Is a print or online directory listing a wise investment for your business?

In a word, no. For some industries printed directories are still profitable, e.g. plumbing. But for the vast majority of businesses they are a wasteful use of marketing money that could be better invested online in either a improved website presence or by directly buying search traffic.

Even for the few businesses that can make directories work, the format requires a savvy copywriter who understands Yellow Pages advertising to ensure the ad pays for itself.

A new wrinkle

As the sun has set on the printed directory business, many of the large directories (I’m not going to name names for fear of being sued) are now in the business of buying Google AdWords traffic en masse and then directing it towards they pages and pages of online directory listings. Businesses like yours then pay for the privilege of being one of these listings, with your rank being solely determined by how much money you are willing to spend.

To me this seems like a tragic waste of your advertising dollars as there is now one more person to pay and the customer has a poor experience wading though outdated and unhelpful directory listings with scant information on them.

The directories will counter this by saying that there are thousands of people using their directory each month that are not brought to the site via AdWords. This may be true, but in all my experience with clients the leads coming from these directories via the free listings are few and far between. They can’t recall the last time they received a lead from a directory but they can remember the last time they received a lead from organic search.

Here’s what to do instead:

Learn Google AdWords. Buy Perry Marshall’s book, The Definitive Guide to Google AdWords and either learn it yourself or find a nerd to do it for you. Invest your own advertising dollars directly with Google rather than giving it to a middle man who has little interest in the success of your business.

The very best people to hire to manage your AdWords (note, they are rare), are people who have learnt AdWords by investing their own hard earned cash advertising their own business. These people have a finely tuned appreciation for the value of each click and are very careful with your money.

Avoid hiring someone who uses a ‘platform’ or ‘algorithm’ to manage your campaign. This simply means they have automated software that tries to optimize your campaign but is no match to someone who understands the hidden motivations and fears of your customers. Google wants human eyeballs looking over your campaign, so find someone who is willing to be transparent and show you exactly how they setup the campaign and what they are doing to improve it.

Hire someone who is AdWords savvy and who understands your market and you will automatically be three steps ahead of every one of your competitors paying for directory listings.