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A Little SEO Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: The Online Directory Idiocracy
Keyword stuffed directory submissions and so-called "SEO directories" don't work

 5:24 am on May 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Many know I run a directory(ies) and quite often we get people that lose their mind and submit titles and descriptions about their sites that are stuffed with keywords instead of information.

The purpose of my directory (and most good ones) is to make sure that the customer's site is found in the first place.

The purpose of the directory submission is to give information to make visitors want to click on your site.

Long lists of keywords as a title and description do absolutely nothing except make that submission a waste of time, embarrass the site owner, turn off the searcher.

Wake up people, the world doesn't revolve around keywords, it revolves around a call to action to get people to click on your site.

If site owners would just get the idea that making their submissions look keyword stuffing spammy and cause the opposite reaction, more of them would get a much more positive result from the various directories that still drive traffic around the web.

IMO, it's the SEOs and directories built solely for SEO purposes that have done much to harm the way site owners approach legitimate traffic driving directories.



 6:31 am on May 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

If site owners would just get the idea that making their submissions look keyword stuffing spammy and cause the opposite reaction

As a DMOZ editor, I don't mind them doing that at all. It's an indicator that the site is likely to be a content mill/MFA/affiliate link farm - none of which we knowingly list.

Even if it's not, we need to amend almost all suggested titles & descriptions to make them guidelines compliant anyway. Of the tens of thousands of sites I've listed in DMOZ over the years, I guess I've only accepted around 50 without change.


 6:35 am on May 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Afterthought: When faced with a pool of listing suggestions, some spammy and some not, and limited time, guess which ones I process first :).


 1:56 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Are well written titles and descriptions even working any more. Directory submissions don't seem to have the same affect as they did a year ago. A year ago you could get a few hundred directory links and you would see some serious movement on a new website. All you needed was some directory submissions and you could get a local keyword real easy.


 6:56 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

All you needed was some directory submissions and you could get a local keyword real easy.

We're not talking about SEO value here, we're talking about listings that actually drive traffic.

My site has all the SEO value, I don't pass it along, but I'll certainly sell some of the bumper crop of traffic I get for a reasonable price, you can even sample it free.

The problem is it's the SEO mindset that makes people do silly things that cause them not to get any of that traffic, and there's plenty to be had.

When they submit a site, often the title and description will look like this:

"keyword widget, city widget, keyword city widget, city keyword widget, red widget, blue widget, city area widgets"

If that's how someone wants their submission to look they've probably helped the SEO on my directory page but they won't get any benefit from it whatsoever.

My visitors won't click on that, never have clicked on that, probably never will click on that.

My visitors want to know what you do that makes your business worth clicking on versus the next guy, and a bunch of keywords tells them nothing except the location, which they already know since it's organized by location.

When you submit to a directory, especially one that sends traffic by the buckets, consider writing a submission like you were putting an ad in the classifieds in your local newspaper so you'll actually get some customers.


 7:06 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Our site vets articles regarding widgets in Anytown" might draw more traffic than a keyword stuffed entry. IncrediBILL is exactly on target with this observation. Kudos for the reminder to all.


 7:22 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

What's funny and sad about this is that when someone submits a clueless title like Incredibill describes, their on-site optimization is often so poor that even if you did give them keyword-stuffed anchor text it wouldn't do them much good anyhow.


 9:15 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

@incrediBILL how much of those submissions are just the <form> spammers that hit every site. I have a few contact forms that get auto filled out by bots or people that look like they are trying to submit to a directory.


 11:13 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

how much of those submissions are just the <form> spammers that hit every site


I deflect 100s of garbage submissions by automated tools daily straight into a junk submission log file just so I can see who's attempting the auto junk. The auto submitters do stupid things like attempting to include HTML, raw URI's in field locations other than the URI field, invalid browser user agents, so on and so forth.

In the rare event something might slip past, especially one done by hand, I have positive filters that look for the types of things people normally post and anything that skews the norm is thrown directly into moderation for manual review.

I run a site designed to be used by people, submitted by people, it's a B2C type of thing so there's no room for junk otherwise the whole thing falls apart.

Rarely do I rewrite submissions unless it's for a paid advertiser, not to brag, but the ads I rewrite get a lot of quality traffic :)

It just baffles my mind that someone can't describe what their business does in 250-500 characters or less.

How could these same people run an effective AdWords campaign?

Maybe I'll do like FaceBook's ad page does and put up examples so they can see what's expected.


 11:47 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Better yet, post your example of what DOESN'T work and see if folks get it! Might be more illustrative. :)


 12:51 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I would do both GOOD and BAD examples, beat it into their brains


 1:09 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

The trouble is, so much directory submission is outsourced to non-native speakers. You can write all the guidelines you like, but they won't help if the submitters can't read English.


 1:21 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

A new cottage industry? How to translate translated... ?


 1:49 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

so much directory submission is outsourced to non-native speakers

I see very little of that problem simply because I block automated submissions.

