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The Negative Side of Free Directory Submissions

There was a time when webmasters would sit on their computers for hours on end, furiously submitting their new web site to free web directories. Although this was always time consuming, it was definitely worth it once.

However, Google’s algorithm has changed a few times since then, altering the way the search engine views these types of links. It is now necessary to question whetFree Directory Submissionsher or not free is worth the price. Let’s talk about the downfalls and negatives of submitting to free web directories.

The Cost in Time

Although there are tools that can speed up the process, submission tools generally mean that you will be submitting exactly the same description and anchor text to every directory that you submit to, and that runs contrary to the link diversity that the search engines are looking for these days.

Yes, there are directory submission services that offer to submit your site to “x” number of web directories for “x” number of dollars but, despite the fact that some of them promise manual submissions, the truth is that most of them use submission tools, and the directories that they will submit your site to will not be very good, as the better directories won’t accept automatic submissions.

Submitting your site to hundreds of free directories can be a grueling process. Your arms will grow tired and your fingers will begin to numb. This is a task that could put a statue to sleep, and once you have submitted your site to a few hundred directories, you’ll feel as if you have completed a marathon. If nothing else, your butt will hurt.

However, the more significant problem is that you could have spent your time doing something far more productive, and fun.

Free Equates to Low Quality

In other articles published on this site, we have discussed the fact that directory submission fees are not paid links, so I won’t go into that again here.

There is an old adage that suggests that you get what you pay for. When it comes to web directories, there is some truth to that but it’s not entirely straightforward. Some directories charge far more than they are worth, and there are some fairly cheap ones that are worth far more than they charge. Indeed, there are even some free ones that are quite good.

Still, the vast majority of free directories aren’t worth the time that it takes to submit to them, and some of them will do your site more harm than good, at least potentially. It makes sense to look upon free directory submissions with caution.

Free submissions attract spam, and some of it nearly always finds its way into the directory. Given that they are not charging for submissions, free directories are unlikely to employ anyone to review submissions, and some will simply accept submissions automatically.

Trust me, you don’t want your site to be sharing a page with a bunch of low quality links, since that is the definition of a bad neighborhood.

Waiting and Waiting for Approval

When a free directory is maintained by a human being, this person is likely to be the owner of the directory or an individual who is working for free.

When the owner is left to review all submissions by himself, given that ninety percent of the submissions he receives will be spam or low quality junk, it is likely to take him a long time to get to yours.

Some free directories, the most famous of which is DMOZ, are maintained entirely by volunteers. Please don’t misunderstand me, as some of these people do a very good job maintaining the part of the directory they are responsible for but, since they are working for free, they are unlikely to spend hours on end working the submission queue. As a result, it can take years for someone to get around to reviewing your submission to DMOZ.

Some directories include both paid and free submission options, and you’d better believe that the paid submissions will be handled before the free ones, and they are more likely to be accepted. An editor might take the time to correct submission errors in a paid submission, while they are apt to simply decline free submissions that contain errors.

Limitations of Free Directory Submissions

Free directories usually offer fewer options when it comes to specific linkage. Rather than being able to link directly to internal pages of your site, you will usually be required to submit only your top-level domain and nothing else. Although this might be helpful, it might not suit your current SEO strategy since it doesn’t provide for link diversity.

QualityAdditionally, paid submissions are often displayed above free ones in a category, so the paid submissions are more likely to send targeted traffic to your site and, in the case of large categories, your free submission might find itself on page seventeen, where nobody will ever see it, and on a page that might not even be included in the search engine index.

If You Must

There are some free directories that are well organized and which will provide a good neighborhood for your site, so don’t dismiss a directory solely on the basis of its submission fee. However, you need to look it over carefully to ensure that it is a well maintained directory, one that is of good quality.

