A friend of mine recently asked me if “500 directory submissions for $85? was a good deal. A few years ago, before search engines were smart and I was savvy enough to know better, I might have said yes. Nowadays, though, my advice would be to shoot for quality, not quantity.
Disclaimer: Before I go any further, let me make one thing perfectly clear. The average blogger does not need to purchase links. With a niche topic, solid content, and a little networking know-how, there is no need to sink more money into a blog than is required for hosting and domain name registration (if that). Paid directory inclusion is only for revenue-generating blogs that stand to produce a positive return on the investment, and even they will benefit more from the factors I just mentioned.
For those truly business-minded bloggers, then, here is the bottom line: Not all directories are created equal. Some are worthless and others are little more than spam. Only a select few are worth your hard-earned money. More to the point, beware bulk directory submission services like the one I mentioned above. As amazing as their volume may seem, they will more often than not deliver less value than a single link on a reputable directory, assuming they deliver any at all.
Thankfully, the process of finding those diamonds in the rough has already been done for you. Search Engine Journal has a great list of paid directories that covers pretty much all the bases. Having bought links for several clients in the past, here’s my take on them.
Yahoo! Directory – SEJ ranks this as the best paid directory out there. I don’t disagree that a link here will provide a great deal of juice. However, the high cost makes it prohibitively expensive for most bloggers. Depending on your category, you’ll probably get more value putting that money elsewhere first.
Best of the Web – The name says it all. This is one of the best (and most selective) directories out there. More importantly, they have a separate directory just for blogs. Do not submit until you’re confident that your site is up to their quality standards.
Business.com – I feel very much the same about Business.com as I do about Yahoo! Directory. It’s a great link, but it’s just too expensive. If you’ve got a big budget and have already submitted to other directories, it’s not a bad choice, but it’s not my first.
Alive Directory, Aviva Directory, and Umdum – These are three solid directories with good quality and affordable prices. You might not get the same link juice as Yahoo or Business.com, but you’ll get more bang for your buck.
I don’t personally have any experience with the other directories on the SEJ list, so I can’t vouch for their quality one way or the other. Other directories that I would recommend include Site Sift, Gimpsy, Joe Ant, and Uncover the Net. All of these have come recommended to me multiple times by other SEO professionals and offer a decent value for the cost.
As always, do your research before buying a link. Look at the subdirectory page where your link is likely to show up. Do you see any other popular blogs in your niche there? If so, it’s probably a good choice. Would your link be competing with so many other listings that it might get buried by pagination? If so, you probably want to avoid it.
Of course, these are just a few criteria that you should use when evaluating a potential directory; there are dozens more. If you’re interested in doing some real in-depth analysis before making a purchase, there’s a Webmaster World thread with some great guidelines to follow.
When you’re buying, also keep in mind that all of these directories have one thing in common: They are human-editted. Your link may be declind, rewritten, or placed in a subdirectory other than the one you asked for. This is unavoidable for the simple fact that search engines only value directory links that go through an editorial process. Directories that include any link to come their way are eventually devalued as spam. In other words, don’t be surprised when your link doesn’t show up just the way you wanted it, because it wouldn’t be valuable if it didn’t pass under human scrutiny.