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    Are directory sites getting too much respect from google?


    I'm continually trying to improve my small local business ranking for my 2 main search terms on a small budget.
    "driving school suburb" and "driving lessons suburb"
    Thanks to seochat members I've made lots of modifications to my site and gone from nothing to page 3 (sometimes page 2) in web results and solid in local results so I'm making lots of progress.
    Lately, big directory sites are showing a stronger presence in page 1 serps. Is it possible for a small business with a simple site to compete?
    OR
    Should I give up fighting and try ranking higher on the main directory sites to get a gig on THEIR page 1 listing?

    It almost feels like google algorithm has started rewarding directory sites for previously punishable offences.
    After all, a directory is purely built on keyword stuffing and lack of content.
    Last edited by eclipsed; Mar 9th, 2017 at 05:40 AM. Reason: clarity
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    Option 2!

    Google wants to improve user experience so what is better for a user, a directory with a large selection of 'driving lessons suburb' or your site which is one option?

    You can get excellent well targeted traffic if you make sure your directory listings are comprehensive (full descriptions, maximum number of photos, etc, etc). With some clients I also find it very effective to pay for premium positions but if you go that route make sure you have good monitoring in place to measure your ROI.

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    Thanks for responding Doodled. I know there's no point me fighting the tide of Google's methodology but it helps my mental state to at least get off my chest how flawed Google's rankings are knowing your comments are correct.
    Originally Posted by Doodled
    Google wants to improve user experience so what is better for a user, a directory with a large selection of 'driving lessons suburb' or your site which is one option?
    This is just a rant and I don't disagree with what you've said but if Google genuinely wanted to improve user experience why would they list Yellow Pages for their generic "driving school" page at #2 then show the Yellow Pages listing for "abc driving school" at #3 for most suburbs?
    I could accept either being ranked highly but not BOTH for "improved user experience". My opinion won't change anything but I had to say it anyway

    Originally Posted by Doodled
    You can get excellent well targeted traffic if you make sure your directory listings are comprehensive (full descriptions, maximum number of photos, etc, etc). With some clients I also find it very effective to pay for premium positions but if you go that route make sure you have good monitoring in place to measure your ROI.
    This is where it gets murky. There are 2 suburbs that I am trying to improve my ranking for a dozen variations of keywords. For both, Yellow Pages generic "driving school" is #2 and ranking at #3 is the YP listing for "suburb1 driving school" and "suburb2 driving school"
    ROI is definitely negative if I take out the advertising that the YP sales rep told me I need to rank above the businesses that make their #1 YP listing
    I know both business operators that are #1 in Yellow Pages for each suburb. If either one of them are paying what YP quoted me to be higher than them in their directory listing they would both be out of business. They both charge substantially less than is sustainable for this type of business and they are both working a lot less hours.
    Short term ads in YP might provide a spike in traffic but in a high turnover business its difficult to justify the long term benefit.

    I'm concerned how much all the directory sites are slowly climbing the SERPs and as I've said before, directories are purely ranking through keyword stuffing. If any of my website pages showed the words "driving school" etc as often as a directory site page does with not much user friendly content I would be penalised for life

    I've had my rant.
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    Hey mate, I suggest you get free a account on yp.com. Also other sites as well, but only from directories like yp. Here in the states, I generally setup accounts for my clients at yp, angies list, and other such directories. You would be surprised how it will work for you.

    Angieslist I like a lot. Why ? Because for a free listing, you can get a mention in the top 5 results if you do things right. Especially for some of your harder terms. Sure it's a no follow link, but when it's above the fold on page 1, from a respected site, how many customers care if it's a follow or no follow link, your traffic improves and your business will benefit. Do not underestimate the exposure you can get from these listings.

    These listings should be part of your overall SEO plan. A single listing on YP can result in literally hundreds of links (no follow of course) being generated ( by YP ). I tell folks all the time no follow links have their place and purpose. They can generate TRAFFIC ! They are great for local search !
    Last edited by KnowOneSpecial; Mar 23rd, 2017 at 07:27 PM. Reason: spelling correction
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    Thanks KnowOneSpecial I have taken up free listings on quite a few directory sites including YP.com.au, yelp, hotfrog. Many may be nofollow but their presence in SERP is obvious so any competitor I see in SERP through a directory site I have signed up for a free listing and currently working through them to enhance my presence in them. One interesting thing I have noticed is that many of the free ones appear to rank their listings primarily by customer reviews. I guess they reward the business for encouraging customers to visit their site. Getting reviews is another challenge for a different thread.

    As I said in my original post, the cost to compete with the #1 YP listings appears to be unviable at the moment but I'll crunch the numbers a bit better and review my stance on this.

