Pay to be the best…..
If you do a search for a wedding photographer in your area you are likely to see something similar in the top results.
“The 36 Best Wedding Photographers in Lancashire”. Sounds pretty legitimate, and I am happy to say I am on that list of 36.
So how did I get there? Was my business vetted? Did they contact past wedding clients? Did they look at any of my wedding photographs?
Unfortunately for a couple planning their wedding no, that’s not how it works. I simply paid them about £350 to be on that list for a year.
The top 3 on the page, if you click the link paid a little over £2,000 to be in those top positions for a year.
I have been photographing weddings full time since 2009 but I could easily grab a bunch of stock images or even just download images from another photographers website. Build a website and pay these people £2,000 and be listed as one of the top 3 wedding photographers in my area.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that anybody who is on this list has done that, and I would be shocked if that turned out to be the case. but please use these sites as a starting point.
Do your research before booking any wedding vendor.
If you’d like some advice narrowing down your search I have an article that might help you out at “Finding your perfect wedding photographer“.
If you are trying to figure out your budget take a look at “Is Wedding Photography Expensive?“. This will help you understand how wedding photography is priced and what you are getting for your money.
Bid to be the best?
Another good example is an NHS discount directory website.
Once you pay an annual fee to be listed as a recommended supplier you are also given the opportunity to take part in a monthly auction and bid to be listed as one of the top ten suppliers.
If your bid is one of the top ten you will be featured on the home page for a month and included in the email they send out to their members highlighting their top ten recommended NHS suppliers.
So, Are Directory Sites Dishonest?
I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while now. If I search for a wedding vendor in my town the top 2/3 are generally directory sites.
The way they make money and the way they work is not to provide you with a selection of the best business to suit your needs, nor is it to give you a list of local vendors they have vetted and approved as they want you to think.
They show you the vendors who pay them the most to appear at the top of the list. simple as that.
I have heard a few times that is you are using a service that doesn’t charge you then you are the product. In some cases that is so that they can feed you advertisements. They are paid by the companies to place adds or receive a kickback if you click the link from their site to another or some other similar deal.
How it Works.
In the case of directory websites, you are the product that they sell to vendors. There are many different models out there, some charge a tiered level subscription. The more the vendor pays the higher up the list they appear.
These sites will often have a “Supplier of the month” or something similar. Do you think that the supplier has been selected because they give excellent service and quality to their clients or maybe because they have paid a big chunk of cash to the featured supplier that month?
The other popular model is a “pay to quote” system. On these sites, you are invited to add information about what you want from a supplier.
They then send part of your information out to every vendor signed up with them regardless of their suitability and tell them they can quote for this business if they pay the directory site. Normally around £10 – £20 per quote.
So next time you get a bunch of quotes through one of these services just think about how much the site has just made out of your information. and if you were just researching as a comparison to get an idea before you book the person you originally had in mind think about what it has cost these vendors.
Being on the vendor side I don’t like them but as a business idea, it is genius. There are some very well established directories out there but there are also some that use some dodgy SEO tricks to get artificially boosted on google to get few vendors onboard, make quick cash from vendors before the google algorithm catches them up and blocks the site.
But with how quick, cheap and easy it is to set a site up like this they just start again with a new domain name.
So, Is it a bad thing?
As a business idea, maybe not and maybe I should just create my own and make some quick money.
As a vendor – not so good, If I paid to be listed on every directory site that pops up I’d be out of business pretty quickly. If I paid to be a part of the ones that rise to the top for a while then disappear I’d be throwing away money.
Maybe by being a part of some of the established reputable directory sites makes sense then and I have done in the past on both established companies and some ‘here today gone tomorrow’ sites.
What gets me is they only exist because vendors pay to be listed. If we didn’t pay to be listed they would disappear and there wouldn’t be more directory sites than vendors (or so it feels).
Without them, Google would list the companies that have a good reputation, have good content on their websites, get good reviews, social shares and have been trading for many years.
But that’s the problem.
Some new vendors who are just setting up find it impossible to get on googles radar and can only dream about getting on the first page. So a few hundred (or a few thousand) pounds to be seen at the top of a directory that makes potential customers think they are presenting good quality suppliers is a very appealing investment.
You can buy yourself a good reputation without having to go through the hard work and time building one. And as some of these directory sites keep the whole transaction process contained to their page the vendor only need to have a gallery of a few pretty pictures.
Like all businesses, they are here to make a profit and I have no problem with that. I just think it should be a little more transparent to the people using them.
You are led to believe that the suppliers they are listing are there because they offer great value or exceptional service, that somebody has looked at the business to make sure they are reputable and trustworthy.
It’s not clear that the only qualifying consideration is that thesebusinesses are listed as “recommended suppliers” solely on the basis that they are willing to pay to be recommended.