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Which Online Directories Still Matter Today? Best Practices for Digital Marketers

In this day and age, do any online directories other than Google even register on your audience’s collective radar anymore? We’ve looked at various sources and found that, as a whole, listings are an effective marketing tool. Drill down to the individual directory, however, and you’ll find yourself on a rollercoaster: it’s all ups and downs. The most important thing is to make sure you have a ticket for the ride. This article explores the benefits of online directories and how businesses can get the most out of them. 

It's All About Google. Or Is It? 

Google is undoubtedly the most important driver of website traffic today. Naturally, digital marketers should therefore optimise their company’s online presence to appeal to this online juggernaut as much as possible. 

If you want traffic, there’s no way around Google My Business and Google-specific search engine optimisation. 

Google’s dominance of the global market has led some SEO experts to believe that conventional online directories are no longer able to provide sufficient traffic, nor are they suitable for an effective citation building strategy. 

However,

Citations Influence Google Visibility and Interactions 

In our latest study on the value of listings, we asked: do businesses with numerous listings and citations perform better than those that have few? 

We compared companies listed only on ‘the Big 4’ directories (Google, Facebook, Apple Maps, Bing), with ones using an extended network and found that: yes, they do. 

The analysis shows that businesses stand to profit from listings in less high-profile directories. 

An extended network boosts your visibility by up to 75% in direct searches, 61% in indirect searches, 61% in search views, and 78% in maps views.

Graph showing that visibility increased by up to 78% when listed on 9+ directories, as opposed to the Big 4.

… and an extended network of listings boosts engagement by up to 59% in driving directions, 21% in phone calls and 42% in website clicks: 

Graph showing that conversions increased by up to 59% when listed on 9+ directories, as opposed to the Big 4.

It is safe to conclude, then: 

Citation building is still a valid and important strategy for maximising your visibility and conversion rate. 

Bear in mind, however, that the study compares performance metrics provided by Google, making it quite Google-centric. Whether it is the directories themselves that generate the website clicks remains to be seen. 

Do Listings Still Generate Traffic? 

Our research team set out to discover whether online directories beyond ‘the Big 4’ can still bring traffic to your website. Using data from SimilarWeb, they analysed a range of directories, not including Google, Facebook, Apple Maps and Bing. 

Here’s what the past three years’ data had to say: 

  • Website traffic from local social media platforms, such as nextdoor.co.uk, brought considerably more website clicks than non-local services. 
  • All in all, non-Google search engines have lost a bit of ground. 
  • The value of general directories, such as yellow pages, has remained relatively unchanged.

Graph showing traffic trends on general directories, search engines and local-social platforms.

You are probably a little surprised to discover that the impact of general online directories has been quite stable over the past two years. 

So, let’s have a closer look at some specific European directories. 

The Performance of General Online Directories Is Subject to Trends 

We have analysed the performance of specific online directories in the United Kingdom, Germany and France to find out more about the European market. The figures used are based on data from SimilarWeb. 

In the United Kingdom, some directories lost ground, some gained it. Centralindex is clearly becoming a more trusted resource, while Yell is fading into obscurity. Scoot and 192.com have been experiencing regular fluctuations, but lost influence overall. 

Graph showing UK directory traffic trends: 192.com, scoot.co.uk, yell.co.uk and centralindex.com.

In Germany, the situation is similar: the portals Golocal, Auskunft and ÖffnungszeitenBuch have significantly gained in popularity and generated more traffic. Gelbe Seiten, the official German yellow pages, are in a decline and, consequently, generate less traffic. Goyellow has declined even more dramatically.

Graph showing Germany directory traffic trends: golocal.de, auskunft.de, oeffnungszeitenbuch.de, gelbeseiten.de and goyellow.de.

In France, Justacote has seen its popularity plummet. Following a brief decline, the 118000 portal was able to regain an uptrend. It even overtook horaires.lefigaro.fr, which outperformed it until recently.

Graph showing France directory traffic trends: horaires.lefigaro.fr, 118000.fr and justacote.com

This brings us to the big question:

Which Directories Should Businesses Use? 

Our analysis of the traffic data has shown that the relevance of individual directories can fluctuate wildly over time. 

Trying to predict which directory will be relevant tomorrow is a fool’s errand. 

So, what can companies do? 

First of all: Cover ‘the Big 4’. 

Listing your company and all its branches on the main online platforms is still key for digital marketers. In the United Kingdom, these are Google, Facebook, Bing and Apple Maps. Depending on your industry, there are other major directories you need to keep in mind. 

Then: Expand your network. 

Businesses can gain a competitive advantage from listing their branches in a wide range of general directories. You can’t predict which directory will be relevant and which will be useless in future, so you should aim to be represented on as many as possible. 

Finally: Leverage your expertise. 

Do not let the unpredictable nature of online directories become a problem for your business. A professional listings management provider can help you navigate the situation with its continuously expanding network.

Best Practice: Stay Ahead of the Trend With a Specialised Partner 

Listings can be incredibly challenging for digital marketing professionals. If you're serious about listing all your branches on multiple directories and keeping all your listings updated, you will be spending hours, if not days doing nothing else. 

At the same time, teams easily lose track: What are the latest directories? Which ones are trending? Which have faded into the background and no longer require attention? 

That is why brands like BP use solutions like the Uberall platform. They benefit from an up-to-date network of directories that allows them to manage their listings in minutes, not hours. 

“To me, true success is about the emotions that a brand can awaken in its customers. We have 20,000 branches (for BP and Wild Bean Cafe) managed across more than 40 platforms. That’s 800,000 brand touchpoints. If you want to build a strong brand, you must genuinely care about what happens at each of those touchpoints. And if there are 800,000 of them, you need a way of looking after every single one. You need the best technology on the market to manage that many branches in real time.”

Andy Duggan, Former Global Digital Marketing, BP 

Read the full BP case study.

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