If you’ve ever searched for a service or product online, you might have come across various business directories full of companies to compare against each other. But are they useful to your brand and should they be part of your company’s marketing strategy? Find out the pros and cons for using them to build your business’s reputation online.
The marketing pros
Improve your chances of being found: By being in more areas online, you are increasing the opportunity to be discovered by potential customers and also improving your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), which will lead more people to your website. You’ll also have the benefit of having backlinks from more sites online, which again is great for boosting SEO (although see our health warning about this below at the top of our list of cons).
Let’s people find out if you’re any good: A lot of people like to see reviews and ratings from previous customers before deciding to buy a product or service as it gives some credibility to what you say about yourself. If you’re getting good reviews, more people are likely to choose your company over others. Some directories also enable customers to search by star ratings, so if you do a good job and get good reviews, your business could be at the top of relevant listings.
Great for online location searches: Online business directories can be a cost-effective way of boosting your chances of being found in relevant online, location-specific searches. Trying to rise to the top of Google rankings can be expensive in competitive sectors where your rivals are spending a lot on SEO. Online business directories are likely to have more online clout than your business’s website (they’re bigger, have a larger number of relevant pages for the kinds of searches your potential customers are carrying out, and – if they are established – have already established their credibility with the search engines). You may find it hard to get to the top of ‘dog grooming Kent’ or even ‘dog grooming Tunbridge Wells’ through your own website; but your listing in a reputable online directory could be one of the first results someone sees. As an example, think of how many searches you do online and the first few results are all eBay shops; none of those sellers would feature on page one of your search with their own websites, but the muscle of eBay catapults them to the top – driving customers to their products.
The marketing cons
Depends on the directory: Unfortunately, over the years Google has realised that these directories have been cheating the system by boosting their SEO through the spamming of backlinks. To counter this, Google now penalises companies who are found on certain directories, so make sure to do your research and only join those that are reputable. Positive indicators are a vetting process (they don’t accept anyone) and reputation: if you have heard of them and know other businesses that list themselves within the directory, that’s a good sign. It’s an even better sign if they get leads from their listing, as this tells you that you are likely to get return on your marketing investment.
Pay to win: Business directories are businesses themselves. Some of them charge for all listings; others, like sites such as Google and Facebook, boost the listings of those who pay for ads or a higher spot in their lists. You need to weigh up the costs and potential benefits of your listings within your overall marketing strategy and budget.
Comparing costs: Different directories charge in different ways: some charge for a listing, others charge for leads. You need to trawl through the T&C to understand the real costs, and weigh these up against each other to help you decide where to list your business.
You aren’t always in control: Whereas on your website you can publish only the nicest things customers have said about your business, you can’t control the reviews on business directories. If you get someone who has it out for you, it could be damaging to your brand.
There are various ways you can use directories to your advantage, especially to boost your presence online, just make sure you’ve done your research on them before.