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Google Places brings Salvation from Directory Hell

July 6th, 2010 | | Local SEO

One of the most frustrating things about web searches for local results is the plethora of local directories. They are everywhere. From online yellow page directories to a whole mess of 3rd party listings, if a local contractor or shop hasn’t done any type of organizing on their website, you are left to sort through a mess of listings on oddly arranged websites.

I hate 3rd party directories. I always have. The directory is only as good as the people who use it (for reviews) or update (through aggregators). It’s a pile of information that they hope to sell, resell and sell again in the form of advertising on the site, or worse, placement.

Here are several ways how it works:

3rd party directory contacts a local business and tries to convince them to be listed in their directory by:
a. Telling them how many visitors they get in a vague timeline
b. Showing them their competition in the directory
c. Showing features of how to use their site
d. .. and then show them how they get priority listing in the directory by how much they pay either through a package or points or frequent
flier miles or … scout badges…

The model is to try to have have the most people listed and update along with traffic to actually get people to the site, whether it’s human or not. Simply alphabetizing the companies isn’t good enough so putting and advertising model in for Zigfried Zandale’s A/C Repair has a chance.

There’s a main problem with online directories. It’s the same reason you come home and you find a stack of phonebooks at your door. I once left an increasing stack of phone books on my porch to prove a point. It was lost on the delivery guys. Information of businesses is widely available and it can be sorted in many different ways, but it’s still the same information.

Luckily, one of my clients changed addresses last year and I was able to see which one actually noticed – Google.

With so many directories, how do we know which one is doing what it can to rank above another directory?
What are they doing to draw users to leave reviews?
Where do those reviews go?

I was approached by a local directory to list with them by buying advertising. They had already gathered reviews through, what I assumed, was a big marketing push for people to leave reviews. There were 8 of them. Now, for this client, that was good enough. The salesman said that some of the reviews were OK, most were good, there were a couple negative ones and that I should check it out. I went to the directory by URL because it wasn’t coming up in my SERPS for my keywords (red flag) and I read the reviews. I wondered if these reviews would be aggregated by google like insiderpages and citysearch does on occasion. They weren’t. Around mid-2009, phone calls from the salesman stopped. Out of curiosity, I looked at the site again. We were still there with reviews, but the negative ones were gone. No updates since 2008.

Hmmm.

Take that example and multiply it by “a whole hecka bunch” and you see the problem that 3rd Party Directories pose.

Google Places is making plans to some weeding in the garden.

Read this from an observer who noticed some unique changes happening in different locations. This is a test for now. But this is what it means.

1. Google Places is going to be THE standard of local search importance. A lot of weight will be given to it.

2. Directories are going to be pushed in favor of websites

3. Reviews are more prominent

4. It’s in your face

This is going to cause a lot of 3rd directories to shrivel. Google WILL be the directory. While these aren’t in place yet, it’s coming.

So what do you do?

1. Look at your business listing on Google Places THROUGHLY
If you don’t have every bell and whistle used, figure out a way to now.

2. Look at why you aren’t listed high in Google Places.
Check the companies above you and do it better

3. Work on your customer service.
Your business with customers will be everybody’s business now

4. Encourage reviews from clients and customers who love you.
This is to help when #3 isn’t in place yet.

In my mind, it’s a game changer – and it’s a good one.

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  • http://www.specialprayer.webs.com Heinrich

    I also hate 3rd party directories and agree with your assessment. Google Places seems to be the answer to this irritation and your tips are great. Thanks.

  • http://www.wholeseo.com Rebekah

    Useful post, though I want to mention that one thing you aren’t taking into consideration that is of value from these local directories (at least for now, and if its valuable – do it) is that while traffic and links from these directories are certainly important – a good strategy for local search is simply being listed to have citations of your address.

    Many of these directories send updates of their information to Google or Yahoo or Bing depending on who the provider is, and the more relevant, accurate information you have out there – the better you can perform in local search.

    Many of these directories offer free listings – you don’t need to pay for all the extra fluff they promise. I normally don’t post links within comments, but since this pertains to the post (and was actually just writing a guest post about this), you may want to check out my reference for business directories you should get listed in for local search: http://www.whole-seo.com/resource-library/business-directories-for-local-search/. These all offer free listings, and are good for getting those mentions your site needs.

    This doesn’t however mean people should not concentrate on Google Places – its huge, its growing and if you are going to pay money to anyone – they are it.