Welcome to the third post in my latest series, Holistic Link Building 101. When it comes to building a website for SEO success, link development is an extremely important part of an effective online marketing strategy.
Two important questions about link development regarding directory submissions:
1. Are directory submissions still a relevant tactic and worth your time and your budget to build quality links to your website for improved ranking in SERPs?
2. Are directory submissions still a relevant tactic and worth your time and your budget to build quality links to your website to get more traffic to your website?
Understanding what directories are, their purpose and how they are useful is what we will cover first.
Directories have been one of the most useful tools for users to find information on the Internet, in fact, prior to search engines, they were the best way to find what you were looking for online. Similar to a phone book, online directories allowed users to find out about websites around specific topics, and as with what 411 service did to printed phone directories, search engines ushered in a new age of finding what you were looking for quickly and easily.
There are a lot of correlations between phone books and online directories:
- Both are limited in the information they contain – phone books only have information for those businesses that are in a particular area and online directories are also limited by the amount of sites that are included in the particular directory usually not a constraint of geographical concerns but still limited.
- Traditional phone directories list phone numbers within categories based upon what the business does as well as online directories. In some circumstances they both can give multiple listings to a business/site that don’t fall into a single category within the directory.
- Both of these types of directories have constraints based upon time as well. Offline directories have to be printed and distributed which takes time and money. Online directories are limited due to the fact that a directory listing needs to be initiated and reviewed before entry into the directory.
What makes a good directory and what to consider when submitting?
As with offline directories, like phone books, an effective online directory will be useful because it has visibility and is used by the people you are trying to reach and has enough authority to be considered useful by the people and organizations that are often resourced when trying to find information. Basically, any directory that you submit to should be used by your target audience and considered useful by search engines as a quality resource for the topic of your site. Why the distinction for topical relevance? Topical relevance is an extremely important aspect of link building. Yes, a directory might have a high PageRank according to the Google toolbar you downloaded, however, it might not be the most relevant directory for your site.
Here is an example, if you have a website about computers & Internet, you might be very well suited to be listed in this category in the Yahoo! Directory, however, if you are an organization that offers search engine optimization services, you might be better suited to become a member of SEMPO and be included in the member directory. Both offer a valuable link to your website for $299 per year, however, you might get better visibility from the people you are trying to reach and more relevance from search engines that can improve your SERPs.
Don’t get me wrong, however, if you are considering a phased approach to directory submissions or have a limited budget to work with, go for the one(s) that will provide you with the traffic that makes you more dollars and cents! PageRank should not be a determining factor in link building (I don’t think I can ever say this enough!), but that doesn’t mean you should just submit to everything and hope for the best. Your website is more important than that, you wouldn’t just trust your house to anyone you found to take care of your house, would you? Everywhere your site is linked from says something about your site without saying a word.
Here are a couple of directories and what can be extremely valuable to be in (in most cases). I have included some details as to why it may be useful to be included in these directories:
Yahoo! Directory – Human Edited
Exceptional Quality, for a price. This is the most valuable general directory on the web and maintains higher, than most, standards to entry.
Best of the Web – Human Edited
Best bang for the buck! If there is a directory that could eventually knock Yahoo! from being the best general directory, BOTW is the front runner… and it doesn’t cost as much (I recommend the one-time review fee if you can afford it).
DMOZ – The Open Directory Project – Not Sure Who/If Human Edited
Even more value for the cost, nothing. However, this is the most difficult directory to gain entry into, unless you know someone, because there is a lack of volunteer editors to maintain the directory. This is a conundrum seeing that there is little to no communication to those of us who are qualified and ready to help keep it going. As much as I knock DMOZ, I have and would be honored to be an editor of any category, but have not received an acceptance or a rejection for that matter.
Business.com – Human Edited
Quality traffic if you are looking for b2b traffic, but the listings include nofollowed links… so what? The relevance is important and not being where your potential customers are means you are invisible.
Do I think you should be in each of the above directories? No, because they may not have a category that your site fits into. However, there might be more than one category that makes sense, so don’t limit yourself to just one category, if you belong in multiple areas go for it! You never get what you don’t ask for, so ask… and be ready to pay if necessary.
What are the most valuable directories?
I know, a lot of people are looking for a huge list of directories, paid and free, to submit to. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t maintain a list of directories for general consumption and what makes sense for me and my clients might not be valuable for your site either, but you can check out ISEDN if you want a list. My suggestion for you, is the same as anyone else: when you are researching your competitors, find out what directories they are in and start building a list of directories from there. Look for organizations that make sense for what you offer, like BBB, Chambers of Commerce, trade organizations and such. These will most likely have more value and get more traffic than some thrown together php directory that is a part of group of directories (usually owned by the same person) that is full of junk. Once you have a working list of directories, maintain it by revisiting it every couple of months and adding and deleting from it to get the best list for your site.
A quality directory can be easily picked out of a lineup, they have links pointing to them, they have a lot of relevant websites in the proper categories and are human edited. Rubber stamp directories are not worth the 2 minutes it takes to get to the proper category, hit the submit link and fill out the form. Remember, not all directories are created or maintained equally!
Next, I will be digging into content development’s impact on link development. Oh, and I don’t think that if you just publish great content the links will start rolling in either! So, stay tuned for the fourth post of the series and, as always, I welcome your feedback!