Are Directory Submission Fees Worth It?

Some people equate paying a directory submission fee with buying a link back to their website. Is that so? Well, the answer is yes and no. It depends.

Yes, you are paying to have a link added to your website from the directory since it may very well never be added to the directory unless you have paid the fee. While all reputable directories do regularly add sites to their directory categories for free, these sites are generally chosen by editors for the purpose of adding value to the directory’s categories. If you want your site to be added to the directory, you will either have to wait until an editor finds it one day, and hope that it will be chosen to be added, which is probably more unlikely than likely, or you will have to pay the fee.Are Directory Submission Fees Worth It?

In all likelihood, you will have to pay the submission fee in order to have your site considered for addition. Even then, there is no guarantee except that an editor will consider your request. However, if your site is a useful one, whose content meets the guidelines required by the directory, the chances are very good that it will be accepted upon payment of the fee.

In that sense, you are not really buying a link back to your site. Given that the inclusion of the link is by no means assured, you are paying for the time of the editor who will review your site, as well as helping to meet the other costs associated with running a good quality directory.

Many reputable directories maintain paid staff, who are responsible for seeking and adding good quality sites to the directory, reviewing submissions, adding categories, and performing the many other tasks that are involved in the maintenance of a web directory.

Many directories are hosted on dedicated hosting plans, which are very expensive. Plus there are the costs associated with the software that powers the directory, paying for modifications or upgrades to the software, and troubleshooting problems that may occur. Like any other website, directories also have search engine optimization and marketing costs. Your submission fee helps to pay these, and other costs.

Review Driven Directories versus Automatic Inclusion Directories

Every directory on the Internet does not take the same amount of care in selecting the sites that are to be included in their categories and subcategories.

The better web directories are those that are the most difficult to get into. These are the ones that will only list your site after the submission has been reviewed by human editors, who will not only ascertain that the fee has been paid, but will also visit your site in order to ensure that its content meets the directory’s guidelines for inclusion.

These editors will also check to see that the category you have submitted your site to is indeed the most appropriate one. The editors with some of these directories may decline submissions to inappropriate categories, but most will simply find a more appropriate category and move it there.

Editors will also review the title that you have submitted for your site in order to ascertain that the title is the true title of your site, as opposed to a list of keywords or hype, and they will evaluate the description to see that it is neutral in tone, descriptive of the actual content of your site, and that it meets the directory’s guidelines. It is very likely that some changes will be made to the submitted title and description at this point. Rather than being upset by this, it is a sign that you have chosen a good directory.

There are two kinds of website directories that you can find on the internet. Depending on your needs, you may choose one of them, or you may even choose both.

The better directories will not guarantee that your site will be included, although some will offer a full or partial refund in the event that your site is declined.

Another type of web directory is one that will allow you to submit your website without any review process taking place, with inclusion dependent only upon the payment of the fee. With an automatic inclusion directory, there is no need for you to wait for your submission to be reviewed by editors. Most likely, you will need to pay a fee, although automatic inclusion directories are generally cheaper than review driven directories since they usually do not include a paid staff, other than the owner. When inclusion is guaranteed upon payment of the fee, you can be assured that your site will be listed.

However, if you know anything about the requirements of a search engine, it won’t take you long to realize that, while a review driven directory may be more expensive, the advantages are likely to outweigh the expense.

Automatic inclusion directories tend to be filled with low quality sites and spam, man of which are not listed in relevant categories. The categories of an automatic inclusion directory are generally bad neighborhoods.

On the other hand, when human beings review each submission, as in a review driven directory, only useful sites are added, and they are housed in relevant categories, and given appropriate titles and descriptions. These tend to be good neighborhoods.

Of course, there is always a touch of gray. Even when human beings review sites that are submitted to a directory, some directories will demonstrate a higher concentration on quality than others. Wanting the submission fees, some directories will accept low quality sites, and may not pay the same amount of attention to the appropriateness of the category the site is submitted to, or to the submitted title and description.

Knowing that search engines, such as Google, prefer review driven directories, some directory owners will claim that their directories are human edited when the reality is that anyone who pays a fee can have their site listed wherever and however they wish.

You should always conduct your own quality assessment before deciding to submit your site to a directory.

When The Directory Charges A Submission Fee, Is That a Paid Link?

This will depend on the operation of the directory. When you submit your site to a review driven directory, in which your submission will be reviewed by editors employed by that directory, or by the owner, that submission fee is not a paid link.

Why? It is not a paid link because you are simply asking the staff of that directory to take a look at your site, to review your submission, and to consider it for inclusion. The reviewing editors will probably not view every page of your site but they will look at several of them. If accepted, editors may have to place your site in an appropriate category or, in some cases, create an appropriate category for it, change your site’s title and description, if necessary, and review it periodically to be sure that it continues to meet the guidelines of the directory. You’re paying for the work, not the link.

This is not the case with an automatic inclusion directory. Because there is no review or maintenance involved, any fee that you pay to such a directory might reasonably be considered to be a paid link.

Another thing to consider is that these directories are often not very well organized and, because anyone who pays a fee can have their site added wherever they wish, the quality of these directories is low, and your site listing will be sharing a home in a bad neighborhood. A few of these probably won’t hurt, and might even help with link diversity, but a large number of links from low level directories is not recommended. Since your site is likely to accumulate at least a few links from low quality sites with no effort on your part, you can safely avoid junk directories.

Are Directory Submission Fees Worth It?

Submission fees for good quality directories may range from just a few dollars to three hundred dollars a year, or more. While they may be worth it, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you will be able to afford it. That is something that you will have to decide.

Directories with human editors are probably going to be better organized and managed than those that are concerned only with collecting the fee. Because human editors are generally paid, these directories are likely to cost more, but these editors will help to ensure that your site listing is in a good neighborhood, and one that is relevant to your site’s topic.

Search engines will count the relevancy of your site’s backlinks as an important factor in their search algorithms. Links from high quality, relevant pages are more valuable to you than low quality pages that do not relate to your site’s niche.

Another significant benefit to having your site listed in a high quality directory is that people actually use these directories, so you may also receive direct traffic from them. Because these directories are relevant to the topic of your site, this traffic is likely to be targeted.

To answer the question, paying a submission fee may well be worth it, but only if you make sure that your money is going to the right place.

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Ken Anderson was an early meta editor for the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), as well as an editor with the and Zeal directories, and several other web directories, both short- and long-term.

'Are Directory Submission Fees Worth It?' have 2 comments

  1. March 13, 2015 @ 2:34 pm Craig Frederickson

    It’s like any other expense. Submission fees are worth it so long as the directory is worthwhile. That doesn’t mean that everyone can afford it. and BOTW charge a few hundred dollars, and I can’t afford to submit all of my sites to these directories, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth it. Buying gold might be a good investment, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can afford to buy gold.


  2. May 22, 2015 @ 6:27 am SRS Web Solutions, Inc

    Thanks for sharing great article. Quality directories are still worth links, so the fee is worthable 🙂


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