Back in the early days of the Internet, businesses put up websites left and right. Because search engines weren't as fast or effective as they are now, online directories appeared as an organizing structure that helped point users in the right direction quickly.
But now that technology has improved, are online directories still important? And do they have any impact on small business SEO? Here's what a few experts have to say.
How Online Directories Improve Your Small Business SEO
Sam Binks, digital marketing manager for TeamSnap (@teamsnap), says online directories "can be hugely important for local SEO." In fact, he believes they have a bigger impact on startups because early-stage businesses typically have fewer, if any, backlinks. (Learn more about how backlinks help improve your website's visibility in "SEM & SEO: I Can Tell that We Are Going to Be Friends.")
Binks says submitting to a range of quality and relevant directories is a cheap and effective way to:
- Get pages indexed faster in search engines.
- Get referral traffic from people who are interested.
- Improve positioning in local listings.
Ultimately, he says submitting your site to online directories is "an excellent and valuable practice for new businesses."
Pro tip: President of GMR Web Team (@GMRWebTeam ) Ajay Prasad says submitting to directories is "a fairly simple process." All you have to do is locate a site and determine if your business is already listed. If it is, you can claim it. If not, you can create a post from scratch.
Either way, Prasad advises small-business owners to make sure the information they submit to the directory matches what's on the business's website.
"Google crawls these sites regularly, and if it finds consistency in your listing information and your website, the SEO benefits are tremendous," he notes.
"A business needs to only submit to directories that are relevant and useful or risk the Google robots detecting the business is trying to 'game the system,'" she says.
How to Pick an Online Directory that Helps Your Local SEO
"Stay away from websites that just list hundreds of websites in all different niches and markets," she says. "Those have no value and in fact can hurt SEO efforts in the long run."
Caren recommends listing your site with:
- Local business directories.
- Well-known directories, such as Yellow Pages and DMOZ.
- Industry-related directories.
When you're looking for industry-related directories, Caren suggests using a Google search operator. These are words you can add to your search query to narrow your results. For example, typing "allintitle: insurance directory" will only show results with the words "insurance directory" in the title. Check out Google Guide for more.
Pro tip: "Google values your site in terms of neighborhoods, and if all of the links pointing to your website come from spammy directories or web 2.0 sites, you may get penalized," says SEO specialist and copywriter Adam Gingery (@AdamGingery1) of DMi Partners (@DMi_Partners). Before you submit to any online directory, he suggests asking…
- Does it pass the eye test? Does it look spammy?
- What are the other businesses listed on the directory? Are the URLs legitimate and reputable? In short, does submitting put you in good company?
- Do you have to pay to apply? If so, what is the fee for? Verify that the company is legitimate.
Finally, Gingerly says, "Don't rely on directories for all of your links. You need links from stronger sites as well."
Getting your website to perform well in local SEO is a big undertaking. See how you can split that one goal into daily, weekly, and monthly assignments in "14 Tasks to Keep Your Business Website Ranking."
About the Contributors
Sam Binks is the digital marketing manager at TeamSnap. He's responsible for growing the subscriber base through digital channels such as email, search engine optimization, and website marketing. A keen growth hacker and data hound, technical analysis, optimization, and testing are his specialties!
Jill Caren is top dog at 2 Dogs Media living a life immersed in Wordpress, SEO, and nonprofit technology. She enjoys helping businesses and nonprofits with their online presence from design to SEO / SEM strategy.
Adam Gingery is the copywriter and SEO specialist at DMi Partners in Philadelphia and cofounder / writer for Backstage Podcast. He manages PPC campaigns, writes ad copy, and handles SEO through content production and link building. Follow Gingery on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Jennifer Goodwin is the owner and founder of www.internetgirlfriday.com, an award-winning Internet marketing agency that helps veterans and small businesses launch their ideas online.
Ajay Prasad, formerly a marketer for a few Fortune 10 companies, now owns GMR Web Team, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses maximize revenue from the Internet and operates a seven-figure web-based business GMR Transcription, which he built from scratch and grew by using strategies that he now uses for his digital marketing clients. He has also recently launched an online reputation management software known as RepuGen, which helps businesses obtain positive online reviews.