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Thread: Using online directories

  1. #1
    Full Member Ann Williams's Avatar
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    Smile Using online directories

    Below is an article I wrote for my site / newsletter a while back... (not sure if it should be here or under marketing?)

    When the first printed directories (what later became the Yellow Pages) were published more than a century ago, they became an instant hit with consumers. It was the first time that the potential client had quick access to specific information that they were looking for at the time.

    And that's the secret of any directory (including online directories): most readers already want the service or product. ie. they are already engaged in the act of shopping.

    However, listing in a directory, whether print or online, still needs your careful attention to get you the steady stream of customers that you are hoping for. In this article we have a look at some of the overall considerations of listing your website online.

    Using an online directory is a process
    People who 'shop' online do so because they can proceed with the decision-making process without having to come into contact with someone else if they don't want to. With directory listings you need to lead your potential client through the maze to your invoice book. You need to be in the right place, you need to be noticed, then you need them to follow the path through the directory and give them enough information to make a choice they are happy with.

    Which is why you need to have a website
    While you can often list in online directories without a website, you are wasting a golden opportunity if you don't have one. If you have managed to get a directory visitor to click through to your specific details, you need to give them more to savour. It can be too big a step to expect them to jump from an introductory sentence in a list of suppliers, to buying your stuff. It's a process, and having a great website can be invaluable - especially when most of your competitors have sites.

    Getting your listing noticed
    Getting noticed so that the user clicks through to your details is the most important step for you in the directory usage process - without it you're not even in the game!

    To get noticed without being unethical you can try out these ideas:
    You have to have a great introduction. You may only get one sentence to prick the attention of the user. Be specific about what you do, particularly what sets you apart.


    If you want to hold a New Year's party that will rock Jowwies city centre, are you going to look at the company that says: "Specialist entertainment for any event or function anywhere in SA", or are you going to click through to the guys who say: "Joe Rapman, award-winning DJ from Egoli's hottest night clubs"?
    Name your company near the front of the alphabet. If the directory lists the organisations in alphabetical order, the A+ Training school is going near the top of the pops. Consider this when naming your company - it is one of the reasons that we called ourselves 2B Marketing. (Look for our listings in Ananzi and Braby's under advertising/marketing to see what I mean here.)

    Get in early with new directories. Some directories order their lists by when you send in your listing. Be awake for new directories.
    Jumping the queue
    When directories have a large number of listings, your offering can quite easily get lost. The larger directories are now making a very nice profit by offering listers the opportunity to 'jump the queue'.

    Don't be surprised if soon after you have entered your free listing in a directory, you get a telephone call asking if you would like to advertise, or have a paid-for ranking. This is when your listing is placed in the top position or near to the top of the directory list. (Not to be confused with Search Engine Optimisation and a paid for search engine ranking - although both search engine and directory ranking services are usually offered.)

    Making an informed decision about paid-for rankings
    It can be well worth your while to take a paid-for ranking, or advertising - but do be careful, particularly with monthly listing prices. Before buying a monthly listing, get information on the numbers of visitors that particular section has had on average in the previous few months - or if the directory is new, at least have some idea of the plan that they have to get visitors to their site to look at the directory.
    (Article continues...)

  2. #2
    Full Member Ann Williams's Avatar
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    Using online directories (cont)

    You can start off slow...
    I have come across a man who paid about R45 000 for a year's listing in a few categories on a cellular access directory and only got one response. Buyer beware! Don't just jump into a costly, long-term contract because the salesperson sounds enthusiastic and makes the pricing scheme sound great. Do your homework and make your decisions in the cold light of day. If you are uncertain and want to monitor the results (even if it's one or two great customers gained) - not just make the directory owner very rich - it is better to start off small and grow with the directory if you can.

    Is the response I get a direct result of the number of visitors the directory attracts?
    Obviously, to an extent this is true, particularly for general directories. It's all very nice to have hundreds of companies listed in a directory, but it's useless if nobody visits it, contacts you or buys your product. You can see this happening with a number of general directory start-ups which don't have major funding to promote them to the general public.

    However, there are other factors affecting your likely results:

    - If your listing information is vague and riddled with errors; don't even bother listing! The competition is fierce out there...

    - A lot of listings in a category can mean that your listing gets lost. Unfortunately this is generally what happens with the large directories - which is great for them as they make oodles of boodle out paid-for listings, but not so nice for you.

    - Large directories can be very difficult for the user to wade through. If the user is looking for something specific to their industry, a well run specialised directory is more likely to get you sales. It may only be from a handful of visits, but if the directory site is managed properly these visitors are more likely to be looking to buy your particular service or product.

    Other factors that add to the quality of the directory

    1. If the directory becomes littered with listings in inappropriate categories, users start to loose faith in the veracity of the information offered. Why waste your time searching for a specific service if when you go to that category it is filled with listings for other things.

    2. Having lots of broken links is even more frustrating to the user than listings in inappropriate categories. Users loose interest and visit less often and it shows a lack of interest on the part of the directory owner. (After all, it looks impressive on the surface to have lots of listings which means that the directory owner is more likely to attract paid-for rankings and ads.)

    3. Having personalised service. Seemingly little things such as having someone you can talk to about what the best category/ies to list your business in would be; or who will do a little bit of editing work of your application, can make a whole lot of difference - especially in the long run as regular users get to know that they can rely on the directory to give them quick access to the specific information that they need to make their choice.

