I'm in favor of the entrepreneur that tries to build a business around a perceived need. What make entrepreneurship in the U.S. so exciting is that you potentially make a healthy living off an idea you dream up yourself.
The internet makes those dreams possible.
A few weeks ago, one of my clients brought my attention to the following message that was posted on their Facebook wall.
My client wanted to know if the special $50 deal they offered in the message was worth it for a two year listing on this brand new website youronlineweddingguide.com.
So I went to investigate...
The website YourOnlineWeddingGuide.com (YOWG) is certainly in the start-up stages, and I applaud the husband and wife team that is trying to put it together, but before I can advise one of my own clients to spend any money I have to determine the value of this potential advertising method.
Before I get too deep in my analysis, I have to explain that the YOWG website is just another online directory. Popular online directories include YellowPages.com, Yelp.com, and thousands of other websites that have lists of businesses.
The well established sites, like YP and Yelp, provide a lot of organic traffic to your jewelry store website for free, but they also have paid options.
Many of these directory websites make their money through affiliate ad placement or Google AdSense without asking a retail store for any money. You should be able to find sites like these if you do a Google search for your own business, then jump to page 3 or higher of the search results.
Most of these directory sites simply buy lists of businesses to populate into their database.
The YOWG website is trying to take a different approach to building their business directory. They're doing it manually.
I feel for them because I've been in their exact same situation. Four times through my internet career I've tried to set up directory sites using a manual process. Sadly, it's not sustainable.
Why Are Some Directory Sites Not Sustainable?
After a bit of my own experience in this industry, I know that it takes quite a bit of manual labor to enter in businesses into an online directory. It also takes a lot of convincing to get businesses to pay for a $50 service like the one offered above.
Factoring in the potential cost of overhead and a minimum salary for the entrepreneur, they would need to sign up about 2,360 businesses paying their introductory price of $50. That would take a lot of convincing.
On the other hand, if an entrepreneur that is willing to spend their spare time to slowly grow their online directory they could eventually become successful, but they'd need a really good site that would offer some different value.
How to Evaluate Online Advertising Offers
Before you sign up for a random solicitation like this, you need to do some basic evaluations on your own. Here are a few examples:
Potential for traffic
Is there a potential for the website directory to send organic traffic to you? The potential will be greater if the directory site has good organic ranking or if they pay for their own ads to attract users.
As an example, if you pay YellowPages.com for an ad, they will use part of your money to purchase Google AdWords to attract visitors to your listing. On the other hand, Yelp is highly ranked in Google organic results and that will bring traffic to you even without paying for it.
The future for YOWG is completely unknown because it's so new.
Before paying for inclusion in a directory website, you should use your own judgment to evaluate if the site is useful or not.
Don't simply take their word for it, think for yourself and question their authority.
The current format of the YOWG website is pretty sloppy, and horribly slow. It takes about 7 seconds for every page to load. I tried searching for wedding vendors in Passaic Country, New Jersey, but couldn't find anyone in the first 7 categories I tried.
I was very disappointed and I don't find it useful at all. I'm not sure a normal user would waste 3.5 minutes of their time trying to find a wedding vendor.
Getting In Early
The YOWG is very young and anything could happen. I'd advise against spending the $50 unless you can find out how they will promote the site in the future.
Long term promotions would include some way to attract users. This could include cross promotions with Wedding Wire or The Knot, or other wedding service promoters. The $50 investment for two years might turn out to be pretty lucrative if their plan is sound.
On the other hand, you could view this as a simple $50 marketing fee and just track the results. You have two years to track your results through Google Analytics and asking customers how they found out about you.
Other Directory Website Alternatives
There are many good directory websites out there that you should consider. Two of the best ones are your local Chamber of Commerce or business networking group.
You could also find out if your local radio or TV news station has a business directory on their website. I see referral traffic from CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliate sites all the time in my tracking.
Lastly, you should take the time to search for your own business name and claim the free listing for every other directory site you can find. Make sure all those directory sites have your accurate name, address, and phone number information for your store.