Back in the day when Google was in diapers, it used to rely heavily on directories such as dir.yahoo.com to index and deliver search results to its users.
This is because Yahoo Directory used to have a great deal of editorial control on the submissions (it still does). The directories played a key role in helping Google index their pages to serve relevant results to its users. However, with the growth of global SEO industry, many directories gradually sprung up to the scene and manipulated Google’s algorithm. The practice of obtaining directory links has dramatically evolved over the past decade. Therefore, as an SEO, you must exercise caution in choosing your directories for submission.
Does Directory Submission Still Work?
Well, the definition of directory submission will differ from one SEO to another, depending on their approach to link building. There are hundreds of thousands SEOs out there who still submit to random directories carrying no value. Indiscriminate directory submission is not only a colossal waste of time, it’s also a threat to your website in the long run. According to this post by Cyrus Shepard, an intelligent directory strategy adds depth to your SEO campaign and offers the following benefits:
- Niche referral traffic
- A diverse link portfolio
- Trust and Authority Signals
- Citations for varied vertical ranking algorithms
Why Directory Submission Has Got a Bad Name in the SEO World
Because it’s been manipulated by directories that Google trusted at one point of time. An analysis of 2,678 directories by Kurtis Bohrnstedt back in 2012 showed that 20% of those directories on their list had been penalized and banned by Google. Kurtis suggests running the test on all directories you are planning to use in your SEO campaign. If the directory is banned, you will not find them in Google’s index (as shown below)
When the site is penalized by Google, it means the site will not show up for obvious search terms on Google’s search results (as shown below). However, it will be found indexed for its own domain name.
Google Directory vs Bad Directory
There are no set rules or benchmark to evaluate the merit of a web directory; it purely depends on your discretion as an SEO. A lot depends on your judgment while selecting the directories you want to submit to. Directories help you achieve domain diversification so make sure you use only the quality directories belong to your niche and use them sparingly.
While Choosing Directories
- Make sure they have a great deal of editorial control and do not allow automatic inclusion. This basically is the case with free directories.
- Be wary of directories that allow you to pick your anchor text. This basically means they don’t have any editorial control.
- Stay away from directories which contain the words such as Free, PR, link, URL, Dofollow, Rank and Instant Approval. Links from these directories don’t carry any value for your website. These are spammy sites that post a great deal of risk to your website.
- Avoid directories whose domain names include more than one hyphen (e.g. instant-link-directory) or digits (e.g, 007directory) regardless of their metrics such as Domain Authority, Page Authority, or PageRank. More often than not, these directories are run by a network. If they are not already penalized by Google, they are more likely in the waiting list.
How to Search for the Best Directories for Your Campaign
SEO experts say that if Directory Submission done in moderation, it can bring value to your overall SEO campaign. Even Moz had a list of directories they recommended for SEOs until 2013, which was taken down because many SEOs started doubting the effectiveness/authenticity/credibility of some directories that were in the list. Although the list no longer exists today, you can find a snapshot of the list here, thanks to Tom Roberts who had saved the list before it was deleted by Moz.
So which directory sites are actually safe for submission?
Well, this is purely a subjective decision. To be honest, it actually depends on the nature of your website and niche. Moreover, it depends on whether you want to submit to paid directories or free directories or both.
The question is not whether they are paid or free – the question is whether they are the right one for your niche and whether they offer strong signals to Google. For example, this post claims to have been building a resource of quality and strong web directories that consist of both free and paid directories including Yahoo Directory and Dmoz.
Tyson Stevens from RightHatSEO recommends a step-by-step process which can be helpful for SEOs to come up with quality directories within your niche and help you build a list of your own. He suggests that you should find out the directories your competition is using and submitting your site to the same although I wouldn’t agree with him on this. In my opinion, one should evaluate the status of the directories your competition is using before submitting to them. If you want to find out which directories your competition submits to, you can do so by the following steps:
- Use Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs or MajesticSEO tool
- Download the results as a spreadsheet
- Filter out the directory links as shown in the image below
Moz’s Directory List
Directory Maximizer, Val Web Design, & SEOTIPSY Directory List
How to Collect Niche Directories on Google
Use the following queries on Google to find the niche directories
- “Keyword” intitle:“directory”
- “Keyword” intitle:“directory” “submit”
- “Keyword” intitle:“submit URL”
- “Keyword” intitle:“submit *review”
- “Keyword” inurl:“directory”
- “Keyword” inurl:“directory” “submit”
- “Keyword” intitle:“Submit a site”
- “Keyword” intitle:directory inurl:php (for instant submission directories)
I would advise against submitting to directories that allow instant submission because they are of low quality and least likely offer any value to your SEO campaign. Use the following queries to find niche specific local directories
- “keyword” inurl:”directory” “add business” “city name”
- “keyword” inurl:”directory” “submit url” “city name”
- “keyword” inurl:”directory” “add url” “city name”
These are just some search operations; you can definitely come up with variations as per your own needs. If you want to submit to local directories, here is a list of over 50 top local business directories to get you started. I would still recommend checking their current status before submitting to them. If you are a local business in the US, Moz recommends using GetListed.org. When you build a list of directories, make sure they qualify the following criteria
- The source page on the directory should be indexed and cached by Google.
- The listings in the directory should be sorted by name.
- The directory should not be a part of a directory networks.
In the age of Content Marketing and Social Media, directory submission should only be a fraction of your overall SEO campaign mix. Even then, you should be very careful in choosing the most qualified directories for submission and not submit your site to every single directory that allows you to include your URL for free. You want to protect from Penguin-like updates from Google in future. Therefore, it’s imperative to tread with caution.