If you follow me here or on the Link Spiel, you know I am a loyal fan and staunch supporter of using directories to secure links. After reading last week’s Elephant in the Link Building Living Room, I wanted to present a different point-of-view as I don’t feel the directory industry or the link builders using them were presented in a positive light. To suggest all link builders sell useless submission services or the directories are white elephants is inaccurate and insulting. I have a much different view and would like to show how using the directories can be a smart part of your link building mix.
Before I begin…
If you’ve spent any time in/around the SEO industry, you know there are hundreds, if not thousands of small directories online; most of these sites lack editorial guidelines, were created to host AdSense and network links. I think it’s important to draw a distinction between these sites and the responsible, well run directories that I and most link builders I know, use.
What is a directory?
In short, a directory is a collection of websites categorized by subject and/or geographic location. Human reviewers determine what source will be added and also maintain the directory and it’s structure. While there are hundreds if not thousands of general directories online, only four stand out as heavy hitters:
- The World Wide Web Virtual Library (VLIB created in 1991)
- The Yahoo! Directory (1994)
- Best of the Web (BOTW 1994) and the
- Open Directory Project (ODP/DMOZ 1998)
If we check their PageRank scores, we’ll see each of these directories sports a greater than average meter of green. Even if it’s only half right, the toolbar tells us Google thinks well of these pages.
It is difficult to get a site listed with the DMOZ and VLIB, but it’s not impossible if you have an authority resource and follow their guidelines. Even if you’re unsuccessful in getting in, these directories are excellent research sources and can be mined for link partners. For example, when I look at the links on this page of the VLIB and click on the Gardening category, I can find no less than five niche directories listed in the first 20 links shown. If I owned a gardening site, these would be great directories to be listed in from an algorithmic and traffic standpoint.
Yahoo! and BOTW are both paid inclusion with expensive review fees, but that cost is part of what keeps the junk sites out of their indexes. Each employs human reviewers to look at the sites submitted and determine which category they should be placed in. This process of being scrutinized to determine acceptance is known as editorial review, and is why these and other directories are respected algorithmically by the search engines.
Are directories white elephants?
In my opinion, there are 15 good general directories (includes the big four) worth submitting to, and those include sites such as JoeAnt, Business, Dirjournal, MassiveLinks, RubberStamped, Illumirate, among others. Here’s what I use to qualify a directory as “good”:
- minimal/no AdSense on category pages
- no site wide links
- has full contact information available
- internal pages indexed and cached frequently
If you argue most directories display low to mid-range PageRank scores I’ll agree, but also point out while their meter of green may be low, it is more a result of their function, not their quality. Directories are hubs and hubs are one-half of the authority equation, a factor incorporated in both the PageRank and TrustRank algorithms. Keep in mind how PageRank scores are determined and the fact directories are designed to link out, not in.
Directory submission tactics as a business model
If you owned a business on Main Street and wanted to promote it to the community, it’s doubtful you’d use just one advertising method to get your message across. You’d probably begin with the basic, less expensive options such as buying ads in the Yellow Pages, your local newspaper and ValuPak mailers. Eventually you’ll move up and buy radio, television and sponsorship opportunities which will help make you a dominant presence in your community.
This scatter gun approach to building a credible reputation can be done online as well. I advocate using directory links in the first wave of linking as a way to jump start your linking program. Granted, they’re not algorithmic giants, but directory links will pass link popularity and add to your overall back link profile.
Bottom line? If you understand the editorial significance of directory links and the role they can play as part of your link building mix, you’ll see the positives outweigh the negatives. For as long as Google hosts DMOZ, for as long as Yahoo! and VLIB survive, for as long as BOTW provides a solid search vehicle and supports IM charities, and especially for as long as the directories don’t contribute to the pinking of the Web, I will support them and recommend you do the same.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.