One of the best signs of quality is whether a directory is found in search results. If it is, especially on Google, take it as a good sign. It’s usually worth the money to buy a link from that directory.
Don’t submit to too many directories too fast. Space it out over several months.
Avoid free directories.
Directory Description and Anchor Text
Search engines are well aware that SEOs use directories to promote websites, so they’ve developed technology to spot directory submissions designed to manipulate search results. One of the biggest clues is the use of similar anchor text and descriptions on many directory listings. Some SEOs simply copy and paste a paragraph from the website, which is never good. Try varying your anchors and descriptions.
Directories also watch for SEO submissions, so if your URL is whitehorse.com and your anchor is “real estate agent,” then there’s a problem. Try varying that anchor to something like “white horse real estate agent” or “white horse real estate,” something that still has targeted keywords but is not as obvious.
Watch competing websites in a directory and see what behavior is accepted. If competing sites are pretty aggressive, it’s a sign that you can be aggressive as well.
Number of Links in a Category
The more links are on a page, the less PR is passed, so look for the number of links in each category. If the ”real estate” section has 150 links and “real estate agents” has 25 links, then the second section can pass more page rank. Watch for the inbounds to each section to judge whether or not the link is valuable. If “real estate agents” has 25 outbounds and 5 internal links, but the “real estate” section has 150 outbounds, but 50 internal links and 20 inbounds, then the latter link is better.
Also watch to see if the site fits in a specific category topically.
Directories used to be an easy and fast way to get Google rankings, so Google had to diffuse this manipulation issue. The problem with generic directories is they might have a high page rank, but no content or real value from the user’s perspective. If all a directory does is sell page rank for the sole purpose of manipulating search results, then the search engines will want to discount it.
It the past, it was pretty simple. For example, Bob the SEO dude got into SEO, and then realized he could make money from directories by charging for submission. He got directory scripts, built a database and rolled out a new directory. Then Bob ran into a problem…no one submitted.
"What’s going on?" Bob thought. Then he realized that he needed page rank, so he reciprocated, did free-for-all links and bought listings. Bob got his directory’s PR to 6 and started selling links for $40 apiece.
The problem with Bob’s model is that his directory is built solely for PR manipulation, without any value to the end user. Obviously Google does not like those tricks; it wants to provide its searchers with real value. It’s only natural that search engines want to reduce low quality directory link effects.
Many directory owners build multiple directories for nothing but SEO, which reduce their value.
Determining Quality of a Directory
A good way to determine the quality of a directory is to look at whether there are any good sites in that directory. If its listings lead mostly to low PR, low quality sites, then it’s not worth bothering to submit your site to it.
Also, if most listings are empty, this means that the directory is either new or abandoned. A new directory may become good later on, so submitting to it may be worth the effort. Save the link somewhere and come back a few months later.
Check the crawl date of the index page and of a specific page in a directory. If it’s over a month old, chances are the search engines don’t trust it. Google also makes a lot of manual adjustments, which can hit spammy directories.
General high quality directories like DMOZ and Yahoo Directory still pass value to websites. Yahoo costs $299, but it’s still a good buy.
Librarians Internet Index
The Open Directory project is a free directory run by volunteers and enthusiasts. No editor is obliged to submit or review your website. DMOZ is one of the highest quality directories on the web, so make sure you build up your site a little before submitting, because it will go easier for you if you do.
Though DMOZ is free, there are some editors who accept “bribes” and may list a site for a fee. The danger is that the site may be removed by other, more authoritative members, so several hundred bucks can go to waste. If you intend to do this, watch out for quality flags.
Become an editor
You can also become a DMOZ editor. Make sure to state that you’re interested in helping and have no commercial relations in the industry, nor SEO (this last point is very important).
DMOZ is valued by all search engines.
Trust Rank and DMOZ
Google’s Trust Rank is an algorithm that helps Google fix some PR holes. Seed pages are high quality pages with links to other websites. A link from a seed page passes a trust score to the linked page, and then that trust score follows a pattern similar pattern to page rank. DMOZ is considered to be one of the seed pages (or more precisely a seed site), hence their link is valuable. Do not get upset, though, if you cannot get a link from there. There are many sites that rank high without DMOZ.
The Yahoo Directory costs $299 per year. You don’t need to submit to it to show up in Yahoo search results, but your ranking will go up on Yahoo if you do. Google also trusts the Yahoo Directory.
Some websites may get accepted for free, but those have to be non-commercial.
Yahoo sorts its listings by link popularity instead of alphabetically. If a category has 200 sites, then the ones with the most links will show up at the top. If you have few links, it will take some time before your site shows up at the top.
Yahoo Directory editors have a reputation for being picky as to whom they submit, but with recent Yahoo financial troubles they may loosen up and accept anyone who pays. Also keep in mind that Yahoo may still end up being purchased by Microsoft, despite all the drama over the past year and more, so a link from the Yahoo Directory is worth the price.
You can search for a niche directory by using the format “keywords + directory” or “keywords + add URL.” Please note that some directories prevent the "add URL" part from being crawled.
Also check out business partners, distributors and affiliates. Sometimes they have directories or a partners page.
The Chamber of Commerce is a directory from which it is worth your while to get a link.
Auto Forms and Submission Software
At all costs, stay away from submission software. It has no value and you will end up penalized by the search engines. Also stay away from submission schemes priced at $1 per listing (or similar). Those hurt instead of helping.
If you do use an auto form filler, make sure to vary your information slightly and remove any trails that may indicate software was used. It’s generally a good idea to create different descriptions, but if you’re extra lazy at least vary them a bit.
On the topic of software, stay away from applications that claim they can help you gain top rankings on search engines. Those go for few hundred bucks, but never get you promised results. Search is a billion-dollar game. A $300 program from Joe the garage guru will not beat it.
On the other hand, there are plenty of useful apps that help with overall SEO tasks. Many can be found for free or at moderate prices.
If you have a quality site, with high PR, but few editorial links, the site may be lacking in trust and get flagged for review. Internally leaked Quality Rater guidelines showed that despite Google’s war on spam, it may tolerate some degree of spam as long as there’s quality content, aka the formula “quality site + PR only links (non-editorial) = Google tolerance.” I won’t suggest you follow this formula, since going for PR links can get a site penalized by algorithms first, before human raters, but it’s good to know.
Directories are good sources of links, but they are not the core of SEO rankings. You can still make a site rank on directories alone for relatively competitive terms, but it’s better to mix these with more editorial links.
Don’t make directory buys your primary link building strategy; it’s a risky game that can backfire. Focus more on editorial links through content development, and then submit to directories.