SEO IS DEAD. Thankfully, we still have link directories. And Turducken. It’s almost Thanksgiving! Time to give thanks for turkey, pumpkin pie, and link juice.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, the most awesome amazing thing about link directories is that they take forever to get crawled, so if you start now, you might have an extra few dollars by Thanksgiving to spend on Turkey thanks to value getting passed. Look forward to it!
We know SEO is a long-term process, though, so don’t start tearing up at that news. Take this information and squeeze every bit of link juice out of these directories as you can. It’s a wild wild SERP out there, and the ones most willing to fight and die for an extra spot in the SERPs are the ones that are going to earn it.
Link Directories – Good With Extra Mustard
The value of link directories are often debated. Some people think they pass value, others don’t. Let me tell you about those others – they don’t know what they’re doing. Link directories pass value, but what makes their value somewhat debated is that you must undergo rigorous link evaluation to ensure they’re worth anything – those that don’t are throwing their money and time to the wind. Those who do this wrong end up thinking link directories aren’t worth their weight in sugar-free linkjuice – while those who do it right laugh their way to a bank that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you simply find a PR4 link directory, submit and expect that it’s going to pass value to you, I’m sorry. Your link evaluation fundamentals lack the rigor necessary to rank consistently in competitive SERPs. But there’s hope – if you’re reading this and you’re reading other stuff and you’re literate and aren’t being taking care of by traveling nurses, you’re well on your way.
Link Directory Prospecting
This is by far the most difficult part of link directories. There are a LOT of link directories on the internet. But only a select few can pass value to your website – so choose wisely. Pick incorrectly and you will end up passing no value or worse, throw your website in a link neighborhood you wouldn’t want it growing up in.
The reason link directories rarely pass value is the dichotomy between their site structure and inability to draw links. They’re built on the ability to host 30,000 pages, but when they have the value of a PageRank 2 website, they can’t possibly pull that off. What that means is most of the value is in the shallow levels of the website structure. The shallows can mean multiple things – those pages that haven’t been stuffed with other websites and paginated twenty levels deep – or subdirectories that have the luck of being linked to from the homepage.
Each directory will have different categorical structure and similarly, will also seemingly link at random from the homepage. So perhaps your video games website will have value on one directory because it happens to have that subcategory linked to on the homepage – but otherwise, perhaps it won’t have value on another because you can’t get to the page you’ll be linked on until you’re six to ten clicks from where you began.
Finding Link Directories
A great way to not have to worry too much about this procedure is through link searches. If Google returns the page your website will show up on in the SERPs, you’ve won half the page evaluation battle. So, here are some search queries to utilize so you can track down some value-passing link directories:
- KEYWORD directory
- intitle: directory “KEYWORD”
- inurl:directory “KEYWORD”
- directory * KEYWORD
- KEYWORD * directory
Locating Competitors Listed in Link Directories
- COMPETITORNAME1 directory
- COMPETITORNAME2 directory
Locating Through Vertical Keyword Anchor Text Strings
You can utilize your entire keyword list to find directories that link to competitors using targeted anchor text of keywords you want to rank for. Be careful, though – directories that allow any anchor text are more likely to be spam riddled.
- “VERTICAL KW 1” directory
- “VERTICAL KW2” directory
- “VERTICAL KW1” “VERTICAL KW2” directory
Vertical Categorical Structure Queries
Most link directories will have the same categorical structure – and if their webmaster has ANY clue what they’re doing, they have breadcrumbs in place on every page. This means that you can pull the breadcrumb string and Google will return any other directories that use the same format. In example,
- “Home Moving and Relocating”
- inurl: /Home/Moving_and_Relocating
So find whatever constant structure your kind of website tends to be placed on and do a search for it. This is my favorite kind of query – you’ll get two or three pages of excellent, relevant results. And plus, it offers another way to evaluate directories – a pretty straightforward way to compare website page strength due to almost identical URL characteristics.
The next list you want to spiral through are that of “top directories”, or otherwise, those that are generally regarded as top directories by traditional metrics like “reputation” and “PageRank”.
You’ve seen these, but for the sake of completeness (and offering more links to directories I have websites on) – I offer another offering of generally reputable link directories. You should spiral down the list and, given adherence to specifics detailed in the link valuation guide and the directory-specific evaluatory techniques to come, submit as you see fit.
