Most people agree that social media properties such as blogs and bookmarks are invaluable for search engine optimization link building efforts. In fact, it would be pretty difficult to build decent, high-traffic links without some sort of social media being drafted in. However, this enthusiasm for blogging and the like has come at the cost of directory submissions which were once a large part of an SEO’s inbound link arsenal.
Directories as an online tool have started to take a backseat to blogs, wikis, and social media properties, which are quickly and easily brought up to date. The Google factor has also put paid to the halcyon days of directory popularity as it is quick to recognize paid links and has been known to met out harsh penalties to low quality and duplicate directories.
The waning popularity of directory listings actually makes them a smart choice for link acquisition, as rival sites are unlikely to count the same sources in their own inbound link reports. If you know how to correctly target directory links, you can quite easily amass a collection of good-quality referrals that your keyword competitors do not have. With the right approach, these directory listings can help increase page rank and referred traffic.
Despite the benefits, directory submissions should not form the bulk of your link acquisition strategy — rather they should be seen more of a peripheral activity that done correctly, can add value to an overall off-page optimization campaign.
The following pointers will help you make the most out of your directory submission activities:
Identifying Relevant Directories
The most obvious way of ensuring a directory link adds value to your overall optimization activities is to identify only the most relevant outlets to submit the site too. This is particularly important if the directories you are targeting operate a paid listings model, as even a small number of irrelevant links can prove costly if they fail to deliver interested traffic or SEO value.
If you are targeting a very specific audience, you will need to identify those directories most relevant to that niche. This can be done via market research – speaking to existing clients to identify any directories they commonly refer to, keeping an eye out in the ad space of industry journals and magazines, or even conducting inbound link research on competitor sites to see which (if any) directories they have used.
Select Your Category Carefully
Having decided upon the directories you wish to submit your site to, you must also consider which of the dozens of potential categories are likely to be most suitable. If you offer a variety of products and services, this seemingly simple decision will likely require a lot of thought, as the choice of category could make or break the success of the directory listing. Get it right and you have the potential to tap into the targeted traffic searching that section of the site. Get it wrong and you lose that potential.
If you really can’t decide which category to submit your listing under, it is worth taking some time out to test drive a number of categories on various directories, tracking which sectors bring in the most referrals.
Check The Small Print
The majority of directories will request a reciprocal link back from your site. That’s understandable, as even directories need to linkbuild and place their URL in front of as many eyeballs as possible. An unequivocal demand for a reciprocal link should raise alarm bells. If proof of a link is requested during the submission process, it’s best to bail out and look elsewhere.
Check The Quality Of The Links
If a directory cannot satisfy the search engine’s requirement for relevance and quality, it’s most likely that the links you gain from the directory will be worthless. This is true not just for inbound link value, but also in terms of the traffic referred to the site from the directory. Before submitting your site for inclusion in any directory, it’s important to verify that the links are well organized and relevant to their category. Do a manual check of a number of categories within the directory and click on the links contained. Ask yourself if the listings really relate to the area they are listed under and check out the quality of the sites themselves. If the sites are mostly of a poor quality, it could be an indication to take your listing elsewhere.
When checking the quality of the links, be on the lookout for any spam-related content, such as a large number of casino or medication links. Again, the presence of this kind of content is an indication that the directory is of a fairly poor quality.