I want your opinion.
What I want to know is whether you’ve ever submitted your website to online business directories.
But, more than that, I want to know whether it was worth the bother.
The reason I ask is this: Some people claim they get worthwhile results from them, while others reckon they’re a complete and utter waste of time.
Now I’ve given a few a try. Some were general everyday business listings, some were paid submission and others were niche directories specifically for freelances and copywriters.
Yet I can’t say that any of them have really done that much for me.
But does that mean to say that online business directories are just a loser’s game?
Well, not necessarily.
So before you make up your own mind, let’s at least take a closer look at some of the benefits that online directory listings may have to offer:
They Get You Your First Few Backlinks Fast
When your website first goes live, it is an island – no links in, no links out and little or no way for potential visitors to find you.
So what you want to do is get your website hard-wired into the net as quickly as possible.
With most online directories, especially the free ones, you can hardly expect the highest quality backlinks. But when you’re first starting out beggars can’t be choosers. So, for what it’s worth, you may as well get a few nice and easy SEO points under your belt.
They Show Up Well in Local Searches
The competition for general keywords, such as copywriter or freelance writer, is far too strong for all but the big boys.
So you should identify a niche area of your service where, by nature, the competition is much lower. Because you have a far better chance of standing out in specialist search queries.
The most obvious place to start is to target local search.
This is often where online business directories can give you a real leg up right at the start.
To see what I mean, take a look at the following screenshot of an experimental search query I made a couple of weeks after my own website went live last October:
What I found was that, although my website immediately ranked well in Google.co.uk for some of my target keywords, my site was nowhere to be seen in local searches – even when I performed highly specific keyword queries such as website copywriter stafford above.
Yet, as you can see, two online directory listings – which I’d set up just a matter of days before – were already showing up prominently in local queries.
In other words, don’t discount directory listings if your website is fairly new, because in the early stages many of them will outrank your own site in local search.
They’re a Quick and Easy Solution for Small Local Clients
If, like me, you’re a freelance copywriter then you’ve probably worked with many small local businesses in your time.
But often the problem working with small clients is that they can barely afford someone to write and optimise their website content, let alone pay for an ongoing SEO campaign.
What’s more, they simply don’t have the time or wherewithal to do it themselves.
Yet all is not lost.
Competition in local search isn’t generally that tough and few competitors tend to know much about SEO either. So getting listed in a few local and general business directories could be as much as they’ll ever need.
And because it’s fairly quick and easy, it’s something clients are usually happy to do for themselves.
But there’s one more thing also worth remembering …
One size doesn’t fit all
If you were looking for a copywriter then, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t look in an online directory to find one. But if you were looking for a local florist, second-hand car dealer or gas fitter then you probably wouldn’t think twice about it.
In other words, online directories may be load of old pants for some types of business but still the perfect place to advertise for others.
Have Your Say
Despite having submitted to web directories myself, I’m not 100% convinced by them. That’s why I’d love to hear from you.
So have you tried listing your own website? Was it worth your while? Share your experiences in the comment section below.
In our next post: We’ll be looking at two crafty conversion tricks, inspired by eCommerce, that you can use on your website.
About the Author
Kevin Carlton is an IT copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of freelance copywriting service Write Online, which helps technology companies get the most out of their online presence.
Interesting thoughts, Kevin. I haven’t joined sites like DMOZ.org in years because I didn’t like their terms of service. They were often vague about copyright issues and such. I didn’t need that headache.
That said, a lot of them have become much clearer on their terms and are probably OK to submit to now. I recently discovered guest posts and I much prefer backlinks from those sites. Just my thoughts. :)
Thanks so much for your input Savannah. You’ve hit the nail bang on the head about guest posting.
Although I haven’t yet started doing this myself, I’d much rather have links from these any day – not just for the SEO, but for the opportunity to get exposure and mix it up more with other like-minded people.
Nevertheless, I still occasionally work with clients where guest posting isn’t a feasible option. So I’d still be interested to know what experiences others have had using web directories as a link-building option.
Curious to find out the answer to this as well; a little while ago I actually did some directory posting for a client who SAID it worked but it was completely soul-sucking to do.
Honestly, my gut feeling is that if you limit it to the main directories that should be sufficient combined with guest posting and link exchanges within your industry.
