Essentially, a web directory contains listings of businesses, grouped by category. It is the online equivalent of the Yellow Pages that people used to peruse before the advent of the Internet.
A lot of web directories are paid-for services, that is to say, you need to pay if you want your business listed with them.
Do I need to list my business in a web directory?
Let us say you run a cafe in Melbourne. You also have a website. Your website would undoubtedly show up in the results when someone searches for ‘Melbourne cafe’ or ‘cafe Melbourne’. But the chances of it being among the top results are slim if you haven’t listed it in a web directory. Google specifically encourages business owners to list their businesses in web directories that display their NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number).
This is intended to make the search results ‘authentic’. Some businesses, sadly, aren’t.
In one instance, several B2B businesses list the same address and phone numbers on their websites. In reality, it is just a building with a handful of staff present to receive mail, packages, and calls (these are routed out to other countries). There are no real companies present at the address. Such businesses shouldn’t ideally show up among the top search results, irrespective of how great or SEO-optimized their websites may be.
If you are thinking of the costs involved in listing, some web directories allow you to list for free. They, however, charge you for ‘premium’ listings – your listing shows up at the top when someone searches for cafes in Melbourne. Some online directories also let you add pictures of your cafe and enable user comments/ratings as well. The former indicates there really is a cafe at the place mentioned, and the latter bears this out. All these have a bearing on the search results.
The more comments and/or ratings there are, the greater is the probability that a business is genuine. This is why a cafe with a rating of 3.7 stars out of five on Google is shown ahead of another with a 4.0 rating. The former has 240 ratings in total, compared to the latter’s 195. A web directory makes it even more possible for search engines to determine whether a business is ‘authentic’, and it is ranked accordingly. So listing on a free web directory has an effect on your website’s SEO rankings.
It also brings in a lot of traffic. Someone who’s searching for cafes in Melbourne wouldn’t use Google, Bing or Yahoo!, as only ten results would be displayed per page. He/she would use a web directory so that he/she could see a lot of listings per page. With descriptions, pictures and ratings, it becomes so much easier to pick one than visiting the individual websites of all these cafes. To find out more about a cafe that interests him/her, he/she could then visit its website, the link to which is included in the directory listing.
In short, web directories bring in more business.