Put your focus on search engine optimization? Pay to list your business in a large well-known directory? Target new leads through pay-per-click or email marketing campaigns?

You need your business to be noticed, but what direction do you turn? And at what price, for what return on your investment?

If only there were easy answers to all of those questions.

The truth is, the answers to each are as unique as your company. While simply paying for a listing might pay off well for one company, another might generate almost no leads from a registry and find nearly all of its success from Google searches and ad campaigns. And for many companies, the answer is a combination of “all of the above.”

This blog will hopefully help you understand your options and how to determine the best route for you. 

What is ThomasNet and is it right for you?

If your business-to-business company has been around 20 years or more, chances are you are familiar with the Thomas Registry and its “green books.” What started in 1898 as a directory of industrial manufacturers and their products has morphed over the last 15 years into an updated online version called ThomasNet.

ThomasNet heralds itself as “North America’s largest and most active network of B2B buyers and industrial/commercial suppliers.”

Essentially, B2B companies--including manufacturers, distributors, and service providers--can build their profiles on ThomasNet so they can be found by buyers, managers, or engineers that are looking for their specific type of product.

An initial profile in one of your industry categories might be free, but suppliers pay a fee to buy their ranking in a selected category and also pay to be listed under other relevant categories. Ranking near the top of less-competitive categories might only cost a couple hundred dollars, while ranking highly for competitive categories can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Company profiles--including name, annual sales, and product information--are listed under their relevant categories, and in order of total spending.

That is part of what makes the question, “Is ThomasNet right for my business?” a difficult one to answer. It is not easy to assess exactly what it will cost your company to achieve a certain ranking in a particular category. It’s possible that a bidding war ensues for the top spots in competitive categories. There is also no guaranteed return on those investments.

Having your company listed in a directory that has been around and successful for 125 years is not a bad thing. But at what cost to be listed at what ranking in that directory?

SEO vs. Directories

The difference between a ranking in a directory like ThomasNet and seeing your company rank on the first page of Google is easy -- it’s money. 

On ThomasNet, you can pay your way directly to the top spot. There is no buying your way to a page-one spot when it comes to organic search rankings in Google. With search engine results, your company’s website must earn its way to the top by showing expertise, usefulness, and relevancy for your particular industry and products.

Purchasing a listing in a directory has some potential (but again, exactly how much depends on your particular situation) to gain your company leads immediately. Optimizing your site in terms of SEO might take a little longer, but there is long-term value in building your company and its brand.

An important thing to remember regardless of approach is to carefully measure success through analytics. 

On the SEO side of things, that means keeping tabs through Google Analytics--which will help monitor traffic to your site, insights into who is visiting the site, the health of your web pages, and, when incorporated with Google Ads, data like return on investment. Further analytics work can help ensure you are ranking highly on search engines for particular keywords within your industry.

ThomasNet offers an analytics platform as well, called Web Trax, which can help you monitor views, clicks, and leads for your listings. Some of that analytical information, however, might come at an additional cost.

Know Your Options

One benefit of working with a digital marketing agency (like, ahem, Foremost Media) is the ability to work with a broad scope in mind, or with a very specific focus. 

A good team can help improve all facets of your SEO and marketing efforts in general, but it also has experts to call on in specific fields. They can drill down specifically if you are looking to improve your pay-per-click campaigns, content marketing, lead generation, social media--and (at least in the case of Foremost) even web design, development and optimization.

In recent years, ThomasNet has added many of those types of services to its offerings. Of course, each layer might come with an additional cost. Tack that on top of bids to keep your rankings up for your businesses’ key categories, and it starts adding up.

Additionally, as a company, it might be worth it to assess whether to have everything under one umbrella or whether to diversify your approach to driving traffic and leads.

As we mentioned before, the answer might very well be a little bit of all of the above. Perhaps working with a team to improve SEO and hone in on pay-per-click leads, while also spending to be listed in a directory for your most important or budget-friendly categories is the right way for you.

You are the only one that knows your business, its budget and its goals. Whichever route you decide to take, remember to keep close tabs on your results, and once you have a reliable amount of data, do not be afraid to shift or pivot based on what has been working.


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