Is it worth the time and effort to list a small business in one (or more) 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. Remember the free listings do actually have a cost. The cost of the time and effort involved in seeking them out and creating the listing.

There are hundreds of business directories online. The better known UK business directories include:

  • Free index
  • Scoot
  • Thomson Local
  • Yell

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.

A Typical Search For A Local Service Provider

Type in a phrase such as accountant in Sheffield into Google at least one of the above directories will tend to show up on page 1. The question to ask is 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 there could be a rich snippet but more often there will be a prominent Google My Business panel. This will be followed by ten organic listings before more ads. 

Among the Page 1 organic listings, one or two local service suppliers websites usually show up. There may also be one or more job sites and often at least one of the directories mentioned above.

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 some cases, 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.

There is evidence many skip the Ads and consider only the organic results. Immediately following the Ads could be a rich snippet (link) or more often the Google My Business panel

The benefits of a Google My Business listing are discussed in detail elsewhere on this blog. A large proportion of searchers for local (and urgent) products and services will probably go no further than this point.

If you don’t have a Google My Business listing and/or put limited effort into maximising its profile we suggest you concentrate on that first. It is much more effective use of time and resources than directory listings.

Beyond the Google My Business panel, the searchers who remain will reach the main organic listings. We suggest a significantly higher proportion will click a business website listing than a directory. 

So what level of the original search traffic is left for directory listings? Not a lot we suggest but all traffic is potentially important traffic so once higher priorities have been dealt with we suggest it is time to consider directories.  

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. 

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 upfront exactly what outcome is expected. 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.

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. Whatever effort is allocated to the activity it must fit within the overall small business local marketing plan.

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