Directories are dead. (Long live directories.)

Submitting your website URL to a directory site used to be a standard practice in order to improve your position in the Google rankings. Today, these sites appear to be in decline, with some advising that they aren’t worth the effort. Yahoo! Directory, arguably the biggest directory site on the web, has certainly slimmed down in recent years. The UK and Ireland directory disappeared at the end of 2010, along with a number of other regional. Are directories really dead, though?

Yahoo! Directory logo

A directory site is effectively an alternative way of finding a website. Rather than using a search engine, you search a catalogue of sites that people have submitted their URL to. Whereas search engines use web-crawlers to index sites (and who doesn’t love robots?), directories are indexed manually. By a person. This means that there can be a considerable delay after submitting your URL before anything actually happens, and many of the directories are paid-for services. Yahoo! Directory costs $299 a year, for example, so what is the point?

The great thing about submitting to directories is that you can get some high quality backlinks to your site. In the wake of Google’s Penguin update, the emphasis of good quality SEO is shifting away from having hundreds of poor quality links, which reek of spam, towards fewer links from sites with high authority. Of course, that is what many of us were doing anyway, but now it is more important than ever. As Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ, two of the most popular directory sites, have a PageRank of 8, this means that having links from these sites is definitely worthwhile. If directories were ever dead, perhaps now is the time to revive them.

It is important to note, however, that Google is not giving links from directories quite the same weight that they once had, and whereas they previously made a direct suggestion that sites register with Yahoo! and DMOZ, this has been removed from their Webmaster Guidance. While the links are still valuable, it is probably true that this strategy worked better in the past.

There are other benefits to using directories, as well as link creation, although these will probably not be your primary motivation for signing up. You may also get a little more traffic from your site from people searching the directory or browsing through categories, for example. This is unlikely to be very much, as relatively few people use directories nowadays, but at least the people on there are looking for something specific. Another advantage is that as directory sites are carefully edited, only legitimate sites of reasonable quality will appear. If you happen to work in an industry where some of your rivals are, shall we say, ‘dodgy’, the fact that your site appears in a directory may give customers more confidence. A directory listing can also help new sites get indexed more quickly.

DMOZ logoThe problem, of course, is deciding if all this is worth the money. For smaller businesses, $299 a year is a sizable amount, especially for a single, albeit high-authority, link. The good news is that there are now several free directories. DMOZ, also known as The Open Directory Project, is the most famous. This is run by volunteer editors, and as such, it can take a fair while after submission before your listing appears. On the other hand, why would you turn down a free link? There are other free sites as well, such as the Librarians Internet Index and whatUseek, although the submission requirements differ. The Librarians Internet Index only accepts sites which are not purely commercial, for example, so your site would also need some good, informative content. With the recent changes to Google’s algorithms though, having high quality content is an excellent SEO tool in itself.

Overall then, submitting to directory sites can form a useful part of a wider SEO strategy, although whether or not to use paid services like Yahoo! Directory will depend on the company concerned. With the free sites, however, it is hard to say no to a hassle-free, high-authority link. Long live directories.

For more information about link-building and other SEO techniques, contact KPI.

About Russell Welch

Copywriter and digital marketing person. Russell used to be a History teacher, and likes gardening, martial arts and all things Japanese. Google+
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