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Having a Directory On Your Site: Good Or Bad?

 7:33 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Everyone:

Is it still worthwhile to have a relevant directory of other sites on your site to boost SEO? And if so, is there anything to watch out for?

I have an ecommerce web site, as well as about 40 articles and information pages on the site. I would like to have a directory that does actually add value to the user.

Our main site covers a few different areas, (say, not only widgets, but foobars and gizmos and thingamajigs as well). So some of the directory categories would be: Widget Studios By City / State, Foobar Centers by City / State, Gizmo Retreats, Sites Related To Thingamajigs, etc).

It would include the essential URL and physical address for the sites listed, a brief description (about 750 characters) and also allow for users to rate / post comments.

Would this be something that would actually add value in google's eyes? Or have directories gone the way of the Do Do Bird?

Also, I would have the links to the other sites as follow (not nofollow). Is that going to be a problem?

Thanks in advance.



 11:12 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think it could help if done carefully. Instead of calling it a directory, you might call it "Other Resources" and use it as a way to add more relevant content to the site. If I did it, I would write the descriptions myself, and not allow submissions, ratings or comments.


 4:10 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

As far as I understood it you don't generally gain any boost to your own site for linking out, only links in count. Otherwise you could build a dodgy site and just link to all the best sites to get ranking...

That said however it may increase your exposure in Google in a few ways:

Firstly if you are linking to sites that have content relevant to yours and including around 750 words to describe it you're going to create some keyword rich pages which Google may hit, the downside being that many of those may just follow the link to the linked site.

When carefully planned it could boost the keyword relevancy of your whole site, being that every page with information about these sites will presumably link back to your main site or pages then it could be beneficial.

These however are only fringe benefits of creating the directory. You would gain more benefits if you spent your time writing relevant and interesting articles with your time. The only way I could see a directory being relevant to Google is that the sites you're linking to might notice some hits coming your way and offer you a link in return.

If you want a directory and you think it is relevant to your site then go ahead, as long as you don't link to bad/irrelevant/blacklisted sites then it will not do any harm.


 6:47 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thank you for the suggestions, aristotle and futureX:

You both mentioned some important things:

If I did it, I would write the descriptions myself, and not allow submissions, ratings or comments.

You would gain more benefits if you spent your time writing relevant and interesting articles with your time.

I guess I should have mentioned that I am limited in the amount of time I have, so I was hoping that I could get some user-generated content that I could re-work a bit without spending TOO much time on it.

But I tend to agree that if I have to spend a lot of time to ensure the quality of it, then it might be better just to write articles.

However, should I post the articles on my own site? (I think that is what you are implying...) or post them on article sites linking back to my site? Or both.


 10:12 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have a piano site. I built a directory of piano teachers for the whole state. I am surprised how much traffic it gets. I did it because I want to help the local piano community. There are other directories with this info, but this site is clean and clear. No advertising. Its very easy to use. I hope to get exposure for the piano website like you would a social network.


 11:43 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

That sounds like an example of a good vertical directory. Keep the editorial level solid and it should be a real asset for the site.


 12:05 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Tedster:

Keep the editorial level solid and it should be a real asset for the site.

Do you mean don't allow user reviews of the sites that I link to?

or do you mean more along the lines of just making sure that the descriptions of the sites that I link to are well written and not just marketing fluff?

Or both?


 12:15 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, that's a good idea, but I meant something different. Make sure you don't ever list just any old site - and always protect your directory against link rot, both 404s and repurposed domains.

Robert Charlton

 3:03 am on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Keep the editorial level solid...

Also, make it a point to rewrite titles and descriptions as you see fit. If you accept them as they come to you, you're liable to have...

a) a lot of spam...
b) a lot of sales pitches...
c) a lot of dupe content.

Keep the directory organized and well categorized.


 4:58 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thank You, Robert Charlton!


