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Internet Marketing

Rise of the Small Directory Sites

We’ve had a lot to say in recent years around the coming demise of directories like Yellow, Finda, Gopher, Localist etc. These each compete head on with Google and in every instance I’ve seen, provide a tiny fraction of the leads, typically say 20 leads per month vs 1,000 leads via Google. The stats confirm these all-purpose directories are a waste of time and money as a means for any business to get new customers. In my book they only exist through the use of high pressure sales tactics and the gullibility if business owners.

But not all local directory sites are a waste of time. Niche sites with a narrow demographic or target audience can do very well and provide real value for money when it comes to advertising and being found online.

Riches in Niches

This was well proven with a new client of mine where we’re overhauling his longstanding directory site in the youth and school market. He advertises listings for hairdressers, suit and dress hire, DJs etc around special events.

What I found amazing when examining all the website stats from his site and key clients, is that his modest niche directory site is getting his advertisers 20- 50 times more leads than Yellow, Finda, Localist or Gopher! In some instances, the traffic numbers came close to those coming via Google. In other words, advertising on his site for some had almost doubled the number of online leads they got each week. This is an amazing feat for any directory in the age of Google. Typically a directory site would be very lucky to get a business 5% more traffic, against what a good Google/SEO-optimised website could inherently provide. And these leads aren’t the bargain hunters one gets when setting up on trademe or one of those new ‘deals’ websites.

However the other thing we believe helped this site succeeded where other didn’t is he actually offers more than a listing. There’s advice columns, tips, videos and tight integration with social media. He’s really active on Facebook with thousands of likes. It’s a great service website and should continue to do well.

These sorts of niche directory enterprises are ideal for the small/home business operator with a passion for a particular market niche or service. The income potential is modest, hence it’s unlikely to be of interest to the big boys who go for quantity, not quality. Yet it is able to provide a nice living for enthusiasts, giving their clients great value for money.

Give me leads, not websites

The use of directories for lead generation is always a good idea for small businesses. Many are confused over what to do with their websites and social media, so handing over the lead generation to a third party makes sense. Yellow Pages provided this lead generation service for decades. With Yellow, businesses absolved themselves of anything to do with marketing or advertising.

Many business owners like this type of services since they just don’t have the time.  Their own efforts (or those of local web designers) is usually ineffective for a variety of reasons. A lack of know-how around SEO and search is the biggest problem faced.  The site is little more than a online branding exercise, with little thought on how customers find them or what they want from the site. With only perhaps a dozen visitors per week to their own site, being seen on those sites that attract thousands is very attractive, especially if it fits nicely in their own niche and not just dumped in with quite different businesses as is common with Yellow, Finda etc.

It’s not new

All this online community building and niche focus concept is hardly new. Seth Godin and other esteemed marketing gurus have spoken of such opportunities for a decade and why building real communities can bring rewards. Let’s have more of it here in NZ.


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