Before the days of Google, web directories were the main tool for navigating the Internet’s growing array of websites. In fact, Yahoo was actually a website directory in the early 90’s before it became a search engine.
Despite a lot of changes since those much simpler days online, website directories remain a useful tool for site owners and online users alike. Moreover, these directories have been a prime playing ground for SEO experts as well. For a long time, they were an easy way for website owners to gain valuable external backlinks to their websites, thus enhancing their ranking in search results. In fact, Google even suggested this in an early version of its Webmaster Guidelines.
But much has changed. After years of unrestrained listings throughout hundreds of thousands of directories (the great majority existing for the sole purpose of creating backlinks), search engines began to crack down. They had no choice—this backlinking scheme was causing spammy websites with thousands of backlinks from questionable directories to rank higher than websites that were legitimately a better option for a given query.
Google began removing questionable directories from their index and even penalizing websites that were linked within them. Website owners to this day will receive “unnatural link warnings” when Google picks up too many backlinks to their sites from spammy directories or websites. Ultimately, having your website on directories is not inherently bad (you want people to find your website via valid directories anyhow, and an external link to your website is nearly always a good thing for your SEO), but the trick is avoiding directories that aren’t considered high-quality websites by search engines.
So what makes for a “high quality” directory? Google determines websites to be of high quality when they are user-friendly, trusted, popular, and credible. Spammy websites, directories included, are just never any of those things. They’re usually outdated, cluttered with ads, and anything but trusted and credible.
While quality can be interpreted in many ways, if you look at websites from a user experience perspective, it becomes fairly easy to spot those that aren’t gaining Google’s favor. Beyond a subjective analysis, another way to screen for credible and quality directories is to look for complete information in their listings. If you see them listing most of, if not all, of the following details, it’s a good sign that the website is operating as a legitimate directory.
Another key indicator of a reputable directory is the requirement to verify a submitted listing. Websites like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, and other well known, high-quality websites require a strict verification process for your listing to be claimed, while low-quality directories do not. They’re more likely to post everywhere on their site that you can “Post for FREE” and that “ANY and ALL websites are welcome.” Translate those messages into “avoid at all costs.”
The bottom line: having your website and business listed in high-quality directories sends the right signals to Google and offers prospective patients another way to learn about your services.
Finding the right directories to list your business on can take some time as you endeavor to expand your reach. You’ll naturally want to have your listing in the most common directories, such as Google MyBusiness, Yelp, HealthGrades, and YellowPages, but what about smaller, more niche-specific directories? With a little bit of searching, you can often find highly targeted ones to submit to also. Submitting to directories like these is extremely valuable because they’re more relevant for your target market. To find them, use operators within a Google search to pull up industry-specific directories, like this:
Use any keywords that specifically target your services, such as “hearing loss,” “tinnitus,” “audiologist,” “hearing care,” or “ENT.” Try as many as you can think of to locate a smaller, more targeted directory for your niche.
Once you’ve located the directories you intend to submit to, make sure to approach your submissions with an organized system. You’ll need to keep track of many pieces of information to verify each listing, and a simple spreadsheet can do wonders at keeping it all in one place.
Keep track of your login credentials for each directory and any confirmation or verification codes they send you to confirm your listing (note: some of them will send these to you via physical mail or via a phone call). Ideally, you’ll use one email account for all of these listings, so none of their messages get lost and your listing goes unverified. Having all of your listings noted in one file proves especially helpful if your business needs to update it’s address or phone number at some point. The last thing you want is to have your business listed with the wrong contact information.
As you add your business information to reputable and relevant websites across the web, keep in mind the sound advice of “quality over quantity.” Avoid software that promises to get you listed in some absurd number of directories for a fee. As described earlier, search engines like Google don’t favor websites on low-quality directories, making those types of bait-and-switch offers much riskier than they sound. Simply choose the best directories you can locate, submit accurate and consistent information, and keep up on any and all verifications. And above all, be patient, as this process requires some time.
At AudiologyPlus, we go above and beyond the industry standard and get our clients listed in over 70 legitimate directories online. We guide them through the necessary verifications and monitor their listings to maintain accuracy and consistency for their business information online. If your business could benefit from increased online visibility and professional help in attracting new patients online, contact us today to learn more.