It seems the very first steps most website owners take in building their number of inbound links are to start with the easy pickings. This usually starts with sourcing web directories and getting a back link profile up and running. It’s the default action as most web owners are in a rush to get any links into their site as quickly as possible and web directories usually are an option than offers little resistance. However, what comes with that ease, is little value.
I’ll quickly clarify that comment by stating that there are a few well known directories that can offer value and deliver a “seal of approval” that might be very important to a young site. The main ones are the Yahoo directory, followed by BOTW and DMOZ although lately getting listed in DMOZ seems about as hard as Robert Green finds catching a football. There are others that seem to get listed from time to time that may be worth a look at. Local directories can also offer huge value when optimising for local search as they can be a great resource for the business reviews and citations that Google seem to love.
When link building, I’ll run through the following evaluations to see if a directory is valuable to my site of not. If it passes them all, then we’re good to go.
1. Is the directory relevant to the types of services of my clients?
If so, how many companies are listed and does the directory give me the opportunity to list information about my site that would improve the chance of someone clicking through from the directory. I know you may think I’m being overly positive on this, but I don’t care.
2. What does the site look like?
I know you should never judge a book by it’s cover, but usually if the site is badly designed, has a less than professional look then chances are the site is not respected by its owners and therefore your listing isn’t going to provide much value to you. Another good tip off is the number of Google Adsense ads on the page. If it’s littered with ads all over the place, it might be a good idea to pass on by.
3. How many listings are on the page?
Take a look at the number of listings in the directory. Are there hundreds? thousands? will your listing ever get seen? and from an SEO standpoint, how juicy is that link going to be from a listing on a page with a thousand other outbound links.
This one is really personal preference and project related. If the directory ticks all the boxes, then you may choose to pay the fee, however I prefer free directories as I can’t see a huge difference in value from a lot of the small paid directories and the free ones.
If the directory is asking for a reciprocal link, jog on.
6. What are the SEO benefits.
I’d take a look at the page rank of the site. Unless it’s a new site, if it doesn’t have a page rank, then I’d pass right there, unless it was EXTREMELY relevant to my type of business. It would be good to check the Page Rank of the individual listing pages as well and see if there is any authority there.
7. How old is the domain?
This is easy to check with a Whois check up and it’ll tell you all you need. Remember the older the domain the better, so if it says anything older than 2005 then you’re good, anything older than 2000 and you’re really good.
8. What does Google think of the site?
Apart from checking it’s page rank, take a closer look at the number of pages indexed by using the site: command in the google search box. The higher the number, the better but also take a look to check the last time the pages were cached. This will give you insight into whether google is indexing the site regularly and if leaving a listing there is worth it. If it’s been longer than a couple of months, I’d not bother.
Let me know your thoughts and how you approach your directory link building.