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We've seen directories hawking links based upon the PageRank of the directory. Nevermind that it's Toolbar PageRank and that it's index page PR.
We've seen, time and again, the argument that it's traffic and only traffic that matters.
Lately we've seen comments about links from trusted authority sites, that a link from Yahoo or Business.com might have a weighting for its TrustRank or other mystical powers.
So, I'm asking this: When it comes to sizing up paying for a listing in a directory what value proposition supports a) paying for a listing; and, b) how much to pay?
What if the inbound visitor, as a sales lead or revenue generator, is likely worth only $.05? Ya, a whole lotta traffic needs to flow to justify the payment, right?
Soooo, allow me to ask in a bit more focused manner,
I'll start by suggesting that pre-qualified, filtered leads is one strong value proposition. That is, can a directory deliver outbound traffic that represents the target demographic of the website paying for the link?
In economic terms, IF the value of an inbound visitor that converts is $20,000.00 - to the site paying for the directory link - THEN is it worth it to pay $/year or $$/year or even $$$/year?
Here's an even more diabolical question: IF your directory website it getting inbound traffic that is made up of potential sales leads worth $20,000. THEN why on earth are you a) sending them away; or, b) only charging $$ for "a listing" instead of selling leads for $$$?
Oh, so many things to talk about in the Directory Forum. Not boring at all, is it? :) Just periodically smack me upside the head when I lose my grip of reality . .
That said, here is my take on your questions:
1. I don't ask for payment for listing on my site. I list what I think my consulting clients will find useful. Hopefully, potential clients are so impressed with my discerning taste in resources that they can't wait to throw money at me.
2. I pay for links in niche directories, the ones that someone who has done a little bit of research into my field will use to find a consultant. If I get even one client per year per listing, it more than pays for itself. The key is finding the right directories!
3. Speaking only to my own situation, the value of a listing in the "right" kind of directory (niche, local) will only go up as more and more people look online first for information of any sort.
In my field, the value of the kind of listing that you would think would help you in terms of search ranking (rather than targeted leads straight from the directory itself) is going down. In other words, a year or 2 ago, being listed in a certain handful of directories would almost automatically bump you to the top of the SERPS. Not anymore.
And as for why a directory would charge only $$ a year for listings instead of selling leads, my immediate reaction is that in some fields (such as mine), selling leads is just not done. Thinking through "why not," the answer has to do with (a) the specialized nature of the service and (b) the professionalism of those providing the service.
In terms of specialization, I wouldn't trust too many people to screen leads for me, beyond the screening that goes on at the directory inclusion level. In terms of professionalism, I think colleagues are more likely to refer appropriate leads to each other if they aren't paying $$ just to talk to each potential client.