Before Google showed up on the scene, majority of people relied on web directories when searching for specific content on the internet. The internet wasn't nearly as advanced as it is today and the only other alternative was to play guessing games or use an SEO angle on the URL and hope that you land on your favorite website. Much has changed since then and while advanced search engines dominate the web, online directories still have a place in the ever-evolving World Wide Web.
Enhancing Visibility with Directories
Linking up a website with a directory can in fact enhance visibility and increase traffic, which is good for business; but how do web masters decide between the thousands of directories on the internet? Web owners whose main goal is to gain better rankings on Google would have to be cautious when selecting a directory because a legitimate online directory would have to adhere to Google TOS in order to stay relevant: otherwise it'd be considered a spam site.
It's never a good idea to list one's website on dozens of web directories indiscriminately. Dozens of spam sites exist and since they all get sidelined by Google, listing one's website on them in the hopes of enhancing visibility would be counterproductive.
Find the Right Directory
How do you vet web directories and which criteria do you consider before settling for one? Google's Matt Cutts has underlined the need to practice high editorial discretion citing Google's no nonsense policy against spammers. It's quite simple; the real value of a directory is measured against the level of editorial discretion applied.
Therefore, if the owner doesn't scrutinize every website linked with their directory to find if it provides valuable resources, or if they load their directory with keywords and superlatives such as "the best", "superior", "deluxe", or "cheapest", chances are they're operating a spam site.
Video of Matt Cutts Explaining Google's Position
If you watch the video where Matt Cutts explains Google's approach to directories, you'll have an easier time searching for quality directories. Too many people devalue their own websites by dealing with the wrong directories.
For instance if you've ever considered submitting your website to a thousand or more directories in the hope that casting a wide net will yield you solid results, you may be disappointed.
Quality directories are not general and all-inclusive; they cater to a specific niche and will modify your listing title if it helps raise objectivity. If the directory owner takes time to hand-pick the websites listed, that would suggest that he or she cares about the value and quality of the directory. Dead links and spam-filled content won't go unnoticed by Google and if your website gets caught in the crosshairs, it'll hurt your business.
There's nothing wrong with paying monthly or annual fees to have your website listed in popular web directories; the problem comes when web owners start to dictate terms. If they allow you to write your own description for your website and choose the category to list it, then chances are they're frauds. It's the job of a directory editor to modify descriptions and list the websites according to the proper categories. If the editor does their job well, then the directory won't breach any legal agreements and other web masters will have confidence in the directory.
Even the best web directories have their worth and relevance challenged by top search engines which can generate quality results without the hassles of low editorial guidelines or payment. This is not the only major challenge to online directories: because Google holds considerable influence, their policies tend to dictate popular trends and to some degree, monopolize the guidelines set in place to evaluate directories.
Deciding on a Web Directory
There are a few factors you can use to assess different directories available on the internet. While cost is a major factor when selecting a directory, it's not the most important factor when quality is the objective. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:
Editorial policy: there should be a page on the website that clearly defines the directory's editorial guidelines. If the directory accepts websites without any form of vetting and without any pre-existing standards, then walk away.
Quality of links: you want to weed out low quality directories before submitting your website and the best way to do this is to evaluate their links and determine if they are a valuable resource.
Maintenance: every quality directory has to be updated and pruned every now and then to get rid of outdated links and ensure each listing is in the proper category. The frequency at which the website gets cleaned up is more important than the length of time it's been in business.
Google TOS: compliance with Google's Terms of Service is a must for any website hoping to enhance visibility through web directories. If you want to rank well on Google, it would help if you deal with websites that are ranked highly by them.
If a web directory practices a high level of editorial discretion and operates under Google TOS, then your website shouldn't have a problem attaining good rankings on the web and building high ratings.
Submitting your website to a directory
When you come across a directory take time to navigate to the right category for your specific niche. Assuming the directory has a regional section and you want to provide a service to a specific country, then suggest the website to that category and location. The official title of the company should be used so avoid suggestive keywords like "Best SEO Company" or "Quality Guaranteed". Websites that rely heavily on keywords would have a hard time pulling in traffic: the more important issue is the quality of content presented. Focus more on providing users with relevant information so that you build trust with the masses.
Here’s a list of the best and reputable quality directories:
- Yahoo (PR8, $299/year)
- The Open Directory Project (PR7, Free)
- Best Of The Web (PR7, $299.95/once)
- Business.com (PR6, $299/year)
- Jasmine Directory (PR6, $49/once)
- Aviva Directory (PR5, $49.95/year or $149.95/once)
- Directory Journal ($59.95/year or $159.95/once)
You'll find tones of resources online discussing web directories and how best to use them: some will have conflicting information so the best thing for you to do would be to examine the Terms of Service presented by Google, and see how each directory measures against them. Consider Matt Cutts' statement about the same and see how you can work in a fresh angle to help keep your website at par with the best.