Directory Listings: Are they really worth it?

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. ”
-Groucho Marx

*begin diatribe*

This week, I tripped over a new website that’s offering directory-style listings to a specific niche in the Direct Selling industry. I found it through a link being promoted on a friend’s website. When I clicked it, I was transferred to a directory-style website that features the so-called “best of the best” in this particular niche.

In short, my friend had a link on her site that was promoting her competition.

I was intrigued. What about this site was so amazing that she felt compelled to promote it on her blog? She does very well for herself in her business and I thought this must be some kind of new, high-profile award site or something, bestowing some kind of honor for folks like her.

Nope. It was a directory site. And she paid about $600 for the “honor” of being listed on this site.


Not a few days later, I get a tweet from another friend about the same site.

“Have you seen it? I just got listed!”

Um, yeah. I saw it. Wasn’t impressed.

Now don’t get me wrong. Directory sites can be incredibly good for business when they’re done well. This one was NOT done well.

The first, and most glaring problem was that they didn’t even bother to cloak the email addresses of the clients listed in the directory.

For those of you unfamiliar, cloaking an email address by using “yourname [AT] domainname {dot} com” is a quick and easy way to help slow the flow of spambots, without totally screwing up the email address so that a human can’t decode it.

This site just posted the contact info for all the spambots in the world to harvest. In fact, the friend that contacted me said she had noticed an increase in spam since joining the site and that she would make mention to the site owners about the issue.

That was only one of several GLARING issues I had with this operation. I won’t go into too much detail here, but there are a few things that angered me enough that I want YOU to be aware of them the next time you’re considering a directory listing on someone’s site somewhere:

1. Know what you’re really paying for. This site indicated that the one-time setup fee of $300 was for adding your profile and support on the site. It was a boilerplate, “copy and paste” template, so how much work is there really to do? The only possible support issues I can think of would be changing your listing after it’s added, or editing the bio that was included in the listing if it was too long. A good VA can handle that in an hour or less. I don’t know ANY VA that’s charging $300 an hour – yet.

The annual renewable portion of the listing fee was said to go to offline advertising to promote the site, potential local events to promote members (which would cost extra if you wanted to participate), and  ongoing development of the website, including SEO. When I checked the 6 key on-page SEO areas that I teach about, at least 2 of them were sorely lacking or non-existent. In any school in america 67% is NOT a passing grade. SEO is more than keywords on a page, folks. Most direct sales pros don’t have a clue about that. These clients were plunking down $300 for a job that wasn’t being done well. Period. Plus, if they were running a wordpress enabled site, the maintenance would be minimal.

2. Insist on transparency and honesty. I have nothing against someone wanting to make a buck. What I DO have a problem with is someone saying they’re doing something out of the goodness of their heart for the betterment of the whole, when they intend to make a buck. Just be honest, folks. Please? Having been in the industry for a while, I could tell who was really behind the website almost immediately, and it could pose a potential conflict of interest. I would rather see the site owners say “hey, we created this site to make money and we’re listed on this site too. We built it because we thought it would be a great idea to share it with all of you so that we could all benefit.”

3. Know the return on investment. New sites don’t always produce great results, and I would be hard pressed to shell out $500 for ANY online directory listing. There are too many free ways to promote my business and drive traffic that don’t require that kind of investment. The angle this site takes preys upon the perceived value of status and resonating with a particular audience.

They billed this site as a “best of the best” directory. While many of the people on the site are surely wonderful (I have a few friends and clients on the site), what they’ve really done is created an illusion of excellence. Nearly everyone listed on the site paid a substantial fee for their listing. The “screening process’ involved little more than a few testimonials and paying the fee. A better idea would be to institute a ratings system so people could REALLY express how they feel about these clients so people can get an honest view of the performance of the directory. The added benefit would be that if a client was listed in the top 10 of their category, they would have something to toot their own horn about – making a GOOD reason to keep a listing on the site, AND to promote that listing on their own website.

Instead, some of the people on the site just paid for the listing, and counted on other people to drive traffic back to them through web links. So it’s a “pay and pray” model of advertising. While the target audience for this site is very specific, there’s no indication of a return on the investment you’re making (click throughs, monthly site visitors, impressions in advertising – nothing). The only thing they’ve promised for sure is that they’ll run a print ad in a magazine targeted to the client’s ideal prospects – the same magazine that any of them could run a more effective ad in themselves. These clients are hoping that being associated with “the best of the best” will increase their business, with no demonstrable evidence to validate that prayer.

Most of these clients could have paid $500 to a VA to do some online marketing and article writing for them that would ONLY drive traffic to their site – instead of a site that listed all their competitors.

In all fairness, the jury’s still out on this site. I sent them an email outlining all my concerns about the site, including everything I’ve written here, as well as additional ways I think they could improve the site to make it a win-win for their income need as well as the clients they supposedly represent.

It just burns my toast to see people get taken like this. And knowing the people behind this project, I know it’s not intentional. They are good people, that just don’t understand online marketing well enough to be getting involved in something like this. They see it as a cash cow because someone talked them into something THEY didn’t completely understand. The result is someone like me who has that experience, calling them out on their marketing smoke and mirrors. And I’m trying to be as nice as I can, because they ARE good people, and I’m sure their intentions were upright.

Don’t let this happen to you. Research your marketing opportunities carefully and get the most bang for your buck.

*end diatribe*