Vertical Directories for Local Search Success

In our online world, a vertical directory is a Web site that focuses on one particular category of products and services. Nearly every niche has one or more good directories serving that industry.

Some simply list names, numbers, addresses, and Web sites. Others provide the opportunity to create fairly comprehensive listings where business owners can share detailed information about their enterprise and what it offers.

Vertical Directories Often Rank Well

Some of the best vertical directories rank well because they publish plenty of good content on their subject, which appeals to the search engines. Having many similarly themed pages also helps them to rank for a wide variety of long-tail search terms. In addition, these content-rich sites are good resources for their users and, because of the collection of expert information they provide on their topic, people tend to bookmark them, return to them, link to them, and recommend them to others.

Choosing Directories

Choosing the right directories for your business listing doesn’t have to be difficult. See which rank well for the top two or three terms for which you’d like to rank (without using location terms). For example, if you have an eye clinic, see which sites rank well for “eye exam,” “eye doctor,” and “optometrist.” Any that appear on the first page of results in Google, especially for more than one term, are sure winners and deserve your consideration.

See which directories bid on those same terms in PPC (define) ads because being well represented on a site that brings you targeted traffic from their advertising can often be a wise investment. Some directories bid on thousands of location plus keyword terms, so check the AdWords area of the SERPs (define) to ferret out any that may be bidding on yours. If you run your own ads, be careful to consider where you’re bidding in comparison to any directories in which you’re listed, as you don’t want to drive up ad prices unnecessarily.

What to Expect

To be valuable, a directory must refer targeted traffic to your business, either by sending users to your Web site, your telephone number, or directly to your place of business. From a SEO (define) standpoint, the directory should ideally point a good text link at your site from a page with good PageRank. However, qualified referrals are really what you’re after and a good link should just be considered a bonus.

Tracking Referrals

Referrals to your Web site from another Web site are the easiest actions to track. However, phone calls and in-person visits undoubtedly have a greater potential to result in sales because they deliver a potential customer right to you.

Then, you can talk to them directly, learn their needs, and help them find a suitable solution to their problem. Successful small business people know that once this is accomplished, it becomes relatively easy to close a sale. No Web site can do as good a job of selling as committed business owners who believes in their products and services.

So how do you track these types of referrals? The simplest way, and one that’s been used for a long time, is to ask people how they found you. This isn’t very scientific, but it’s effective. It also gives you the chance to ask other questions about the productiveness of your marketing as you chat with potential customers.

Asking why they chose to call you or come to your store instead of going elsewhere can give you surprising insights. For example, you may learn that a customer actually called six other places before you, but you were the first one to answer the phone quickly, not send them through an automated phone system, or not put them on hold. You never know until you ask. What you learn may give you an edge over your competitors.

Printed coupons are another method of tracking the effectiveness of a directory, although many don’t offer this service. You can also use promotion codes or put unique offers on different Web sites. Then, when someone asks about a special deal or discount, you’ll know where she found it.

Some sophisticated directories offer call tracking, which provides you with a report of the phone calls that occurred as a result of your listing. Publishing unique phone numbers on different Web sites is also an effective way to track telephone calls.

Cost Considerations

The cost of inclusion is a definite factor to consider when choosing directories. Stretch your budget by taking advantage of free or inexpensive trial offers you find.

You can ask for statistics on traffic and page views, but that doesn’t mean a listing will bring you paying customers. Try calling related businesses that aren’t in direct competition with yours and asking for their recommendations. An eye doctor in another state, for instance, probably won’t consider you a threat and will be more helpful than one close by you.

Conclusion

Finding the most effective places to advertise is often a matter of trial and error. So, do your research, go with your best bets, and pay attention to the results. Then, keep those directories that are worthwhile, drop those that aren’t, and continually keep improving your marketing mix.

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