In Canada, directory websites such as YellowPages.ca, CanPages.ca, Yelp.ca, and others are extremely popular destinations for Canadian web surfers. In fact, YellowPages.ca boasts over 12 million unique visitors per month to its network of websites (and it’s mobile application has over 3,500,000 downloads as of the time of this writing). This means that for your business it’s important that you’re found on those websites.
Note: I do not work for Yellow Pages, Canpages, Yelp, or otherwise. This article reflects my opinions as an internet marketer.
Advantages of Directory Websites (such as YellowPages.ca/Canpages.ca) for Home Businesses
Many people are of the mindset that a home-based business doesn’t need proper representation on websites like YellowPages.ca, but I disagree. In fact, lacking a proper store front makes the necessity for effective online positioning even more real.
Remember, the perception of your business is shaped only by what information you choose to share online. It is your obligation as a business to ensure your clients have ample opportunity to find your business. That is the purpose of any online marketing strategy, and properly implementing it can be the difference between excellent reputation management and potential misrepresentation (I will explain later).
However, as a business owner I’m pretty sure you’re primarily concerned about what the main advantages of directory websites are and whether or not they’re worth your investment. The primary advantages as I see them are:
- Revenue - There’s just no denying this. No matter how you look at it the numbers simply don’t lie (and no, I’m not trying to sell you on the idea of buying into them). Remember, as a marketer my primary focus is on generating more revenue than the cash I spend to generate it. Websites like YellowPages.ca/Canpages.ca, etc. get a ton of traffic. They generate the majority of this traffic by getting excellent ranking in the SERPs (search engine results pages), but well branded ones (like YP.CA) generate plenty of traffic due to their brand alone. For example:
- “Calgary dentists” - YP.CA is #1 on Bing.ca, #1-5 on Yahoo.ca (due to a partnership they have), and #2 on Google (below places). This means that for that one keyword alone they effectively dominate the search engines. Are you a dentist? Invest in YP.CA!
- “Calgary accountant” – YP.CA is #2 on Bing.ca, #2 on Yahoo.ca, and #1 on Google.ca. So… that speaks for itself.
- “cleaning service Calgary” – Not ranked on Bing.ca, not ranked on Yahoo.ca, #4 on Google (below places). Okay, not as convincing… but still pretty solid as far as the big G is concerned.
- Easy to advertise - Unlike Google/Yahoo/Bing, where you cannot pay the search engine directly to improve your organic ranking, a directory website like YellowPages.ca lets you pick and choose where on the website you will appear. You can pick the best product combination (and appear on top), or something in the middle, or nothing at all. The pricing/features that you establish will be the result of negotiating with your sales representative, but you can also predict where you will appear on their website. Feel like dropping a few bucks to get the top spot? Do it.
- Easy to track the results – I cannot speak for other directory websites, but YellowPages.ca has a very comprehensive tracking platform built into every online product that they offer. You can also add a unique call tracking number (get them to explain this to you if you’re interested) at no extra charge that will tell you exactly how many phone calls your investment generated. It’s simple to go through, and unlike a search engine, you just need to give your rep a call and they’ll walk you through it.
- Reputation management - You’ve read about this on this site before (“Advertising on Kijiji – Is It Worth It?“, “Search Engine Optimization: An Introduction“, and “Online Professional Promotion: Is LinkedIn Enough?“), and I’m going to say it again: MANAGE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION! As a business owner it is your obligation to ensure that your customers are finding the right information about your business when they go looking for it.
Picture this: you’re looking for a carpet cleaning company. You decide you are going to give “company A” a call, but as is very typical in today’s world, you don’t have their phone number. What do you do? Probably hit up Google/Yahoo/Bing and do a search, or perhaps even open a phone book and look. Either way, you are now searching. Now what would you do if you get to a website that has information about “company A”, and you notice their business hours show that they’re closed. Do you wait? Again, you probably go back to the search engine and find an alternate company. This is very typical behavior that online searchers/customers exhibit, and it can cost you business if your information isn’t correct wherever someone might be looking.
A good business practice is to do a search for the top 5 keywords relating to your business as well as for your business name itself. Once you do that make sure that all of the information/directory sites that appear on the front page of the search engines have the correct information about you. This may mean investing in some advertising products, sending some e-mails, or otherwise, but you’ll only have to do it once and it will ensure you don’t lose sales as a result.
Disadvantages of Directory Websites (such as YellowPages.ca/Canpages.ca) for Home Businesses
Naturally, it isn’t all rosey all the time when it comes to directory websites. While dealing with them is positive for the most part there are things that can come up and prove frustrating. Many of these items listed below can be avoided with proper planning, however, so keep that in mind.
- Limited flexibility - When you are marketing your website directly on the search engines you have a lot of control over it. This makes sense- its your website, after all. However, when you choose to market your business on YellowPages.ca, Yelp, etc. you are now marketing using their website. This means that you will have restrictions on what you can and can not do with the products you’ve purchased. So while it’s entirely possible for you to change your businesses website every few days to reflect new promotions, blog updates, and so forth you will not likely have anywhere near that flexibility on Yelp or YP.CA. Plan accordingly to ensure you’re satisfied with the message they are projecting.
- Generally are not self service - Google Places will allow you to make any changes you want to the information it contains yourself. YellowPages.ca requires you to get in touch with your account rep (read: sales person). This means that the turnaround for changes can be days, or sometimes they may not happen at all (due to human error, turnover, etc.). However, the latter situation is a rarity (in my experience).
- There’s a lot to choose from - Because directory websites market themselves extensively on the search engines there’s value in advertising with them. However, there are a lot more than 1 directory website to considering looking at. Not only that, but many of the directory websites have content-sharing partnerships in place (when you buy advertising on YP.CA it also appears on Canpages.ca, for example). Toss in 411.ca, BBB.ca, Yelp, Google Places, etc. and it becomes very expensive very quickly to advertise on them all.
So, Should You Advertise on a Directory Website?
For most businesses the answer is “yes”, but to what capacity remains up to you. Remember that advertising in general is an investment, and as long as you are tracking that investment effectively and are seeing a return on it you are making money. Should you spend $1,100 a month to get the top ad spot on YP.CA instead of the $150/month ad? That depends: can you make money while still spending that $1,100 every month? If the answer is “yes”, then feel good about your decision to purchase the ad.