Do enhanced web directory
listings bring you more business? A cautionary tale
There are hundreds of regional web
directories on the internet, each one saying, “We can get
you more business if you buy our enhanced listing package,”
or words to that effect. If you decide to invest your hard
earned online marketing budget are you likely to get enough extra
business to justify the cost?
Initially most online directories gave
listings away for free. This is to encourage businesses to
submit their details in order to grow the directories’
databases. The online directory needs a critical mass of
listings - the principle that ‘size matters’ is a common one
in the internet world – so that there will be a variety of
results for most enquiries, users and researchers will find
what they are looking for and therefore use the directory
again as well as recommending it to others.
A growing number of online directories
have started charging for your entry in their database.
Whilst some basic listings remain free, many now charge a
single one-off payment of a maybe a few pounds or dollars
and to encourage you to spend a little more they offer
Basic listings generally do not include
a link to your web site; some do not even provide a contact
number. These are obviously of limited use to a business as
in order to be found or contacted the user or researcher
would need to use a search engine (or another directory) to
find your company, this takes more time and of course they
are only then likely to find you if you have an optimised
website (but that is another story).
If you have registered on a local
directory then sooner or later you will probably get a call
from them, the soft and persuasive voice on the phone
expressing the importance of having an enhanced listing.
Initially resolute, you weaken and before you know it you
give your credit card details to them. The telesales
operative assures you of greater exposure for your business
and many more enquiries from your enhanced listing at the
top of the page! You certainly don’t want to be buried in
the mass of free basic listings do you?
The initial warm fuzzy feeling and
vision of lots of new enquiries may soon give way to doubts:
Is this value for money? Will you get the return that is
implied? Have I spent wisely?
Like anything in life, ‘you pay your
money and take your chance’; and like any business
investment – however small – it is prudent to carry out
appropriate research before committing to any expenditure,
considering potential ROI and how focused or targeted this
opportunity is, ultimately: how will it serve your business?
Over the last few weeks I have looked
in some detail into the issues surrounding directory
registration and enhanced listings. Having researched
offerings from sixteen web directories in the UK, the
results have been quite startling. From the data collected
and analysed I have put together a few tips to make the
decision process a little more scientific.
Check the listing status of the
directory in Google, Yahoo and MSN. Type the directory Web
site address (URL) into the search field (info:www.directoryname.com)
and see how many results are returned. The following checks
can be found - number of web pages that contain the URL, the
number of links into the site from other sites and the
number of links from the site. The higher the number of
links into the site the better the directory is doing from a
search engine and online promotion perspective.
Contact companies who have already paid
for an enhanced listing (you should be able to get their
contact details from their enhanced listing!) and ask them
if it has resulted in more business. It is better to look
at companies in your own sector to get a clearer
understanding of what is happening. People may use the
directories for builders or financial advisers but not for
engineering or consultancy.
Ask the directory owners for
information on the number of visitors to the site each day,
the number of searches done on the site each day and how
many registered users they have? What methods are they
using to promote the site online and offline? This is called
a press pack in the industry and is normal for any
advertising media; you need to ask for it and study it
carefully when it arrives. There should be evidence that
the statistics provided are carried out by an independent
third party in order to demonstrate unbiased claims. ABCE
are the official body and are a subsidiary of the Audit
Bureau of Circulation (ABC) they set the standards!
As well as comparing visitor numbers
and other figures, compare the prices charged for the
enhanced listing with other directories. Which one is
likely to give the best bang for your buck?
Does the directory require users to
login to access the database? Many do this in order to
collect email addresses which are then valuable for
marketing purposes or can be a valuable asset if sold on to
third parties. Not only does this present a barrier to
users, it also causes problems with search engines. Robots
that create the listings are not going to be able to access
the data and only those who are registered will see your
These simple checks will allow you to
make a far more informed judgment on where you should
consider spending your advertising budget. Do the checks
and if you decide to pay for an enhanced listing then you
know you are spending your budget wisely.