 5:26 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Like RP_Joe I used to run a music site and maintained extensive directories of local performers, venues and business. It funnelled a lot of traffic through my site and judging by the stats encouraged a lot of return visits. People then seemed willing to come to my site and use my Amazon links to help support the service.


 5:55 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

You could pose the same question about having a blog, a forum, or a photo gallery. If you build quality, it will be worthwhile to your users to visit, and your website will prosper. There are lots of wonderful ways to integrate a directory right now. It could be directory jobs available in your niche (with this economy). It could be a directory of local businesses with reviews. There are lots of great ways to integrate a directory if quality is your goal.


 6:52 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thank You for your Suggestions:

There are lots of great ways to integrate a directory if quality is your goal.

It funneled a lot of traffic through my site and judging by the stats encouraged a lot of return visits.

I am taking it from everyone here that QUALITY is the main concern, so I guess here is my main question:

If you are somewhat limited by the amount of time you have, would you concentrate on having a directory, or on building a blog / articles?

I know that they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but if time was a constraint, do you have any solid feelings which would result in better SEO and return on investment?

The appeal of the directory is that I THOUGHT it would require LESS time than writing articles, since most of the content would be user generated.

However, I am assuming by everyone's very thoughtful comments that a directory might end up taking as much, if not more time, than writing on-site articles, since the quality of the directory listings has to be maintained.

So I don't know if the time spent on maintaining a quality directory would be more or less than that spending on writing articles.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


 6:55 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

I forgot to mention one thing, which may or may not be important...

I used to be a photojournalist from a while back (15 years ago), and I can type very quickly, so in theory writing articles would not be a tremendous burden on me. However, I am not very good at time / priority management, so I was looking to use the time of others to my benefit.

creative craig

 8:56 am on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

In my experienc if you put a directory in don't call it a directory - call it resources as was mentioned before. I also wouldn't mention keyphrases like "add url" and "submit site".

Just my 2c :)


 9:04 am on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

So I don't know if the time spent on maintaining a quality directory would be more or less than that spending on writing articles.

Articles are essntially "write and forget". Every link in a directory needs to be rechecked regularly. I would say a max of every two years. Which is more attractive to the visitors depends on your subject area.

Link checking isn't just a matter of looking for 404s. To guarantee quality you need to ensure that each destination site still refers to the original topic, is maintained and is up to date


 2:15 pm on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Obviously, the question to ask yourself is whether this directory will enhance your users' experience on your site. At least, that's what I tell my clients when evaluating link requests.

But the other thing you have to ask yourself too; if you spend some amount of time and money getting traffic *to* your site, do you really want to then send it off?

There are valid reasons to do that (and, in fact, my site with the most traffic does just that) but it's not for everyone, and it at least deserves thinking about.

For one client, his directory was very useful, but really not targeted to the same people as his site. So we broke it off onto another domain.


 6:10 pm on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

You have to be careful how you define a "directory". It could be:
1. Business Listings (some with no URLs)
2. Links added by the admin
3. Links submitted by users of the site
4. Links submitted by anybody and everybody
5. Directory of social networking profiles for your users
6. Article directory
7. RSS directory
8. Product directory
9. Classified directory

There was a time when all it was in Title, URL and description. We are way past that wave, and directories are evolving.


 7:22 pm on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Depends on a lot of variables.

Which offers more value to your visitors: an article on a specific topic, or a directory page listing 10 or 20 articles/websites/discussions on that same topic? Depends on your niche, and on the quality and originality of articles you intend to write. Also, can you crank out 10 or 20 directory listings in the same time it takes to write an article?

Can you allow user ratings and submissions without significantly sacrificing quality? Probably not, but maybe, depending on your user base. You will still need to vet every submission, but you might be able to recruit some DMOZ-style "editors" to review links for free.

You can easily check for bad links with a script, but, yes, you will occasionally have to manually and personally review every listing.

