We consider it one of our prime joys in life to keep you informed about what’s happening within the world of web hosting. We do this by providing you with in-depth reviews of all the latest and most popular hosting companies, but we also try to keep you educated about the various technologies running around the Net. Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of the oldest SEO tricks in the book: Web directories. We’ll be listing all the pros and cons, and we’ll also be giving into a fair amount of discussion about your specific needs.
All in all, if that sounds like a rip-roaring good time, then stick around, Pilgrim! We’ll have all the juicy details coming right up. But before we can get into the meat and potatoes of the matter, we feel we at least owe you a brief explanation of what a web directory actually is. We’ll have all of that and more coming up, and you can find it all just below the break!
What is a Web Directory?
Before we can discuss if a web directory is beneficial or essential to your site’s SEO, we very likely need to first explain what in the heck a web directory is. The easiest way we know how to put it goes something like this:
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing all behave in a very specific way. They use robots called “spiders” to comb through the Internet, logging away all those little codes and ticks that identify what a website is about. Furthermore, these spiders also use a technology called “page ranking” to organize the data they find into a comprehensible list. This list is what you get when you search for a keyword out at Google.com. Depending on a number of different variables, your website may be listed as the most important (taking that all-important first result spot) or it may be kept somewhere at the back of the line. Overall, though, this decision is left up to the spider bots, or automated software searchers.
A web directory on the other hand behaves quite a bit differently. Web directories have actually been around for far longer than any of the modern search engines. So much so that we remember a day when Yahoo! Directory was more popular than Google. This is because of the way these listings work.
If Google is one, big automated list of websites, a web directory is a more refined and humanly categorized repository. Yes, this means that an actual human combs through the Internet, logging away what a website or page is about on a single directory. In a lot of ways, it’s like creating the entire YellowPages, only for websites. Web masters can usually submit links to their websites or content to a web directory. The owner or worker at the directory then scans through the material. Once they’ve done this, they pigeon hole your media, and then file it away with other sites in this category. They also include a link back to your site, which is the important part for us.
So now that we have a basic understanding of what a web directory is, just why in the heck would we want to use one? The answer, my friends, is in one-way links.
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Why Should I Submit my Site to Web Directories?
The simplest way to think about the pros behind submitting your content to a web directory is to keep in mind those spider bots from earlier. You know, the ones that basically run Google, Bing, and Yahoo! You see, these spider bots use a lot of different data to determine how “important” your website is. The weightier the site is, the higher up the search results it goes. One of the variables used in these calculations is the number of available one-way links: These are links on other pages or sites that link back to either a portion of your site, or the home page itself. Obviously, if a lot of people are linking to your site, it’s quite likely that your site is important. Google then reads into this, and posts your site higher up in the search results.
If you’re a particularly careful web master, you can actually play this technology to your advantage. The basic idea is this: If you can create a whole load of one-way links ending at your site, then you’ve already gone the extra mile to ensure that your users can find you on Google. However, creating one-way links is hardly easy! In fact, as the idea is to assess just how much people are discussing your site, they can be downright tricky to introduce. However, web directories give us at least a small way out of the jam.
By submitting your site to a web directory (and having it sorted and categorized, of course) you have created a link back to your website. This is exactly what we need to climb the Google charts. However, there are a few other benefits to having your one-way links hosted by a web directory. They go something like this:
Pros to Having a Web Directory List Your Site:
Another element that Google looks for when it crawls your site is key wording. This means that all those little spiders comb through your data, metatags, and text, looking for identifying or repeated words that tip your cards. For instance, if you own a website that’s all about meat or meat products, we’re going to assume you used the word meat a lot. Google will notice this, and after enough repetitions, those little software hounds will label your site a “meat site.”
A web directory is like a ready-made ice cream Sunday for this variable. What we mean is this: When a person at a web directory categorizes your site, they attach a lot of keywords to the entry. If you submitted your meat site to them, they’ll likely label it a meat site, just as Google would. However, being human, they’ll also notice a lot of other, more specific labels that can be applied. For instance, if you sell rare meats, that will be logged away. You may find your entry tagged with hundreds of these unique identifiers. Which, once that’s done, brings us back to Google.
