A few months ago I wrote an article about 13 ways a webmaster can go about building links to their site. One of these ways was through the use of directory submissions.

There are many reasons why you may consider a directory submission. You could be trying to build your brand, focused on links for organic rankings, or simply want to drive traffic to your site. Below we will focus on the link building and organic ranking aspect of directory submissions.

There are countless directories out there these days, some are free, some are paid, and many are garbage. If you decide to build links to your site using online directories, there are some things you will want to consider before spending your hard earned money.

Page Rank
Check the Google Page Rank. The visible page rank is only a very slight indication of a page’s strength, but a PR 6 still represents a site of more value than a PR 2. Do not discount a site solely based on PR, but know that a higher PR site, if relevant, will give you more value.

Outbound Links
Check the number of outbound links on the category page you would submit to. If the page has more than 100 outbound links, then chances are it will help you very little but there are of course some exceptions to the rule. Let’s say that the page in question has a few sites listed that are organically ranking in the top 10. The page also has a Google PR of 6/10, and the page is highly relevant to your industry. In this situation, even if there were as many as 150 or 200 outbound links, you would probably still want to get your site listed.

The same holds true for DMOZ. We know that DMOZ is a great place to get your site listed, and while listing your site on a page with the fewest links will give you the most value. In the case of DMOZ, even if the relevant category for your listing exceeded 100 outbound links, I would not hesitate to continue with a listing submission.

Category Pages
Check the number of pages per category. If your main category has 10 pages of listings, you may want to forget it as the deeper you dive into these pages, the less value they will hold – they also add the risk of the directory being downgraded due to spam etc. If you still want to be listed, what page will your listing appear on? If you can’t get the first page, you will probably want to walk away.

Are listings alphabetical? Are new listings added to the top or the bottom of the list? If they are added to the top, you should know that in time, as more people submit, your site will get bumped down to the subsequent pages, reducing its value with every new bump.

Success of Other Listings
Take a look at other listings in the directory. Are any of these sites ranking for related top phrases? Try to assess if other sites in your category are benefiting from a link at this directory, especially if it’s a paid directory.

Anchor Text
Does the particular directory allow you to determine the anchor text used, or does it simply link you URL. If you can choose the anchor text, the link will be far more valuable as it will allow more value to be passed on due to the relevance of the anchor text and the target phrase for your site.

Indexed in Google?
Are the directory and your preferred category sub page both indexed in Google and the other major engines? If it is a paid directory and they are not indexed, don’t waste your money. If the directory is well indexed including your preferred category, and has a fairly recent last cache date, then it is worth considering.

Prices for directory listings can range from free to hundreds of dollars, so you have to ask yourself “is it worth it”. If you find that the directory is in good standing, other competing sites in your industry are ranking organically and listed here, and the page has a decent visible PR, this may warrant paying a higher premium to be listed. Be sure to consider if the billing is a one time or recurring expense.

If you have only a $300 annual budget the $299 a year for Yahoo may make sense, however if you break that up into 10 listings in other top directories for $30 a year each, this may be a better investment – it all depends on what is available for your industry, how high its quality is, and at what price.

Can Google See the Link?
If your focus is on search engine rankings, then you definitely want to ensure that both your link, and the page your link resides on, are both fully spiderable by Google. Ensure that the rel=nofollow attribute is not used on your link, or on the pages that link to the directory page; also ensure that the page is not being blocked by a robots Meta tag or within the robots.txt file. The best indication that a page is seen by Google is if there is a recent cache of it within the Google index. If this page is also noted as a back link for others sites listed, it’s a pretty safe bet that yours will be seen also.

Ensure that the directory you are submitting to is totally on the up and up. If you find that they are doing anything shady turn the other way. This could be in the form of hidden text or links, or abusive pop-ups, etc. If they are promoting some software or anything that may include adware or malware, you definitely do not want to be associated with this site.

If the site is free and without an approval process, you may as well forget it. It will (if not already) end up littered to no end with irrelevant links which will drastically downgrade the value of the link to as low as zero. While Free-for-All sites can be a quick source for links, the links will actually be useless, so avoid them.

There are many ways to build links for a site, and directory submissions are just one of them. By having your site listed in a number of relevant directories you can help your sites overall link reputation to grow. It is important to remember though, that directory links are usually not enough on their own, they are just one piece of the big picture.

By Scott Van Achte, Senior SEO