There has been a lot of speculation in recent years about the continued validity of web directories and whether they still have a place in search engine optimization. A directory is a hierarchical list of links commonly grouped into logical categories. In the early days of the Internet and search engines, the number of sites linking to a particular site was used as the main factor in determining the value of a website. This lead to the creation of link farms which were basically no more that sites that just contained pages of links, similar to directories. Most modern search engines now instantly recognize link farms and penalize or ignore them from search engine listings.
Many people still find directories a useful resource when looking for things on the Internet although with the arrival of social bookmarking sites they have stiff competition. A well-maintained directory can not only be the useful resource for any site visitor but also provide valuable inbound links to a site.
To determine whether it is worthwhile submitting to a directory it is probably worth asking yourself whether in the absence of a search engine you would personally use that directory? If the directory is full of broken links or irrelevant or poorly written content then it is unlikely to be worthwhile. The good folk at Google sometimes manually adjust their index to remove or lower the value of anything that appears to be a ‘spammy’ directory.
There is a lot of debate over paid and free directories and their value as a web-resource. Both types of the directory should have equal value in the face of a search engine however paid directories tend to be better maintained as they usually have a team of moderators checking each submission. Free directories generally depend upon volunteers which lead to people playing the system to allow their own links to be submitted to the directory.
There are many directories that are recognized as ranking well in the main search engine algorithms but the main two that most people will come across are DMOZ and the Yahoo! directory.
The DMOZ or Open Directory Project was founded in 1998 and was created in the spirit of the GNU software foundation and was intended to be a completely ‘open’ directory maintained by a team of volunteers. The index is well maintained to this day and is regarded by Google as a trusted source.
There has been a suspicion for some time that Google now uses a trust rank to filter out spam from its index. It is believed that it does this by selecting a few known good sites from around the web which is known to have a good stance on rejecting spam. The trust rank then emanates from these sites and filters through the Internet giving each site a trust rank in a similar way to the page rank.
Since the DMOZ is one of these sites getting listed into the index is very valuable indeed, although near impossible to do!
Another directory commonly regarded as worthwhile for submitting to is the Yahoo! directory. A site can be submitted to this directory as either a free listing or a paid listing. It is always worth a free submission but acceptance is fairly rare and you often have to pay the $299 yearly fee.
If the site is for a particular niche market then such as, say, car customizing and modification then it is definitely worth submitting your site to a niche directory. The reason for this is that is the traffic coming from niche site will be extremely relevant to the content provided by your site. Something that is often overlooked is that these directories may capture traffic for keywords and phrases that hadn’t been previously considered. Since the indexes in these sites are generally fairly small the chances of a visitor to the directory reaching your site are fairly high.
Page rank is still valid for Google at the moment, although it seems to have less value now, and is an important aspect in deciding which category your site should reside in a directory. An example is could be if an automotive directory has a subcategory of custom parts and accessories with 11 links in it and another sub-category of paintwork with only 4 links in it then paintwork would pass more page rank to your site. However, something to bear in mind is that relevance also plays an important part of the category selection.
Although submitting to all the various directories can seem like a momentous task it is unfortunately still valid in order to get anywhere near the first few pages in the search engine results.