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Once upon a time, paid directory listings were a must for B2B businesses. Before search engines, these directories were the only way for manufacturers and suppliers to attract new buyers. I have clients who frequently ask if they should invest, or continue to invest, in a paid directory listing. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for two of the most popular directories, ThomasNet and Yellow Pages.

ThomasNet

Pros

  • Trusted B2B Resource – Originally established in 1898 in printed form as the “Thomas Register of American Manufacturers.” In 2006, the printed version shifted over to the modern online platform and changed their name to “ThomasNet.” This directory has been a trusted resource for years in the manufacturing space.
  • Category Specific – As an advertiser, you pay to have your listing appear on category specific results pages. This allows buyers to easily find the right supplier and/or manufacturer for the job.

Cons

  • High Competition – Pricing is also category specific. The more competitive your industry, the more expensive your listing will be. Not to mention, your company profile will then appear on the same page along with all of your competitors.
  • Expensive – A business listing on ThomasNet costs on average $7,000 – $10,000 per year. Competitive categories can go up as high as $50,000.
  • No 3rd Party Reporting Data – ThomasNet has it’s own proprietary reporting tool, WebTraxs. Businesses have to pay a fee for access to the tool and the data is questionable at best. I always recommend using an unbiased 3rd party for data collection, such as Google Analytics.

Yellow Pages

Pros

  • Name Recognition – The name “Yellow Pages” is still highly recognisable when it comes to directories. Before the internet, the Yellow Pages phone book was one of the only ways to find contact information for businesses.

Cons

  • Penalized by Google – Google’s Panda 4.0 algorithm update that came out in 2014 hurt yellowpages.com pretty bad. They reportedly saw a 20% decrease in visibility, and that was two years ago. According to Alexa.com, 49.6% of yellowpages.com’s traffic comes from search engines. Google is growing it’s own local search product offering meaning they are only going to be relying on information from paid directories less and less.
  • Poor User Experience – Have you used yellowpages.com recently? As a user, the experience was pretty awful. You need to first – search for yellowpages.com, then once you’re on their site, search for your keyword and update your location. When the results finally pop up there are a few “Sponsored Links” at the top, and then come the local listings. Each listing looks similar, with text and a marker on a map.
  • Long Term Commitment & Pushy Sales People – Virtually all Yellow Pages contracts are at least a year long commitment. They also have a reputation for using pushy sales tactics to close deals. Any business that uses a pushy, antiquated sales model has bigger fundamental issues. I would encourage you to look for more reputable alternatives.

Trends change over time. Now there are other alternatives to old school paid directory listings. More modern tactics such as search engine optimization, local optimization and paid search could be more cost effective methods for reaching new audiences. Monitor your inquiries and measure the results to find out where your leads are really coming from.

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