    Is there somewhere that lists the most beneficial directory sites for SEO? Being based in Australia I may not have the same access to US or EU listings but their credibility would surely outweigh the credibility of Aussie directories purely based on population and number of listings in each directory.
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    Originally Posted by eclipsed
    This is just a rant and I don't disagree with what you've said but if Google genuinely wanted to improve user experience why would they list Yellow Pages for their generic "driving school" page at #2 then show the Yellow Pages listing for "abc driving school" at #3 for most suburbs?
    I could accept either being ranked highly but not BOTH for "improved user experience".
    This is the headache search engines face which is as old as the hills. There is a site over there which has some relevancy and a lot of authority (backlinks mainly) and a site over here that has more relevancy but little authority - which one to rank first?

    But in that lies your answer. You could outrank the directories without having to get all their authority because you have more relevancy but your victory might be short lived. All the directories need to do is tweak their content and you're history again.

    Perhaps all it would take is a competitor to create a listing with your keywords and that would tip the balance so I never see a ROI in these circumstances.

    Just remember to make sure your Google+ listing is comprehensive which may give you a chance of showing up on a map listing in the SERPs that would push all the directories out the way anyway

    Regarding who is #1 in the directories themselves Directory Optimization is a field in itself alongside SEO and riding on similar principles - with SEO you are trying to make your site rank on Google, with Directory Optimization you are trying to get your listing to rank in the Directory results pages
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    Hi Eclipsed,
    SEs do not preferentially value directories. What happens is that Directories target low competition search terms then they continuously modify their page layouts to chase the increasing ranking point values needed for a top 10 search result.

    The page types that usually rank best are the business category "index" pages that lists all the driving schools in and around a particular suburb. If you went back 20 years, the Australian Yellow Pages directory probably only listed 10 driving schools per suburb page, then you would click through to results on "page 2", etc. As search competition became more fierce, YP progressively increased the volume of businesses listed on its business category suburb index pages. Over the years I've seen its index page listing numbers grow from 10-> 15-> 20-> 25, etc.

    They gradually needed more listings that included the category of the business in the business names and/or more businesses with the suburb name in the listing. If I search on g.com.au for, driving schools Penrith (a Sydney suburb), This YP page ranks top 10: https://www.yellowpages.com.au/find/driving-lessons-schools/penrith-nsw

    This YP index page now lists 46 businesses. Note that they are no longer all in Penrith and they are not all driving schools.

    It's a case of the directories changing their page content to satisfy the ranking requirements of the SE algorithm, not SEs favouring directories.

    Ranking top of your 2 search queries is a "ranking point scoring" competition for how each of the words "driving", "school", "lessons" and "(suburb name)" are used on your site.

    When I see a general business directory page in the top 10 results on g.com.au, it can generally be taken as a sign that it is a low competition search query.

    A suggestion to research your competition...

    Run your two search queries through your local Google engine. Then run a "site: search check of the top ranked driving schools in the results.

    For the Penrith example, above you would be entering these search queries in Google:

    site:penrithdrivingschool.com.au/
    site:drivezonedrivingschool.com.au/

    G spits out a list of every page/file that G has indexed from these two domains.

    It tells me that they contain around 30-40 pages.

    Now look at the words in the page titles.

    I think every one includes the words: "driving", "school" and "Penrith".

    How large is your site? What words are in your page titles?

    Another tip for low competition search queries. Construct a useful site-wide footer. Eg: In the black background at the bottom of all pages on: drivezonedrivingschool.com.au/

    What this bit of text does is broaden the range of search queries where a site page will rank top 10 in G. So, if you add words like, "manual", "automatic", "cars", "safe" and "dual control" to the initial target search phrase, a site page still ranks top 10.

    Most search traffic is lost because sites do not answer all relevant search queries.

    You may find modifying your page titles and including a relevantly written site-wide footer could make dramatic changes to your generic SE referrals.

    The best way to knock a YP or similar directory page out of the top G results is with is with two SEO tactics:

    • Focus, focus, focus your entire site's content on the search query.
    • Create more detailed and relevant info on your pages about the search query.

    The Achilles Heels of general business directories are that they can't focus all their content on a single type of business. Aust YP contains 10s of millions of pages about thousands of business categories in thousands of cities, towns and suburbs. That is what makes YP
    easy to knock out of a top 10 G search place for any business category +suburb search.

    This is also why general business directories tend to get kicked out of the top 10 when there are a bunch of vertical (industry specialist) directories competing with them. (Eg. You won't find a YP page in the top 10 on g.com.au for the search term, restaurants Penrith.

    Don't give up. You should be able to rank page 1 for your two queries and a lot more...

