Online business directories are very much alive and still create value for your business, both in terms of Search Engine Optimisation and, passive-traffic-generating sales opportunities.

 But are Online Directories still relevant in these days of AI, Social Media, and Local Business Search Engine Listings?

Web Directory

In short yes! Business directories are still truly relevant and useful, I will attempt to point out some strengths to using an online business directory.

Online Directory Origins.

When the Internet was in its infancy, only a few businesses had websites and the need for a business to have their own website wasn’t as essential as it is today.

Ecommerce was a novelty when the internet was born and not the everyday occurrence it is today and back then; businesses just did not see the profit that would be coming from online sales. Thankfully, the early internet adopting businesses created their websites anyway, in various niches. 

This was before Google, Bing etc. So, you had to actually remember the domain names in order to access those websites.

But, as the internet grew, more websites started showing up. Soon enough, people couldn’t remember all those domain names. But some clever guys had the brilliant idea to store the websites into something they called a web directory.

The early online web directories are thought to be the precursor to the modern search engine. When the number of sites started getting way to high the web directory became cumbersome and not so convenient, especially when the user had to browse through lots of categories and ultimately the best results were mixed up with the not so good results. This led to the necessity for search-based web directories that would ultimately become modern day search engines.

Is there still a place for Business Directories in 2020 and beyond?

There is evidence that online business directories help improve SEPS ranking just like any other website that links to you with a good page rank.  However, some directories and business directory forums have been abused as an SEO tactic over the years and led Google to penalize businesses that use web directories. Not all web directories are bad there are exceptions, there are things to look for in a business directory that can help you choose one that will benefit your business.

  • Check the online directory is managed and not just an abandoned site on the internet with no support.
  • Check if the online directory promotes businesses listed
  • Check if the online directory listings are real businesses and not just business’s listed for contents sake.

Now I’m not saying that you’re going to be penalized if you submit your site to a directory. But it’s a good idea to check their background a little bit. What’s their domain authority? Do they hold quality business information? Could their directory listings support your local SEO and directory efforts.

In other words, does that website bring any value at all to the internet or for any users? Is it in any way relevant to your site?
If the answer is no, then you should stay away from it!

Why You Should Be Listed in An Online Business Directory? 

Visibility/Search Engine Optimisation.

Online business directories are an excellent way of boosting your business’ visibility. Your business will found in more places, but search engines like Google typically treat businesses listed on directories favourably when producing search results which means Internet users will be able to find that business more easily when they search for it.

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Mobile optimisation.

Online directory websites are generally optimised for the smartphone experience. Optimising directory websites for smartphone users makes businesses more visible by attracting more traffic to the listing.

Build your brand profile.

Having business directory listings in a local business directory can help to strengthen your brand profile. Online directory listings can include much more than just the business name, address and phone number (NAP); content such as social media links, photos/videos, customer feedback options and promotions are an excellent way of helping customers interact with a business more meaningfully than just viewing its listing.

An attractive, interactive listing enhances a business’ local visibility by helping users do some of the marketing. Additionally, listings on quality directory sites helps to build trust in consumers that you are a genuine and reputable business.

Inbound links.

Inbound links (also known as backlinks) are links which lead towards your main website from other websites (such as business directories). Having more of these in more places on the Internet is a great way of boosting a business’ popularity and reputation with search engines.

This in turn can enhance a business’ search engine performance. Online directories provide a great place for inbound links that direct people to your main website and improve its SEO.

Types of online business directory.

There are many types of business directory and business page listings provide by,local directory pages and Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Etc.  Business pages offered from these reputable directory platforms have their own drawbacks and benefits when it comes to attracting potential customers.

It’s important that the business owner remains pro-active and provides regular updates, content, and posts that support the business page listing.

Avoid directories that only offer, Name Address and Phone number.  If your directory does not allow reviews and posts about the business they are missing  essential features of your business. These updates speak volumes as to how the business is trading and how it keeps potential customers in the loop of your business news.

it’s important to mention Facebook and other similar business page platforms. They are not a replacement for your own website, they are another supporting feather in the cap of your brand and should not be used instead of creating your own brand presence that’s at your control.

 I have heard many horror stories of businesses creating many followers only to find the company that hosted the business page like Facebook for example changed their rule-book and all the followers of your business now don’t see your content and can’t interact with the business as freely as they once could.

I read somewhere that Facebook for example, only shows your content to 5% of your business page,  fans/followers (organically,  excluding paid ads) ???? so 95% of your followers won’t see your business content and updates you post for free, what’s the point? and as a business owner, If that’s your only source of attracting potential customers you’re not getting a good return on your time and effort invested.

All these are useful but must not replace your own business website. having your own business website needn’t be expensive, but it is worth it, it’s all yours after all.

Features to look for in a business directory

Niche or specialised. If your business that fits a particular niche then it may be prudent to look at niche directories.  These are directories for tradesmen, jewellers, legal or financial, niche directories are very popular and you will only be exposed to potential customers that require services from that niche.

Local directories are really useful Google and Bing both being my favourites. Home-based businesses may not entirely see the benefit of the local directory service if they are based out of their spare bedroom and don’t want visitors coming to their home.

Many of the local directories now cater for this and allow you to hide your address but uses the areas you service customers to connect your listing with potential customers.  It’s also useful if local directories limit to specific countries or counties, for example United Kingdom directory, USA directory etc. etc.  Local citations are also useful.

Your business on any web directory must be detail rich, Your customers will want to know more than just Name, Address and Phone number, this may have been sufficient 10-years-ago but these days this is not enough information for your potential customers to make an informed choice about hiring to fix their problem.

Is your chosen directory, customer focused? As a business owner you  must have the ability to posts content, updates, business news, any business directory should allow you as the business owner to speak directly to potential customers viewing your listing, potential customers need information and content to help them make their buying decision. Directories that just offer a static listing may not be helping your business very much at all.

Your listing should provide  customer interaction and feedback like, check-ins and reviews. These are key features for your business and directory users, with reviews potential customers can get a glimpse at your track record and you can post these reviews on your website, social media, and local business websites. Search engines love customer reviews.

 Your business is far more than NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) and your directory of choice must give more than that to your potential customers if you stand a chance of being considered in your customers buying journey.

Does your listing sit just waiting to be found? There are business directories out there that also promote your listing on social media and other ways as part of their standard service, this helps you get your business in front of potential customers although they may be a charge for this extra promotion.

Is your current directory limited to a specific country? Geographic filtering is useful for your users and can really focus down on keeping the content specific and undiluted.

So in conclusion, Should you use online business directories?

Online business directories are an integral component of your marketing strategy for your small businesses. Directories improve business visibility and give SERPs a boost. A good directory can deliver a valuable experience to potential customers.

If a business is not taking advantage of these, it is surely missing out on reaching potential clients and the greater return on investment that follows. But should you spend your time adding your website to the hundreds of business listing directories available? Well, our answer is yes and no.

Do you research check the online directory is monitored and not just left unmanaged, are they creating new social media content and engagement? Are the businesses in the directory active and real submissions, many directories just import business information to look full and the business listing is not 100% up to date. So, use your common sense.