Web Directories For SEO

  • Is it ranking in the SERPs? - If a site ranks well in the search engines it stands a good chance to be trusted by them. Plus even if those links do not count to help boost your ranking they still can drive direct traffic. I frequently see directories like Business.com and JoeAnt ranking in the search results.
  • Do they sell direct links? - Direct links are more likely to be taken as editorial votes of quality. Some redirected links may still count, but many of them will not.
  • How frequently is their site crawled? - You need to check and see if the category pages are being cached in Google, and how frequently they are cached. If their pages are not getting cached or have not been cached for 6 months then the odds are pretty low of that link carrying much weight.
  • What is the quality ratio? - Does it list anyone who pays? Or do they hold sites to some quality standards? Do they categorize sites properly? Or do they sell links to anyone in any category, even if it is the wrong one? Does each page have unique content? Are most pages empty - adding nothing but clutter to search indexes? If they do not help engines categorize the web (ie: no editorial value) then eventually the engines are not going to trust their votes.
  • What is the ad ratio? - Are all the listings paid? Or will they list some useful sites without payment? Does the site look like it aims to serve end users? Or does it look like it exists just to get AdSense ads or affiliate ads indexed?
  • Do they sell outbound sitewide links? - Prettymuch the equivalent of selling out - when a directory puts sitewide outbound links on their site (especially if those links are to junky sites) the odds are pretty good that the links are not going to count much.
  • Is it decrepit? - Directories which have 50% of their links broken or pointing at URLs that have been purchased by spammers or domainers are not going to pack as much punch as sites which have few broken links. I recently bought a 25 page directory that has not been updated in a couple years, and it had about 400 broken links in it. Not good!
  • Does it have unique content? - Is it a DMOZ clone? Are its listings manually compiled and unique from what is offered at other directories?
  • Is it relevant to my site? - Many small niche directories can drive decent value due to offering decent co-citation data and having exceptionally relevant traffic streams.
Bob Mutch recently rated 40 top directories based on their age, how many edu and gov links they have and whether or not they are listed in DMOZ and Yahoo!. I would contest that WhatUSeek isn't a real directory, ISEDB is a directory of search engines and directories, and that Vlib.org should be counted as a directory, but other than those minor points this is a pretty cool study.
1 www.dmoz.org 128,000 761 1999
2 dir.yahoo.com 111,000 2,060 1995
3 www.lii.org 10,400 110 1998
4 www.business.com 2,420 73 1998
5 sbd.bcentral.com 955 23 1999
6 www.whatuseek.com 273 2 1996
7 www.cannylink.com 204 1 1997
8 www.123world.com 123 2 1999
9 www.americasbest.com 99 13 1998
10 www.joeant.com 106 1 2000
11 www.chiff.com 105 1 1998
12 www.mavicanet.com 64 1 1999
13 www.botw.org 50 1 1996
14 www.elib.org 43 0 2003
15 www.isedb.com 33 0 2002
16 www.rlrouse.com 27 0 2002
17 www.gimpsy.com 23 0 2001
18 www.goguides.org 22 0 2001
19 www.uncoverthenet.com 18 2 2004
20 www.qango.com 19 1 1998
I think the inbound link profile is a good starting point for rating (when you add it to the other criteria I mentioned above), but what I think is even more interesting is how quickly they fall off in the quantity of quality links.