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    • KernelPanic : wow that's really wrong
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    Originally Posted by JohnAimit
    SEs do not preferentially value directories.
    Maybe not for the low competition keywords you're targeting...
    Do a search for Washington DC Attorneys, there's 1 attorney ranking organically
    Search Miami Golf Courses, 1 golf course in the results
    Search Orlando Hotels, 2 Hotels
    Search New York Steakhouse 0 steakhouses.

    Each and every one of these search terms used to list themost relevant business, now they allow directory sites like Yelp, Golf Now, Avvo, Find Law... to take the majority of the positions.
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    Originally Posted by KernelPanic
    Maybe not for the low competition keywords you're targeting...
    Do a search for Washington DC Attorneys, there's 1 attorney ranking organically
    Search Miami Golf Courses, 1 golf course in the results
    Search Orlando Hotels, 2 Hotels
    Search New York Steakhouse 0 steakhouses.

    Each and every one of these search terms used to list themost relevant business, now they allow directory sites like Yelp, Golf Now, Avvo, Find Law... to take the majority of the positions.
    I believe we are in complete agreement.

    However, I wonder whether your browser settings (history and location tracking?) are modifying your results for "Washington DC Attorneys"? I don't get any Yelp, golf, hotels or restaurant in my results.

    What I get are 7 x legal directories, 2 x legal .gov sites and a Washington-only news site. I.e. No general business directories in the top 10.

    If I search for, "Foggy Bottom DC attorneys" I get 4 x general business directory pages, 3 x legal directory pages and 2 x general job site pages in the results.

    It should be easy to knock a general directory or job site page out of this list of results.
    Last edited by JohnAimit; Mar 30th, 2017 at 07:39 PM.
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    Originally Posted by JohnAimit
    I believe we are in complete agreement.

    However, I wonder whether your browser settings (history and location tracking?) are modifying your results for "Washington DC Attorneys"? I don't get any Yelp, golf, hotels or restaurant in my results.

    What I get are 7 x legal directories, 2 x legal .gov sites and a Washington-only news site. I.e. No general business directories in the top 10.

    If I search for, "Foggy Bottom DC attorneys" I get 4 x general business directory pages, 3 x legal directory pages and 2 x general job site pages in the results.

    It should be easy to knock a general directory or job site page out of this list of results.
    We are in complete agreement, we're seeing the same results: Few law firms in the results pages, few hotels, few golf courses, few restaurants. Do you honestly think it would be easy to rank for Washington DC attorneys?
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    Hi Eclipse,
    I just found your other post on ranking in G, "Solid on page 2 but need to improve".

    I'm adding my reply to this post because so much of your current page #1 search competition is from general business directories. Eg. Yellow Pages and True Local.

    My "to do" list of recommendations follows...

    1. Tell Google what areas you service
    G is gun-shy from the numbers of people trying to scam it with false local business listings over the last decades. Claim your "My Business" listing which G then confirms by snail mail. When you set up your My Business account define the area where you offer your services.

    See: "Service-area businesses on Google"

    Moving on...

    If you want 2 of your site's pages replacing these directory pages or other competitor's pages, do this...


    2. SEO starts with research & planning the totality of your site. People will search for you by:

    Bus. Type: Driving school
    General Services Offered: Driver/driving education, lessons, tuition, etc.
    Specific Services: Manual car/vehicle, automatic, learner, provisional license, P plater, International, etc.
    Client Type Requests: Learners, adults, seniors, mature age, disabled, etc.
    Business Name: Eclipse
    Location Words: Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Point Cook & south western suburbs of Melbourne
    Ready to Buy Words: Best, reviews, compare, price, discount, etc.

    Pick which are relevant to you.

    3. Now plan your site structure around the main search methods

    Your Home page starts to address various types of services but it does not let the different service users click through to pages that give them the specific info they need.

    Your "Our Services" section is where these pages should be listed but here you list pages like "Gift Certificates", "Prices" and "Book Online". These are not Services pages.

    "Gift Certificates" is an incentive to buy. It should be offered on every type of service page you publish. The same with "Prices" and "Book Online".

    4. What are your site-wide search words?
    Most SE referrals are lost because there is no web page to qualify for a search query.

    There are certain words that you should want to occur on every page of your site to broaden the scope of your search queries.

    4.1 Site-wide Keywords
    These will include: driver, driving, school, lessons, etc.

    You will want to use these words in your "Services" page names, page <titles>, page URLs, page headings, internal link text and image "alt" tags.

    4.2 Site-wide Location Words
    Then there are the various relevant location words you want to target.

    I suggest you amend your site-wide footer text (the white text on grey) where it reads:

    "Eclipse Driver Training
    Hoppers Crossing, Victoria 3029
    0409 315 075
    Lessons Monday - Saturday By Appointment"

    Add this text to ALL page footers:

    "Suburbs Serviced: Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Point Cook & south western suburbs of Melbourne"
    You should also add location words, as relevant to all of your page title. Eg. At present each of your page titles ends in, "...Eclipse Driver Training"

    I'd consider alternating "Eclipse Driver Training" and "Eclipse Driving School". I'd also add a relevant location word after your business name. Eg. "Eclipse Driving School, Werribee"

    5. Strengthening your Location Words
    Do NOT fall into the trap of publishing pages that are replicating near duplicate content but changing the suburb name. G is way ahead of this simplistic trick.

