“Can you still use directory submissions for SEO?”
This question crops up repeatedly on forums and it’s unsurprising as once upon a time directories were the staple of SEO, indeed they existed before search engines did and were the main way of navigating the web. A simple copy/paste of the same description to hundreds of directories and you were sorted.
Fast forward to 2020 and SEO has become a lot more complicated, however directory submissions if done correctly can still play an important role as part of a larger SEO campaign.
Personally, I find this change refreshing. Just as websites were once jammed with keywords, and user-experience was immaterial to your SEO, now having great content and a positive user-experience is vital. So to with directories, some have survived the test of time and are still important for SEO today, others have lost all merit and often vanished from the web entirely.
Having links from directories is also no longer enough to rank well with Google, and creative, engaging guest posts on relevant sites that backlink to your website will go further than submitting to directories. As an SEO agency, this is great news, as it means the job now involves writing engaging content, creating infographics, and striving for excellence, which is far more satisfying than the old black hat methods that used to work, but no longer do.
How do you find the best directories?
The best way to guarantee that a directory submission will be beneficial is to ask yourself,
“If SEO didn’t exist, would I still submit to this directory?”
If the answer is, “Yes,” then it’s a lot more likely that the directory will also help with SEO. Note, the questions isn’t, “If Search Engines didn’t exist.” Some ways of finding the best directories are as follows:
Find a relevant directory in your niche or region
If you repair cars in Washington, own a furniture shop in Paris, or have a games platform usable by anyone in the world, then the best directory for you will be different. There are also international directories, some catering for multiple languages, most catering for a single language. You’re therefore best of starting by searching in Google for either:
- A relevant keyword OR
- A broader category OR
- A geographic region
And looking through the first few pages of the results to see if any directories or lists appear. Start with those and to find more directories, repeat the process but add “directory” or “submit” or “submission” to your search.
If a niche directory appears for relevant keywords, then it’s likely to drive traffic to your site, which will help increase sales and is also far more likely to help your SEO, regardless of the directory’s statistics (more on this later). At the end of the day, if Google considers a directory important enough to rank in the first few pages for a relevant keyword, then it’s worth you joining the directory, particularly if it’s free or cheap.
Find a general directory with good overall value
As well as niche directories, there are a wide range of generalist directories that cover pretty much any topic imaginable. To find these, you can simply search in Google for “directory”, “free online directory” or “list of directories” and you’ll find plenty of results.
For general directories it’s worth checking out their stats more carefully before deciding to use them, as if you submit your site to too many low quality directories, this could get your site penalized, rather than rewarded.
One way to find the best directories is to compile a list then run them through a tool like Website SEO Checker, pictured below.
This provides a wide range of stats about a website which overall give a good indication of how successful a site is and how much a link will benefit you. The most relevant are as follows:
- Domain Authority (DA) – A scale from 1 to 100, 100 being the best of how much authority a site has based on the backlinks going to it, its age, and various other factors. Aim for a DA of at least 25.
- Age – Older directories are more likely to have built up a reputation over time, though don’t rule out a new directory if its other criteria are good.
- Alexa rank – A ranking of most of the websites online, where 1 is the most visited site in the world, gradually counting downwards. The lower the Alex rank, the more traffic a website receives. This is an important indicator of traffic, but please note that it’s not very accurate.
- TrustFlow (TF) – Similar to Domain Authority, but focuses more on how trustworthy a site, calculated in particular by links from highly reputable websites.
A very low TrustFlow, a very high Alexa rank, or no Alexa rank at all is an indicator that a site is unlikely to be valued by Google and unless it ranks well for specific keywords / a specific region that’s highly relevant to your business, is best avoided.
Another indicator of whether a general directory will be good for your business is whether it has a relevant category that’s as close to your niche as possible. If it doesn’t have any categories that remotely describe what you do, you’re best avoiding it.
How to complete your submission
Google do their best to discount duplicate content on the net, and penalize excessive duplicate content in backlinks, plus there will be a finite number of high quality directories for you to submit to, therefore you’re best writing unique content for every single directory that you submit to.
To avoid any risk of a penalty, if asked for an anchor text that the directory will use when linking to, go with your company name, rather than a keyword.
Think about what unique selling points your business can offer and focus on this. For an American audience, focus primarily on the benefits of your product or service. For a UK or European audience, use a mixture of selling the benefits and describing the features.
If you plan on doing multiple directory submissions, you may wish to use a dedicated email address for it, to avoid getting spam afterwards, though make sure you use the correct postal address, phone number and web address, as having these consistent throughout the web has been shown to help with local SEO.
Checking if a site is already indexed
Directories are far better than they used to be, so most have a decent search interface where you can check if your site has already been indexed, however one way to be sure is to search in Google for:
Site:example.com company name
Where “example.com” is the domain name of the directory, and “company name” is the name of your company (there’s no space between “site:” and “example.com”).
This will show you all results on the directory that mention your company.
How much should I pay for a directory submission?
In 2020 most general directories offer a free option or charge a few dollars to let you index your business, and it’s probably not worth paying more than this. Some local or niche directories can charge anything up to a few hundred dollars to index you (e.g. a property for sale directory). For these kind of directories, ask yourself what it’s worth to you. If it’s a specific niche and the directory receives a high volume of traffic, then it will be worth considerably more to you.
What other kinds of backlink are there?
As we mentioned at the start of this article, directories aren’t the only type of backlink Google consider and in 2020 it’s particularly important that you have a range of different types of backlinks to rank well with Google. Some other SEO link building strategies to consider are:
- Writing guest posts and arranging for them to be placed on relevant blogs
- Social media marketing
- Image or infographic shares
- Advertising on small ad sites
- Creating amazing content that people will want to link to
When directory submissions are done properly they are an effective tool as part of a larger SEO and link building campaign and can also help to drive traffic to your site and improve your branding.