For over a decade I ran a local directory and if I asked myself ten years ago the same question “do local online directories work?” it would be a resounding yes!
Today it’s a completely different story, as the internet is now awash with millions of directories of one shape or another. Back in the days when Google was simply a search engine and Google maps and Google local did not exist, owning a online directory back then was a small goldmine. As anyone building a website would immediately seek out these directories to submit their URL to gain those all important backlinks.
This resulted in many Free Directories charging businesses for the privilege of being listed, and so enhanced, premier and sponsored listings along with, gold, silver and bronze became the terms used to promote the level of exposure offered to business and website owners alike.
For a long time directory listings dominated search engine results, and they got the lions share of natural organic traffic. Advertising online was growing and this natural traffic the local directories received was all the ammunition they needed to woo new businesses to the fold. So what changed this love affair?
Did Google Maps kill the directory business?
This could be quite simply be a short paragraph with the word YES! But lets look at how this came about. When Google maps was first introduced it provided the perfect addition to local directories and we all went mad and started adding these maps, plotting locations of any business that wished to be listed, in a way we actually did a lot of work in helping Google realize yet another opportunity. Resulting in the inevitable Places for Business, ironically they have Free and Premium Features linked to Google Adwords. Therefore a business can now be up and running on Goggle Places in less than 5 minutes. Perfect for bricks and mortar businesses, so why do they need to bother listing the business with yet another directory?.
So is there a future for local directories?
There is no definitive answer to this question, however from a personal point of view the changes Google have made to how a directories content is positioned in their organic listings, has resulted in a total re-think on the structure and content we now provide. Only time will tell on how effective these changes will impact on how our new structure is perceived by search engines.
The local directory I first created for Greater Manchester was very popular with local businesses, as we dominated the search engines for almost all search criteria related to any of the districts within the region. From Architects to Wedding Services we dominated them all. Today we feel we can no longer provide outbound links to websites without using the rel=”nofollow” attribute.
Paid for links and so called advertorial pages are not the flavor of the month with Google, they simply don’t like them, as they claim it goes against their Page Rank Policy, reporting the links as unnatural. If I genuinely like what a business or product has to offer and write about them and provide a link to their website, within a section of the website that is relevant to that business or product criteria, why should this be considered unnatural.
Whatever we think this has had a huge effect on review sites, directories and the like, who’s primary content is advertorial.
So whats the answer…? Are we now all becoming paranoid in posting links on other websites. If will all started using in the “nofollow tag” would this not kill a search engines ability to crawl the web effectively?