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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, you'll know that I follow SEO Guru Brad Callen. He's created awesome products like SEO Elite, Keyword Elite, and others. He recently announced his launch of new software (sometime tomorrow) that will support semi-automated submission of your website to Web Directories. You can learn more by visiting his site at Directory Submitter.

Webmasters like you and me are always on the lookout to enhance the link popularity of their sites. One method of doing so is to seek out authority sites in your niche – sites that are widely known on the Internet (through the sheer number of back links) and have been around for some time (think more in terms of several years). Unfortunately, such websites are often at a Page Rank of 6+ and as such, link exchange or text link ad placement is very, very expensive.

Luckily, there is a cheaper alternative. You can use web directories to not only enhance your search engine visibility (through increased link popularity), but by targeting niche categories and using sponsored listings where necessary, you can get a big jump in your traffic as well.

So, let’s get started…

What is a Web Directory?

A web directory is a collection of links broken down into relevant categories. Think Yahoo! and their directory, the Open Directory Project or even the Google Directory (which, incidentally, is pulled from the ODP). At its most basic level, a web directory is a collection of bookmarks made available to the public. In other cases, like Yahoo, it is a professional resource for people actively looking for information.

To get listed in such a directory, you can either get listed for free (which might take a while), or in many cases, pay a one-time fee to have your website reviewed and entered in the directory. One major exception is Yahoo, which charges a recurring fee for its commercial listings, and we’ll look at that later.

The Benefits of Being Listed in a Web Directory

In theory, there are two main benefits of being listed in a web directory:

1. Increased link-popularity due to a one-way link from a highly-respected resource.
2. Increased traffic due to being listed in a directory that is searched by many people every day.

In reality though, these benefits are directly related to how popular the directory is itself, and how much money you have paid for your listing. Of course, if the link is for free, there is nothing to worry about.

There are thousands of FREE website directories on the internet!

But if you are paying for submission, you need to know some very important facts.

Link Popularity

As far as link-popularity is concerned, you need to factor in several variables:

1. The Page Rank of the directory

2. The Page Rank of the category page on which you are listed

3. Where you are listed on the page

4. The number of competing websites on that page

Where directories win out is the fact that are free or only require a one-time fee. In contrast, authority sites (or most websites with a Page Rank greater than 5 or 6) tend to use text links as a source fo revenue, and thus charge monthly fees. A directory listing then becomes a much better option (but only for link popularity).

More Traffic

Directory listings are also used as traffic building opportunities. How this works is that many directories are searchable for their visitors, so that users can look for information. In theory this is great – you can get lifetime traffic for just a nominal payment, but you should not expect a sudden deluge of traffic from just one directory listing. Here’s why:

Most directories, apart from the top twenty or so, are usually used for link-building and not pure searching. This means that while people may use GoGuides or Yahoo for regular searches, you should expect that the smaller directories are mainly for link-popularity, and plan your investment as such.

Many directories offer listings based on an alphabetical ordering, or a first-come, first-serve ordering. In both cases, your website has quite a big chance of being lost out in the noise.

Directory-search algorithms differ greatly. Some directories, like JoeAnt, base their search on keyword relevancy (which makes it more of an exercise of stuffing your directory listing with keywords rather than making a good website), while others take a more “editorial” approach by factoring in editor ratings. And still, many directories display sponsored listings first, reinforcing the adage that even on the Internet, it’s your advertising budget that talks, and not necessarily the quality of your website.

After you factor in the above points, you realize that there are only a handful of web directories where it is a definite benefit to “pay” to be listed. And even then, you cannot just rely on just being listed – sponsor listings get much more exposure. But before we discuss these dozen or so web directories, I’d like to tell you how you can make sure your website is accepted.

How to get Listed – An Overview

Getting listed in a web directory is a function of two main factors:

1. Time

It takes alot of time if you were to manually seek out these directories and then manually submit your website details to each one of them.

2. Quality

In some cases (very rarely nowadays), directory inclusions can be rejected due to the poor quality of a website. Maybe the editor considered that your website was not ‘useful’ enough (meaning it had little or no useful / original / any content), or sometimes, there may be moral issues (although editors are urged to abide by directory guidelines and not personal beliefs). If rejected, you will almost always receive feedback (you might have to ask for it) on how to improve your website.

In earlier days, quality was a big issue. Today, it is still a major concern for top directories like Yahoo, but this is more to separate the truly atrocious from the rest rather than to separate the best from the rest.

A directory listing is, in most cases, useful only for the link popularity. In such scenarios, if you can find better deals on authority sites in your niche, then you should go for them. However, a directory listing is cheaper (one-time versus monthly payment), and with the big directories like Yahoo, Dmoz and GoGuides, it can also bring you reasonable traffic.

As always, remember that directory listings form a small part of your overall online marketing strategy. If you don’t have the budget for a Yahoo listing, don’t sweat it – focus on submitting your website to the free directories out there, and come back to it when you can afford it. Directory listings are important, but only when you are looking to squeeze every possible drop of search engine placement out of your links and your website.


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