The Directory Dilemma

Dilemma. Indeed.

For as long as marketers can remember, directories have proven to be a go-to source for advertising one’s products and services.

Directories, be they broad based (Yellow Pages) or niche specific (trade directories) have been seen as the first step in getting the word out about a business.

The upside to a directory is that they are usually consumed – exclusively – by people who are looking for a product or service right then and there. Nobody, I would assume, reads the Yellow Pages as if it were The Sunday Times style guide. You pick the book up, turn to ‘P’ for ‘Plumbers’ and start looking for a plumber. A highly motivated and very targeted audience.

The downside though, unless you’re ‘Aaron A Aardvark’s Plumbing Service Ltd’ you’re likely to be lost in the noise. And whilst it’s absolutely true that many businesses have indeed named their company in order to get a premium spot in business directories, as a form of business branding it’s pretty crazy.

There are a couple of ways to cut through the noise.

1. Take out a whopping great full page advert that guarantees your company gets seen before the others.

2. Somehow create a listing containing copy that will stun and amaze readers.

Both methods are pretty tough and carry obvious flaws. Mainly that you might not be the only business taking out a whopping full page ad (in fact one of your competitors might take out a double page ad!) and you might not be the only company able to stun and amaze with mindblowing sales copy…so you’d be back to square one.

Since Google came about, offline directories such as the Yellow Pages have seen readers not so much dwindle as fall off the edge of a very large cliff.

Now if someone wants to find a plumber in Chelsea – they fire up the computer/phone/laptop/iPad – go to Google and type ‘plumber in Chelsea’.

Aaron A Aardvark’s Plumbing Services Ltd is now surpassed by whoever has been smart enough to get their business to the top of the Google results for ‘plumber in Chelsea’ or ‘Chelsea plumber’ or ’emergency plumber covering Chelsea’.

This – massively – levels the playing field.

I want you to take a second to think about this: do you believe that people who are seeking out a product or service go to directory websites and start scrolling the pages as if they still had a big, yellow book in their lap?


So the directory – certainly the online directory – must serve a new purpose. The directory must be able to leverage its power and influence to ensure that its pages are the ones appearing at the top of the search results for ‘Plumber in Chelsea’. And if it succeeds, and if your business is listed on those directory pages….you’re back to square one again and Aaron’s plumbing business is the winner once more.

Using directories intelligently is a fairly specific art.

You need to leverage the power of the directory to give you BACKLINKS to YOUR website. Your aim, in all cases, should be to get your website as high up the search engines as is possible. You need to BEAT the directories.

Directory advertising can still be an exceptionally powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. But you need to use it as part of a well thought out backlinking strategy.

The more high authority, relevant back links you can get to your site, the higher up the search engines you will fly.

So think of it like this, if you pay $100 or $1,000 for a listing on a general interest or business specific directory, don’t judge the results of your listing by how many leads you generate from the directory, judge it by how much of a boost that directory listing gives your OWN site in the search results.

In orderĀ  to measure that, simply monitor the position of your site in Google for your chosen keyword/search term. Take out a directory listing, include a backlink on your listing (if the directory doesn’t offer backlinks, don’t even bother) – ideally have that backlink anchored to your keyword (like this Free Information About Everything) and then monitor whether you get any rank movement.

That’s the new way to monitor the effectiveness of directory listings.

If you happen to make some sales directly from the directory I’d say that was a nice bonus – but I’d temper that by arguing that you probably could have done MORE with your listing to get people AWAY from the directory and on to your website.

1 Comment

  1. It is getting very much like a game of snakes and ladders in the advertising directories.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *