We’ve written about online directories in the past:

http://www.a1webstats.com/2014/03/20/find-needle-good/

http://www.a1webstats.com/2013/09/18/is-applegate-any-good/

For some businesses, it’s an advantage to be listed within online directories but for the majority (from what we see in the data we accumulate), it’s a relatively pointless exercise.  If you’re paying to be listed within an online directory, or are considering it, the following should be useful …

Analyse the visitor numbers and enquiries

Depending on the website analytics system you use, you may be able to see which online directories send traffic to your website.  Within A1WebStats you can see those from the Referrers function.

The example below shows the number of visitors who have been to a subscribers website from a directory within a month:

online-directory-referrer-1

That example shows that one person clicked through from that directory to the subscribers website (in that month).  If that person then went on to become an enquiry then that’d be great, but it’s unlikely.  If 10 people came in from that directory website during the month then there’s an increased likelihood that contact would have been made.

 

Letting the penny drop

If you set yourself a task, just once a month, to look at which online directories referred visitors to you in the previous month, then you’d likely be disappointed to see the relatively low numbers.  Worse than that, if you then calculated that none or few of those became enquiries/business, then you’d be wondering what you spent your money on.

 

Why aren’t there more visitors from online directories?

The answer to this is simple: Google hates them, which means they’re not very visible.

Here’s a test you can do:

  1. Note down a few keyword phrases that you think are relevant to your industry, and that people may type into Google.
  2. Type those phrases into Google and look at the search results.
  3. Observe how few online directory sites appear in the Google results.

Historically, the online directories have used optimisation methods that may have been acceptable at the time, but they’re not now.  Many of those directories are using numerous methods to ‘clean up their act’ but they’re very misguided because Google knows exactly who they are and there’s no reason for Google to allow those directories to have a strong presence in the organic search results.

The other reason is that Google makes no money from allowing online directories to dominate search results.  This makes those directories impotent and therefore not attractive to be paying for listings on them.  Google wants those potential directory advertisers to spend money on PPC instead.

 

It’s the results that count

What counts are results (from any form of advertising).

Online directories are very good at trying to convince their potential advertisers that there are plenty of reasons to pay for a listing.   A few of those directories do genuinely want to help their advertisers but most of them just want to get an advertiser to pay for another year, helping them to survive a bit longer.

To determine whether you’re getting results from online directory listings, we recommend the following (this uses A1WebStats functionality but may be possible in other systems):

  1. Identify how many website visitors you get each month (from each online directory).
  2. Follow the path of each of those visitors, showing which page(s) of your website they went to.
  3. Try and link back any enquiries gained to their original source (just in case the source was an online directory).
  4. Come up with a number each month, showing how many of your enquiries originated from an online directory listing.

If you do this and come up with any good results, then please do let us know.  It’s easy for us to be negative about this (although we are basing these insights into huge levels of data from within our subscriber accounts), but we’re open to anyone proving that they have benefited substantially from such online directories.

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