Should I pay for business directory listings?

I've been receiving reports from some of my clients regarding business directory websites phoning them up to get then to pay several hundred pounds to get a priority listing in their directory. Some of these phone calls have been quite pushy and some have even tried to suggest that registering with them is some kind of legal requirement for a website.

Let me just say that spending money to advertise in any of these websites is the biggest waste of money that can be spent on internet advertising. Please don't waste your money, no matter what they tell you on the phone, their service is not worth the money. No matter how many hits they try to tell you they get every day. It just doesn't matter.

When have you ever used their website to find a business?

Never.

And guess what, neither has anybody else.

So where do these 10,000, 50,000, 80,000, 200,000+ hits come from that they claim they are getting?

These come from people who have searched a real search engine and their website also shows up in the results. Their listings show up in competition with their clients' website in the search results. People have paid money to create another competitor for their business!

Some will even claim to "search engine optimise" their listing. This is cobblers. This just means that they'll add keywords to your listing. That is not search engine optimisation. You'll be lucky if your listing is even W3C standards compliant.

But what about their free listings?

Well, that's different. If you have a low PageRank, it is worth getting free links from these directories to your website to try to improve your PageRank. It's free, and it's an extra link to your website, so it doesn't hurt. But just be prepared because they will phone you up and try to sell you their priority listings. I get it all the time. They think that they can pull the wool over a professional web developer's eyes.

Just make sure that they are in no doubt that you know exactly why their service is valueless and you know what you are talking about. I like to tell them that paying several hundred pounds to advertise on a business directory that nobody uses is a waste of money. They usually come back with "well we get 80,000 hits every day". To which I reply "And Google get several BILLION hits per day and my listings on there are free".

So far, nobody has had a good answer for that and they leave me alone.

I should mention one exception to this: Yell.com. People do actually use Yell.com so it can be worthwhile paying advertising on Yell.com as part of your Yellow Pages advertising. There may also be some industry specific websites that are worth advertising on.

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