Adding your website to a web directory can increase visibility and bring in new traffic. But not all web directories are created equal. Web directories that are well regarded by Google will improve the search ranking of your page, but those that Google regards as spam sites can actually hurt your search ranking.
Unfortunately there are spam sites that prey on naive webmasters who think it’s a good idea to list their site on as many directories as possible without discriminating. These directories will list your site for free or very cheap, but then demand payment to remove you from the site when you find that they’ve negatively impacted your search ranking.
Finding the Right Directories
So how do you determine what web directories will help your site the most? Cost is a factor in choosing where to list your site, but so is quality. Factors that should be considered include:
- Quality of existing links-A quick way to weed out poor directory listings is to simply surf them and evaluate the caliber of existing links. The more links that go to sites that look like spam or have obviously spun content, the more likely this directory is to hurt your search ranking.
- Regular maintenance-It’s also important that the site is updated and pruned regularly for dead or outdated links, and that everything is categorized properly. The length of time that the site has been online is much less important than the last time it was updated and cleaned up. It’s nice that a directory has been online since the 1990s as that at least shows some stability, but what if it has dead links that have been sitting there rusting away since then?
- Another indicator that a site is well edited is the presence of links to major companies under their relevant categories. It is unlikely that any major company will have bothered to request a listing, so it indicates that whoever is running the directory is actively adding relevant sites on their own in an attempt to make the directory genuinely useful.
- Check for an editorial policy-Look for a page that clearly spells out the site’s editorial guidelines. If it just accepts sites without any sort of minimum standards whatsoever, odds are it’s not a place you want to be. Good directories will check new sites that they list for some basic criteria and will place your site in the category (or categories) that are most relevant to its content (and thus most helpful for backlinking purposes.)
- Compliance with Google’s Terms of Service-Since you’re looking for better results in Google, it’s very important that your link partners are well regarded by them. Compliance with their terms of service might just be the biggest factor of all in that. It’s very helpful to review their Link Schemes page in particular and avoid directories that are using the techniques they outline, such as unnatural links.
There are some resources that can save you time in your search for quality directories. There are actually directories of quality directories out there! Here are a few established lists that are well regarded, regularly updated and include links to high-quality directories according to one or more relevant metrics.
- Strongest Directories by Aviva Directory. This list ranks the top directories in the world according to a domain authority ranking based on the Open Site Explorer tool, which measures websites according to known factors that Google also evaluates.
- Best Web Directories from a different approach than metrics: Matt Cutts statement about what directory Google trust.
- Web Directory Reviews is run by a former Open Directory Project editor and publishes a quarterly report of the top ten web directories as well as occasional in-depth personal reviews of individual directories.
- Info Vilesilencer has an odd name, but it’s actually an established and well-regarded SEO optimization site that maintains a regularly edited and sortable database of the top directories. A listing of the most trusted and established directory listings is maintained as well as a listing of the best niche directories and a top 100 free directories list.
- There is another article, Best web directories according to Google, on TotalSeek.
Now, I would draw a little bit of daylight between some of those lower-quality or even spammy paid directories versus there are some directories like Yahoo that tend to exercise editorial discretion.
If you want to cut straight to the chase, there are a handful of major directories that have been established for years and are beyond reproach at this point.
Getting listed in these directories may be difficult or costly, but they are absolutely proven at this point and rock solid.
- Yahoo (PR8) is the oldest and biggest, and still going strong. But whereas it was once free to list your site with them, they now require a hefty fee of $299.00 per year.
- Best Of The Web (PR7) has a front page that doesn’t look all that inspiring, but they’ve been around since the mid-1990s and have a reputation for weeding out spam sites and emphasizing usability.
- The Open Directory Project (PR7) is the web’s oldest and biggest free directory. It’s free to list your site here and with relatively little hassle, but it is subject to editorial review and can be weeded out of the listings without warning as well.
- Business.com (PR6) is the biggest and best directory for businesses of all types, but like Yahoo they command a substantial fee of $299.00 per year for their services.
- Directory Journal-(PR5) excels at content. Has a few niche blog ans it’s quite popular. They have a consistent category structure and it’s heavily advertised. $59.95/year or $159.95/once
- Jasmine Directory (PR6) consistently ranks well in categories related to Google search and is more reasonable in terms of fee structure. Very high editorial discretion. You can pay by the year for $49 or $99 once (standard and express) to be listed there for the life of the directory.
- Aviva Directory-(PR5) One of the most popular directory heavily advertised some years ago. Very good category structure. $49.95/year or $149.95/once
Even the directories that charge large fees will still subject your site to an editorial review before approving it for listing. If it doesn’t pass the review, they will simply refund your fee. To ensure that you pass the review and make the listing, here are some tips on how to prepare and submit your site.
- Review your site just prior to submitting-This might seem obvious, but some people operate multiple sites and leave some of them sitting for weeks at a time. Ensure that everything on the front page is working properly, prune dead links, and check your site in a variety of browsers and at different visual resolutions. It’s a good idea to have some sort of recent dated updates visible on the front page as well, if your site is formatted that way.
- Apply to the correct categories-This not only ensures that you optimize your search results, but it saves time for the directory editors as well and ensures they evaluate your content properly. Making editors happy can’t ever hurt your chances. You should not only make sure you’re applying to the correct category, but look for sub-categories that are even more precise. If you have a niche site it is actually better for you to be in a smaller sub-category than to aim for a broader general category. If your site is regionally focused in any way, also ensure you are applying to a higher-level directory for that specific region rather than to the general categories that apply to sites that operate worldwide.
- Keep it simple-Submit your site with its actual name and title. Keep the description of it short, focused and accurate. Stuffing keywords and search terms here will not help you at all and will probably just annoy the editor that is reviewing it.
(1) Citation source: Are paid directories held to the same standards as paid links?