The low down on paid directories…

As a new virtual assistant, how do you get your name out there to bring clients to knocking down your door as fast as possible?  Directories may seem like a great way of connecting with clients already looking for your services… But they can be expensive.

How do you know which one to advertise in?  What’s the difference between one charging £25/year and one charging £100/year?  How much business do people realistically get from these directories?

We don’t charge for the SVA Approved scheme – the reasoning behind this was to create a list that was as genuine as possible for clients to use.  We wanted them to get a response when they contacted the VA, to be assured of a certain standard of service and to be free to remove a VA if we either got complaints about them or they weren’t abiding by the rules, without having to consider our fee income when deciding whether or not to remove them.  (NB: Please do not apply if you don’t have a proper website, professional email address and landline phone number.  You must also have offsite data backup and be able to respond within 24 hours to any enquiries.)

First let me start off by saying that most people who run directories tend not to be big businesses – in most cases they are simply VAs who have learned how to optimise their own site for getting VA work, and are happy to list other VAs who specialise in different areas to them for a fee.  The fees will vary wildly as a result, as they tend to be based on gut instinct about what people will pay rather than actual traffic or results.

Whilst there are lots of free directories out there, such as SVA and VAs4U.com, there’s a wealth of others which you may want to register with.  So here’s a very simple guide to checking where to invest your money.

  1. Google “virtual assistant” or whatever search term you would expect your clients to use to find you. Does it appear on the first page of results?  If not, it’s probably not worth investing in.
  2. Check their page rank – this is the “score” Google gives their website in terms of its credibility. most businesses will score 1-3, most organisations will score between 3-5, 5+ tends to be for much larger sites like BBC, government sites and of course Google themselves! http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php For a paid-for site, I’d expect them to have at least a page rank of 4-5.
  3. Check their Alexa ranking – This gives you some idea about their traffic volume, basically the lower the number, the more traffic they have.  You can also look at the keywords of the traffic that arrives at the site – a useful tool for checking if it’s the right kind of traffic for you.  http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo
  4. Ask about the links – What kind of a link will you be given by the site?  Of course, you hope that people will find you via the directory, but you also want Google to see your site being recommended by this directory site featuring an external link.  Check they aren’t using “nofollow” links that Google won’t recognise.
  5. Look at who else is on there – Send them a quick email and ask if they’ve had business from the site.
  6. Cost comparison – Look at what else you could get for your money.  Good Google Adwords or Facebook campaigns can bring you highly targeted traffic for pennies per visitor.  Investing some time in social media could easily bring in some business without forking out a penny.  As a VA, your marketing budget is limited and you need to put in the research on what will bring you the best return for your money.  (If you’re stuck for ideas try: 101 Ways To Market Your VA Business or the UK VA Survey).

About Caroline

Co-founder of Society Of Virtual Assistants and owner of Virtually Sorted. Caroline lives in Glasgow and enjoys the virtual lifestyle allowing her the flexibility to wear jeans to the office every day! In 2014 Caroline was shortlisted as in the UK's Top 10 Digital/Tech Bloggers at the UK Blog Awards. Not bad for a non-techie!
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