What exactly are business directories, how do you join them, and how can they help your business? It’s a common myth that listing your business on an online directory is the equivalent of how people currently treat the printed Yellow Pages now: a useless document that serves best as a doorstop or under the leg of a wobbly table. But listing your business in a directory can actually help you in a much better way- by increasing your online visibility in searches.
What Is A Business Directory?
According to Wikipedia, it’s a “directory on the World Wide Web. It specializes in linking to other web sites and categorizing those links.” It’s not a search engine and won’t display business listings based on keywords, so it’s not something that can be optimized with selected usage and placement of words. Web directory entries, as opposed to other sites, aren’t found by web crawlers but instead by actual people.They’re categorized based on the entire site instead of a page with some keywords.There are different types of business directories. Some have free submission, where you submit your link for no cost. Others have a reciprocal link where if they link to you, they want you to link back to them. This includes putting a link on your site entitled “Find us on X Directory.” Some require paid submission. Others are affiliate links, where the directory makes money by charging commission for business referrals.
There are also Bid for Position directories, which work a little differently. You pay to include your link on these directories. The higher your bid, the higher up in the list your website will go. These can bring valuable traffic, but at the same time they can be more expensive than free or reciprocal business directories. Decide how much money is available for joining directories before you start.
Business directories don’t, by themselves, provide huge amounts of traffic. The most valuable thing they provide are inbound links that can help increase your visibility. By linking their site to yours, search engines increase your rankings through organic searches. Some business directory services are replicated, so getting listed on a site like DMOZ (Open Directory Project) can lead to two or three hundred inbound links by copied services. This can give your site a real boost when it comes to rankings.
How Do You Join Business Directories?
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy as it sounds. With most business directory services, only about 20% of submitted sites are included. You have to know exactly what the editors of these sites are looking for. If they sense that your site is subpar or unstable, they won’t include you in the directory. Get a sense of what each site is looking for, as there are unique business directory services out there.The first thing you need to do is read the submission guidelines. They’re typically listed at the bottom and will tell you what information is needed. If you don’t follow these guidelines, they won’t accept you. Many business directories have different requirements and criteria for submissions, so make sure your piece is unique for each of them. You wouldn’t send the same resume to two different types of jobs, would you? It’s similar to joining business directories: you have to submit exactly what they’re looking for.
There are several necessary steps to getting your business listed. The first is to ensure that you have fresh, smart, engaging, and relevant content. Actual human editors will be looking at this, so make it good. If you’re running a car wash in Washington, D.C., you don’t just want a paragraph about how great your wash service is and few blurry pictures of the White House. Business directory services are looking for actual content, and they won’t accept something like that. You need to have a well-written and highly organized site with actual unique content. If you don’t have good content, there’s no reason for the service to link to you at all.
You also want to make sure your site is stable. If it crashes frequently, is hosted by an unreliable server, or is simply under construction, you won’t get listed at all. Likewise, if you’re on a directory and your site keeps crashing, they’ll remove your listing. In order to get listed and stay listed, you need a site that works reliably. Check to make sure you don’t have any broken links, either. If an editor clicks on your site’s link to an expired page, they will regard your page as unsteady and untrustworthy. Ensure that all links work and that your site is up constantly.
Business directory services can be accessed from all types of browsers and mobile devices, so ensure that your site works on all these. Check daily to make sure that your site works on all browsers and PDAs. At the very minimum, it needs to work on Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and Google Chrome. Ideally, it should work with Mac and Linux based browsers as well, such as Safari and Konqueror. The site should also be accessible by mobile, which is the next great trend in Internet searches; as more people access the Web through smartphones and tablets, companies are increasingly building up their mobile site capabilities. Don’t be left behind on the trend.
Lastly, make sure you have an engaging and accurate site description. Editors are especially tough on this one. Don’t include sales talk in here. Instead of writing that you have the “best car wash in D.C.,” provide an accurate representation of your business. A good example of a site description would be “Interior and exterior car wash and detailing services.” If editors catch wind of any hype, they won’t accept your submission.
Should I Apply To Multiple Business Directory Services?