Google, you see, has a bit of an hard time figuring out the finer points of your website. It’s good at picking out generalities, but it gets a bit confused with specifics like “exotic meats.” As such, having a one-way link supported by a web directory is perhaps one of the best possible ways to attach specific keyword entries to your links. Google will see the link, as well as the various tags, and will compile all of it into one, infinitely more precise entry. This means higher performance in the search results, and better recognition with the key words you want.
And if that doesn’t sound like a bargain, we don’t know what will!
- Increased Publicity
Let’s just go ahead and face it—no matter what you do, getting your name and website out into the public is a rough gig. You can advertise, you can promote, but if people cannot find you with a basic Internet search, you just aren’t likely to get anywhere. Which, as you might have guessed, brings us right back to the olden web directory.
Web directories are still used by consumers to find websites. Sure, most people will go to Google for a response, but there are still a few pioneers that like Yahoo! Directory more. The reason behind this is simple: With a web directory, users can look for whole categories of websites, rather than a single, specific entry. Want to find a whole slew of meat-based websites? Use a web directory to find an helping of many more than you can stomach. If you submit your site, you can use this to your advantage.
Firstly, merely having your name on a site that people use to look for new Internet homes is a plus. There’s always the off-chance that a user will simply stumble upon your website, and you’ll instantly gain their readership. However, much more likely is the second option: By being lumped into a category on a web directory (keep in mind that these can get rather specific) you’ve drastically increased your chances of being noticed by users who only have eyes for sites like yours? They’ll see the other posts, and by association, they’ll instantly have a better handle on who you are and what you do. And to us that’s a darn good reason to do anything!
- Cost is King
And lastly, depending on the web directory you choose, you may not have to pay a single dime to get your site listed in their stash. Yes, we really do mean that. With nothing on the front-end, you can enjoy all of the benefits we’ve talked about above, adding up to a lot of bang for absolutely no buck for all. This isn’t always the case, but if you hunt out the good ones, don’t be surprised to find a freebie tag attached!
The Cons to Submitting Your Site to a Web Directory
However, having your site listed and categorized on a web directory isn’t always sunshine, peaches and smiles. In fact, if you aren’t being careful, you may very quickly find yourself in a world of hurt because of your loose listing style. What exactly are the downsides to using a web directory? Why, we’re glad you asked! We’ve got the full scoop made up below, starting with:
- Cost . . . Again
You see, as we mentioned earlier, there are free web directories floating around the Net. However, these are sometimes few and far between, and what remains isn’t always pretty. Depending on the web directory you choose, you may be looking at a listing fee in the neighborhood of $200—or possibly more! And all of this simply goes to having your entry looked at, categorized, listed and labeled. That seems like a mighty high price to us, and unless you’re a mega-millions corporation with bank to spare, the benefits are far outweighed by the cost.
- Nofollow Links
Another element to look out for are the nofollow links. These can be very sneaky, and if you submit your site to a web directory that uses these, you’ll not only find yourself without a gain: You’ll also see the web directory benefit from your listing with no profit to you! We’ll explain.
Within HTML, there’s a code called a “nofollow” that tells sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo to simply not follow the proceeding link. Yes, that means that if your web directory hosted link is marked with a nofollow, places like Google will not use any of the data attached to that link. That means no increase in the search rankings, no added keywords, no gain, and simply no benefit. This is a dastardly trick that was originally used to block comment spammers, but has since created quite a fuss within the realm of web directories.
The worst part about all of this is that the web directory will still continue to turn a dollar from your listing. You see, most web directories make money from adverts placed inside the pages. So, if someone were to find your site on the directory—and were to click on a few advertisements, too—the directory would be making some chump change off a listing you gained nothing from. This is a terrible situation, and obviously you’ll want to avoid it everywhere that you can.
