One of the questions I get asked often is, “Is it worthwhile to submit to search engine directories?”.
When I started optimizing web sites, directories were a critical source of referring traffic. The Netscape Open Directory Project, DMOZ.org was (and still is) syndicated across hundreds of web sites. Yahoo started as a directory. Are directories still important? Yes, but not necessarily for the same reason.
When reviewing client log files for site visitor activity and sources of referring traffic, algorithmic search engines are by far the biggest contributors. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact the sites are “optimized” for search engines. Even so, the primary reason is that the major search engines have de-emphasized directory listings in their search results.
While search engine directory placement is rarely a significant source of direct traffic, the presence of a link from a very relevant category can contribute to a site’s link popularity. To varying degrees, major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN use the type and quality of links to a site to assist in determining it’s relevance and popularity.
It’s a good practice to submit a site to directories for this reason. Which directories should you register with? Focus on quality. Many search engine directories have popped up in the past year or so. It’s important to focus on directories that offer specific categorization and crawlable urls (no redirects). Both general and industry specific directories are of value.
Another resource for finding industry specific directories (and search engines) is the Internet Search Engine Database
When submitting to a directory, the information of most importance is the site title and description. Each directory has different guidelines for what you can include in these areas with Yahoo and DMOZ being the most conservative. Be sure to write an accurate site title and include keywords in your description. Be sure to read the editorial guidelines offered during the submission process.
A good directory submission and placement strategy will target both general directories with matching categories for your industry as well as industry specific directories. Spread your directory submissions out over time, do not submit to all of them in one day.
Some directories will register your site within a few days or weeks. In the case of DMOZ, submit carefully and then forget about it. The average listing time is 6 months to 1 year. You can get a lot done in that amount of time without worrying about a listing in DMOZ.
If your site is listed in the wrong category or incorrectly, most directories will allow you to edit your own listing or submit a change request to a category editor.
Directories that require a link exchange should not be a priority. It is better to pay a one time, or recurring annual listing fee than to exchange links in most cases.
Keep track of the directories you submit to and when submitted/accepted in a spreadsheet. An ongoing effort to submit to quality search engine directories is a solid component of an overall web site marketing program. As with many aspects of search engine optimization, not all businesses have the time or internal resources to perform certain tasks, like directory registration and submission. Most SEO firms can handle directory placement for you, but at a cost. So it’s important to weigh your internal labor costs and quality against the cost of outsourcing to a professional.