Introduction from Hike –This is a featured article from Adzooma’s Marketing Product Expert Danielle Strouther, whose marketing insights has been featured on Search Engine Journal, PPC Hero, Techopedia & more.

So without further ado, enjoy this post…

Yes, it’s 2020 and I’m writing an article about online directories. Although at first glance this may seem like an old school tactic that has been and gone, there’s a lot more to the story.  

SEO can be challenging to master. Because search engines like Google keep their algorithm close to their chest, with some aspects left to testing and educated guesswork (or bothering Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller on Twitter). 

This means that not every SEO tip you hear is set in stone as a rule. Yet, to be safe a lot of people will follow the crowd, missing out on opportunities that could help grow their business. 

The truth is directories are still alive and underutilised. This guide will show you why they should be on your radar, how they can help your business and how to spot red flags you’ll need to avoid. 

Let’s get started. 

What are online directories? 

Okay, first up, let’s clarify what we mean by an online directory. 

Directories are a list of businesses or websites. They’re basically like an online version of the Yellow Pages, where users can find the business that offers the particular service they need. 

Most successful directories cover a certain niche or industry, such as trade, transport, travel or entertainment. Some directories will just cover a certain town or area, helping people find local businesses to support.

Why do directories get a bad SEO rep?

In the early days of the internet, before search engines were invented, directories were essential for helping people get to the websites they needed to. Rather than remember exactly what they needed, they could just go to one directly and browse from the popular sites listed. 

Popular directories included: 

  1. Yahoo! Directory
  2. DMOZ (also known as Open Directory Project) 
  3. World Wide Web Virtual Library (VLIB) 
  4. Internet Public Library 
  5. Zeal

Then, when Google and others came onto the scene, directories became a way to get websites higher up on the results page. The more directories you were listed in, the more links you had, and the higher you’d rank. 

That’s where the problem started, as people then tried to get listed on as many directories as possible. To cope with the demand, directories started to become an automated process. There was no vetting or people running them anymore. 

Most directories at this point were nothing more than spam websites giving links out left, right and centre. So, as search algorithms got smarter and started prioritizing quality content, these websites took a massive hit. 

Directories then fell out of favour and were dubbed as bad for SEO. 

How directories can boost your SEO 

The reason directories became out of favour is because most of them weren’t relevant to users, but were spam lists generated for links. 

This isn’t every directory though. There are some directories around that are built for users to find the service they need. 

And because they’re relevant and useful, search engines reward them. That means a link of these websites will have the same effect as a backlink from any other high-quality website. 

But online directories aren’t just good for the links. Getting listed on them can also help improve your rankings in local searches, particularly if you’ve added features such as locations or even maps to your directory listing.

Editors note: These are called ‘citations’ in the SEO world; a mention of your brand’s name, address and phone number (NAP, for short). These are very important for improving your local SEO rankings and Hike will help you to maximise these for your website! Read more here.

Good directories aren’t just good for SEO

Good directories offer more than a quality backlink to your website. They’re a way for your business to be found by customers, generating more traffic and leads to your website. 

This is particularly true for niche industries and local directories, where a user needs a particular service but doesn’t know who will provide it. These directories will let customers see and compare who’s around them, who can help and which business is the best match. 

It’s their way to discover and vet new businesses before they get in touch. And if you’re not on the directory, you’re not going to be in the running. 

What’s more, if your business is listed on a directory that users trust, you’ll automatically earn trust and reputation just by being associated with them. 

How to select a good directory  

So how do you weed out the bad directories and find a trusted winner that you can list your business on?

  1. Research the company

Before you list your business on a directory, it’s important to know who’s behind it. 

If it’s a big recognisable name like Yahoo! Or CheckATrade, you know that it is used by people looking for businesses like yours. 

But if you’ve never heard of the company before, you need to do some digging. Find out if they’re trusted by users, read reviews if they’re around and find out how big they are. If they seem to be a new company with no background, a link from them won’t help your SEO much. 

It’s also worth checking the domain authority of the websites, which helps give you a measure of the website’s quality. 

  1. See who’s already listed 

Looking at what businesses are already listed on the directory can give you a good measure of if it’s right for you. This will also give you an idea of how your listing will sit amongst the others. 

When looking at the listings, look out for factors such as: 

  1. What industry the businesses are from 
  2. The size of the businesses 
  3. What services they offer
  4. Who their customers are 

Editors note: Another great tip here is to look to see if your top competitors are already listed on these directories. If they are then this is a good indicator that you should be listed there, too. The Hike platform will show you where your competitors are listed on websites, but you’re not! Find out more here.

Then, compare these points to your own business.

If they’re similar to yours, then you’ll be more likely to find your customers on here. But if they’re widely different, it might be a waste of your time to list your business here. 

If it just seems to be a list of everyone with no organisation, you’re probably looking at a spammy back-link list. 

  1. Who’s accepted?

Look at the sign-up process for the directory and search for any vetting process that they employ. If the directory just accepts everyone automatically, search engines won’t rate these websites very highly. 

However, if they review each business before allowing them to be listed, you’ve found a premium and high-quality directory. 

  1. How easy is it to use? 

It’s always worth exploring how easy directories are for users to navigate and find businesses. This is to make sure that the platform is actually built with users in mind, and not just a way to charge businesses for a listing that sits nowhere. 

Plus, the websites with better user experience tend to rank better, which is good news for your SEO.

Get started with Adzooma Marketplace 

Want to unlock the power of directories today?

Hike SEO have teamed up with Adzooma to offer you an exclusive offer that you can’t get anywhere else. 

More than just a directory, Adzooma Marketplace is the place to connect business with high-quality leads ready to buy. As well as your listing, you’ll also get:

  • A dedicated account manager
  • Guest articles or editorials opportunities on the Adzooma blog
  • Insight access to track and show all the leads you’ve generated
  • And much more. 

Thanks to our exclusive partnership, you can get 30% off your first month, saving a massive £149. You can sign up for this discount here.

Author bio: Danielle Strouther is the Marketing Product Expert at Adzooma. Outside of marketing, you’ll find her drawing all manner of strange monsters and dancing around a pole.

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