Will you miss the links from that directory? Probably not.

Just before Christmas, the marketing team at one of our clients were getting the real hard sell from a business directory, to the extent that they began to query their own evidence. I was happy to reassure them that they’d got things right. According to Google Analytics, the directory concerned had sent them about a few dozen visits in the last year, which made it worth considering. However, on investigating further they found that three-quarters of these visits came from the same two towns, which indicated that something was amiss. What’s more, none of those were seen as “new visits”, which meant that it was probably the same repeat visitor.

When confronted with this information, the directory salesman insisted that his own data showed hundreds of visits, and for technical reasons, even this probably underestimated the number of visits by 50%. Talk about bullish. However, he offered our client a renewal price of about two-thirds off, as if that solved the results issue.

The clients were comfortable with their conclusion that the visits from the directory were negligible. Their main concern was whether not appearing in the directory – and losing the links – might have an adverse impact on SEO. I referred them to this excellent article by Michael Gray, one of the best-known SEO consultants in the world, which covers just that subject. Gray suggests you need to get an idea of how important the search engines think the directory is, and how likely they are to crawl your link there. He advises navigating to the directory page you are listed on, copy that URL, and search for it in Google. Look for the cached date to see when the page was last crawled (it’s under the little green triangle). The longer it’s been, the worse it is: “Anything over 45 days is trouble, anything over 75 days is a real danger sign”, he says.

Another exercise is to simply search Google for ‘widgets’ (whatever you sell) or ‘widgets directory’ and see if the directory appears in the first few pages.

These are indications of whether the search engines are assigning the directory any importance. Remember, Google has specifically said that it’s not interested in paid-for listings sites, so if the directory is not making any impact in the search results, that’s probably because Google has written it off as an unbiased information source. So will you miss the links from the directory? Probably not.