However, I run a worldwide site so I get a lot of non-native English speakers but require all submissions in English so translation tools will work properly for everyone since the translation tools aren't smart enough yet to translate mixed language pages.

Besides, I have all sorts of hooks in place so that we can tell when we're connecting with the customer and support is a very big component of my directory, we're friendly ;) <despite your initial impression of my general demeanor>, and we (more than me) talk to a lot of site/business owners on a daily basis.

Unlike most directories, you can even call us, we have our phone # and biz hours posted!

[edited by: incrediBILL at 1:58 am (utc) on May 20, 2009]


 8:43 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

As soon as search placed value on links the internet began to revolve around getting good links. Since browsers are the interface we use everyday to connect to search I don't suspect this will change until the browser itself "learns" from individuals and everyone's "search" evolves independently without needing a "search site". No centralized ranking, results all customized to the person using the computer, all profiled as if by the FBI directly.

We're not there yet.

incrediBILL, you mentioned...

I'll certainly sell some of the bumper crop of traffic I get for a reasonable price, you can even sample it free.

and that leaves me with 2 questions.

#1 - Do you see directories becoming more important or less important as search continues to evolve? The future?

#2 - How is that statement different from what a site that entertains crappy links is saying to attract customers? Same demographics?

edit: late night typos... I should also add that I've owned a directory for several years but now only add 3-5 links a week, mostly as I come across them online, and I remove an equal number. The project stalled, or rather I halted the original plan, when I couldn't find an added value proposition that wasn't on 100 other sites already (ie: web tools, guides, comparison etc).

Now I rely on my dead link checker and on Google pagerank to keep the directory clean, the sites are listed according to their rank so I can spot penalized sites pretty quickly as they fall to the bottom of their categories. With 1000 links or so, all of which I'd readily link to myself, what to do with it? Does the future hold anything that suggests I need to put more effort into it than that? A bit off topic but at the same time how can I encourage the good sites and provide something worthwhile for everyone besides "my choice of sites"? Maybe the problem isn't the keyword spammers, maybe it's what I'm offering, or not offering, that makes it nothing more than SEO linkbait.

[edited by: JS_Harris at 9:02 am (utc) on May 21, 2009]


 10:51 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Some people that don't have English as their native language will put keywords in their description hoping that it will be rewritten by editors of directories.

When I used to edit in DMOZ I saw many keyword stuffed websites. But my job was to bring my skill to ordering and filing sites properly with descriptions that matched the content but did not give undue preference to one site over the other.

Sites should be judged on their merits, getting snobby about SEO style submissions won't do your directory any favours. In fact, you might even argue that some of those SEO type submissions that are ignored by the masses could be unique entry points for your directory!

Submission guidelines are key. If you're getting lame descriptions why don't people just switch off the Description Field, if you're so caring about who goes in your directory. The reality is that a LOT of directories are built on reciprocals to boost Search Engine Rankings. Which is why I find this thread quite ironic to begin with.



 6:29 pm on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

If directories were a traffic driver people would make them more descriptive. Unfortunately, I have never seen significant traffic from a directory.

Therefore, they become fodder for people just looking for incoming SEO links because people are not getting anything in return for making the directory look good.


 10:40 pm on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Maybe I'll do like FaceBook's ad page does and put up examples so they can see what's expected.

Don't bother, they won't read them. I also run a directory, not even nearly as good as yours and in a different language and I'm frustrated all the time, people do not invest 30 seconds reading instructions. You're absolutely right blaming SEO directories.


 11:59 pm on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

#1 - Do you see directories becoming more important or less important as search continues to evolve? The future?

I certainly don't see search engines providing exactly the same service that I provide yet but they're getting closer with maps and local results.

The same reason I built the site over ten years ago still exists today, to promote new sites and services. A new site goes online and is still buried in the search engines yet the directory shows the site immediately to a focused audience looking for those types of sites.

Yelp is a prime example of how directories can evolve as review sites opposed to stagnant Yahoo or DMOZ and Google is well aware of the importance of the data some of our directories contain and the services we provide which is why they now use Rich Snippets and Microformats so that Google can take advantage as well. [webmasterworld.com]

The reality is that a LOT of directories are built on reciprocals to boost Search Engine Rankings.

That's how you view it today as SEO related but that's not how it came about.

My directory was built with reciprocals before search engines existed because links are how you found your way around the web and directories were the hubs that linked it all together.

The TRUE irony is that people now decry those linking methods that built the web in the first place and would willingly roll over and give all the control to the SEs when in fact the SEs couldn't have assembled the web in the first place with our original directories that organized it from the beginning.

Directories ruled the web, and to some degree those that evolved still do as evidenced by the emergence of Rich Snippets [webmasterworld.com], so we're not willing to go silently into that dark night just yet.


 1:02 pm on May 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

You are so right Incredibill, I hate missing out words like "....a LOT of directories ***today***" in these forums.

