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Is there still a place for a local business directory online?

Local directories vs Google Local or together with Google Local?

11:05 am on Jun 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding the position of local directories at present and how they can compete with the big players nowadays.

1. With the push of Google Local and Google virtual omnipresence - is there still space for a local business directory?

2. What features and content would such a directory need in order to at least try 'to compete' with Google (Quotation marks used on purpose, but possibly 'supplement' would be better than 'compete':- )

3. Do you know any examples of local directories where such co-existence is possible (please note that I consider ThompsonLocal.com to be a UK wide directory rather than local)

I appreciate all your thoughts on this.
1:33 pm on June 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

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1. What's Yelp but a local business directory "with reviews".

2. See #1.

3. Yelp, AngiesList, most "city sites", etc.

Apps are also competing in the local directory space.
12:19 pm on June 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I come across several locally focused directories every week.

Sadly, most are unlistable in DMOZ being either Yellow Pages derivatives with no added content or having huge numbers of empty categories.

I was looking at one yesterday that listed no plumbers in Liverpool - a UK city of almost half a million people. As useful as a chocolate fire guard.
2:54 pm on June 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Local directories still are useful when they're inclusive. The model I watch fail over and over is when they charge businesses to be included -- they can never get enough listings to be interesting to consumers, so after a flurry of initial activity and sales they wither and fade away.
10:38 pm on June 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The key is does it work for consumers? Does it appeal to consumers? If the people buying things are there, the people selling things will want to be there. So if you can get a crowd of consumers (however big a crowd is locally) to repeatedly use your directory and tell their friends to as well, there's a success story coming.

People shop on Ebay and craigslist because almost everything is there. People sell there because there are lots of buyers and the fees are low to free.

I have a niche directory site that covers all sorts of industry-specific info. There is a section for selling an expensive product to consumers, organized into local regions like states or countries. One day I added a new company to the list. 3 minutes after I sent him the email, his phone rang. They gave him a credit card and bought. Less than 10 minutes from my email he's calling me so excited. It was a free listing, but right then I could have charged anything, and he'd have told his friends it's a deal.

I watch (and see the stats) a few sites that are classified ad sites for pricey used equipment not sold on ebay or craigslist. They are very very popular. Potential buyers check them every single day lest the sweet deal gets snatched up by someone else. Volume of listings is so important, their business model is to offer anyone free ads, then offer them a few enhancements if they want for a fee. Things like being at the top of the page, colored background, in a featured ads footer.

Lots of other people keep trying to copy their success. Just offering free ads and a spiffier design isn't good enough. Volume of listings to draw buyers, frequent updates. If one of these sites starts charging even a penny for every ad, sellers will post elsewhere and the traffic will shift there. Directories always have competition, and a lot of it is free, like Google.

Got to work once with a company called CityNameLocal.com which had the very enjoyable business model of hiring stunningly built 19 year old girls who owned very little clothing to go call on plumbers, electricians, accountants and other small businesses and sell listings. They made a lot of initial sales but consumers never saw the value for them, so nobody renewed. Gone in a year.

Focus on how to make it exciting for whoever is buying/consuming/paying what you're listing. If it's a local travel directory you better have all the key businesses: restaurants, hotels, museums, bike tours, etc. If you can get the travelling public frequenting your site, you'll find something to sell to local businesses.
11:23 am on June 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I own and run such a directory, one of my goals lately has been to put the user first and forget about Google. In terms of traffic we do very well, but in all honesty the only google centric seo that has been carried out was the creation of a g sitemap.

There are lots of scripts out there that allow you to run a business style directory, I would invest the time or money into either developing, or having a custom platform developed. By doing this you have software that does exactly what you need.

I offer free listings and always will, its the volume that makes a directory useful. A fee to list is like a barrier to entry, and will result in a lower quality directory.

There are many ways users interact with directories. Try and cover all these bases so your directory is where your user needs it. Mobile apps, website, kindle etc etc.

There certainly is space for local directories, but they need to offer something worth while, and focus on the user.


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