February 2019

Virtual Assistant Directories – top tips and 6 more easy checks + where to now?

 

Recently Caroline Wylie, co-founder, Society of Virtual Assistants shared some insightful data, based on web analytics, and reasoning for listing with Virtual Assistant Directories.

John Palmer, founder of BeMyVA.com, prompted by the article, now shares some of his extensive experience on this topic and also announce the direction that BeMyVA.com is heading – what he reveals in this article, may surprise you!

John says, “We can add some further points to Caroline’s excellent article. Points that are also likely to be the most significant considerations in electing to list with free or paid listing VA Directories across the globe. We set up and officially launched BeMyVA.com during 2011 in response to the poor practices of many of the existing 'VA Directories' of that time, and we are once again seeing some of the unethical practices returning in 2019, especially with the lesser experienced, new market entrants.

Albeit we need to appropriately respect the matrices of SEO and the dark arts of web site ‘smoke and mirror statistics’, (as explained by Caroline), but firstly, there are some very practical steps to note and test when considering listing with a VA Directory, anywhere in the world.

Here we share our own essential checks and tests (further additional research before you decide to list with a VA Directory may also be required):

  1. Professional and ethical practices – collaboration or competition?

Check number one - does the owner/operator of the VA directory also operate or control a VA business of their own? Over the last 20 years there have been a number of unprofessional and unethical practices whereby individual’s with a VA business have also set up 'VA Directories' with the facility to submit projects for the directory members to bid for.

Might you question if every new project is made available to the community members? What happens when the directory owner’s VA business interests may have their own slump in work? Do they still share all projects and opportunities with their directory members and how might they ensure that can be seen to happen?

To be clear, not all directories are bad, but please do your own detailed research and fact gathering.

Ask questions, check testimonials, probe, research and satisfy yourself about the owner’s professional approach to the directory, and their business practices.

  1. Search – that’s how they find you – right?

Test the search facility of a VA Directory to see that the results appear to always be consistent and fair (by skill-set, experience, region, name etc).

Does the directory regularly return the same results, no matter what you search for? (See also above test check number 1)

What a coincidence, the owner of the directory is often top of all of the listings again!

  1. Stats your choice - is it all just about web stats?

Not really the only focus these days? My expert team suggests that there’s a much bigger picture to evaluate and include in your decision making process!

Consider the audience reach of any VA Directory and their presence and popularity across social media channels. The listing on the directory could be one of the smallest elements of any promotional business activity that the 'VA Directory' may practice and execute well.

  1. Data Privacy – who takes this seriously?

Check out the privacy policy and related authority registration details and listings. Ensure that you are satisfied how your personal data is stored and handled.

For example, where is the web site actually hosted, within the UK, Europe etc.,  and then GDPR check accordingly?

  1. Data Security – perhaps you should take this stuff more seriously?

    Does the web site look like it is compiled from web template software?

If it is, the web site based on templates is likely to be on shared server hosting facilities and that is not always as secure as dedicated stand-alone servers with bespoke security set-ups and firewalls.

The web site could be vulnerable from security weaknesses (including overdue security or software updates) in other web sites on the server the VA Directory resides on. Ask questions!

Note: Of course, this is not of such concern when personal data is not being transmitted or stored.

  1. Personal Security –  this really should be everyone’s most serious concern - please read:

    Do listings reveal too many business or personal address or contact details?

You don’t want to be subject to spam and much more serious unwanted attention.  

Very surprised to see directories with listings and searches revealing zip or post codes publically revealed, and especially if it is the home address of the VA.

In creating BeMyVA.com this was an extremely critical point to be addressed, long discussed and debated by senior members of the VA profession and legal eagles. We strongly suggest erring on the side of caution. Not a well advised practice to publicise anyone's home address anywhere on the web. Self employed, home worker etc? There are suitably legal ways and means of handling that, and a whole subject for another time. This listing challenge cost a whole lot of legal fees to work out an acceptable solution that works. In summary, the solution for us - the closest BeMyVA.com takes anyone is expected to be county or region, subject to the VA Directory member's own privacy choices and data entry.

After completing all of your full research, checks and tests you may not be left with many viable options.

 

So what might be the best remaining options?

High profile and high traffic web sites like Google, LinkedIn and Facebook provide the facility to list your business and as a VA for free!

Restrain the temptation to spend a large budget on the various advert options. Test with small investments in adverts and work out what works best for you, if you are intent on promoting your business via those channels.

 

But what about listing with BeMyVA.com?

Time to press pause, grab a coffee and read on … there’s going to be a surprise or two for you!

Up until about 12 months ago listing with BeMyVA.com would have been a reasonable option to consider, and the directory would satisfy all of the benchmark checks already shared with you (above).

However, after more than 15 years as an active project, the BeMyVA team now recognise that the practices and trends of web activity have evolved for VA Directories to remain effective and be of sufficient value for money to their listed members.

When BeMyVA commenced roll-out operations (2010), most business people had never heard of a Virtual Assistant, and BeMyVA created a mantra for VAs of “Be Seen, Be Found, Be Connected”!

Fast forward to 2019, VAs are much more likely to be in the thoughts of business people looking to tackle admin and back-office workloads. With the increased uptake of people starting out as a VA and people engaging VAs on a wider scale basis, in my opinion, the VA profession has never been more visible and active in business circles."

