Directory Advertising Tips

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Directory advertising is very different to other forms of print advertising. When someone picks up a directory we are practically assured that they are ready to buy, you ad has to reflect this state of mind. “Brand ads” which fit in nicely in some print or magazines will not cut it in a directory.

These is one reason for you ad in a directory – that’s the get the directory user to ring/email/visit your website – to complete the call to action. Remember, the user is making a choice between alternatives – your ad is surrounded by competition and you have to stand out from the crowd.

Sometimes you competitors will really give you a hand in this respect – by placing absolutely tragic ads in a directory, forcing readers to look elsewhere. There are a few rules to follow when creating a directory ad which are set out here. This may seem like “Director Ads 101” and perhaps even a little patronising, but you would be surprised the mistakes even the largest of companies make.

Creative beats Cleaver

Cleaver? Directories are not the place to be ‘cleaver’. It’s the last mile and you can’t afford to try and out smart and outwit the competition. If you struggle on the design department (as many do), get someone to design the ad for you. There are plenty of designers willing to do one off projects – use them if you are lacking in that department. But use designers what understand what’s needed for a good Directory ad.


It happens in the SEO business as well. I have spent many an hour enticing clients that their business name is not what the first words in a page title should be (unless they are keywords). I appreciate that established SME’s are proud of their endeavours and proud of the business name they have established. Put yourself in a real world scenario. Your car packs in and is parked up – unwilling to start. You need to get it toed and to your mechanic (who doesn’t provide that service). You grab a directory and go to Vehicle recovery. To ads side by side, same size: The first head line is “Joe’s Car Recovery” the second headline is “Vehicle Recovery – 24/7 – 1 Hour callout”. Personally I’d gravitate to the latter and it has answered a need already. The headline is there to grab attention and answer a customer need quickly.

Body Copy

Answer questions I the ad! Give directions, opening times, web address, email address – everything to get the readers to continue on the decision making process using your company. Don’t put in facts, figures, awards, memberships that you actually don’t have. Being ‘over eager with the truth’ will lead you into trouble. Only put in what’s actually necessary, not what you think is necessary. I am constantly stunned with some trade ads (and vans) with “C4 Registered” in the body. So what? Your tax compliance makes no difference to me. List all services you provide (or as many as you can)


Use images, but only quality ones and use correct ones. Take the vehicle recovery ad, if you put in an ad of one of your recovery vehicles, but a Hiace with a tow bar turns up, it’s not going to reflect on you and your company too well. One golden rule: Don’t use clip art graphics or cartoons in your ad. I can’t think of a faster way to waste money.     

Call to action

Make sure that there is something that the readers has to do: “Call 01 1234567 Now” or ‘Email us for a quote” or “Visit our virtual showroom online at“. There has to be a call to action in every print ad.


If the ad was a big investment, I would like to arm myself with as much information as possible regarding response. Monitor your ad. I would suggest that you use a dedicated lowcall number specifically for that ad so that you can see exactly the response you are generating and work out your ROI

In terms of the web – it’s a little more difficult. Putting in “” in your advert possibly will not work as the readers will most likely type the first part of that address. You could go to the trouble create a separate domain name, just for the directory and have that redirect to your website. That will give you an indication of the numbers of people responding to the web address in the ad.





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