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SEO: Are Online Directories Still Useful?

In the early days of the Internet, search engines were easily manipulated by what is now called black hat SEO.  Much of the listings ranked in the search engines had no value to the end user.  Therefore when someone wanted to find something on the Internet, online directories were a viable alternative to the search engines.  The end user could go to a directory and look up a site without fear of being bombarded by ad farms and spam sites.  When the search engines started to improve upon their algorithms, they took these article directories into consideration when ranking sites.  If a site had been accepted to several reputable directories, it must be a site that is worth showing in their listings.  People soon came to realize that getting listed in the online directories could lead to a higher search engine ranking, and they began to exploit that.  As the search engines evolved, their reliance on directories as an indicator of a site’s worth began to wane.  Thus the effectiveness of online directories as an SEO tactic has been reduced, but not eliminated.

The Big Two

There are two online directories that are still highly regarded in the eyes of the search engines.  These are the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and the Yahoo directory.  Inclusion in either of these directories is rare and highly sought after.  DMOZ is free to join, but it could take your website years be reviewed.  Unfortunately you could be waiting a long time for nothing.  Getting a review does not guarantee that your website will be included in the directory.  Yahoo has a similar structure, but they offer an option to pay $300 to speed up the review process.  Again this is just a review and doesn’t guarantee inclusion.  If you are confident that your site will be accepted, the $300 would be a wise expenditure.

Smaller Directories

Smaller directories still have some importance on the web, but it is nothing like it used to be.  The importance of the directory is contingent on the page rank of the site and the amount of traffic it receives.  Most small directories will serve no purpose in your search engine optimization efforts.  To determine whether a smaller directory is worth applying to, you should check if they are listed in the search engine rankings.  Submitting your site to every directory you come across will just be a waste of time.  It is important to spend your time finding the ones that will help you gain traffic.

Niche Directories

Joining a niche directory is still a good approach for gaining traffic.  These directories target a specific corner of the web and cater to those people.  If your website falls into that particular niche, it would be best to include yourself among the directory’s listings.  This will bring targeted traffic to your site along with a boost in page rank.  Niche directories can be hard to find, but they are worth the effort.

Directory Submission Services

There are programs for sale that will submit your website to thousands of directories at once.  While this may sound like a great option, most of the directories won’t be of much value to you.  This will be a waste of your time and could actually hurt your SEO efforts.  Automated directory submission is generally looked upon as black hat SEO and your website could suffer a serious hit to traffic and page rank.  These programs usually cost a lot of money, and you will only get hurt from it.

While the importance of online directories in the past may have been high, now they are mostly just an afterthought in the minds of the search engines.  A new site can gain some traffic by joining but, other than the big two, directories are going the way of the dodo.