Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Categorisation of online directories

A thought on websites and marketing. Most companies have their own websites. Many companies strive to increase visitors to their websites using search engine optimisation techniques, search engine adwords and online adverts. There are, amazingly, still a few businesses that are under the misapprehension that having a website and putting the address on their business cards will be enough to bring them sales enquiries.

Sensible use of directory sites can be a useful technique to drive traffic to your website and generate sales enquiries for your business. Some directories will achieve this and some will not. A good directorty will achieve much more, by positioning your business and adding to your credibility and enhancing your brand, but be warned, some directories will do the reverse - they might damage your reputation.

We have made some generalisations below that attempt to categorise online directories. We would be interested in your thoughts on this subject.

1. National sites with free/cheap listings whose main objective is to drive web traffic to banner adverts rather than actually provide the info you searched. They can be frustrating when you are looking for information because they frequently seem to offer false promises and dead ends. When composing this article we searched cafes in Belper and one of these sites offered us 1 -10 of 1635 coffee shops in Belper. How many? We clicked and were offered coffee shops as far afield as Sheffield.  We say, don't pay to advertise on this type of site.

2. National, recognised brands that used to be primarily paper-based do at least provide the type of contact details they promised in the search results; useful if all you need is an address or telephone number. If you are doing online window-shopping looking for a reputable local supplier the results of this search don’t actually provide sufficient information to make an informed choice. This is a pity because being listed on such a site takes a large chunk of a company’s advertising budget. We say, there are other ways of using this budget to attract traffic and give them the information and the motivation to make an informed choice.

3. Local sites set up by well-meaning individuals. They can sound great in concept because they are often really cheap. Trouble is they rarely have sufficient budget or technical back up to actually drive meaningful web traffic to your business. Some of these sites will imply you'll be front page of Google -  they rarely explain that will be via Adwords for approximate 5 mins at 6am!  Don't be fooled, they probably don't mean you'll be top of Google in the organic listings.

4. Official directories for your industry sector or established ones in your niche market. These industry sector directories, particularly those offered by professional bodies, are really useful to prove your credentials or support your ethos. Similarly there are often a number of sites aimed at each niche, such as eco-tourism sites, parenting sites etc. In many cases we would recommend that businesses prepare suitable entries on these specific directory sites.

To maximise the effectiveness of your directory entry, cross reference your listings to other aspects of your marketing, e.g using the logo of the professional body on your stationery or the link to your eco-tourism directory entry in your email signatures.

Now ask yourself this question.  Do you have any niggling doubts about the quality of your web site? The thing is, interested people are being sent to your web site by most directory sites, and if this traffic bounces (leaves again without contacting you) it may be time to review your site. Sometimes the smallest change can make the biggest difference, but that is another subject for another day.

Please contact us if you would like additional support with any aspect of your online marketing.

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