In the days when SEO was simpler, and Google wasn’t quite so good at telling quality from crap, it made some sense for webmasters and SEO firms to submit sites to large numbers of directories, without actually doing an assessment of their quality.
Even then, it didn’t make perfect sense because it didn’t take a great deal of discernment to realize that Google would act against low-quality directories eventually, but there was a time when it worked, nevertheless.
After completing a site, webmasters would mass submit their URL to directories that they didn’t even bother to visit, often using automated software or mass submission services, hoping to increase their page value, with the ultimate goal of increasing their position in the SERPs.
There were some good directories, ones that people actually used, and from which one might expect targeted traffic, but the vast majority of directories that your site submission would go to were directories that no one every looked at.
There are still a lot of crap directories on the Internet, by which I mean ones that are not particularly well organized or focused on quality. Rather, they simply accept whatever sites are submitted to them, publishing them as they are received. Because they are low-quality directories, the majority of the sites that are submitted to them are also of low quality.
Likewise, there are still some good directories that people actually visit and use, and from which a site owner might expect to receive targeted traffic. It might seem that nothing has changed, but is that really the case?
Nothing is certain in search engine optimization because neither Google or the other search engines release the details of the variables that are called into play within their algorithms.
There are, however, questions as to whether it makes any sense to submit a site to an online directory today. There are those who will insist, as if they actually know, that no one uses directories anymore, but there were those who made that argument in 2000, when web directories were first getting started.
Is there an SEO advantage to submitting your site to a web directory? Do web directories still drive traffic to the sites that are listed in them? Will your site be harmed, in any way, by being listed in a low quality directory? How can someone know which directories, if any, are worth submitting their site to?
These questions are debated in SEO forums, in blog posts, and in tweets. But most often, there is no actual debate, just opinions stated as facts, and usually with no reasoning provided.
I have been working in the web directory industry for more than a decade and a half. I also have more than fifty domains online, with others in production. I can tell you what works for me, leaving you to accept it, reject it, or test it out for yourself.
Do Links in an Online Directory Help with SEO?
Possible answers to that question are yes, no, or maybe. A web directory is a website. If it is of good quality, and the page on which your site is listed is relevant to your site’s topic, then it might be expected to be beneficial, particularly if the directory owner has also take steps to optimize his or her directory. In order for it to be valuable, it must be of good quality, and indexed by the search engines.
A good quality directory should have a positive effect on search engine optimization. This may not be a directory ranking effect, but it will add value and trust to the websites listed within it. In turn, this will help with some of the secondary SEO metrics that a site must achieve in order to be competitive.
On the other hand, while links in a few bad directories are probably not going to have an adverse effect on your site, since this would fall within the expectations of a natural linking process, when a large percentage of your links are from low-quality directories, that will not be a good thing.
It is unlikely that your site will be penalized by Google, for being listed in a lot of crap directories, since Google rarely gets around even to penalizing the junk directories themselves, but these links are not going to have a positive effect, and there is a potential for an adverse effect.
Can I Expect Traffic from an Online Directory?
In terms of the percentage of traffic that you receive, the amount of direct traffic that you can expect to receive from web directories is minimal. As you might expect, I use web directories often in my marketing efforts, and I receive from ten to fifteen percent of my traffic from web directories. The amount that I receive from any one directory would be miniscule.
However, the traffic that I receive from web directories is targeted traffic. Since I only submit to directories that are reasonably well organized, those who visit my site from a web directory are far more likely to look beyond the first page, to buy something, or to fulfill whatever other steps I might want my visitors to take.
Whereas my search engine traffic yields a high bounce rate, by directory traffic tends to stick around, and to return. This is because someone who comes to my site from a well organized web directory is more likely to be someone who is looking for what I have.
A search engine might return 50,000 results for any given search term, while a web directory might have only 20 sites on that topic, but very few people look beyond the first page or two of a search result, and many of the sites on these pages will be irrelevant to the search, while every site listed in a web directory should relate to the topic of the category it’s listed in.
The Dos and Don’ts of Submitting to Directories
- DO review every directory that you are thinking of submitting your site to, looking for evidence of good quality, and to ensure that your site would be in a good neighborhood.
- DO submit to niche directories that relate to the topic of your site, or to the most relevant categories of general directories. The relevancy of the links you have is far more important than the number of links that you have.
- DO submit to local directories if your business has a brick and mortar presence. A local directory is a niche directory that focuses on the geographical location of a business, as well as its product, service, or topic.
- DO submit to a variety of directories, which may include some of the more expensive directories, mid-range directories, and some good quality directories that charge very little, or may even be free.
- DO space your directory submissions out over a long period of time.
- DO submit your own site to online directories that you have personally vetted.
- DO consider options that allow you to include a number of deep links with your web directory listing. Although there may be an added cost associated with this, it is most often worth it.
- DON’T submit to a massive amount of directories, simply because there aren’t a massive amount of good quality directories. You do not want to flood your link profile with a large number of low-quality or spam links.
- DON’T respond to one of those ads that promise to submit your site to 1,000 directories for $9.99, or anything of the sort, whatever the number of directories or cost involved. Most of the directories that these services will submit your site to will be low-quality directories, as most reputable directories will not accept submissions from scam submission services.
- DON’T use a directory submission service at all, unless you are personally familiar with the people who will be doing the submission. Whether or not they promise manual submissions, these services mass submit to garbage directories that you don’t want your site listed in. These services will give you a low-quality link graph that will not work in your favor. It is far better to know which directories your site is going to be submitted to, and to do it yourself.
- DON’T trust lists of directories that you find in forum or blog posts. Often these are junk directories that just happen to be part of the same junk directory network that is owned by the person who posted the list. Don’t even trust my own list, which I am going to include below, although I own none of these directories. Check them out for yourself.
- DON’T depend solely on online directory links for your link profile. Continue to solicit links from other relevant sites, including blogs, forums, and other websites. SEO success comes from a diverse link profile, which may include online directories, but should not be solely dependent upon them.
- DON’T believe everything you read on a blog or SEO forum. Most people have ulterior motives, and some people are just plain self-serving, while others just like to repeat things that they know nothing about. Yes, I have an ulterior motive too. I have worked in the web directory industry since 1998. I enjoy web directories, I know that they can work, and I hate to see people accepting untruths as fact.
- DON’T accept the lie that web directories don’t work unless you have submitted a good quality site to some good quality web directories and given them a chance to prove otherwise.
Thirty Useful Directories
Below are thirty general or wide-scale topical web directories that I have personally used, and will continue to use. Not all of these directories are equal, or even close to it, but none of them are junk. I am listing them in alphabetical order, and it is far more likely that I have left some good ones out than that I have let some bad ones in. Either way, when considering online directory submissions, you should at least take a look at these.
- Aviva Directory
- Best of the Web
- Directory Journal
- Directory Library
- Directory Times
- Directory World
- Family Friendly Sites
- Hot vs Not
- Jasmine Directory
- Link Centre
- Massive Links
- My Green Corner
- Nexus Directory
- R-TT Web Directory
- Starting Point
- World Site Index
- WoW Directory
- Yahoo! Small Business
I have listed the above thirty directories more or less off the top of my head, so I apologize in advance for any, perhaps superior, directories that I have left out.
This is not the extent of the directories that you should consider, as there are other directories that are potentially worthwhile. A more exhaustive list might be found in my directory of directories, as I include there any directory that I did not consider to be junk, but among them are some that are pretty close to it.