Absolutely, yes. But don’t submit your business under multiple categories, because editors usually don’t agree with it and will not accept your submission. If your car wash in Washington, D.C. is submitted, pick just one category and stick with it. If it falls into two different categories, such as “Car Detailing” and “Car Wash Services,” pick one or the other.The exception to this rule is regional categories. Your business can be submitted under “Anacostia Businesses” (it’s an area of D.C., for anyone unfamiliar with the city) and “Car Wash Services.” You can have your company listed for both and editors are totally okay with this. After all, they’re trying to provide an accurate listing for their directory.
It can be tedious and time-consuming to apply to multiple business directories. One time-saving trick is to prepare little snippets of relevant text before submitting. You can cut and paste them into the submissions instead of tediously writing your address, phone number, and site description over and over again.
Which Business Directories Should I Submit To?
There are a number of business directories that can help you generate inbound links. DMOZ is the major one out there. It’s the Open Directory Project, an enormous directory edited daily by actual humans and not web crawlers. Because it’s human-edited, it can take up to six months for submissions to be accepted. It’s well worth it; not only is it free to submit, but it’s reproduced all over the Internet. Submitting to DMOZ can result in hundreds of new inbound links, drastically increasing your web visibility.Yahoo is another one. While there’s a fee to be listed, it can generate many links- although arguably not as many as DMOZ. While you’re waiting for your DMOZ submission to be accepted, it never hurts to diversify into additional business directories.
LookSmart and Zeal are two others that are also worth a shot. LookSmart is a pay-per-click site, meaning that you pay a small amount if customers click on your site. Zeal is a free directory that feeds into LookSmart, but often doesn’t accept commercial businesses. If you’re running a nonprofit or other foundation, Zeal would be a good place to get into LookSmart without paying the pay-per-click fee.
GoGuides and JoeAnt are two more directories that sprung up from the ashes of Go.com, which was an earlier web business directory. They cost money if you want to submit, but it can be worth the price. Occasionally they have deals or free periods where the price is waived. Check frequently for these occasions, as it’s definitely worth it to have your site listed for free.
Yet another one is Gimpsy, which offers two services: paid listings and free. However, it takes about four months to get on the free site. If you’re quickly trying to drive traffic to the site, you may want to consider the express paid option. If you’re looking to save money or have some time on your hands, you can always wait those few months for your listing to be accepted free of charge.
Lastly, there’s BlueFind, the newcomer to the business directory services world.
It’s young, but growing very quickly. The great thing about BlueFind is that it’s pretty inexpensive and it’s very fast. Your submission will get rapidly processed for a small fee. This is a good deal for anyone who wants to bump up their search engine rankings quickly by spending only a small amount of money.
Why Should I Submit to Niche Directories?
There are thousands of web directories out there besides the ones mentioned above. Many of them are smaller niche directories which specialize in one field or another. These fields can include everything from travel to sports to law. While they’re not as big as the major directories like DMOZ and Yahoo, it’s still important to submit to them and get listed.The reason you should consider niche directories is that while they may not give you the sheer amount of inbound links that DMOZ does, they will still give you a valuable on-topic back link. Google’s web crawlers will value these pretty highly, since they’re specific inbound links that focus on a relevant topic. Remember, searches are built on relevance: Google and Yahoo want to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, specific content that they can. If they notice that your car wash site is listed in directories pertaining to car detailing and automotive services, those links count higher in the algorithm to determine search engine ranking.
So How Do I Get Started?
You’ve got a choice when submitting to business directories. You can either take the time to do it, or you can outsource it. Typically it’s best to get advice from a company that specializes in directory submission, especially if you’re a first-timer. There are a number of companies that can easily submit to the directories for you, so that you can focus on the actual business itself.
How Will Business Directories Help Increase My Overall Revenue?
The concept of business directory services can be a little strange to anyone who grew up before the Internet. Back in the day, people flipped through the Yellow Pages to find a local plumber or dog sitting service. But with the advent of the Internet, search engines became the new Yellow Pages. Instead of one site listing all the local car wash services in the city, you now just type “car wash D.C.” into Google and pull up the listings.Business directory services aren’t valuable for their ability to point customers in a certain direction. Search engines do that now. But what they can provide are valuable inbound links, also known as web citations, which can increase your visibility when customers search on Google or Yahoo. It’s a little complicated for small business owners who used to just spend a little extra money on their Yellow Pages ad to make it bigger than their competitors’.
While submitting to business directories in order to increase visibility may be a new step for some companies, it’s definitely worth it. Your business will pop up higher on the list and attract more potential customers. In this digital age, it’s a necessity that you can’t afford to miss out on.