Web directories are just one part of an effective marketing strategy, so you should carefully select the directories that you are going to submit your site to. Look for well organized directories, and ones that are edited regularly. Niche directories relevant to your site’s topic are great, but otherwise you should be sure to submit to the most appropriate category, since Google cares about the relevancy of your back-links.

Use Your Time and Money Effectively

Before you spend time and money submitting your site to web directories, make sure that your site is ready for prime time. The quality of the content on your site is the most effective variable in your SEO strategy, so you don’t want to neglect that.

Once your site is ready to be introduced to the public, submit it to a couple of the better directories, insofar as you can afford it. Then wait a couple of weeks before submitting to a few more directories. Pace yourself.

Also, don’t forget that web directories should be only a part of your marketing strategy. You should also be promoting your site through other avenues as well.

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

'The Negative Side of Free Directory Submissions' have 12 comments

  1. April 13, 2015 @ 1:29 am Couper

    Oh well guess there’s a positive and negative side to everything -especially when something is FREE! For some reason people free ain’t what it used to be. People just don’t seem to respect it like before. Guess the web has spoiled them with saturation.


    • April 13, 2015 @ 1:56 am WDD-Admin

      There are some free directories, and paid ones that offer free options, that are worthwhile, but it should be cautionary.


  2. April 13, 2015 @ 8:30 pm gladys

    There are always two sides to a coin even some web directory that are paid for may also have their lapses.it’s best to be cautious and make the right choice.


    • April 13, 2015 @ 9:27 pm WDD-Admin

      Oh, there are plenty of junk directories that charge for submissions, but that’s a topic that I’ve covered in other articles. This one was largely in response to the parrots on SEO forums who keep suggesting people only submit to free directories because Google doesn’t like paid links. First, without a way to monetize a directory, it is unlikely to continue to be a good quality resource for long. Secondly, submission fees are not the same thing as selling links, because good web directories have standards and acceptance is not guaranteed.


  3. April 15, 2015 @ 8:52 am Jennifer Robertson

    Well said, sir. I am of the opinion that research is key in life, and free web directories are no exception. Additionally, I fully agree that one should always consider multiple options to promote any endeavor that he or she undertakes. Thank you so much for this informative and educational article.


  4. April 15, 2015 @ 11:48 am Shamkant Sukalikar.

    Paid things does not necessarily bring better results always. A word ‘Free’ have its own value and with the help of free forums it can be accelerated.


    • April 15, 2015 @ 4:51 pm WDD-Admin

      No, it doesn’t but the word “free” does attract a lot of spam.


  5. April 15, 2015 @ 3:35 pm Willy. S

    Free directory certainly has its disadvantages. For professionals, you should choose paid one.


    • April 15, 2015 @ 4:50 pm WDD-Admin

      For the most part, yes. There are some free ones, however. As long as you’re thinking good quality, then it doesn’t matter whether submission fees are free or not. There are just so many poor quality directories that are overwhelmed with the spam that the word “free” brings with it.


  6. April 20, 2015 @ 2:05 pm Zeeshan Iqbal

    Very informative article about directory submission so what I learn is we have to submit our website only to those free directories which have high page rank otherwise we are just wasting our time.


    • April 20, 2015 @ 5:08 pm WDD-Admin

      Are you joking? The article doesn’t say that at all. Directories are not all about SEO, Google PageRank was never a reliable indicator of quality, and they haven’t updated public PageRank in ages, and don’t intend to. Look at the quality of the directory. If it is a good quality directory, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s free or paid. The point of this article is that it’s not easy to find a good quality directory that doesn’t charge a submission fee, since quality doesn’t grow on trees.


  7. April 21, 2015 @ 6:53 am PK Sardar

    Well in my opinion nothing is absolutely free in this world. So when we talk about free web directories the cost is the time we spend and also the frustration we might experience. Naturally like all other situations in life one needs to weigh the pros and cons and decide how much to depend on free directories and how much to go for paid ones. But how to know which paid / free directories are effective ones? Are all paid directories good enough?


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