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27 / 10 / 22

How to spot a business directory scam

Before data-driven Google ads, printed ads were in fashion. Some of you may be too young to remember the days of the Yellow Pages printed phone books. They were huge, clunky books with the telephone numbers of various businesses etched into each page.

If we were still in the 90s, you might say they were the bee's knees when it came to finding businesses.

The arrangement was simple. Businesses would pay for the size, position and features of their printed ad. From then onwards, it was a waiting game. They'd patiently wait, hoping for a potential customer to turn a page and discover their ad.

The clocks have turned, the world has moved on from these old-school tactics, and we now have online business directories instead of printed phone books.

Whether we're talking about Google My Business, Yelp or Apple Maps, online directories can be powerful marketing tools, helping businesses to connect to local customers.

But it's all in how you use them.

Beware business directory scams! 

The bottom line is that not all directories are created equal. You need to consider the quality and relevancy of the directory before listing your business on it.

For example, say your line of work is construction consultancy, it'd be pointless to list your business in a beauty industry directory.

If you've been unfortunate enough to cross paths with a phoney marketing agency, you might be familiar with some of their bogus strategies.

However, one you might not know is the strategy where they will mass-submit your website's URL to dozens of directories, regardless of how relevant or valuable they are to your company.

Worst case scenario? You waste money paying for listings that damage your business' reputation.

Luckily for you, our team at Formation Media have gathered tips and insights to help you steer clear of these types of scams. Here’s our brief guide to the good, the bad and the ugly of business directories. (You might be too young for that reference too…)

Does the directory reject applicants? 

You will generally come across two types of directories:

The first accepts any company no matter what, and the second screens applicants carefully, only listing high-quality companies that will interest their visitors.

Guess which type of directories Google loves and which type is considered spam: Google prefers selective directories more than the free-for-alls - and so should you!

Selective directories usually require you to meet defined standards and verify your listing before publishing it online.

Why would this extra hassle be a good thing?

If a directory has high standards, that reflects positively on you!

Is the quality of the website good?

The overall quality of the directory’s website is another factor to consider. The general rule of thumb is that if it looks like spam, it probably is.

For the most part, go with your gut. Whether you realise it or not the quality of the site’s design will leave an impression on you. But some elements you can look for are:


Navigate through the content to get an idea of how user-friendly the website is. Imagine you’re a potential customer looking for a business like yours. How easily can you find what you need? Is the navigation, layout and design of the website unclear and confusing? If so, that's not a good sign. On websites with bad user experience, you'll also run across problems such as slow page speed and broken links.


Read the content and keep an eye out for grammar and spelling mistakes. Be wary if the content is loaded with typos and bad spelling!

If the directory’s website has been thrown together at a low standard, it suggests that they care more about money-making than what’s best for your business. So, think twice before dealing with them.

How secure is the website?

Before sharing sensitive information about your business, you want to ensure that the directory sits on a secure website.

There are a couple of signs to look out for:

A secure URL will begin with "HTTPS" rather than "HTTP." The "S" in "HTTPS" stands for secure, and indicates that the site is using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.

Furthermore, a secure website should also have a padlock icon in the URL field, similar to the Formation Media website:

If a directory’s site does not have these elements in the URL, DON’T DEAL WITH THEM.

Are the listing submissions auto-accepted?

Trusted, high-quality directories tend to have moderators who manually review every submission. On the other hand, directories that auto-accept URL suggestions are more likely to contain low-quality websites as they are less regulated. An influx of poor, unhelpful links will degrade the value of the directory in the eyes of website visitors and search engines.

What does this mean for you? Essentially, the directory will have a poor reputation in the eyes of potential customers and, by association, so will your business. Plus, if search engines judge a website as poor, they won’t recommend them to searchers and you’re less likely to be found there anyway!

You do not want to associate with these types of directories.

To find out if directories have manual reviewers and moderators, check on their Homepage or About Us page.

Feeling better-equipped to avoid bad business directories? 

We hope you’re feeling more confident about choosing the best places to market your business. Unfortunately, there are many more digital scams that target companies and cons used by phoney marketing companies. Keep your eye on Formation Media’s blog series to help protect your business and keep up-to-date on all the different types of online scams.  

Alternatively, if you need help building an online marketing strategy, contact our team today.  

Aggee 2
Written by Aggee Digital Journalist