  3. #3
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I'm rather windy of Matt Cutts' various comments about paid entries...

    Have you got any thoughts on paid directory entries and the effect it might have on Google (in particular) SERPs, Ann?
    Last edited by Dave A; 11-Jun-07 at 11:10 AM. Reason: typo
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  4. #4
    Full Member Ann Williams's Avatar
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    Question Who?

    Um. Scuse the ignorance but who's the gent referred to? (Probably really showing my lack of guru knowledge here.) All the article is original work. I wrote it to assist the companies signing up for our marketing services directory (some paid, mostly for free).

    Should probably have put this in the articles section, but at least here it is read within context of website building.

  5. #5
    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    I think the big issue at hand is really that one of Google's main indicators of website "status" is incoming links, or rather the quality of incoming links. I'm not 100% sure what Matt Cutts has said about this, but I would guess that paying for an incoming link would hold relatively little value with Google (possibly even devalue your site), who prefer organic linking.
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  6. #6
    Full Member Ann Williams's Avatar
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    Payment for directory listings

    It's definitely the way it's going....

    Basically, the big guys make their money off of directory listings in one form or another, even if it is indirectly. I've seen two approaches here:

    1. Sell a better place in the directory.

    Bizcommunity is an example of this. This is a website run for practioners in the marketing community. They have many thousands of listings. You pay about R7 000 a year for a top-of-the-page listing (can be with many dozens of others or only a handful) and various other rights; about R2 000/year for a 'medium calibre' listing which is a sentence in a medium-sized font directly below, and from there on the listings heading down into the mists on the page are free (so people try to jump to the top of the alphabet queue by putting in punctuation marks before the company name).

    And yes, they are making really nice money off of this. Most directories however do not, mainly because they don't have the money from the get-go, to market their website so that they have a steady stream of people viewing it. It can take a lot of time, effort and resources to get going as a paid directory model.

    Most fail because although the programming tools to put a directory together are quite easily available these days and cheap or even free, it really is the marketing of the directory that will make or break it...

    2. The second model is where a free directory listing is used to contact the lister to sell them something.

    Often this is for sites that have search engines as well Eg. Ananzi.

    As anyone who has listed on Ananzi knows, within hours of your having listing in their directory you will get a telephone call from them asking if you would like to buy a better ranking for your 'listing' in their search engine.

    They have a really persuasive sales team and only sell year-long packages which for me in the cold light of day were quite expensive. (Despite the rah-rah about being SA most popular search engine, when I asked for statistics for similar listers they had to get back to me a little later with actual figures so that I could do some sums.)

    Braby's does this as well, although they will try to sell you a special listing at the top of the page (much like Bizcommunity) and advertising.

    Google isn't a directory. (Why bother when they can make money by serving up ads on each page as the viewer searches through page after page trying to find what they want with a search instead of drilling down through a well laid-out directory structure.) Yet, even the other big search engines that do have a directory structure function as well, would be silly not to make use of the opportunity to sell something to the sizzling hot leads that have actually come to them - many do just that.
    Last edited by Ann Williams; 11-Jun-07 at 09:04 AM.

  7. #7
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I did a long piece a while ago on why a webmaster needs to be careful about just getting directory listings willy-nilly, and it revolved around the risk of becoming an innocent casualty of Google's war on paid links. Of course, this is not the only "war" Google has at the moment, but let's not get too sidetracked. And unfortunately that particular post got trashed in a server move.

    The core of the issue is "How do people look for service/product suppliers online?" Do they use search engines, or do they use directories? I think the fact that commercial online directories are prepared to pay for search engine results points to the answer. Search engines are of significant importance.

    I've got a sneaking suspicion that the days of blithely listing in directories and getting an SEO benefit in link-backs are over. Balancing directory and SEO marketing efforts has therefore got a little trickier.

    The thing I like most about Ann's approach is it values the directory where it matters most - the core question to ask is "Just what value of business is this spend going to generate?" And that means how many live human click-throughs is this directory going to have to generate to justify the spend. All the other numbers these directories throw at you are meaningless.

    I don't care how many "visitors" you get to your directory.
    I don't care how many pages they view.
    I care even less about the number of hits - the ultimate misleading number.
    I only care about how many human operated browsers are going to click through on my entry. And the best indicator of that is how many clicks on average does an existing link get. Human clicks! From potential clients - not competition!

    When I drilled down on that one with a commercial directory about a year ago, the answer was "6 last month". That's a long way from the "over 1 million enquiries a month" splashed in their blurb.

    Worse still, of those 6 enquiries, I knew I was two of them
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  8. #8
    Full Member Ann Williams's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Amen

    Amen Dave.

    You've definitely hit the nail on the head with your last posting....

    Our pricing structure is extremely reasonable (and most listings are free) so my take on it is that if you are listed, as long as you get even two or three paying customers out of our directory each year, being listed is worthwhile.

    The other thing about our directory is that I get to know who is who in the zoo personally. Why this is useful is because I often have small business owners who phone me and say who do you recommend for xyz and I can direct them to the appropriate place or give them contact details.

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    Email problem RKS Computer Solutions's Avatar
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    One way to get visitors is to offer them something worth while... Check my site for today's posting... Just launched a competition for USB Flash Drives... Will let you guys know what the outcome is....

  10. #10
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Do clicks off your sig count?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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