Although online directories are still a part of every complete strategy for search engine marketing and optimization, they don’t hold the power they once did. We spoke with marketing experts on the role online directories should play now and how they fit in to your digital strategy. Here’s what they said:
Understand lists’ new role
Getting a website listed on a directory used to be to be an easy path to traffic and success. In those days, getting linked on a site with a high page rank would increase your score with search engines. These days, however, Google and other search engine companies have grown wise to how websites and their owners have exploited the previous system. "These links worked extremely effectively for boosting rankings, but they violated Google's Webmaster guidelines, as the only purpose they served was to boost rankings unnaturally for the linked websites," says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom.
Eric Siu of Single Grain says that directories should be seen as just one more tool in your toolbox, and not your first and only option. "Directories still hold a little bit of value, but.. you're better off creating exceptional content that stands out and promoting it through social media." He says you should focus more on original content that’s compelling and share-worthy and building real relationships with real authorities in your space. Think about what users will be searching for and what they want. Content that answers the queries your customers are typing into search engines will be more valuable than mere directory listings.
Related: 4 Secrets to Multichannel Success
Quality over quantity?
When considering directories, look for ones that use editors and require fees. Each of our experts recommends Dmoz.org, an open-content directory that’s maintained by a community of volunteers called the Open Directory Project. "That's one of the largest directories on the web," marketing consultant Brian Honigman says. "Google and all of the search engines take it into consideration when they decide how to best categorize your website." Dmoz has human editors who oversee every application to ensure accuracy, a sharp contrast to the vast majority of online directories, that are automated, easy to manipulate, and more likely to be cue punishment by Google.
DeMers also recommends getting your site listed on botw.org and Yahoo's business directory. "[These] can help with SEO because they are typically considered strong links from respected, editorially-selective publishers," he says.
Beyond that, be diverse but picky. The money spent on getting listed in online directories could be spent elsewhere, especially if you’re a young, cash-strapped business. "The most common way to mess up is to get listed in too many low quality [directories] that Google would consider spammy," DeMers says.
Adds Siu, "You're probably better off spending that $200 somewhere else."
Since the modern directories that actually improve your SEO are all carefully moderated by human editors, ensure that your site is fully optimized and professional before submitting. For instance, your pages should be easy to read, with type that’s clear and legible. "The only reason you wouldn't be accepted is if your website was a mess and didn't look credible," Honigman says.
Don’t be clever
You should abandon all of the old, spam-driven tactics when you submit your site. "Another way to mess up is to use exact-match keyword-rich anchor text when linking to your website," he says. Any attempt to exploit the system will only get your site flagged by Google.
Work your niche
Find smaller directories that cater to your niche. "If you have an interior design site and get listed on an interior design directory you could hold more value," Siu says. SEO can be fickle when it comes to directories, but this tactic could help a more eclectic business get noticed.
This can be especially helpful for new companies who do exclusively local business. DeMers suggests looking into local online directories like MerchantCircle and SuperPages, but adds that these won't make sweeping changes to your search engine results. "Getting published in each local directory is beneficial mostly for local SEO and marginal for national SEO," he says.