Heather, I can just imagine how tedious it must’ve been setting up all those directory listings. But the important thing is that it got results, whether through improved SEO, leads and enquiries or both.
Although web directories clearly aren’t as important as they used to be, I too suspect that they’re still a perfectly legitimate part of the link-building mix.
However, like you, I’m curious to know what other people have found – as a way to gauge what their true value is these days.
For local businesses, I use a large variety of directories (but not crappy, spammy ones) because directories seem to go in and out of style. One of my clients used to get a lot of calls from Merchant Circle and Hot Frog. Now he gets no calls from those but gets a lot of calls from Yelp. So we have him listed on a wide variety of directories. If you want phone calls, it doesn’t matter if the referral came through your website or a local directory. A customer is a customer.
For local businesses, those directory listings are also important for building citations (mentions of your business even if there isn’t a link to your site). Those citations affect not only how your website shows up in the SERPs, but also how your Google Maps listing ranks.
The number of directories you list your business or client’s business in depends on the type of business, too. Consulting businesses have a different search audience than local service-area businesses (SABs) like plumbing and locksmith shops. I think local directories are extremely important for SABs. An SAB with a strong directory presence and a #1-#3 rank on Google Maps doesn’t even need a website to show up on the first page of Google and get enough phone calls to stay busy.
Sue, your comment is exactly the response I was hoping for. Your experiences with clients sum up perfectly what my own gut feelings are towards local directories.
I find it interesting that you should mention locksmith shops in your example of local service-area business. This is because I recently rewrote the content for a local locksmith’s website.
His web designer was trying to get him to have a content management system, so that he could blog for his SEO.
Now this client was great, but he didn’t even know what a blog or CMS was, let alone know how to write one or afford someone else to do it.
So I suggested that he instead keep it simple and focus on getting himself listed on local directories and Google+.
I really must call him and find out how he got on.
Directory listings have not all their importance since there are certain products or industries whose SEO is dependent on directory listing, such as the ones relating to the industrial products. At the same time, their importance shall not be over-emphasized and the usage shall be restricted only to the top sites.
There is also a need to adopt a multi-pronged SEO strategy for getting links from diverse sources slowly and steadily.
Wow, it’s been probably over four years since I submitted all of my sites URL’s to the directories so if I were to do it all over again today that might be a whole other story.
I would hope that they would help with backlinks to your site although we all know that one or two here aren’t going to be the end all to what’s needed.
Due to your test though they do work with helping to get you listed at least so if I were to start fresh today I would probably still do the same thing.
Thanks for sharing this because this is a really good question I’m sure a lot of people have.
It’s interesting that you say that if you were to start all over again you’d still probably do the same thing.
Getting visibility in search, whether directly or through online directories, is a great source of encouragement when your site has only just gone live.
So if I were to roll back the clock 8 or 9 months I reckon I’d still do the online directory thing too.
Going by the responses here, and on social media where I’ve posted the same question, the consensus is very much that online directories still have a role to play.
Oh, and by the way, thanks so much for dropping by.
I do it for local businesses. Like others have said, it helps with citations. But, if you pick good ones, you also get traffic from that.
Not a lot of traffic from each, but useful nonetheless, people in the mood to buy what the local business is selling.
Being listed on a directory related to weddings can get a sale or two a month to a company that imprints things, like cups and napkins…
Too true, Dusan. Getting listed on directories may be quite a small thing, but doing lots of small things like this can soon add up.
A few minutes’ getting your name out there might not get you results straight away, but may well come back and repay you at a later date – especially if you’re a small local business.
I think Penguin was painful and eye-opening for everyone. When it comes to search engine visibility shortcuts always come back to bite you, but If you build links organically from quality relevant sites, then you need not worry about future Google updates.
It’s harder and it takes longer but it is the only safe guaranteed way.
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Mitch, your comment underlines the very reason I wrote this post in the first place.
Getting listed in an online directory is probably the simplest way to get a backlink to your site. So, in a way, it’s pretty hard to see how increasingly sophisticated search engines would value them.
But, on the other hand, showing up in a highly targeted specialist directory for a specific industry or profession is surely a strong indicator of relevancy.
Then there’s the fact that certain types of business still get enquiries directly from them. And so it doesn’t really matter whether they help with SEO or not.