by Jo Shaer, on October 7, 2011
It was another local listing directory trying to persuade me to take out a paid enhanced premium listing on their online service.
"Yes," she said. "For just £99 per year, you could have an enhanced listing in the top four of over 1372 other web designers and developers in both Essex and Leigh-on-Sea and take advantage of the over 8000 searches we have every month for that search term and another nine categories. For internet services we have 6/7000 searches per month. You can also have a gallery, map and reviews. We will also offer you a premium listing in our sister directory, who are sometimes have even more searches than us. And better still, your own Facebook Page which is automatically updated every time you make a change to your directory listing with us."
She showed me an example which was very average to say the least - to someone who has seen some particularly swish looking designs over the last few weeks.
And that's when I decided to see how much she really understood about the process.
Using Local Search
I typed into Google 'Web Design Essex'. Neither her company nor the other one she had mentioned were showing on the front page and I drew this to her attention.
This was met with the prompt rebuttal that she would never imply that an enhanced listing could get my business onto the first page of Google. I responded that this was not what I meant.
"If you're not on Google's front page for that search term, then how are any potential customers for that service who are doing a local search going to be able to click through to my listing?"
Again, I was told that her company would never guarantee a front page listing on any search engine. Apparently, customers use their service direct and their mobile app is recommended by Apple and was downloaded over 25,000 times in its first week after launch. But, unlike another of its competitors, it's not a default app so it has to be physically downloaded... and that means the potential customer needs to know about the service in the first place.
I don't know about you ,but when I search for a local business, I type the name of the service I require, like 'plumber in southend' and click on either a Google Places listing or one of the organic listings, thus going to the business direct. I very rarely would click on one of the directories - unless they were dominating the front page and there were no real businesses listed.
These people ring up regularly and try to flog me listings for hundreds of pounds but, if you have a website, it is possible to optimise it so that you can outrank all these directories and be on the front page as yourself, not as a sub-section of someone else.
If you do decide to purchase a listing, you should first do a local search of your own. 'Google' what you think a potential customer would type into a search engine and see if that listing directory is actually showing on the first search engine results page for that phrase.
If it's not, how is anyone going to find you?
I have had two clients recount their experiences of paid listing - one did not have one call during the year he was with them and they used a tracking number, thus interfering with any juice he might have got from his Google NAP. And the other had 50 visitors to his website in five months - compared with almost 3,000 from organic search engine traffic from his keyword strategy.
But I am curious to know who it is that does use the listing directories, please leave me a comment if you ever search them to locate a reliable local business or if you are a business who has had success through this type of strategy.