Submitting your site to free web directories is often a key recommendation for link building efforts, but can be very time-consuming.
So is it worth the effort or is it better to pay for ‘higher quality’ links from sites like Yahoo Directory?
We asked a number of SEO experts for their opinions…
What is the SEO value of submitting your blog / website to free directories?
Usman Patel, SEO Manager at The Search Works:
A listing in a free web directory increases the number of links to your site, and therefore improves your link popularity; an important factor in SEO.
Submitting to a directory also means a permanent text link to your website with specific anchor text, which, if you can define, can help your search engine visibility.
Search engines will find your website through these links so that your site is indexed more often.
Another SEO benefit of web directories is that they can be an ideal place to find potential link partners.
For example, the Yahoo! Web Directory has a detailed directory listing categories and sub-categories that allow you to quickly find websites that are related to your site/industry.
Nilhan Jayasinghe, VP of Natural Search at iCrossing
: In the past, human-edited directories have been an important element of SEO, as search engines viewed them as an important indicator of quality content.
However, this situation changed as directories became popular on all types of websites, driving down the quality and making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the higher quality human-edited directories and less trustworthy listings.
Today, the value and benefit of a high-quality directory has changed. A brand mention in a key directory is unlikely to rank on its own, but it can help to drive specific search terms and provide longevity.
Furthermore, the importance of directories should not be underestimated for the user, helping to locate useful information and answer specific queries.
Andrew Girdwood, Head of Search, bigmouthmedia:
It is often worth submitting your blog or website to a directory that has a barrier to entry. That barrier may be a payment, or it may be strict editorial guidelines.
We’ve seen the Google engineer Matt Cutts echo this sentiment on his blog. A very valid SEO technique is to recognise those directories which are currently free to submit which show both the promise and potential to grow, and which will become harder to submit to.
It is also possible to harm your SEO rankings by submitting to too many poor quality web directories. Annoyingly, some directories also sell links via known text link brokers and lose significance in search engines as a result.
Bigmouthmedia spends a significant amount of time evaluating web directories, rating the appropriateness and if/when a client URL should be submitted.
Are the paid directories, such as the Yahoo Directory, worth the expense?
A listing in a paid directory has many benefits. As well as delivering traffic to your site, you gain a link from a quality paid directory with some authority, which benefits you. In some cases when you pay for a listing you will get the benefit of the link located at the top of the page, drawing the web user’s attention and thus increasing traffic/sales to your site.
The Yahoo! Directory is, for most businesses, certainly worth the expense because a review of your site is included (which, if you submit for free, is not guaranteed).
These reviews help the directory to ensure that the sites it includes are of good quality, and you benefit from the authority and trust that the directory has already gained from the search engines.
Paid directories, and more importantly trusted directories, can provide important traffic and search term advantages. This is especially true in relevant verticals such as travel, where regional directories help to boost search terms. In these instances the expense, which is not prohibitive to most brands, is worth it.
That depends wholly on the search strategy you’re following. It’s certainly the case that the Yahoo Directory is not cheap, but that is also therefore an easy quality signal for Google to pick up on and evaluate.
As part of our own going evaluation of directories we produce regular internal reports on specific directories and the directory landscape. Some directories are great, some are useless and some harmful.
I believe many search agencies are not yet at this level of thoroughness after being distracted by the link buying strategies that Google is quickly countering and punishing sites for.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Best Practice Guide