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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Web Directories

Posted on December 5, 2013

Directories are not all created equal. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just downright ugly. I will discuss each one here, so you can make better informed decisions when preparing for a directory submission campaign. Let me start off with the ugly and finish off with the good.

The Ugly Directory

These are at the bottom of the barrel, and should not even cross your mind to submit to as they won’t provide any benefits. In fact, ugly directories, may actually hurt your search engine rankings if you have too many of these types of listings. So, what makes a directory, ugly?

  • Auto-approval listings. A directory that approves any submission without an editorial review tells me that they don’t care about quality and that sites can be approved regardless of content.
  • Link farms. Is the directory filled with nothing but spammy links, and little to no unique content? Then, you’ve come across a link farm. Avoid these types of directories as they provide no value for its users.
  • Mass directory submissions. If you’re using a directory submission service that automatically adds your listing to a few hundred directories, chances are those directories are going to be low quality. There are many problems with these types of directory networks: 1) Duplicate content, 2) No editorial discretion, 3) Quantity over quality, 4) Provides no value for users, and 5) No traffic.
  • Confusing layout or structure. A directory should have an easy way to navigate the site and find what you’re looking for. A directory with no clear path is bad not only for the user but also the search engines.
  • Banned directories. If the directory is banned in the search engines due to black-hat SEO techniques, there is absolutely no point in getting a link there.

The Bad Directory

I would say most directories fall into this category. They’re not completely bad, but have some characteristics that make them questionable or borderline. So, what constitutes a directory, bad?

  • Database dumped directories. Some directory owners simply import a database of categories. This may save time, but it doesn’t solve the problem of duplicate content and it certainly doesn’t provide a unique experience for users. I would say this is a gray area because sometimes the categories might not be unique, but they may have unique listings.
  • Little to no editorial discretion. If a directory is approving every paid submission, then it is pretty obvious that the main objective of the directory is to make money. While no one thinks it’s a bad idea to make money – to run a directory based on the sole purpose of making money is an unsustainable business model.
  • Low or no PageRank directories. This isn’t always a bad thing because it takes time for directories to gain PR. However, if the directory is aged, but still has a low PR, it could be a sign that Google may have issues with it.
  • Non-unique descriptions for listings. If the site has a bunch of copied descriptions for many of its listing, it could create duplicate content issues. This is bad SEO for not only the directory, but also all listings within it.

The Good Directory

I have worked on the Internet for over 12 years, and I’ve seen my share of directories. From my experience, I would that say only a handful of directories out there are worth submitting to. Probably like 1 or 2%. So, what makes a directory, good?

  • Nice and unique design. Although a unique design doesn’t make or break a directory, it does add a unique experience for users. Plus, having a unique design tells me that the directory owner is in it for the long-run and willing to invest money into their business.
  • Editorial discretion / human-edited reviews. If a directory rejects a lot of submissions, there’s a good chance that it has a pretty solid guideline for approvals. Human-edited listings allow the directory owner to maintain a level of quality for their directory. And in the end, the quality is what it’s about.
  • Clear site structure and layout. A directory that is SEO-optimized with a clear navigational structure is good for both users and search engines.
  • High PageRank. New sites and subpages may take time to gain PR, so disregard if it is new. For aged directories, PageRank does mean something. It says that at least one or a few good sites are linking to it, and that Google is acknowledging it as being a page of importance.
  • Other features. Is it just a directory, or is the directory providing other features like tools, resources, and blog posts? Directories that offer more features are providing greater value for their users. This is a win-win situation for all.
When it comes to web directories, you need to look a little deeper than the surface. Sometimes there is more than meets the eye. Make sure to do some research on several directories before you begin submitting.

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    About the Author

    Steve Baik is the manager of AddMe. He can help you answer any questions you may have in regards to SEO, Internet marketing or buying targeted traffic. Feel free to contact Steve should you have any questions or suggestions.

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