Should I Join a Real Estate Directory?

In the dark ages of the Internet (circa 2007) when I built my first real estate agent website, real estate directories were all the rage. Do you remember seeing something like this at the bottom of just about every real estate website?

RE Directories

Today, these directory “badges” are rarely seen on real estate websites. Yet most of those directories still exist. Why? What do they do? Perhaps the better question is, should you join one?

What is a real estate directory?

Web Directory

The definition of a web directory is simple, but accurate. It’s a list of websites structured and organized to help a user find what they need.

Real estate directories typically organize website listings by location (by state and then by city and neighborhood within that state). Some directories further categorize websites by type of property, or by the type of real estate service — agents, brokers, home inspectors, title companies, closing attorneys, etc.

There are two types of real estate directories: human verified and software verified. Both require you to submit information about your website, typically by filling out a form on the directory website. Then either a person checks and verifies the submission (desirable), or verification is completed by software (less desirable). Once verified, your website is listed in the directory.

Some directories are free to join, some require payment, and some require you include a link to the directory from your website.

What is the point?

In theory, joining a real estate directory will increase the potential for your website to be discovered, and used, by real estate consumers. The more places your website is listed, the greater the chances are of being found, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Directories are as old as the Internet. Before the advent of search engines, directories were one of the primary ways that people discovered websites. Looking for a car? Go to an automobile directory. Need a doctor? Try a medical directory. Real estate agent? Go to a real estate directory. Now people use search engines (like Google) as the go-to method for finding websites.

As search engines became popular, directories were seen as a way to get backlinks (hyperlinks from other websites that point to your website). Search engines tend to rank websites higher in search results if they have more backlinks. However, a link from a directory requires almost no effort to get and is not a good indicator of website quality.

Should you join a real estate directory?

If your sole purpose is to get backlinks to your website, the answer is no. If you’re joining a directory to increase exposure to your business, the answer is maybe. While search engines clearly dominate how people find websites, there are some real estate directories that might be worth joining.

If you specialize in certain property types, try searching for a national directory for those properties. For example, golf course homes and horse properties have real estate directories for websites that focus on those niches. Most of these directories are pay for inclusion, which means you’ll pay a fee (usually yearly) if you want to include your site in the directory. You should evaluate the return on investment for paid directories just like you would evaluate the ROI for any other form of advertising that you do.

Bottom line: Real estate directories can be useful as a form of advertising, but aren’t a good tool for website discovery.

Pro tip: Be wary of real estate directories that require you to link to them from your website. It’s an SEO tactic that’s no longer effective. And linking to one of these directories could hurt your search rankings. If you’re thinking about joining a niche directory, research how the directory performs in search engines, how often it is updated, and whether submissions are vetted by a human or software.

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