I too remember the time when going to the likes of DMOZ, Yahoo, and Looksmart were the ways you found out about new websites. Search Tech, got smart and deleted the neeed for them.

Just an aside on this related topic: I got an email from someone today that said to me that they did not want to link to me because their SEO adviser had said that there was absolutely no point in exchanging links because it would not help with Google! So, I wrote back and told her, that IT WASN'T the point of my REQUEST, but rather that people on my site would be interested in hers.

I'll add the link anyway because I care more for my visitors than I do SE positions. Although the latter is obviously nice.



 5:19 pm on May 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

their SEO adviser had said that there was absolutely no point in exchanging links because it would not help with Google!

There we have it in a nutshell, it's beyond SEO even, it's Googlemania.

The fun part of Googlemania is getting complaints all the time because I either outrank the site for their own company name or rank right below them and people get hostile about it, even threatened with legal action. Try explaining to those people that if customers knew their name they wouldn't need help from my directory in the first place.

Often sites with such rabid complaints have titles on their home page of "title", "index", or "home", just clueless to say the least.


 8:29 pm on May 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm with you on this one incrediBill. I've been running a niche directory site for over 10 years now and it kills me when I see companies try to stuff the "title" and "description" areas with a big long list of keywords.

It's not like I don't provide tooltips and instructions on how to correctly fill out the form.

I think the problem is threefold:

1) I think some people think that the reviews aren't hand checked (even though the site says that they are). So they try whatever spammy techniques they read in some SEO ebook.

2) The others I think still feel it's OK to load up the keywords in order to better position their site (probably because they read it somewhere)

3) Some people are just skimmers :)

I miss the days when everyone felt like they had to have a Yahoo directory entry. Back then, it seemed like site owners paid more attention on how to properly submit to a directory :)


 9:21 pm on May 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

People still make the same spammy submissions to DMOZ


 8:23 am on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

They do it because directories don't generate traffic, they're garbage, and a tool for SEO. You can't expect someone to carefully and thoughtfully craft a directory submission. It's a blunt instrument.

Of course there are niche directories of exceptional quality, but by their nature they don't tend to attract the generic seo directory spammers.

If your directory is that good people should pay to be in it. If someone is going to pay $100 for a listing they'll take the time to read the instructions?


 12:01 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

If your directory is that good people should pay to be in it. If someone is going to pay $100 for a listing they'll take the time to read the instructions?

I don't think they would, actually.

But one thing I am sure of: If you don't have a directory for a purely commercial niche, you won't attract good hobbyist sites with that model. SO you either habe to search them yourself, or disregard them. Which in the end might render your directory useless for your visitors. It's a difficult decision :-)


 3:55 pm on Jul 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Actually, some directories do generate traffic. In fact, as the web grows bigger, with more and more web pages , i suspect the SEs ability to identify the top webpages will not grow at the same pace,

Well maintained,edited directories, with large databases, increasingly effective search functions, might begin to show their quality to a wider audience


 1:18 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Our corporate site (a well-known directory) had just three visits from dmoz.org in the year to date. One was a click from the entry and two were searches in the ODP.

I haven't seen dmoz in Google serps for quite some time. In fact I checked for one of my own listed sites as (keyword) (suburb) and dmoz was not in the first 100 results. Google Directory is.

I have a small regional directory and every day it gets about 10 submissions, of which 5-6 are from link monkeys for sites in other parts of the world. They can certainly read English, but they don't bother. The directory is free, well-indexed and shows TBPR (PR5 home page, up to PR4 on some listings), so it attracts link monkeys.

My submission form specifies "Company Name" rather than "Title", so it deters spammy titles. The field is not clickable, so it wouldn't do them any good.

The registration email warns submitters not to bother submitting non-regional links, else their account will be deleted. It repeats that information for link monkeys from a certain country. About half of them seem to read this and don't bother with a link submission. The rest don't care that I delete their accounts -- they submit anyway and if I delete their account, they create a new account at a later date.

The sneakier submitters supply a fake Australian address and some even find a real one. I eyeball every URL, so it doesn't matter what is in the user's fields.

I know some link companies and can say that the problem usually lies with individuals, not necessarily their employer. They are usually paid per submission, not per acceptance. Their customer has probably paid per submission too.

The good submissions come from site owners who take the time to see that they can get free (lots of things) and they take advantage of this. Their short descriptions are usually different from their detailed ones.

As for the usefulness of small directories for human traffic, I see lots of humans clicking through my directory, so it's not just about link juice.


 3:55 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can't say that dmoz ranks in the following comment:

Human edited directories, I predict, will come back into vogue in the next few years. SE's have reached a plateau and have been good at that for some years, but are increasingly less relevant. High ranking niche directories may be the next "big thing" as the web continues to gigantisize. The web, these days, is like all the oceans of the Earth... it's everywhere! and study of that immense body comes down to sharks, whales, crustaceans and sponges. A refinement of what's in the ocean.

This is one reason why wikipedia works. Not saying wikipedia is a "directory", but it is a close cousin to same.

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