Is it worth the time and effort to list a small business in one (or more) of the many UK small business directories? In this post, we discuss the major points for and against.
Some business directory listings are free while others charge for add or services. For the free listings, it is important to count the cost of the time and effort involved in seeking them out and creating the listing.
Add on services may (or may not) be worth the extra cost so it is important to make some attempt at calculating an ROI before diving in. Of course, whatever effort is allocated to the activity it must fit within the overall small business local marketing plan.
There are hundreds of business directories online. The better known UK business directories include:
There are also several market specific directories and local directories that cover a specific area or single town or city. The market specific directories include CheckATrade, VouchedFor and Trip Adviser among others. These offer additional marketing services such as lead generation.
Listings in local directories can be worthwhile for businesses operating only within a specific area. However, in our experience it is a waste of time and effort to obtain a listing in more than three or so of the major small business directories. The market specific directories are a special case discussed in more detail below.
A Typical Search For A Local Service Provider
Type in a phrase such as heating engineer Nottingham or accountant Sheffield into Google and one or more of the above directories will tend to show up on page 1. The question to ask is what competition do they face in online search and what traffic (if any) will they drive to a business website.
In most local service based searches on Google, the paid listings (Adwords) will be at the top of the page. Immediately below them will be a prominent Google My Business panel then ten organic listings before more ads. Among the Page 1 organic listings, one or two local service suppliers websites may show up. There may also be one or more job sites.
It is probable anyone typing a locally based search phrase into a search engine is looking for a solution rather than performing in depth research. Usually, they need someone to fix their problem. In the case of some services, it may be an urgent problem.
They are therefore unlikely to spend lots of time clicking through multiple pages or typing in many search phrases. It is reasonable to assume they are likely to select a listing nearer the top of page 1 of the search results than the bottom.
Someone searching for a solution may click on the Ads at the top of the page but there is evidence most trust the organic results more. Immediately below the Ads is the Google My Business listing.
The benefits of a Google My Business listing are discussed in detail elsewhere on this blog. Given the position of the Google My Business panel, we suggest a listing should be a higher priority than any directory submissions. It may also be worth building a Bing places listing. Both the Bing and Google local listing services are free.
Beyond the Google My Business panel the searcher will reach the main organic listings. At this point, some of those searchers will have been lost to Ads and a larger proportion to the Google My Business panel. From those that remain, we suggest a higher proportion will click a business listing than a directory. A high level of traffic from a directory listing is therefore unlikely but a listing does have other potential advantages.
UK Business Directories Offering Add On Services
Many of the Directory services mentioned above offer a variety of services. Basic listings tend to be free. Most offer the option of a paid listing that delivers a more prominent position. Some Directories such as Yell offer website and review collection services at a cost.
There are also specialist directories such as Checkatrade and Rated people for the Trades and VouchedFor and Unbiassed for services. Some offer a paid subscription model, some charge for sales leads and some offer a combination of the two.
Costs for the specialist directories can run to several hundred pounds per year so it is worth performing a basic ROI calculation before signing up. We tend to work on a five times multiple as a break even point. That is if total marketing cost is £1,000 we expect life time value of the clients secured via that marketing to be £5,000 minimum. But, the actual calculation depends on the type of business.
If paying for traffic to a website then it is reasonable to assume somewhere between 1 in 70 and 1 in 100 visits will result in a lead. In our experience securing a 1 in 5 lead to sales conversion rate is optimistic but it depends on how a lead is defined and the market segment.
If buying leads a 1 in 5 conversion to sales is probably the best to expect but again it depends on the quality of the lead. It should be a relatively simple exercise to perform an ROI calculation based on average lifetime customer value.
Other Potential Advantages Of A Directory Listing
Directory listings have other potential advantages that are not immediately obvious. A backlink secured from a local directory to a local business website can help a small business website rank higher in the major search engines. Just don’t expect links from directories to have a major impact. The days of securing multiple directory links to try to manipulate search results are long gone.
Some directories allow users to leave reviews of the business and reviews (as discussed elsewhere on this blog) build trust and have local SEO benefits. It is possible directory reviews will be picked up by Google and displayed in the Google My Business panel. That said it is often better to secure Google reviews directly.
On the subject of the Google My Business panel company information such as telephone number and address should be consistent across all directories (and elsewhere on the web). If your address is Services House, 23 Business Street make sure every listing states exactly that. Don’t miss the Services House of some listings but include on others. Make sure the main business phone number is consistent with the one listed in the Google My Business listing.
As with any marketing activity, it is essential to decide up front exactly what outcome is expected. It is also crucial to make some attempt at calculating the expected ROI. If services are paid for it is wise to closely monitor results versus expectations and to ensure there is an exit point if the service fails to deliver.