Directories are a potential solution to spread your content around the Internet, potentially increasing your SEO and reach…although there are some negatives attached to this process. At 21 Handshake, we’ve been cautiously supportive of using blog directory submission – as this support comes with a whole lot of caveats. It’s time to take a closer look at directories, why they can be “problematic,” and if they’re really worth your time. Let’s jump in.
A directory is simply an online list of websites and information about their content – nothing more or less. Before modern search engines, most of the internet was based off directories, which were very useful for compiling information or viewing data without visiting the site itself: being listed in a directory became a way of appearing more professional, more a true part of the internet. Even when Google showed up, it still encouraged people to publish their content in directories to make it easier to find.
In the early days of the internet, Google’s developers didn’t foresee what a problem this directory trick was. Because your work and site were easier to find based on how many directories you were in, there was a huge push to publish the same information in as many directories as you could find – essentially spamming your content across the internet, over and over, to make your company look better. This greatly degraded the accuracy of searches and the quality of content on the internet: It also led to some nasty SEO practices, like paying to have your site info copied and pasted across hundreds of directories no one would ever see, just to get a fake boost in ratings. Now, Google frowns on using blog directory submission in this manner, and the focus on directories has faded over time.
That’s an interesting question. The largest directories may still be scanned by internet readers who are interested in seeing the latest online activity in this format, although that is relatively rare. Niche directories are read more frequently by industry professionals who scan the “new listings” section for any interesting content, sites, and links. Google’s bots, however, scan everything – so if your blog pops up in a directory, they will see it. On the plus side, that content usually comes with a link back to your site that can help improve SEO. On the negative side, Google will be keeping an eye on where else your blog pops up.
They can, thanks to those Google bots. But directories have various quality ratings, based on how thorough they are, how they manage broken links, what sort of content they accept, and more. Ultimately, this means there are only a few highly reputable blog directories out there that will boost your backlink score at least a tiny bit – and many (we’re talking thousands, conservatively) that are highly disreputable and will do more harm than good. This conversation is ongoing, too – Google is putting less and less weight on directories as the years pass, which mean they are doing less and less good for your SEO (Hobo Web actually has an interesting guide on link building in 2016 that goes into more depth on this point).
If you 1) stick to only blog directory submissions with a high repute and 2) use directories sparingly, instead of posting your blog over and over again – then you probably won’t get penalized. These days, Google is pretty good at spotting when a company just wants healthy content representation on the internet, and when it’s trying to game the system with black hat tactics. However, it can still get messy – which is why SEO experts have gradually stopped recommending blog directory tactics.
Good directories typically:
If you narrow down directories to only a couple high-quality options, it really doesn’t take that much time to submit a listing. If you prefer to save your time and money, don’t worry about it. There are other – often safer – ways to improve backlinking and gain additional traffic.