How to measure return on investment from online directory listings

How to measure return on investment from online directory listings

Don’t believe everything that online directories tell you!  Here’s how to prove whether or not you are getting return on investment from directory listings.

Online directory listings can provide you with either free or paid listings that can lead directory visitors back to pages within your website.

To ensure that you get value for money from paid listings, it’s important to track and prove the positive impact on your business.

In this article, I’ll mainly cover the benefit of independently monitoring website visitors traffic from online directories.

Examples of B2B online directories

There are many B2B online directories that encourage you to spend marketing budget with them.  Here are just a selection:

  • Applegate
  • Approved Business
  • Business Magnet
  • Europages
  • Findtheneedle

Why is it important to get an independent view of your website visitors traffic from online directories?

Not all online business directories are ethical in their practices.

I have seen undisputable evidence that some actively rip off their paying customers by over-inflating numbers of visitors that have come from those directories, and being unwilling to provide concrete proof that the online directory listings had the number of visitors stated.

I’ve even seen some of the directories clicking through (from advertiser website links on their own website) to make it look like they had more visitors (but it being proven that it was staff at the directories themselves who were clicking through).

Ignorance is bliss

Most online directories gain recurring advertising revenue from their customers because their customers are totally unaware of what they are or aren’t getting from that advertising.

It’s only when a business starts looking at finances that spend such as online directories starts to get questioned.

As long as the directories update their clients with some numbers of website visitors they got, or views on their directory listings, then most businesses don’t question if they are benefiting.

Where online directories are beneficial

When an online directory has the ability to bring potential buyers to the pages of their advertisers, then they are beneficial – particularly when those people click through to the website of the advertiser.

Four ways to maximise ROI from online directory listings

  1. Select the right directories

Not all online directories are created equal.  Choose directories that are relevant to your industry and have a good reputation.

  1. Craft compelling listings.  Your listing should be informative, engaging, and optimised for search engines. Use high-quality images, keywords, and relevant information.
  2. Monitor traffic.  Keep a close eye on the traffic your directory listings are generating for your website.
  3. Convert leads.  Once visitors land on your website, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place to convert them into customers.

In this article, my primary focus is on point 3 – monitoring traffic to assess the ROI from your online directory listings.

Why Independently Tracking Website Visitor Data Is Important

While many online directories offer statistics and analytics, relying solely on their data may not provide a comprehensive picture of your listings’ performance.  Independent tracking is essential for several reasons …


Unbiased Evaluation

Independent tracking allows you to assess the performance without any bias from the directory provider. You can verify the accuracy of the data provided by the directory.


Comparative Analysis

With independent tracking, you can compare the data from different directories and see which ones are driving the most traffic. This insight is invaluable in optimising your advertising budget.


Proof of ROI

Independent tracking provides concrete proof of the impact of online directory listings on your website traffic. This data is crucial when assessing the value for money.

Data that can’t be proved

Some of the online directories will show you numbers of people who have got to your listings on their directories, and those numbers are designed to impress you.

But are those numbers real?

There is no way you can prove they are real.

You can only identify how many of those people went on to either click through to your website or made contact with you (in which case you’d likely have asked them how they found about about you).

A word about search engine visibility

Many of the online directories claim that your SEO will be helped by being listed with them.

While there is some partial truth here, it’s not a huge SEO boost plus ‘being visible’ needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Some online directories will get you to type something into Google that makes your page on their directory visible.   The problem here is that the search phrase is usually so obscure that no-one would type it.

The big problem that most of the online directories have is that they are not very visible in search results (e.g. Google).

This is something you can try for yourself:

  1. Go to a search engine.
  2. Type something related to what you or another company provides (e.g. spur gear manufacturers).
  3. As you go through the search results, look out for the name of the online directory that is trying to sell to you.
  4. Then try it with other search phrases.

In most cases you won’t see any of those directories appear in the search results – at least not until many results down (where people wouldn’t look).

That in itself tells you that the online directory is not capable of bringing potential customers to their website when relevant search terms have been typed into a search engine.

In fact, it’s quite likely that your own website page(s) will appear more prominently in the search results.

Tracking proof of traffic and ROI from online directories

What ultimately matters is:

  1. Online directories (who you are paying for) bring good levels of potential customers to your website.
  2. Those website visitors convert to enquiries at a rate that’s satisfying to you.

Let’s dive into the practical steps you can take to monitor and prove the traffic coming from online directory listings …


Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you track website traffic from various sources, including online directories.  It’s free and will give you an overall picture of how many people visited from those sources.


Create Unique UTM Parameters

UTM parameters are tags you add to the URLs in your directory listings. These tags allow you to track the traffic specifically coming from those links.

You can create custom UTM parameters for each directory to differentiate the traffic sources.  It’s free to create these UTM parameters by using the Google Campaign URL Builder.

The most common UTM parameters used are:

  • Campaign name
  • Campaign source
  • Campaign medium

You just use the google campaign url builder to paste in the website url that people would land on from the online directory, and you add extra parameters on the end.

In this example url below, the website page has utm parameters that show that the source is the online directory Business Magnet, that the medium was a link from that website, and that it was a link from a campaign page about blue widgets:

Don’t worry too much about exactly what you use in the utm parameters – just as long as you know what they relate to.

UTM parameters will give you a very precise view of the clicks coming in from an online directory listing.


Record your online directory clicks

Hopefully you will be keeping monthly metrics that show levels of traffic you gained from a range of marketing investment.  For example:

Online directory 1:   5 clicks

Online directory 2:   2 clicks

Google Ads:            124 clicks

Email campaigns:     40 clicks

Over the months you will build up a picture of which marketing sources attracted the most clicks (compared to what you spent on them).

Clicks though aren’t as important as conversions …


Conversions from online directory clicks

It’s not always easy to track conversions from marketing but your life will be made easier if you have one or a combination of these:

  1. Every incoming enquirer is asked how they found out about you.
  2. You record the date and time of every enquiry (so that you can refer back to the website visitors via intelligent analytics).
  3. Google analytics conversion tracking can be linked to when people complete contact forms, click on email links or clicked on a phone number to call you from your website.

You won’t always be able to link enquiries back to sources, but the more you can set up to help with this, the more opportunity you have to prove or disprove if forms of marketing (including online directory advertising) is working for your business.


It’s worth remembering that some of the online directories rely on their paying advertisers to be unaware of what they’re actually getting from their listing.

Ultimately, responsibility for return on investment (from all your forms of marketing) rests with your business.

If you can prove that your paid online directory listing led to business that outweighed the overall cost, then that’s great.

If you’d like any help with proving whether you are or aren’t getting ROI from your online directory listing(s) then please do contact me and I’ll be happy to provide some initial free insights that will help you (including, where provable, the easy way to catch out an online directory that may be conning your business).

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