Directory Submissions – Is It Time To Call it a Day?

The Wonderful World Of Directories

Have you ever been searching for a link building service and come across a pitch similar to this? “What if I told you I could submit your website to hundreds of on-topic targeted directories, increase your organic visibility and bring in a boat load of a traffic all for the low low price of $9.99”.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is…

But It Used To Work!


Indeed it did and in certain cases still does, but so did keyword stuffing, spamming and other techniques that are long defunkt. Google has started the equivalent of the crusades on spammers and those who don’t start utilising other strategies will find that not only are their sites no longer ranking, but they could end up doing damage to websites they are attempting to rank.

Stop Submitting To General Directories & Start Thinking About Citations and Other Strategies!


I’m by no means implying that all directories have lost their value. Local citations are as important as ever and submitting your business to Yelp, Qype etc will result in an increase in visibility and traffic, but these directories are offering a valuable service to their visitors. with 1,300,210 sites in the queue with a PR0 probably hasn’t seen a real visitor in years.

If your website doesn’t have a physical address then local directories simply aren’t an option, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t other strategies available to you. Those who have been in the “SEO game” for a while know that links mean power. This does, and will for the foreseeable still ring true but the rules have changed. Quality is a metric that is now substantially more important than quantity. Through experience I have managed to achieve page 1 position 1 results on a medium difficulty term on the back of 2 hard earned links through guest posting and manual outreach.

Intensity Of Review Process ≈ Quality Of Site


Of course there are exceptions to the above rule and it refers directly to sites that have been contacted through outreach rather than “inbound marketing” *cringe*. Directory submissions, blog commenting, forum posting and other low level strategies usually have an incredibly low barrier to entry. Getting your site listed in traditional directories is usually achieved in one of three manners:

  • Free Submissions – Usually takes 1 to 365 days for approval in a fifth level subdirectory that Google hasn’t spidered in 3 years
  • Reciprocal Links – Usually takes 1 to 7 days for approval in a third level directory that has a PR0 but is cached
  • Paid Submission – Pay anywhere from $1 to $300 – Usually takes 12 to 48 hours for approval in a top level directory that has a PR6 that has been achieved through PR manipulation (exceptions are Yahoo directory etc)

Compare this process to submissions to one of the major local directories:

  • Standard Listing – Submit local business details, phone call to validate listing and a hard-sell but a free listing with a backlink and local citation within a week
  • Featured Listing – Submit local business details, phone call to validate listing, no additional SEO benefit (for the most part) from the listing, but a promise of additional visibility over those searching for services

Matt Cutts On Paid Directories

While I usually take everything Matt Cutts has to say with a pinch of salt, this video pretty much mirrors my thoughts on the current status of directories. If you’ve got a few submissions, it’s nothing to worry about, but when your backlink profile consists of 40%+ directory submissions, it’s time to stop!

What About DMOZ & Yahoo Directory?


SERoundTable recently published a post pointing to a post on Webmaster World questioning the value of a DMOZ link. Back in 2006 I was a DMOZ editor and can vouch for the fact that a listing on DMOZ would result in a substantial increase in visibility, not to mention the high quality referral traffic that had insane conversion ratios! Another benefit to DMOZ was being listed in all the clone sites including the Google Web Directory (RIP).

It seems though that even DMOZ has had its 5 minutes of fame and the strength from this particular directory is not what it once was. Google actually dropped Yahoo and ODP from their guidelines back in 2008!

The Yahoo directory poses a different dilemma, the £299 fee is quite substantial and while I’m sure it still offers some power, that money could be better invested in a content marketing strategy, on-page content, or a PR strategy. It just strikes me as a lazy-man’s way of building links when a number of other strategies have since been created and discussed with the public.

Why You Need To Pull Back On The Submissions


Have you ever seen those ads that offer 100+ PR1 links for $9.99? Mass directory submissions and sporadic bursts of submissions to are along the same vein. The release of Penguin and by a similar merit, Panda, has meant the cost of SEO and digital marketing has increased substantially. Sites with long term goals need to invest properly in their online marketing strategy or face the wrath of Google.

I cut corners on my own affiliate sites which you can read about here and more on Penguin here but have since invested my time in content strategies and building relationships with other webmasters to secure the future of my online properties.

If that’s not enough to convince you then what about…

Penguin Penalties!

Mass directory submissions on exact match (over optimised) anchor text were one of the major contributions to sites that received a Penguin penalty. Add to that the fact that Google also deindexed a large number of free-for-all directories, and even ones that were supposedly of a higher standard which were listed and even recommended by SEOMoz were removed from the index.



Ultimately, whether you decide to utilise directories anymore is up to you. I highly recommend keeping local directories as part of your online & offline strategy, and submission to DMOZ is still part of my agenda, as are a limited number of highly targeted and well maintained directories, but the time has come for directories to go the way of mass article marketing submissions.

Have you seen a negative trend in your organic visibility because of a directory submission campaign? I’d love to hear your thoughts on directories. Do you still use them, or have you embarked on a directory removal campaign due to a penalty?

2 Replies to “Directory Submissions – Is It Time To Call it a Day?”

  1. Sadly, this is more or less true. Id go as far as saying i will still use them for certain things, and that some directories are still great. I saw an increase in visibility site wide when getting links on and other similar top directories. But as you’ve said, best not to use crappy ones anymore!

  2. Interesting that things have gone from ‘these things may only help you a bit’ to ‘these things may hurt you’. You need to be more discerning now, as things can actually push you back, and not just fail to help.

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