This is our ninth expanded post from our article on top 10 learnings about the hyperlocal digital publisher market over the past year. Our first eight learnings were:
- Local Search Is A Differentiator On Hyperlocal Sites.
- Make Sure Your Side Door Looks As Good As Your Front Door.
- Don’t Be Seduced by the Quick Wins of Social Media
- The World is Mobile
- The Power of Backlinks
- Leverage Cornerstone Content
- Very Small Businesses Just Want Leads
- Confusion around Local SEO Marketing
Our ninth learning focuses on the value of a business directory. We discussed where a business directory fits in (and also where it doesn’t) last month as part of our new product release. As much as we’d love to see a quick revenue win for local publishers, things are not that simple. Here are the evolutions of business directories out in the wild.
The “Pay to Play” Directory
Many publishers will start with an empty directory and tell businesses they can be included if they pay. This “scarcity” sales model can work, but it actually hurts you. The challenge is, without a full directory, your readers view this exactly as it is – paid advertising. It’s not a service to the reader, since they can’t “find” businesses on your site. Even more, search engines won’t consider your paid listings as an authoritative directory, which means those pages won’t show up when people do “near me” searches on Google or Bing in your area.
The Complete But Static Directory
Publishers that learn the limitations of the “pay to play” model usually move to a full directory. This either takes a lot of time (curating your own list) or money (purchasing a list). This is a much better option than the “pay to play” model above, but it’s still not sufficient. Even if you code your directory with the right schema for search engines, it will be hard to rank above existing national business directory sites if there is nothing going on in the directory. In other words, hundreds of static pages that never change (and are rarely viewed) do not make for an authoritative directory!
The Living and Breathing Directory
So, what to do? The answer is to make your directory an active and living part of your site. It needs to have up-to-date and relevant information. It should have ways for your readers to engage with local businesses, right on your site. And most of all, it needs to be a business directory where both readers and business owners can engage. This type of business directory will do very well.
As we have learned more about how to do this, Bizyhood has evolved from providing a fully populated but mostly static directory to a more dynamic directory. We now allow Businesses to add Events and Promotions via a self-service dashboard. They can add calls-to-action on their business page to engage with readers. Soon they will be able to add their blog posts/updates and create frequently asked question pages. User feedback and direct engagement is coming. We believe a living and engaged directory is the only way to create meaningful results for business owners, and thus result in new revenue opportunities.
Hence, our current feeling on business directories for local publishers. It is a necessary, but not sufficient part of your new revenue generation plans. Think and share what features you can imagine sitting on top of your Bizyhood business directory that can help you generate more revenue.