If you are new to the world of SEO finding quality links can seems like a daunting task. However, in truth great links aren’t difficult to find; you’ve just got to know where to look.

One of the most effective ways to kick-start your linking campaign is by submitting your site to a number of online directories. Directory listings run the gamut from the sublimely useful to the ridiculously useless, so it’s important that you spend your money wisely.

Every search engine optimisation company has a list of ‘favourites’, but there’s only one directory that features on every list and that’s the ODP.

The Open Directory Project & SEO

The Open Directory Project, also known as DMOZ, is by far the most beneficial directory from a SEO perspective. It’s ‘human-edited’ to ensure quality and is used by a number of search engines (including Google) to feed their own directory services. A link from DMOZ is worth its weight in gold.

However, getting a directory listing in DMOZ can be tricky for a number of reasons. Firstly everyone knows the value of a link from DMOZ, so they are busy. Secondly it’s edited by living breathing humans, who slow things down. And finally it’s free, which is good news for online democracy, but also good news for spammers.

Working for The Open Directory Project must have its rewards, but the sheer scale of the task would turn most men to jelly. So when you submit your site to the ODP make sure you closely follow their guidelines… and be patient.

The Open Directory Project’s submission guidelines can be found at www.dmoz.org and are pretty much self explanatory. To submit a site: start by running a search to see if you are already listed. If your site isn’t listed browse the directory to find the most relevant category then click on ‘suggest URL’. If you are having trouble locating a suitable category have a look at where your competitors are listed.

When writing your ‘site description’ remember that you are appealing to very busy and very experienced editors; so steer clear of marketing spiel and flowery language.

Now it’s a waiting game. If the months pass and your website is still not listed; there are no rules against resubmission. It might be an idea to choose a different category in the hope of reaching a different editor. But be warned, stories abound of editors getting fed-up with multiple submissions and taking action.

And finally it’s important to understand that DMOZ doesn’t owe you a listing, you aren’t fighting a war of attrition, and you’ll only get a link if your site is worth a link.

TOP TIP: As a rule of thumb you can expect pages which are higher up in a directory’s structure to carry more PageRank. So it makes sense to get you site listed in the parent category rather than a sub category. For example: if your website sells ‘car insurance’ don’t just opt for the ‘car insurance’ category, but aim higher for ‘insurance’ or even ‘financial services’.

You’ll find that most directories also offer ‘featured listings’ which provide a link at the top of the first page of the category. It’s up to you to decide whether the likely PageRank return is really worth the money.

Using local business directories for SEO

Local business directories are a valuable and often overlooked source of links. As Google continues to unroll ‘Universal Search’ their results are becoming markedly regionalised. And if Google’s ‘going local’ so should you. Other benefits of submitting to local business directories include:

  • They tend to be well established, which is reflected in their PageRank
  • They aren’t targeted by optimisers, which helps to make your link profile unique
  • Listings are generally free of charge and you’ll also benefit from local human traffic

Google’s the logical starting point in the hunt for local directories, but you’ll need to be thorough. Begin with your immediate surroundings and widen your search circle to include your city and county.

Industry specific directories and SEO

Once you have exhausted all the local directories then turn your attention to industry specific directories. As a webmaster you should already have a clear idea of the key directories in your marketplace, but now it’s time to find all of them.

And remember that you are focussing solely on getting links, which should put a different spin on things. Perhaps you have previously decided against a submitting to a particular directory because it was ‘a little behind the times’ or ‘no one really uses it’. So what? Just look at that PageRank!

Again it’s best to start with relevant niche directories and then spread outwards.

A word of warning about directories

Until relatively recently generic directories provided a quick and effective way to improve your PageRank climb the search results. Optimisation had never been easier, that is until Google took notice and decided to do something about it.

Google stripped the key players of their PageRank and awarded their internal pages the dreaded ‘grey bar’. It looked like it was the end of the road for directories. However, some directories managed to slip through the net.

To find directories that still have SEO benefit you’ll need to do some detective work:

Don’t: subscribe to any ‘Top SEO directory’ lists. If they are that easy for you to find; you can bet that Google has already found them

Don’t: believe an online directory’s own hype. You’ll often find that the directories which have been hit the hardest are the ones doing the most spade-work

Don’t: bother wasting time on directories with a homepage PageRank of zero, or directories where PageRank doesn’t flow down to any of the internal pages

Don’t: invest too much of your resources on directory submissions. ‘Yes’ they can help your SEO campaign, but you can get considerably more link love elsewhere

Can generic online directories harm your SEO campaign?

Generic online directories come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but can be loosely divided into two categories, those you have to pay for and those you don’t:

Paid directories

You can expect the cost of a directory listing to rise with the profile of the directory. However, a high profile doesn’t necessarily reflect the SEO value of the listing. Forget all about the directory’s prestige and instead focus on the strength of the page of where your website will be listed.

The majority of paid directories charge a recurring annual fee, which you’ll need to keep track of for planning next year’s budget. Paid directories tend to give you greater control over the choice of anchor text and allow you to point links deep into your website.

Free directories

When it comes to online directories Lennon and McCartney’s assertion that ‘the best things in life are free’ simply doesn’t wash. The majority of ‘free’ directories are little more than reciprocal link farms which will be of questionable value to your SEO campaign. In fact, there’s a good chance that you could end up doing more harm than good, and as a rule of thumb they should be given a wide berth.

At the web project we have been building quality inbound links for aeons and we’ve got pretty good at it, find out more about our ethical link building services online or Tel: 01865 890552