One tactic some people employ when promoting a site is to submit it to web directories. Some directories are free, some are paid, and some you must provide a reciprocal link back. Typically you enter your URL, provide a brief description, and place it in a relevant category. After a few days or weeks, your site will either be accepted or rejected. If accepted you will have a link from the directory pointing to your site, which is great for SEO.
Some people argue that there are no longer any benefits to submitting to web directories. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is true, but there is good primary evidence to say that the opposite is true, which I will share with you later.
Search engines want the best sites to rank high for their users. No surprise there. One important metric they take when deciding whether a site is of a high quality is the quantity and quality of links pointing to it. They take a link pointing to a page to be a vote of confidence. So, if I like a piece of your writing and link to it for my visitors, then the search engines will see this as a vote of confidence, and will rank your page slightly higher because of it.
However, as with most things, people cottoned on and began abusing this. People began buying and selling links. Now people were gaining links through giving cash, rather than quality. Obviously Google didn’t like this, and so started a campaign against bought links. They penalized sites buying and selling links, by reducing their page rank and sometimes search engine rankings. More gently they also introduced “no follow” links where you could link to a site, but it wouldn’t pass on any credit in the eyes of Google. That way you still have opportunity to sell links on your site, without any risk of penalization.
So people reasoned that because Google doesn’t like paid links, then they don’t like directories. This is not strictly true. Google doesn’t want to award a site a vote of confidence for content, when the site linking to it didn’t. They don’t mind sites receiving links, even when paid, if there is also a vote of quality. So, if a directory accepts any link into its listings, regardless of quality, then Google can rightly conclude that this link does not represent a vote of quality, whether paid for, or not. However, if a directory charges a reasonable review fee, and only accepts quality sites, and rejects low quality sites, then it can be concluded that inclusion into this type of directory is a vote for a site’s quality.
Now the definition of a review fee seems quite generous when you look at some of the top web directories. The Yahoo directory charges €299 for a “review,” and has not been slapped by Google. Best Of The Web charges €149.99 per year, or €299.99 for permanent inclusion. You could reasonably argue that this goes beyond a review fee, and is also a fee for inclusion. However, it is what Google thinks that counts, and they don’t seem to mind as long as inclusion into a directory is based on quality, which it ultimately is on these sites.
In fact Matt Cutts, head of Google’s spam team, commented in a video on his YouTube account that he prefers quality directory links to article directory links. The reason being that a link in a directory is accepted because of the quality of the link itself. In an article directory, an article is usually accepted due to the quality of the article, not the site it links to. A top quality article in an article directory may get picked up and used in many sites, regardless of the quality of the site it links to. With this is mind, it is reasonable to assume that Google maybe one day will wage a war against links from articles. Some sites that accept guest posts do look at the site that is being linked to, but this doesn’t seem to happen all the time.
So do you get it? When link building, try to think what the search engines would view as a sign that your site is of a high quality. So, for a kick off, build a high quality site. This makes all link building easier for a start. If you have a decent quality site, then you could submit it to a few free and even paid directories. You don’t need to go mad – a handful to 10 is probably enough. Think from the perspective of a search engine – would you really just carry on endlessly giving a site credit when they keep gaining hundreds of directory links? I know I wouldn’t, and Google is way more experienced than you or I in this, and they probably wouldn’t either. This is why I always recommend that when link building, you should mix up your sources of links to create a diverse link profile.
So, in conclusion, I would say it is well worth submitting to a few directories. Go for ones that have some page rank. I’m not talking about the home page having page rank, but the page category on which you intend your site to be listed on. Have a look at the category page and see what page rank that individual page has. Also make sure there are not hundreds of links on the same page, because the ‘link juice’ is split between all the links on a page. Take a look at the sites they already have listed. If you see any low quality spammy ones, such as Viagra, then steer well clear, even if it is a free directory. It is also worth looking at their Alexa rank, and checking that they really do have some links pointing to their directory. It is not unknown for directories to fake their page rank. However these directories usually have very few, if any back links pointing to them.