Per my experience and niche, directory pages do quite well with Adsense. You can also easily add monetized search with a Google CSE. Users will, by nature, be using these directory pages to leave your site. However, in your directory, you can include links to relevant content on your own website. Also, if your directory pages are genuinely useful, you will likely develop authentic inbound links to your site. A good directory page will out-meta all of its listings.

Consider your own current desire for information and perspective on potentially starting a directory. What would be the most useful resource for you right now? An article? A forum discussion? A wiki page? A Google search for "starting your own directory"? What if you stumbled upon a credible SEO directory, with a category called "Starting Your Own Directory", which listed a couple dozen human-reviewed, high-quality relevant resources?


 7:48 pm on Aug 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wow! Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions and for bringing up all the things to consider.

I will think about it. Right now, after reading everyone's suggestions, I am tending toward articles that does allow user comments to be added (a blog, more or less).

As for the directory, I will probably allow it to grow organically. I have created all the categories / cities that I intend and am allowing users to submit their content (I know, not ideal, but time constraints won't allow me to go hunting for good sites). Then when a site does get submitted, I will just be sure to review it carefully before approving it.


 3:28 pm on Aug 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Is it still worthwhile to have a relevant directory of other sites on your site to boost SEO? And if so, is there anything to watch out for?

Absolutely.. a directory (also called links pages, partner pages) of relevant links to useful sites in your industry will naturally attract relevant links back to your site because the other sites want to be included in your directory.

Things to look out for:

- Maintain high relevancy always

- Add links slowly, dont add hundreds daily

- Categorize and organize so the end user can find what they are looking for easily.

- Managing a directory is a pain. If you use software to do it, make sure it is EDITOR BASED. You don't want link submissions to be automatically published without your approval otherwise your directory could quickly turn into a "free for all".

- Don't require a linkback. Politely ask for a linkback but don't make a huge laundry list of "requirements". Just tell potential partners you will add their link if it's relevant and useful for your end users.

- Don't use nofollow. Nofollow was created for comments and other posts that are traditionally not editor based. It's perfectly acceptable to let the search engines follow your link partners.

- Ignore the nay sayers. There are lots os "experts" out there that will tell you a directory is a waste of time and that what you really should be focusing on is "one way links". One ways are easier said than done for most traditional ecommerce sites.

- Follow your gut. If a directory of relevant links is useful for your end users, do it. As long as you maintain strict editorial disrection, you will be surprised how many sites will link to yours FIRST because they are anticipating a link back from your useful and relevant directory.


 10:44 am on Aug 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have directories on three of my main sites. They add traffic and some revenue and another reason for people to become members. If they are carefully human edited they provide useful guides for your niche. They are all do-follow and certainly haven't hurt my Google PR.

[edited by: tedster at 4:08 pm (utc) on Aug 6, 2010]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]


 4:53 pm on Aug 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thank You, cnvi and mgravlee, for your suggestions.

I will definitely make them dofollow, relevant, and useful to users.

As for reciprocal links, I do "suggest" it to them AFTER I have approved their links already, just saying something along the lines of, "If your visitors might find our site useful, then you might want to link to us."

I guess the thing is not to have so many more reciprocal links than one way inbound links that it looks unnatural to google.


 4:58 pm on Aug 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

One other question:

The software I have (it's fairly popular for doing directories) allows for different levels of links. For instance, one could pay a fee to have a featured site (where it would appear at the top of the results).

Other free listings would appear lower in the results.
My gut reaction is this would be a google no-no. Your thoughts?

I would think that for SEO purposes, it would be better to just have all free links and have the most useful resources / ones with highest page rank listed at the top.

Remember, this is part of an ecommerce site so I am reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize it.

Thanks in advance. The people on this forum are great.


 9:11 pm on Aug 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some of those "featured site" listings in directories are shady, as they don't adequately communicate the fact that they are paid placement.

If you're already going to the trouble of personally reviewing sites and categorizing them, it's probably best to just leave them in some default order, or hand-pick the best ones and list them at the top. The traffic and linkbacks you get for the increased quality of your directory page will likely be more valuable than any "featured site" listing fees you may be able to collect.

