Death of business directories? Or just collecting dust?

Death of business directories? Or just collecting dust?

A short piece here from Barry Schwartz at seoroundtable providing more evidence of the demise on internet directories.

Why Google Doesn’t Rank Directories Well

A Dutch Directory had written to Google Webmaster Help asking:

I’ve read the FAQs and searched the help center.
we are a business directory in the netherlands and do rank currently quite poorly.
 we have made many changes since it went online.
 we are combining social media information together with business hours, vat numbers, type of company, adres details, contact details etc.
 cant it survive?
 yes, it has duplicate content but since we are combining data ( adding value )… it should be ok, right?

The Google spokesman replied with:

With directories like that, I always worry that it’s very easy to create a ton of content that doesn’t have a lot of value yet. For example, I clicked through to a number of businesses, and apart from the general information such as the address and occasionally some keywords, I am missing anything unique, compelling, and of high quality. I realize it’s not always possible to have that from the start, but if the majority of your site’s content is like this at that point, you can imagine that it can be very hard for our algorithms to judge your website overall. One solution could be to only include content that you’re certain provides something unique; another possibility could be to keep those pages on your site (perhaps users will add more content over time?), but to block them from being shown in the search results (perhaps with a noindex robots meta tag). 
Another issue I ran into was that many of your pages are essentially search results pages (eg ). In our Webmaster Guidelines ( ) we recommend: “Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.”

The problem is that (for it’s own database) Google gets to decide what it considers ‘unique/compelling/etc’. You cannot argue with that, but it is forcing everyone into taking decisions based solely on whether Google likes something, or not. Maybe the Dutch directory is providing a valuable contribution to the internet – but unfortunately Google disagrees.

What does this mean to Small Businesses?
– There can be little doubt that the effectiveness of business directories in internet marketing is waning – although maybe not dead ……. yet.
– Develop more content for your website – particularly via your own blog
– Hope for a competitor to Google


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Ian Smith
Dr Ian Smith

32 years of marketing experience to help small businesses understand the world of website marketing.