The Google+ Local launch came out while I was working on this piece so it merits a brief mention. While Google+ Local will be a big deal, at the moment for most local businesses, it is not a huge deal. Thus far, there does not appear to be much change in Google’s main local rankings algorithm besides the fact that Google+ Local pages will be indexed versus the old Places pages which were pseudo-indexed.
It seems as if this update is mostly about getting us ready for changes coming down the road, where social activity gets even more ingrained in Google’s algo. If you’re interested in the subject, you can read some more thoughts on why Google+Local may be a ghost town and some prognostication from about a year ago that I think is still pretty much on the money. Of course, the local searcharati has plenty to say on the matter.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
In this post-Penguin landscape (imagine Mad Max, but with more geeks and less leather) there has been a renewed focus on quality directory submissions. While not as glitzy and glamorous as more recent strategies (like infographics and guest posting on blogs) – locally focused, vertical and niche directory submissions have been a solid bet in any link-builder’s portfolio for quite some time.
For the most part they are a pretty painless task, and while some may cost you a bit, they can provide positive results. However, when it comes to directory submissions are generally safe, a focus on quality, diversity, timing and relevance must play a central part in selecting which directories to submit to.
All local, vertical and niche directories are not created equal, and higher quality ones should really be the only ones that you are focusing on.
Make sure to check and see if Google has the directory indexed. If it doesn’t, that is a major red flag that you should pass up that particular directory.
Paid niche directories are typically seen as a safe bet. When I say “paid”, I’m not talking about those kind of paid links. It seems tricky that paid links are bad and paid directories are ok, but Google is looking for and refining their definition of signals of authority.
Many paid directories continue to be good signals of authority, due to the cost of entry that pays for their editorial reviews that help ensure quality. In particular, vertical and niche directories can be high quality, but you should steer clear of those that are covered in ads and don’t have an editorial review process.
If you were beginning to peruse a scrapbooking directory (yes, they exist) and came across multiple listings for divorce lawyers, would you be likely to stay on the site? No? Well, Google agrees and has been actively deindexing directories that do such things.
Making sure that the directories that you are submitting to are relevant and have a suitable category for your listing is crucial.
If a quality directory is showing up in the SERPs for keywords that you want to rank for, then you should definitely look into getting a listing there.
Another good way to find directories that are relevant to your website is to add “directories” to any preferred search terms. Or follow blogs that put together directory lists like this one.
Even those directories which don’t link back to your site may have considerable authority and will add value as a citation.
If you’re a lawyer, look at Avvo, Lawyers.com and the like. Doctors? Healthgrades and LocateADoc are oldies but goodies (full disclosure: I have consulted with LocateADoc and got a good deal on a nose job.)
Remember: “Variety is the spice of life.” Get yourself a kitschy framed cross-stitching of this idiom and put it on your desk so you will see it every day.
Link builders can no longer rely on the same tired old bag of tricks to get the job done.
A diverse link profile is an absolute must. Directory submissions alone are not going to cut it, and using the same title, link, and keywords for every submission really isn’t going to help and could possibly get you Penguin-slapped.
Make sure that you are using various deep links. Create a variety of titles and descriptions using various keywords that are appropriate for the directory you are submitting to. Also, remember that natural link profiles have nofollow links as well, so don’t pass them over.
As tempting as it may seem to use an automated submission tool, it won’t get you anywhere in the long run. Directory submissions used to be about submitting to as many directories as you could in one fell swoop and hopefully 60% of them would stick.
Now that Google has a feisty bird paying attention to your link profile, taking a more laid back approach and submitting to highly relevant niche directories over several months or even a year is highly recommended. Patience, grasshopper. Patience.
Many SEO bloggers tend to behave like these updates from Google are huge paradigm shifts that are going to melt our faces off. We can be a pretty dramatic bunch.
In reality, the majority of these updates are simply trying to make sure relevance and quality is at the forefront of the SERPs. Directory submissions are still highly useful SEO tool, but as with every other weapon in your modern link-building arsenal, it better be used in a legitimate fashion.
Now go watch a motivational half-time speech on YouTube and get out there and build some links.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.