Also, to increase your long tail traffic, use varying keywords in your titles and descriptions, and avoid filler words.

BAD: This site features information on widgets, and more.

GOOD: Photographs, diagrams, and details on blue widgets, Canadian widgets, fixing widgets, how to make widgets, and widget alternatives. Also includes a chart for identifying and dating antique widgets from the 1920's and 30's.


 1:41 am on Aug 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Categorize and organize so the end user can find what they are looking for easily.

This point really irks me on most directories. I am less than impressed with the monotony of all the directories categories. Seems like someone came up with a list in 1998 and it's been mindlessly copied ever since. Many of my sites when put in the proper category are 3 or 4 levels down and many times that's below 2-3 empty levels!

The paid listings on most really get out of hand when the directory owners/editors allow out of category submissions strictly for seo value. Ever know a widget to be a consumer of the littl* blu* p*ll (morphed to block kw's)?

Too many directories make you scroll a screen or more to see the listing (paid + free) below a boatload of banner and text link advertisements. Too many try too hard to make a killing on one site's monitization!


 1:57 am on Aug 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am less than impressed with the monotony of all the directories categories. Seems like someone came up with a list in 1998 and it's been mindlessly copied ever since..

Which is why you should not use category prelists and instead create categories that will naturally attract low hanging fruit.

For example.. you are a painter looking for relevant links in your area. You would want to link with companies in your area that target the same market as you do such as interior designers, home inspectors, handymen, etc. I doubt you will find "Handyman Resources" in a pre-created list of top level categories. Some softwares out there force you into a predetermined list of categories. Editor based software lets you create the category from scratch.

I agree there are junk directories out there that have borish categorization. The operators of those directories are obviously not reading the wisdom here at WebmasterWorld!


 2:43 am on Aug 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've been working with one site for about 11 years in a specialty niche. They have a resources directory that gets (and sends out) a whole lot of natural traffic.

On the Google SERPs it sometimes outranks the websites who are listed in it. While many other directories have seen their PageRank turn gray, all these pages still have healthy green bars. So it's good for the visitors and Google likes it. But we would keep the directory even if Google kicked those pages out of the index, because it is a real service to the market and that's why we maintain it.

And yes, all the categories are custom determined. Thanks Hoople, that's a really valuable point.


 5:52 am on Aug 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey there, cnvi:

Can you explain a little bit about this point:

I doubt you will find "Handyman Resources" in a pre-created list of top level categories

Do you mean that instead of having a directory with a category of, say Widget Installers, Muncie, Indiana, there would instead be a category called Handyman Resources and it would have all different services that would be relevant to whatever a handyman may need?

So the categories would be based on who NEEDS what, not who IS what?

Hmmm.... interesting...


 4:52 am on Aug 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

There is a pretty big demand for category dumps for directory scripts. Anytime there is a conversation about this I try to point out that this is not the best strategy. Some of the issues would include:
1. Creation of stub pages with no content
2. Duplication of content (the structure)
3. Directory immediately looks empty

Instead I recommend directories start with a small list of top level categories and make sure each of those category pages are worth visiting. In modern directory scripts, there are varying methods for making a category interesting including:
1. Links
2. Articles
3. News feeds
4. Text on the category page itself
5. Location drill down
6. Sorting of content
7. Integration of widgets (there are tons from weather to video to adsense and clickbank products)

In short a directory in the last couple of years can be so much more than a place to submit a link and go, and there are lots of examples of this in recent years (and some old sites too).

The word "directory" denotes structure, organization, categorization. More recently, its not just about links. It is about structuring content. There are some large sites on the web that could learn a lot from directories, because they very much lack structure, and it makes it difficult for the user to find content or relationships within the content.

This 42 message thread spans 2 pages: 42 ( [1] 2 > >
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