- Time Investment
And lastly, the sheer time investment it takes to get your site listed on a plethora of web directories can be downright stifling. To begin with, most directories will take upwards of several weeks just to get your link categorized and listed. This means that you’ll need to constantly check back to look for results. Not to mention the fact that merely submitting a listing can often be a real work of effort. And when one has several hundred of these sites in mind, the number of hours spent plugging in links and keywords can be awfully maddening.
However, this point is obviously most determined by you, the web master. If you don’t want to invest so much time into web directories, you simply don’t have to. So in this sense, our number three and final con for web directories isn’t so much a deal breaker as a word of warning to all those with a time-sensitive budget.
Do I Really Need to use a Web Directory?
Up until this point, we’ve been talking an awful lot about what a web directory is, as well as what it can do for your website, your search engine optimization, and your publicity. However, we have yet to cash in on the title of this article and explain exactly when and when not to use a web directory to promote your site. We’ll be rectifying that now, however! Below, you’ll find a few choice considerations to give a looking over before committing a lot of money or time to web directory listings. If you’re feeling confused, or simply don’t know if you need the added boost, below you’ll find the answers you need.
So without further ado, let’s dive right into our first point! Starting with:
- What Kind of Site Are You Running?
The very first thing we’d like to ask has a lot to do with the practicality of your goals and dreams where your website is concerned. You see, it’s very important to know what you’re sitting on. What we mean is, what do you actually want to do with your website? Are you running a detailed eCommerce front-end for a brick and mortar store? If so, would you like to move as much of your product over the Internet as you possibly can, or are you more just trying to give your Internet-enabled shoppers a Web-ready portal. On the flip side, are you thinking about promoting your own blog? If so, what are the reasons? Do you intend to make a lot of money out of your blog, or would you merely like to keep it a solipsistic and private matter for your dedicated readers?
All of these are important aspects to consider, and with one, main reason: Traffic costs money, but traffic earns money after the investment. Think about it this way. If you’re setting up a complex eCommerce site that you would love to make a living off of, you’re going to want to do everything you can to promote said site. As such, spending a few hundred on web directory listings sounds like a solid investment. In fact, it’s a good idea, if nothing else. The added exposure and back-links may just be the difference between success and being marginalized.
However, if you’re running an amateur WordPress blog with no intention of going national (or making a tidy sum of money off the advertisements) then what would be the point in going the extra mile? Sure, you might rake in a few more readers, but if you don’t have the drive on the front-end to make a lot of money with your new traffic, then why bother getting the new traffic?
In other words, use some common sense. If you need the boost to your site, then go for it. At the very least, you can use some free listings to tide you over. However, if you care nothing about SEO or traffic, then save yourself some added pain and headaches.
- Are You Already Search Engine Optimizing?
For some reason, a lot of the firms we work with that increase the search engine optimization of a client’s website tend to leave out the option to post to several web directories. What we mean is, they downright forget it. Why this is we’ll never be certain, but if you’re already in the process of optimizing your site for search engines, why not submit your site to a few directories? All of this goes back to that one-way link principle we talked about earlier. If your main drive is to increase your standings with Google, then you’re going to need all the help you can get. As such, spending a few additional hundred dollars on several listings isn’t just a sound investment—it’s the complete package! You’re already doing the rest of the work, so why not get the entire painting? It makes sense to us, anyway.
- Are You Afraid of Budgets?
Lastly, you’re going to want to consider what kind of budget you can put into a web directory project. What we mean is this: You don’t have to have several hundred dollars laying around to submit your site to a web directory. In fact, you could use nothing but free listings. If you’re scared of spending a little money to advance the search engine ranking of your site, then don’t—spend any money that is!
Free web directories exist in the tens of thousands range. If you don’t believe us, then do a quick search on Google for “free web directories.” You won’t be disappointed. Either way, our point is this. If you really want the traffic, and really don’t have the cash, using a web directory chain can be one of the cheapest and most effective methods of getting your search engine rating up. We can’t promise any results, but if you desperately need the exposure on a shoe-string budget, there’s no better way to go about gaining traffic. But don’t take our word for it! Get to posting now, and then let us know how the traffic flow goes in the comments box below!