    Consider your client resources.

    Can you ask them to publish testimonials/reviews? You don't need pictures and you don't neeed more than a couple of paragraphs about the type of lessons they wanted, their satisfaction and what suburb they are from.

    Publish these types of pages with titles like, "Reviews: P platter driving lessens from Susie from Werribee, Melbourne"

    Link them under the sub-heading "Testimonials and Reviews" from the relevant type of service page.

    6. Amend any search meaningless pages
    In SEO terms, the most useless page on your site is: "Book online and Save" (<removed url by request>)

    Book what online?
    Save what?

    Try to make every site page work for you.

    7. Focus, Focus, Focus
    One of the ranking attributes G is seeking are sites that focus on very specific info topics. That is why legal directory sites rank higher for attorney searches than general business directory sites.

    If you focus and build more of your page content around driving school/lessons/tuition and the various suburbs you want to target, you will increase your total search engine referrals (primary objective) and rank page #1 for many more search queries.

    Keep us posted on what you are doing. Hope this helps...
    Last edited by ThomasHarvey; Jul 26th, 2017 at 05:37 AM. Reason: URL removed by request
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    I think I get what you are all saying. SEO has become a compulsive hobby for me trying to rank my business. Running my business obviously has to take priority over SEO as it pays the bills and focussing on trying to outrank bigger fish is futile.

    Weirdly I am getting a page 1 ranking for multiple search terms from another major directory site after only registering with them a week ago. Mostly it seems thats because theres not much competition locally in the same directory. No doubt one of my competitors will eventually catch on and list in the same directory above me.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, reviews seem to make a big difference for ranking in many directory sites for free ads. Trying to determine where to direct review requests adds another complexity to a small business SEO plan. Do you get a few reviews on lots of sites or focus on just one major site like G reviews?
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    Originally Posted by JohnAimit
    One of the ranking attributes G is seeking are sites that focus on very specific info topics
    Then why does Amazon.com rank so well for everything from Flashlights (#1) to Underwear (#1)?
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    Originally Posted by KernelPanic
    Then why does Amazon.com rank so well for everything from Flashlights (#1) to Underwear (#1)?
    Hi Kernel,
    I did say "one of the ranking attributes..."

    I find turning the question around even more amazing. I.e. How can little websites of only 1,000-3,000 pages (there are two in the top 10) compete with 103 million page giants like Amazon or a 13 million page Walmart?

    Ans: The little sites are totally focused on flashlight products then there are two other factors that I believe totally alter how G's algo works these days.

    1. Location searches
    2. RankBrain Factors

    1. Location searches
    USA residents may rarely be exposed to the totally different results that can occur across different G country properties for certain types of search queries.

    The importance of the country location of the web page kicks in for any product or service search.

    Amazon does not rank top 10 or at best, occasionally makes it into 10th place for searches on G Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

    2. RankBrain Factors
    G has problems understanding what info a searcher wants when they give too little guidance in the search query. Eg. When someone enters a single word search like, "flashlights", do they want:

    Lyrics, music, the singer's name, video of a song?
    Jackets
    Book titles
    Or, could they want one of the "squillions" of types, brands, on and offline suppliers of torch flashlights...

    This is when RankBrain seems to kick in and makes predictions about where searchers are likely to go next in their info search. Eg. Do they want:

    brightest led flashlight lumens
    flashlight lyrics jessie
    flashlight reviews
    led flashlights
    walmart flashlights
    flashlight online
    tactical flashlights
    amazon flashlights

    This list comes from the SERP footer, "Searches related to..."

    If you scan through the titles and descriptions of the SERPs you will find these recurring in them:

    Brightest
    LED
    Amazon

    It looks to me like G is not simply basing its top 10 on the basic PageRank/Hummingbird algo, for this type of poorly defined request, it is delivering a selection of pages based in part on the longer related search queries.

    I had a similar discussion with someone about the search term, "riddles". Check out the "Searches related to..." and see how frequently these words occur in SERP result titles and descriptions:

    hard, brain teasers (G recognises synonyms)
    riddles and answers
    kids
    easy

    Back when the web only contained 50 million pages, average search query length was only 2 words. Now G claims to have indexed 130 billion pages so searches are averaging 4+ words to cull out irrelevant results.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by JohnAimit; Apr 1st, 2017 at 01:25 AM.

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