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In your opinion, how hard is it to outrank Yelp, BBB, Manta, Homeadvisor, and other local directory websites in the search results?

I manage roughly 20 local SEO clients in various industries, and for some results, I see as many as five directory websites in the top 10 SERPs for local search queries.

I'm trying to understand how easy or difficult it is to outrank directory websites.

I always wonder if it makes more sense to try to outrank Yelp and other directory websites, or if it makes more sense to try Barnacle SEO with some of my clients.
 

pony

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It depends on the query, can you send any examples?

With some queries, you can tell the users intent is to look for a directory style website, which may make it very difficult to compete.

I work in an industry where a large percentage of users will go to a third party site while they are earlier in the funnel and there isn't much we can do about changing that intent. We don't exert as much effort on keywords with that intent as we do with keywords where we know customers are looking for us, and are thusly more likely to convert.
 

Ben Bowen

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Over the last few years in my industry (landscaping) I have seen more and more directories on page 1. There are very few broad queries that don't see them as the top 4-5. I have a strong site and a large blog that gets a lot of traffic, so I started publishing my own "directory" blog posts. These often rank 1 or 2, ahead of Yelp, Houzz, etc.

If Google wants directories, give them a directory.
 
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It depends on the query, can you send any examples?

With some queries, you can tell the users intent is to look for a directory style website, which may make it very difficult to compete.

I work in an industry where a large percentage of users will go to a third party site while they are earlier in the funnel and there isn't much we can do about changing that intent. We don't exert as much effort on keywords with that intent as we do with keywords where we know customers are looking for us, and are thusly more likely to convert.

I would prefer not to give away the specific examples of my clients. It's across many different industries. Just know I am talking about queries for [industry product|service] in [location] queries.
 

Joe Goldstein

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You should definitely balance them out between barnacle SEO and optimizing the individual websites.

Some people are always going to go directly to Yelp, and you should be there when they do. And other people are going to avoid it like the plague and go to the first SMB website instead, so you should be there too.

But for the people who just click on whatever's ranking first, you can absolutely outrank a Yelp result - sometimes. You're not going to beat them on engagement, internal linking structure and on-page content, but you can beat them on relevancy and raw link strength. Links from complementary SMBs and local news outlets really seem to help there.
 

mattheffner

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It's definitely possible to outrank Yelp, HomeAdvisor, TripAdvisor, etc... If a client's brand is really strong then the home page can do it. For instance, a landscaping client of ours is really involved in community projects naturally and gets a ton of high quality links from local non-profits and media. That along with on-page/on-site optimization and a mid-size market (not major metro area) help.

In cases where they don't have as strong of a brand with such strong links I take the focused "spear" approach. All these big sites are catching as many fish as possible with nets so we go super specific in optimization for the keyword and use a service page or an authority level blog post for it. In many cases as @Ben Bowen mentions, we write a directory piece on our own site which Google loves and gets us into positions we wouldn't otherwise get to with a home/service page.

Even if you're sitting a spot or two underneath these using creative eye-catching title tags and meta descriptions are great. And review schema if you're gathering that data too. It seems it really increases CTA even if you're not top of the heap.

I'd personally try both approaches, barnacle and individual site ranking, whenever possible depending on the niche and their goals.
 
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