then because it is out of their price range.
The second week repeats the cycle as does the third. In the next quarter of business, this retailer has seen a growth in their revenue. Their search continues to bring up the name Berocca. All of a sudden the urge to purchase from this leading brand forces an action – a change in behaviour. The seed was sewn and by having that online directory presence, their brand remained front and center of that niche.
Cashes In On Online Presence
Online directories can be considered to be something of a domino effect. While they won’t admit it themselves, many of these sites will grab a series of listings from other directories and pass it off as their own.
Essentially, one operation does the heavy lifting as the others ride on their coattails. The good news in this respect is simple. Should you officially sign your site up for a listing at one location, there is a strong likelihood it will emerge in an adjacent directory.
Do not rely on this domino effect being the case however, with a number of these directories failing to transfer the right information across. Each listing should be examined with a unique lens to see if it reflects what the company wants it to. Needless to say, online directories enable businesses to build their presence with speed and efficiency.
Improves SEO Health
Attempting to improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) is an art form all unto itself. That is a practice that requires consistent maintenance, diligence, application and above all else, patience.
A brilliant method of partially shortcutting some steps for off-page SEO is to build your online directory portfolio. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing take cues from trusted sources and should you have a strong presence on these directories, then your SEO health is drastically improved.
It informs those engines that you are garnering organic traffic and impressions, forcing them to rise your domain up the rankings. If it is validation you are after, then online directories are a way to fast track results.
If brand awareness was one intangible discussed in the realm of online directories, then a professionalised image is another. The listing will speak volumes about your enterprise’s capacity to be professional and everything that entails:
- Company reputation – are you an authority or just another face among the crowd
- Information provided
- Avenues of contact
- Speed of response
Search engines like Google have improved when it comes to ranking sites based on legitimacy. Yet a niche local search through an online directory will rely more on standing and that all important professional image.
Should that be important to your business (and it absolutely should be regardless of the field), then it is imperative to have a business listing through an online directory.
While advertising space often comes at a premium, there is a litany of free and cheap online business directories that cater to any type of budget. Put simply, online directories remain one of the most inexpensive methods to promote your brand and services.
For the freelancer who is looking to promote their services without investing a significant portion of their savings, they can head to Craigslist and put their name out there.
Likewise those operations that have the capacity to spend big, there are avenues to amplify their market share. Rarely would those two ends of the spectrum have to compete in one domain, with the majority of directories segmenting disciplines according to their category.
Lets You Be Niche Specific
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are required for an enterprise to have a successful foothold in the online landscape. Yet it can be difficult to align yourself in the niche that you are in through those methods alone.
With online directories, your website, services and contact information is placed in a very specified location. Users can be left in no doubt what market you fit into and can range from any of the following:
- Digital services
- B2B marketing
- Social Media
As soon as your listing is placed through this filter, there is no opportunity for ambiguity. Your site and information will be listed against your peers.
Quick Opposition Research
There is a sneaky little advantage to venturing down the business directory path. Many advertising platforms will upload your commercial and give you means of gauging your return on investment (ROI). Yet it is difficult to understand how the best in the business rate among a similar field.
This is where a business directory gives you the chance to scour the opposition. How do they present themselves to the same target market? Are there certain types of images, keywords and headlines that draw the eye?
Even for those competitors who are languishing down the rankings, find out why that might be the case. Perhaps they have left out some key information or received a string of poor feedback from consumers.
Online directories enable two very significant events to take place:
- Customers find businesses easier
- Businesses find customers easier
Throw in the added revenue garnered by additional traffic, phone and digital enquiries, and it is a simple equation. Those that engage with online directories see their operation head in the right direction. The others that neglect this important field are left behind.
Visibility and brand awareness is increased, costs are managed to stay low, SEO is boosted and you can undergo all this while spying on the competition.
Let us know what you think about online directories in the comments section below. Has your experience been positive? If not, were there any reasons why it failed to make a mark?
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.