I’ve been living in directory submission land lately, looking for quality directories where I can submit my wife’s and my four local blogs, which are new and in need of some basic links.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone out on the hunt for links from quality directories, and the experience these past few days hasn’t been good: There’s a lot more junk out there than not. This can be a problem for the small business owner who may struggle to know how to tell a quality directory from the rest.
How to Judge a Web Directory
One directory I visited recently offered several different listing options, and the chart they presented offers a great starting point for learning how to separate the good from the bad. Have a look:
There are three red flags above that should tell you this is not a place from which you want a link:
- Reciprocal link required. Quality directories (Yahoo, DMOZ, Best of the Web, Business.com, etc.) never make reciprocal linking a condition of getting listed. When you see this requirement, the message is clear: The directory wants inbound links more than it wants great sites to be listed.
- 100% refund if not accepted. We can debate paid links until we’re blue in the face, but it’s reasonable to assume that search engines don’t consider this kind of arrangement to be a sign of a quality directory. For Google’s perspective, Matt Cutts has said, “For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.” If your payment guarantees inclusion, or you get a refund if rejected, you’re not paying for an evaluation of your site — you’re buying a link.
- 3 extra blog links and 5 extra blog links. Along the same lines, if you’re offered more links in exchange for more money, that’s a red flag.
That’s just from this one screenshot from one directory. Here are five more red flags to look for when evaluating directories:
4. Lots of advertising. Just as there are Made-for-Adsense blogs, there are MFA directories. If the directory’s pages are heavy on ads, to the point of making the web site listings seem like an afterthought, avoid that directory. Quality directories focus most on the presentation of their listings.
5. Selling links. I recently saw a “submit URL” page on a directory in Niche “A”, and right below the submit button there was a paragraph with (obviously sold) links to mortgage, drugs, and other unrelated sites.
6. Poor quality sites being listed. Search the directory for spammy phrases like “buy viagra” and see what results show up. If you can search for domains, try searching for “blogspot.com” (home to thousands upon thousands of spam blogs). There are some legit and very good blogs on blogspot.com, so be sure to analyze the blogspot.com sites that are listed.
7. Poor crawl depth. Low-quality directories tend to have very poor crawl depth; in other words, the home page and main category pages might be in Google’s or Yahoo’s index, but many of the deeper pages aren’t. This means your link may have no benefits where SEO is concerned.
8. Low traffic. If you’re not getting a link for SEO reasons, you better hope to get some direct traffic from the link. Check sites like Compete, Quantcast, or Alexa to see what kind of traffic the directory might have. I wouldn’t rely on any one of these stats/metrics sites alone, but together you may get a good idea of the directory’s popularity.
Further Reading: Two Articles
Here are two excellent articles on this same topic that a small business owner should read for additional ideas on judging the quality of a web directory:
- Debra Mastaler: Is That Directory Worth Submitting To?
- Rand Fishkin: What Makes a Good Web Directory, and Why Google Penalized Dozens of Bad Ones
Your Turn: What red flags did I miss? What factors do you use to determine the quality of a directory?