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Are You Paying a Monthly Fee to List Your Business on Some Website? Read This.

This morning I met with a sales rep who was selling online advertising on a locally-targeted online business directory.  They were charging $49/month, $99/month or $199/month to be listed on this local online directory.

In exchange for the monthly fee, my business would get:

  • a prominent full-page directory listing on the directory
  • pay-per-click advertising in top search engines like Google
  • the ability to log in and edit my listing, and see how much traffic my listing received

The online directory is rather new, and one way they are getting people in the door is by buying clicks on Google, Yahoo and other search engines that point people back to their customers' listings. 

So if somebody in my area searched for "web design" then an ad would show up on Google, which points people to my listing, on THEIR website directory. One problem I quickly uncovered is this:  As more businesses of the same type buy into this program, I will get less exposure on Google, since they rotate the ads between all the local businesses who advertise on their website.

Many businesses will have their credit card dinged every month without thinking about whether they are getting their money's worth -- they'll see the value when they first sign up, but as additional businesses buy in and their exposure drops off, it will be hard to measure.

This website isn't the first of its kind.  Even in my small town, there are many options where I could pay a monthly fee to get a full-page listing.  I might have prominent billing on their website portal, but how many people are actually going to search for my business from their website portal?  Very few.  After all, I'm a web guy, and I'd never heard of this particular website until the sales rep told me about it this morning.  So the only valuable part is the advertising they buy on top sites like Google, but the longer I pay to advertise, the less exposure I get.

If you are paying a monthly fee to be on a website directory, it's probably a mistake. While it may bring decent results for a little while, it's likely that your exposure will drop off over time.

Here are 3 alternatives that will get better LONG-TERM results for your business: 

Alternative #1: 
Tap into social media like Facebook and get BETTER exposure for free.

I just spent 15 minutes setting up a page on Facebook for my company. I was able to feed my blog posts onto my company's Facebook page, post pictures, profile information, and more.  But more importantly, people can "become a fan" of my company, and all of THEIR friends will see that they've done so.  Over time, I will have a powerful communication tool to update my company's "fans" while they spread information about our company to everyone they connect with.  Facebook is one of many powerful sites that give me a powerful viral communication tool, and its free.   Also checkout Twitter, MySpace, Digg and others for more powerful and free marketing tools.  The list goes on and on, and they're free.

Alternative #2: 
Take the same $99/month and buy your own pay-per-click ads on Google.

If you're going to search for a business online, are you more likely to search some unknown local business directory, or Google?  Umm, that's a no-brainer.  So why feed your money into a third-party business directory that nobody's heard of when you can buy ads that drive people directly to YOUR website?  With pay-per-click advertising like Google AdWords, you can setup campaigns that send traffic when you need more business, and you can pause the campaigns when you've got enough work coming in.  Best of all, you only pay for the people who actually click to your website, and you get to manage your own budget. Click here to read an article we wrote about this.

Alternative #3: 
Optimize your website for search engines and get ongoing advertising on Google for free.

If your website is built correctly, you will show up in Google, Yahoo, MSN Live, and other search engines without paying a dime.  More than 7 out of 10 people click on the unpaid listings in Google and ignore the paid listings. For example, I recently wrote a blog about Ford's commercial making fun of Chevy's "man step" and in a matter of days my website started showing up #1 in Google for the term "man step."  We're also on page one for our top search terms like "ohio web design" "ohio seo expert" etc.  Why pay for exposure on a third-party directory when you can invest in your own website and get exposure on the top search engines?   Click here to learn more about search engine optimization.

OK, I'm done ranting. 

Bottom line, if you are paying one or more monthly fees to have a listing on somebody else's website, please consider the alternatives listed above. You can do this stuff on your own, or my team can help you find places to invest your money -- and even show you free alternatives that get you better exposure and a better return on investment.


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