Submitting the URL of a site to online directories has been a viable SEO tactic as well as a well-justified promo practice since the early days of Internet marketing. It has been abused to an extent, too – most by unsavvy SEO newbies who sometimes think quantity over quality, and strive for quick SEO gains.
After Penguin 2.0 hit, there’ve been rumors regarding the ineffectiveness of directory submissions for SEO, or even the potential dangers this practice holds.
However, if you read this interview with Andre Weyher (an ex-member of the Matt Cutts team), you probably know that getting listed in a relevant, reputable directory cannot possibly hurt your site. Quite on the contrary – this can get you a decent flow of traffic, increase your rankings, and help you perform better in local search.
So, how does one find appropriate directories for their niche, and how can one tell which directories are of value?
1. Search for directories on Google
A simple way to look for directories relevant to your business is to search for them on Google or another search engine. For that, you could use any of the search terms created with the help of this table:
For example, I searched for “Best Canada accountant directory”, and here is what I got among the top 10 results:
As a rule, some of these directories would be free to join, some would be paid, and some may have certain requirements (such as, you need to be a member of their association) and would add your company automatically once you meet the requirements.
2. Examine your competitors’ backlinks
Another good way to find relevant directories that are likely to help your site rank higher and are safe to get backlinks from, is to analyze the backlinks of your top-ranking competitors.
It’s up to you how many competitors you’d like to analyze (you can do the top 5 or the top 25) – the point is to be to be able to quickly filter out the backlinks that are not directory links and to end up with a list of directories.
For example, using our SEO SpyGlass tool, one can see competitor backlinks that come from directories in a separate window and analyze them there.
3. Analyze directories for quality, popularity and integrity
Now, once you have done some initial research, you’d want to narrow your list of directories down to those that are really worth getting listed in. How can you tell which are?
Estimate their quality
To get an idea what a directory is worth SEO- and traffic-wise, pay attention to the following metrics:
- The website’s domain age
- The domain’s PageRank and the PageRank of the page where the listing will be located
- The number of backlinks pointing to the page
- The number of external, outgoing links from the page
- The URL, the title and the description of the page your listing will be appearing on
(it’s nice when these have your industry or your local keywords)
- The directory’s user interface
- The search tools the directory offers
- The amount and the depth of information the directory provides
To get this data, you can use any of the available SEO toolbars or SEO software that can analyze a site for these parameters.
As you may see form the list, one should analyze the directory not only from the SEO point of view, but also from the user-experience point of view, because the more search/comparison features it offers and the better it is at presenting and structuring information, the more likely you are to get direct traffic and conversions from it.
For instance, FindTheBest has really great business comparison features:
See how popular they are
Another good way to assess how much traffic a listing from a particular directory may bring you is to check its traffic rank/value. If it’s a US directory, you could look at the website’s Compete rank.
If you are targeting some other country, you could use other site analytics tools, for example Quantcast.
By the way, quite a lot of people still seem to rely on Alexa Rank for site traffic popularity score, but I’d warn one against trusting this metric too much, because it’s estimated by taking account only the hits by people who have Alexa Toolbar installed, and there’ve been a lot of stories about websites manipulating their Alexa rank.
Check them for integrity
And, last but not least, it’s also worth paying attention to how easily one can get listed in a particular directory. If it’s not pre-moderated or it asks for a reciprocal link back from your site, then you’d better stay away from that directory.
For instance, here is a message I came across on one occasion:
A lot of the time you will find that, the nicer a directory is, the more likely it is to ask for at least some kind of a fee (because it needs to employ editors), set certain requirements to websites or have a listing moderation process in place.
In fact, any of these things are a good sign, and such directories are probably worth your attention.
4. Know who is who in the directory world
When it comes to local search, there are a number of sites every local SEO worth their salt should focus on. But how does data end up on those local search platforms, review sites, deal comparison sites, etc.?
In fact, it’s a rather small number of bigger directories that supply an extensive network of online venues with business listing data. For instance, Neustar Localeze alone powers over 100 local search services including Apple maps, YellowBook.com, TomTom, MapQuest and many others.
So, to get your business information distributed across a variety of location-oriented Web properties, it’s enough to get listed in just a few major directories (such as Yext, Infogroup and Neustar Localeze) and spare yourself the need of chasing each and every smaller directory separately.
More often than not, you’d have to pay to get listed there, and you might want to pick just one or two of those major directories, but it may come cheaper in the end, while you’ll save all that time and effort you’d spen creating and/or verifying your listings.
5. Track the effect from listings over time
After you submit your business listing to the choice directories in your final list, here are a few metrics to track to let you know how your listings perform.
Even though you probably won’t be able to track the SEO effectiveness from each listing (unless submitting your site to just one directory is the only SEO move you take), you can still check:
- Monthly visits per listing
- Conversion rates and sales
- Website rankings dynamics after a round of submissions
- Local SERP dynamics after getting into major local directories
Most of this data can be tracked in Google Analytics and by checking your site positions on Google/Google Maps.
If you’ve been recently looking for ways to get additional traffic, publicity and SEO value for your business, getting listed in high-quality, relevant online directories could be well worth putting on your list of marketing activities.
Not only can directory listings bring you direct visitors and be counted as legitimate votes by Google, but also have a positive effect on how one’s site performs in local search.