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Real World SEO: Standing up to 3rd Party Listing Companies

October 20th, 2009 | | Basic SEO Tips

SEO is important to come up 1st or at least on the first page of search results, but is that all your SEO efforts do for you? Well, achieving first page ranking actually has some powerful ramifications.  As stated by one of my clients “we want to own the Internet.” In other words, “be everywhere!”  That’s a lofty goal, but that is EXACTLY what your goal should be for your business.

Own the entire Internet?

Well, no. If you run a garden supply store, your business site shouldn’t pop up in web searches for classic gaming consoles.

What you need to do is own any part of the Internet that is related specifically to your business and serivce/distribution radius. Do you ship globally? Your searches need to be available to anyone with a mailing address. Does your business have boundaries within counties or cities? Time to break out your Local SEO skills.

If I do all that, so what?

The standard answer is increasing lead generation and solidifying the brand for your business, but I’ve found another reason to beef up your SEO and that is: Standing up to 3rd Party Listing Companies.

3rd Party isn’t much of a party

There are businesses that earn their nut by publishing directories of businesses, usually industry specific.  The thinking is that their lists make it a lot easier for people to find your business, for whatever reason.  These lists are usually compiled in hard bound magazine-like books filled with lists of companies and peppered with advertisements ranging from the itty-bitty black and white ads to full glossy back cover ads.  To put it bluntly, there directory pulls in a lot of revenue and it is a standard for many industries  – which is hard to shake.

Until now.

The advent of information zooming around online has made it easier for people to find each other and for businesses to find each other as well.  This made directory publishers put their lists online, but that posed a problem.  How do you make money if you put it online? Add subscription access? The result is that B2B publishing suddenly had to figure out how to jump in this online mess.

Years of struggling to be as strong as they were pre-1996 has resulted in the following letter I got in the mail from a third party listing company:

I received this letter from an obscure (obscure to me anyway) 3rd party directory listing provider that went for the throat.  It didn’t bother saying how they were important or what their benefits were, they just went and threatened me as someone who was overdue in paying a car payment.

“Failure to send payment will result in your business being removed from our database.”  Other words of “failure” and “comply” in a courier font try to elicit the following response from the letter’s recipient:


If I don’t send my annual payment of $350 to $800+ a year to this most respected directory, no one will find my business and I might as well shut the doors.

They are envisioning a world where people come to their site first to peruse the listings and click on my listing, preferably if I paid for the listing that allowed me to show my logo.

The unintended result of using SEO to the fullest is that if I optimize for the most popular targeted keywords for my industry, no one can NOT find me on the search engines.  You will find me, and you will not be able to avoid me. Since I am able to be found in the top of all relevant search results, I have no intention of purchasing a place on their list and therefore save money.  I can then put that back into my business – maybe get cool multi-fold business cards.

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  • http://www.instrumart.com Duncan

    Your post is very timely for us. Right now, we are debating the merits of paid, industry-specific directories. We’ve experimented with some of the free listings and one or two of the less-expensive paid directories, and the results have been mediocre at best. But, the thought has always been… what about those inbound links? Do they tip the scales in favor of continuing or expanding our paid directories efforts? What are your thoughts on the value of the inbound links from these paid, industry-specific directories? Specifically, I worry that the search engines would treat them like inbound links from a link farm, and it would actually have a negative impact.

  • http://www.seoboy.com Eric


    To be honest, the most powerful thing I have seen is defining your page using the most appropriate keywords for your niche market. The directories themselves have to somehow get their “authority” built up in order to pass along enough link authority that would be worth while.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about a niche directory being considered a “link farm” in the eyes of the search engines. There have been link farms that are easily seen as link farms and then there’s directories. Paying for links on a link farm is different than a niche directory. I can’t explain it except that I can infer that the directory is struggling and Google doesn’t want to kick them when they are down.

    I would focus heavily on finding the right keywords and first changing them to your title tags on all your pages, claim your listing in Google Local, Yahoo and Bing. Then see who else is ranking for your keywords and look at their pages. One site I had was #2 to a site that had my keyword in the URL. He had less links. I changed all my title tags and changed places with him within a month.

    Of course, your results may vary ;-)