Online website directories provide several benefits, the most important of which is linking. While this article reiterates to lawyers, it applies to any industry.
A FindLaw white paper, "Visibility, Design and Content-Three Steps to Successful Online Marketing" stated, "In the expanding online market for legal services, the most successful law firms focus on three essential (and related) areas: building visibility via search engines and directories; using distinct site design to set the firm apart; and delivering persuasive content that engages prospects and deepens client relationships …. Links from other law firms, online directories and legal sites such as FindLaw also support an effective link building campaign . "
When considering paying for a review of a listing in an online directory, most people think only of the potential for traffic and think about whether the cost of the listing review is really worthwhile. However, this is not the only consideration.
Obviously, when an online directory appears in the top search results of a search engine, people may find your website listing. One result is that your listing will provide some branding as people see it. Another result is that some of these people will click on your listing, land on your website, and possibly do business with you.
The often overlooked and most important benefit, as FindLaw pointed out, is that when links point to your website from many niche directories, such as legal directory pointing a link to a law firm website, your "web popularity" is enhanced and the position of your law firm website in search engine results will move up.
If you're serious about your law firm website appearing in the top search results, listing your law firm in as many legal directories as possible is a must. Again, this applies to any business. Just look for niche directories for your industry.
Whatever business you're in, obtaining a listing in a few of the top ranked general directories is also beneficial. Of course, once a directory becomes well ranked, there is generally a fee to review your listing.
The website directory must give you a true "live" link without a "no-follow" tag. The "no-follow" tag prevents passing any page rank, sometimes called "link juice" to your website. There are several ways of using a "no-follow" tag and it is not easy for the average lawyer to know if it is being used. Look for niche directories that do not use a "no-follow" tag, such as LawFirms911.com for law firms. If the website directory you are considering does not indicate whether it uses a "no-follow" tag, just send them an e-mail and ask. If the directory provides a do-follow link and it is a well-maintained niche directory, go ahead and pay for your listing to be reviewed.
Why should you pay for your listing to be reviewed? A well-maintained website directory will typically review each website listing to ensure that the listing belongs to the directory and is placed in the most appropriate category.
A website directory filled with spam website listings will be ignored by search engines and so will your listing. Directories are attacked daily with spam submissions and websites that have no relationship to the subject of the niche directory. To make sure that a submitted website listing is in fact a law firm and not a website selling drugs or a website about cars, I have to look at the website being submitted. Many times, it does not take too long. However, spam websites are often cleverly disguised and only after digging around do I find that it is a useless website.
If people searching on the Internet are going to use a directory and if search engines are going to give value to your link on a directory, listings must be properly categorized. Many listings are submitted to improper categories, usually because the submitter did not take the time to find the most appropriate category or because the submitted wanted the listing in an upper, more general category.
To make sure that a submitted website listing is in fact a law firm and submitted to the most appropriate category, I have to look at the website being submitted.
I do not want to simply delete your listing. Instead, your listing will be placed in the appropriate category. It takes time to re-categorize submitted lists. For anyone, time is costly. Since I am a lawyer, maintaining my directories is even more expensive.
If your listing is moved to a more specific category, do not worry. Being categorized more closely with similar websites is beneficial. Additionally, being at the top or one of the few links in the category may be better than being at the bottom of a category with hundreds of lists.
As can be seen, it takes a lot of time to review all of the website listings submitted. It also takes time and money to maintain the directory infrastructure including its software, search engine optimization and other aspects.
Charging a small fee to review your website is necessary if a website directory owner is going to maintain the directory properly. It is a small price to pay to ensure that the directory benefits your website and does not harm it.
Websites which have been previously submitted must be periodically reviewed to make sure that the submitted website was not lost by the owner who failed to renew the domain name and subsequently picked up by a "spammer", resulting in unintentional spam listings in the directory. This happens all too frequently. The standard period of time for review is annually. Some directories charge an annual renewal fee for this service.
I have been adding more directories and I am currently at the point where I will have to employ someone. If my directories are to remain permanent, they must be run as any profitable business with overhead.