The Great Directory Debate

While participating in discussions in various webmaster forums, including our own SEO forums, I have voiced my opinion on the value of directory links. The debate is about how valuable directory links are since Google cracked down on buying links for the purpose of inflating a website’s link popularity.

So, is it even worth the time to submit to directories anymore? Can directory links now hurt search engine rankings? I still submit to directories, and I am certain that directory links still hold value. My strategy for finding directories involves considering a couple different factors before submitting.

When I come across a directory, I look at the overall design of the directory. If the directory has a poor design that looks as if very little effort went into it, I move on to another directory. If the design looks good, I look at the PR value of the directory. Not to find one with high PR, but rather to make sure that it isn’t showing as “unranked”. Then I look at how many pages the directory has indexed in Google. If it has very few pages indexed in Google and a high PR value, it is typically one of two things.  Either,  it was created on a previously owned domain that had page rank, or it could have page rank being redirected to it from another domain. For both of those situations I leave that directory and move on. If I find that the directory has plenty of pages indexed and has a good look and design, I find the most relevant category and submit my site.

Directory links hold value for a few different reasons. Many directories give you the option of customizing the anchor text of the link pointing to your site. This allows the person submitting to include keywords in the anchor text of the link. Many directories will allow deep links. This gives the website owner the option of linking to internal pages of their site. Some major directories get a good amount of traffic and can drive some additional traffic to their listed sites. Industry targeted directories are great for relevance and can potentially drive extra traffic to your site.

I don’t think directory links can hurt site rankings, but there are a couple things I wouldn’t do when submitting to directories. I wouldn’t submit to any directory site  that is poorly organized, or looks like just a big long list of links. There should be plenty of different categories and sub-categories.  Also, pages should have a limited number of links on them. I wouldn’t pay for any “footer type” site wide links on directories or any other sites. With the recent crack down on buying links, that is just asking for trouble.

So don’t stop submitting to directories. They have value and are always great for a low budget marketing campaign. Remember to evaluate the quality of the directory before submitting, and don’t forget to have fun.

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  1. Russ says

    Agreed. For now at least, some directories still provide great value. Most do not. I thought I’d read somewhere in Matt Cutts land that Google also has its eye on sites built on “spam friendly” directory software such as phpld.

  2. Ash says

    I believe there has been too much focus on whether a link from a directory has any value without consideration for the value of the link. Your post helps to break that down.

    The value of a site is more important than if it’s a website, blog, directory or any other architecture. More importantly, what is the value of the page where your link will reside.

  3. Jacob S. says

    I agree that directory links are still useful to some degree. From the standpoint of getting exposure to your site, I feel that using local directories such as Google Maps, Yahoo Local & the link is extremely important. Basically it gives smaller businesses a chance to compete with bigger biz.

    While all directories may not be valuable from an SEO standpoint, I still say the more exposure you can bring to your site the better (unless its a link farm or something).

    Great article!

  4. Tucker Johnson says

    I agree with you. I spent a large amount of time trying to link and linking to directories. They have had little to no effect on the traffic to my site or the pagerank of my site.

  5. Matthew says

    I agree with this to some degree. I have a core set of paid directories I would consider for a new site. They are based on a number of factors which you still mention. But I think Google will eventually diminish the value from these links. They are promoting a social web where social indicators are the main factors in your rank. So buying links from directories isn’t in their future business model. Or that’s how I see it.

  6. Scott Salwolke says

    I still subscribe to the idea that directories have some value, even if they provide little traffic themselves. One criteria I have is how quick Google picks up a new listing. With Google alerts its a relatively easy to way how soon your submission is picked up.

  7. Kim Web says

    Hi there
    I have just stumbled across here and enjoyed this post, and happy to find somewhere where people are talking about the use of directories, I find that they do have some value in creating links to one site and they give you creditability too. One doe have to have patients when doing submissions as the directories do take time to approve.

  8. Shelley says

    I am agree Dustin..that Directories are carrying some values but nowdays when you do submit your site,it get approved and listed in specific category though it is not there in SERPs…this is very disempowering for the new users as it is the oldest method for link I think directory owners should really think on their directories…for link building..what say?

  9. Chris J. Politzki says

    Nice post!

    I’m currently trying to rebuild my site and am also using directory submissions. So far I’ve not seen much effect from doing so. Maybe a slight bump in traffic, but I’m also blogging a bit, submitting things to Flickr and such, so it’s hard to tell.

    Thanks again for your post!


  10. Dustin says

    I personally think that directory submissions provide quality links in some cases, but the amount of links that you can attain in a certain amount of time is small comparitively to other ventures. Thanks for the post.

  11. Hanley says

    I believe directory links play a fundamental role for backlink power of a website. The only important thing you should submit to high PR well-organized quality directories.

  12. Susan says

    I agree and disagree – most of the research I’ve done indicates that as long as you are not linking to a site, that a one way link can never hurt your rankings – so it can’t hurt to have more links, even from poorly designed / laid out directories, they just won’t hold as much weight.

  13. Owen says

    I agree with you. I spent a large amount of time trying to link and linking to directories…

  14. Doug says

    If you really want to know if it works you have to do a controlled test. Do nothing but submit to directories on a site you haven’t built links to recently and is holding steady in its rank. You might have to wait awhile to see results as some directories can take months to list you.

  15. Sheldon says

    Thanks for that information, there is so much to learn about SEO and Link Building, but I think Directory Submissions still play a part of the SEO of a website, it is quite an easy thing to get, so I start off with doing the better directories, 10 or so of them then move into competitor’s links and matching them, then scouting for good links! :-)

    Thanks again.

  16. John Lucifer says

    I think directory submission is very important in the process of Seo because this is the basic step in the off page optimization. If anyone can work from High PR sites the results will surely come that’s for sure and anyone can create wonders that’s a fact. Thanks a lot.

  17. Sandra says

    I’m currently trying to rebuild my site and am also using directory submissions. So far I’ve not seen much effect from doing so.

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