Sunday, February 8, 2015

Directory Site Listings: A Recent Trend in Google for Services (Ignore at Your Own Risk!)

I spend a lot of time online paying attention to things people search, but I spend even more time checking out things that are ranking on Google.

NOTE: At the time I’m writing this, more people use Google to search than any other search engine, and #2 isn’t even close.  So I only really pay attention to Google.

I’m noticing a new trend.  When I use Google to search for services, I’m noticing a new business model.  Well, actually it’s an old business model with a modernized approach.

What is that trend?

Directory sites!

The Yellow Pages have been around forever, it seems.  That statement probably tells you that I am not 19-years-old, but for anyone over 35, we don’t think of “YP.”  We think of the Yellow Pages as this big directory book of businesses.  According to Wikipedia, they started in 1883.  It was a tremendous concept.  It’s the one place we welcomed ads, because as consumers, we were going there SPECIFICALLY to look for places that were selling what we wanted.

Companies begrudgingly knew it made sense to pay to be listed in that book.

What does that have to do with today’s trends and Google?

Today, we have directory SITES (instead of directory books) online.

There seem to be several types, though.

1. Basic Yellow Pages Model taken online
2. Yellow Pages Model taken online-Web 2.0 Style
3. Niche-Specific Directory Sites

Let’s take a closer look at each of these, because Google certainly is.

1. Basic Yellow Pages Model taken online


Chamber of Commerce Listings: Waterford Chamber of Commerce-List of Members
Industry or Trade Service Listings: Professional Service Association-Useful Links

Strategy: What are they?
These are the simplest version of the books.  These are just lists.

These list your actual phone number and contact information.

The idea behind these is that—much like the Yellow Pages book—people might keep returning to our website, because our sites “makes it so convenient” for people to find the companies they need.

This is not a bad idea, but it’s a bit outdated.  For an individual site, it’s probably not a bad idea, but it probably won’t help you rank much higher within Google searches.

How Google seems to rank these
Google does not seem to value these all that much, anymore.  These are pretty much outdated, but they still exist in droves.

2. Yellow Pages Model taken online-Web 2.0 Style


Strategy: What are they?
Yes, these sites are lists of businesses, but that’s only the beginning with these.

Unless you provided something different (for say tracking), these modern directory sites list your real phone number and contact information…a good thing.

Reviews: One major difference between these sites and the above-mentioned directory listings are that people (presumably customers) can leave and read reviews.  We really like that we can not only see information that the business wants us to see, but we can see opinions that other people left.
Web 2.0 Features: On these sites, not only can we check out the reviews of companies, but we can check out the reviews that customers left…for other places.  Not only that, but we can even “connect” with people we know so that reviews THEY made become more visible to us more quickly.

It’s a brilliant engaging way to bring the referral concept online.  It’s no longer “just a list.”

NOTE: Yelp has its issues, and almost every business owner understands those downsides, but overall, it’s a really great service.

How Google seems to rank these
Google does not usually rank the ENTIRE directory sites. Instead, Google seems to rank SPECIFIC COMPANY LISTINGS within search results.

For instance, if someone typed into Google: “plumber anytown michigan” (without the quotes)

Google might return a list of different companies, and many times, Google actually lists the individual company’s directory listing ahead of the company’s actual website.  It’s frustrating for many business owners, but it’s mostly a good thing for searchers and consumers.  People who don’t know our businesses are more likely to trust something from a site like Yelp more than

So if you’re a business owner, spend time paying attention to these, especially if they rank higher than your website (which means most people will be introduced to your company via these directory sites).

3. Niche-Specific Directory Sites


Strategy: What are they?
These are pretty similar to standard lists, but they take on a “specialty angle.”

For instance, if you want a list of restaurants in your area, visit UrbanSpoon.

Some of these sites are really helpful, but several only pretend to be helpful.

Some of these sites offer people a chance to leave comments, but not all of these types of directory listing sites do.  Simply being a list isn’t a bad thing, though.  So even if there aren’t any comments about the businesses listed, these still are helpful.

Some sites, like UrbanSpoon, make it really easy to find the actual phone number.

However, some of these types of directory sites either make it hard to find the real phone number (needing to click several different things before you get the actual phone number) or outright use a different phone number.

That’s right!  If you grab the phone number to one of these sites, it might not even be the right number.

Sometimes, it’s a tracking number that forwards to the customer.  (This is irritating but okay.)

Other times, it’s not a phone number at all.  When you click on the “phone number,” you simply are taken to another site that asks for your information to gather quotes.

How Google seems to rank these
Sometimes, Google lists an individual’s specific listings, but what is becoming more common is that Google will list the directory site of the entire geographical region.

For instance, if you type into Google: “assisted living anytown mi” (without the quotes)

You are likely to get link to A Place for Mom directory site (or one of its competitors) that shows a list of different assisted living facilities within the “anytown area.”

When these niche-specific directory sites are done right, Google is doing the right thing by listing this.  However, when they are predatory, Google is aiding these directory sites that are simply hijacking Google, not helping improve its quality.

Still, it probably makes sense to ensure that your business is listed on these sites, especially if they rank well on Google.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  (If these guys are ahead of you today, they'll probably be there tomorrow, too.)

I don’t think this trend of listing directory sites (Types 2 and 3) is going to change for a while.  For the most part, it makes the Google search world a better place, but it’s important to know the role they provide—both good and bad.

Are your sites listed?

If you need help with this, my company specializes in helping businesses get listed wherever its customers are looking.  Believe me, even if you don’t use my company, make sure that you’re listed on these directory sites.  They’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.

You might as well be there, too!

People are looking for you, but are you there?

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