What will happen to directories now Google local is encroaching
There was a time, only about 5 years ago when optimising a website was pretty easy, you would add your keyword to the title, a few alt’s and several times on the page, then use that keyword as the anchor on a load of directory submissions and quite often you could make it onto the front page of results.
As the algorithm evolved, more emphasis was put on links back to the page, as this happened those rather “on the ball” folks over at Google realised just how easy it was to manipulate results using directory links, so decided to start the process of devaluing directories. Before long a link from a new directory with no page-rank became virtually worthless, those with good page-rank were given penalties and devalued, it is even said that DMOZ, who used to be the ultimate, albeit most frustrating directory to get listed with, even had their links devalued. OK it makes sense as they are the kind of links which can be easily manipulated, but is there something more to this story?
Google Local listings and Google Places
The Google Local listings have been around for a while, although didn’t really have any significant relevance in terms of SEO, however in the last couple of years it has been re-branded as Google Places, this in itself doesn’t make any difference to you or I. What does make a difference however is how these listings are being used.
In the past, if you did a search for a plumber, you would probably also key in your local area to make sure you found local companies (or at least those who optimise their website to appear for that region and therefore service it), you would probably find sponsored or pay per click adverts at the top and down the right of the page, then have 10 main listings down the main body of the page.
Now the local listings are being used in the search results too, so you may well find Googles pay per click adverts in the same places as before, but now you will probably also see a map at the top right of the screen with lots of markers in it, but more importantly some of those markers relate to companies in the main listings, often at or very close to top position and obviously relevant to your local area too. Need them in a different area, no problem, just tag a town name to the end of your search and you will see the equivalent for that region instead.
Where does this leave the average business directory?
Personally as an SEO and in my previous roles, I can’t remember ever having used a business directory for it’s proper purpose. Years ago I would use Yell to find new prospects to call and perhaps occasionally if I needed a taxi or plumber, however in the last few years that’s happened less and less to the point that I can’t remember the last time I looked at one.
If I need to find something I do an internet search, occasionally if it’s for a specific small company who doesn’t have their own website like the local pub or indian restaurant (although many of these do have their own site these days) a directory listing may come up, so I click, get the number and close the window again. But with Google Places, they don’t even need a website to be listed at the top of search results and with these often appearing above organic results, why would I click a directory any more?
It appears to me that internet directories were generally used mainly by SEO’s listing sites and marketers and sales people searching for prospects, when they were devalued in the search engines, the SEO’s dropped off (although like anything, there are still plenty of them out there offering to submit your website to 1000 directories for a fee of course), and now with local results essentially providing an automatically personalised version of what a directory could, right from your browser window, I just can’t see their place on the net any more. Could they be something soon to become extinct like those old pixel sites?
I’d be interested to hear any comments, particularly from directory owners and if you think there is a future for them and what it might be, personally I just can’t see it.