Is Directory Submission Still Worthwhile?

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If you’ve read almost anything about search engine marketing, you’ll have come across the idea of directory submission. Unlike Google, which returns search results “on the fly”, directories are organised sites. They categorise the sites they list. Typically they will start with a broad category such as “Business and Economy” and then you drill down until you get to the section you want. In these days of instant gratification, that seems like hard work. And, for most of us, it is. But there are still lots directories like the one started by Yahoo, slightly newer ones like the Open Directory and more recent directories that concentrate on a town or area. If you do a quick search, you’ll find literally thousands of directories still in existence. But just because something still exists doesn’t mean that it’s still useful.

If truth be known, I suspect that most directories get next to no human visitors. They don’t come up well in the search results. Their built-in search capabilities are nowhere near as good as even the worst search engines and definitely no match for superstars like Google and Bing. In fact, if I want to search a directory (for whatever nerdy reason), I’ll actually use Google rather than the built-in search option. That said, they still exist and they still have sites being added to them. So what explains this apparent conundrum? The big claim to fame for most directories is they are actually edited by humans. Yahoo charge you an annual fee for a listing.

Personally I think it’s too high nowadays but since the fee is still in existence, I presume that Yahoo still get people paying them. Dmoz (the Open Directory) relies on a team of volunteer editors to look after their directory. Most other directories survive on a mixture of advertising revenue – suggesting that there still is some traffic going to them – and fees for priority reviews or priority listings. Which actually makes them a form of paid link – something Google normally aren’t too happy about. But this is the exception that proves the rule. The paid part is usually for a faster review.

And somehow, Google knows that the site is subject to some form of editorial control. Most directorys don’t accept submissions from the thousands of spammy sites out there. If you’ve got a site that has been created by a robot purely to get your share of advertising revenue then it’s highly unlikely that it will get accepted for a directory. Part of that process is because most directories worth their salt have a two stage process of directory submission. Once you’ve clicked the submission button (maybe after solving an annoying Captcha) then there’s often an email that asks you to click a link. This weeds out a large number of spammy sites – it’s way too much effort to click a link on the off chance that an advert laden site will get approved by a human editor.

In turn, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to know that this weeding out process has happened. It can easily check whether the sites listed in a directory are of a reasonable quality or not. Following on from this, Google still gives some authority to directory sites because they actually add an extra human perspective to the process of grading sites. Like every other site, some directories will have a higher authority than others. And this authority score can change over time. But, on balance, I’d say that directory submission still has its place as part of your search engine optimisation campaign.