John Palmer adds,

“Almost certainly the time for stand-alone VA Directories is likely to be coming to an end.

Reflecting on that point, we feel that BeMyVA.com as a 'VA Directory' has already done the job it set out to do – raise the profile of VAs in the broad world of business and commerce. Box ticked, mission completed!

We feel that VAs really are now breaking into the mainstream business environment and VAs need to be listed to be found where business people are most active – not on lower volume web traffic 'VA Directories', old and new!

We are seeing the launch of numerous new 'VA Directories', and that is likely to not be the best thing to be happening, as it just dilutes the web traffic volumes and effectiveness of each and every VA Directory.

Platforms like LinkedIn  have become the perfect examples of where to be listed, and when an operator like LinkedIn also begins to roll out their own latest tools like “Pro-Finder”, (already inclusive of specific referencing to Virtual Assistants and admin tasks), why would a business savvy VA need to look to list outside of the top tier, higher traffic, leading social media communities?

The LinkedIn experience and value will now also be enhanced by the fantastic and intensive growth of the LinkedInLocal networking events. What a great and unrivalled complimentary team that makes for VAs?

 

So, where does BeMyVA.com go from here?

We do have some innovative and refreshing plans for BeMyVA.com.

For almost 18 months, we have been modifying the logic for current listings to include and promote more prominently the UK VA Award winners going forward – the best of the best - and that will now be our basic entry requirement from 1st March 2019. Listing will be strictly by invitation only, and free to UK VA Award winners for as long as they wish to be listed with BeMyVA.com.

From our more recent market testing and feedback, this is already proving to be a very popular approach.

(For clarity and transparency purposes: we have actively run down to zero all subscription paying members).

Going forward, prospective business clients know that the standards of the VAs are as good as they can get – award winning VAs, judged by multi-award winners, esteemed peers and other leading professionals to be the best in the UK, That is without any doubt, a first class standard benchmark that is difficult to be bettered.

After a small hiatus period of rest during 2019, BeMyVA.com will probably then be even more active then ever, promoting UK VA Award winners – leading edge, outstanding VAs - and we will continue to be explaining the virtues of utilising a valuable resource of top level VA professionals to all of our audiences, including more than 25,000 social media followers (across all channels), and hundreds of prominent business and entrepreneur groups.

Our time, focus and future investment at BeMyVA is looking forward to continuing the support of the growth of the VA profession in 2020 and beyond. We are confident that our new focus will have a positive ripple effect for the profession, particularly in the UK.

We have been progressively planning and expanding how we will be channelling more time and resources towards the UK VA Awards and the UK VA Conference. We know how valuable those platforms can be in driving a VA business towards increased opportunities, expansion of resources, purposeful direction and ultimately further success.

We can point to a strong track record of growth and success amongst so many of the UK VA Award winners in recent years, and that is across every active region of the UK.”

In summary, the future is looking extremely positive for all of those officially recognised UK VA Awards ‘Best Newcomer VA’ and ‘Outstanding VAs’ out there – and that will be for both past and future award winners!

The UK VA Awards programme for 2019-2020 will commence from 15th March 2019.

If you wish to find out more details, please send your expression of interest by e-mail to enter@ukvaawards.com. More details will be available for release soon.

 

 

About BeMyVA – the timeline and back story …

2000

Almost every VA Directory appeared to provide unfair and biased search results, no matter what you searched for, the owner of the web site was a VA and their VA business repeatedly appeared as first in the responding search listings!

2001

Our VA Directory project started with a number of interesting domain names being registered!

2005

Initial observation of the development of the profession and 'white paper' outline research completed.

Commencement of in-depth analysis, expected content of site and search requirements – at this time sites like LinkedIn did not provide best detailed search facilities for listings of skills and specific topics of experience!

2007

First beta version set for testing. Virtual Assistants from 21 countries contributed to feedback on naming the site as BeMyVA.com, and the design, content, colours, branding styles, cultural and language conflicts, logo, formatting of profiles, search facilities and how best to promote the site.

2009

Web site build version 4 complete, final testing with VAs and small 'confidential' focus groups commenced

2010

BeMyVA attend UK VA Conference for the first time at the Marriott, Forest of Arden. Soft roll out begins.

2011

Web site testing completed, BeMyVA.com web site officially launched in September.

Full-on promotional activities commence with gusto, including sponsoring professional development activities at the higher profile VA Conferences around the world.

2013

Invited to take over the running of the UK VA Conference and UK VA Awards by the event founder Carmen MacDougall - please also refer http://www.pa-assist.com/in-the-spotlight

2014

Commence the expansion of the UK VA Awards with local/regional titles, announcements and presentations.

2018

Commence latest long term future strategic review for BeMyVA.com

2019

The web and social media landscape continually evolves and has dynamically changed

Virtual Assistants are now considered mainstream in the business world

Global platforms with huge budgets such as LinkedIn look to progressively roll-out tools such as Pro-Finder and support networking off-line with LinkedInLocal.

2020 + beyond!

BeMyVA.com listings and activities will now be an invitation only directory exclusively promoting current practicing UK VA Award winners - the very best of the best – Outstanding Virtual Assistants!

Exciting times ahead for the VA profession.