Directories are like any other business; some are well run and provide a good service while others don’t. My purpose here isn’t to point out the less-than-stellar general directories but to explain why I think directory submissions are a viable link building tactic. To do that, let’s step back a bit…..
In February of 1994, two Stanford University students started organizing lists of their favorite links to a website they called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” . David Filo and Jerry Yang kept adding sites and pretty soon their lists had to be divided into categories and eventually sub categories to stay organized. The site was a hit both on campus and off and in the fall of 1994 the collection of links had a million hit day and almost 100 thousand unique visitors. From that, the Yahoo! Directory was born and so started the boom of commercial human-reviewed directories on the Internet.
Since then a lot of directories have come and gone but their main purpose of providing reviewed resources in a categorized fashion remains. They run the gambit from being personal to institutional lists of sites categorized by human subject experts. Most are commercial, a handful like the DMOZ are not. Websites submitted are placed in one or more categories based on their associated relevance and are usually divided into subject and geographical hierarchies. (I say “usually” because not all directories have geographical categories).
Submitted sites are allowed to provide a business description and in most cases, hyperlinked text. The single thread of commonality all directories share is this human review system. Spiders create databases, humans – directories.
In the early days of the Web/Net, directory editors went out looking to add great sites as a way to attract attention and a search following. It was a tremendous amount of work (and continues to be), but a popular way to search at the time. Gradually engines became more sophisticated and with the millions of sites coming online, the task of hand adding sites became almost impossible. Now, directory owners have to pay staffs to keep updating their properties and charge for submission as a way to cover payroll. Does paying to be listed somehow negate their purpose and objectivity?
I don’t think so. And apparantely neither does Google representative Matt Cutts:
I’ll try to give a few rules of thumb to think about when looking at a directory. When considering submitting to a directory, I’d ask questions like:- Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.- What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesn’t speak well to the quality of the directory.- If there is a fee, what’s the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.
I recently made this comment and feel it sums up why you should continue to submit to directories:
The concept of merit based inclusion is what makes securing links in the better directories desirable. It’s reasoned that search engines bestow hub authority on these sites because human review is necessary before a site is included. And since human review is part of the co citation process search engines are programmed to reward, it stands to reason these types of sites would pass link popularity.
It would be naive to say everyone in the directory business is in it to make the world a better place, clearly a number of directories have come on board as money and/or network makers. I’ve listed my “stay-away-from” points several times in detail but the first thing I look for is:
If the directory hosts as many Adsense ads (or close) on sub-category pages, then I say pass. Adsense detracts from your submission.
I’m only talking about general directories here, there are tons of niche, geographical, RSS, blog, podcast, video, how-to, etc type directories available to anyone who goes looking. I like the ISEDB for niche directories, and MasterNewMedia.org for the others. (just search on “directories” on the home page).
Submitting to directories is still a solid, basic foundational linking tactic and provides you a relatively easy way to accumulate links. Will it net you tons of PageRank, traffic or glory within the search results? Of course not, but every site has to start somewhere so start with the directories.