Evaluating a Directory on the Macro Level
A website showing up in Google isn’t enough. Now it’s time to look at the directory on the whole before evaluating the page you’re looking at. Aaron Wall wrote a definitive post on SEOBook that is largely still relevant today. Many of things he goes over, and I agree with, are listed below.
- Is it topically relevant? Topically relevant pages are more likely to pass more value.
- What’s the quality ratio? What’s the approval rate for the directory? Are they listing anyone who’s willing to chalk up a buck? If they’re simply an index of spam and anchor text, there’s a good chance Google is going to devalue them soon – if they aren’t already. This, to me, is the biggest reason why link directories become worthless – since there’s no editorial process, the directory is basically useless to Google – and as such, useless to you.
- Do they sell outbound sitewide links? If the page you’re prospecting has a sitewide link to casinos or viagra or casino viagra, there’s some strong certainty that you’re looking for real estate property in the ghetto of the web.
- Is it a link graveyard? Wall suggests that a directory with an assortment of dead links may devalue the power of a listing. I can’t cite this from experience, but as a quality guideline and best practice, it makes sense to follow.
Evaluating a Directory on the Micro Level
The biggest mistakes SEOs make is submitting cold to directories based on industry reputation and PageRank alone – without doing their homework to see if their given category page is worth the salt they took with a Patron shot over the weekend.
Every directory is designed differently, and each only has a given amount of spider respect based on the value it has in Google’s eyes. This, blended appropriately with site design, makes it so the most respected link directories are capable of completely inhaling your submission fee and keeping all the value to themselves.
So, how do we evaluate this? Once you determine the page you’re going to be listed on, it’s time to ensure that the page is indexed. Grab the URL and plug it into Google. If it’s nowhere to be found, you’re gone. No questions asked. Trying to appease the manual submission gods with another category page that might not fit your website just isn’t worth it – there are other directories in the sea.
If the category is indexed, make sure that you’re going to be listed on the first page. Many directories paginate their subcategories multiple levels deep – and very few are capable of indexing a subcategory past one level.
Sometimes, there are ways to get around this. Many directories offer “featured” listings – this means your link goes to the top of the list on the first page – subverting any problems with indexation. Also, certain directories list new websites at the front of the category rather than the back, or alphabetically, or some other way that might leave your site front and center on a page that’s indexed. If you can confidently confirm this, it’s probably worth submitting – if the directory has already passed macro evaluations.
Be wary, though. If a website is unable to index the 2nd category listing, there’s a good likelihood that the linkjuice is nearly evaporated at the bottom of the page. This is an indicator of the low strength of the category – so even if you can get a link through featured listing, it might not be worth it. If it’s some small amount, though, it might be worth it.
If you see the page is indexed, cache date is extremely important. Since these are viewed as generally static pages by the spiders, they rarely return. Since category pages are generally on the outskirts of a directory where link juice is at a premium, whether Google views the page as worth returning to is frequently up for debate. If the cache date is longer than a month, there’s cause for concern. I don’t remember seeing a cache date past two months in recent history – so, it’s likely that some point after that period, a page drops from the main index.
So, let’s run through the takeaways:
- Make sure your specific category page is indexed.
- As a general rule, try and get on the first page of a subcategory. If you’re multiple pages deep, there’s a strong chance you’re not getting passed any value.
- Check the cache date – if it ventures over a month and a half, there’s reason to believe Google doesn’t like the page, or worse, will never return again.
- If the page is paginated multiple levels – levels that aren’t passing value, check to see if you can get a “featured” listing that will get you high on a page that’s indexed.
- Evaluate how websites are listed – if alphabetical or by date, there is some chance that a category that’s paginated multiple levels deep could still have your link appear on the first page.
You’ll notice that some directories try to improve indexation by including “recent submissions” and “top hits” pages. However, this kind of indexation is fleeting and should largely be ignored, as much of this value will often fade away – and this value isn’t that great in the first place.
So don’t worry about that, or even count it as a point of value – besides getting your link indexed quicker – worry about the listing page as a point of reference.
So, link directories. Yes, they still have value. Yes, they can be mined for little nuggets of link juice – but you’ve gotta dig. It’s not going to be easy. Every link directory is going to be a battle, and every link directory is going to do it’s best to make you not give it your money.
Be rigorous, follow standard link evaluation procedure, and you’ll reap the riches of link directory value that many other SEOs ignore. It’s not link directories that generally cause the problems – it’s the poor link evaluation processes of the SEOs that hate them.