You’ve probably seen more than a few Web directory lists floating around the Web. There are free Web directory lists, paid Web directory lists, and even regional ones. Maybe you’ve used one of these lists yourself — you found a list of Web directories on a forum or blog and you used it as a guide. You submitted your site to some or all of those sites included.
Are Web directory lists really a good thing though? Sure, they can be used in Web promotion. But they can (and often do) result in spam. That doesn’t just include the people who were spammers going in. Web directory lists can inadvertently turn well-intentioned webmasters into spammers too.
Let’s take a look at both the positive and negative sides of Web directory lists, so you can decide if they’re a worthwhile tool to either create for your own website or use in your marketing plan.
Web Directory Lists as Promotional Tools
I mentioned that a good thing about Web directory lists is that they can serve as promotional tools. That’s only half the story though. Even while working as a promotional tool (spam concerns not considered), there are downsides. Let’s explore both:
- Positive Elements of Web Directory Lists as Promotional Tools
- A Web directory list can save you time because you don’t have to manually search for the Web directories you want to submit your site to.
- Web directory lists might tell you the PageRank of each directory to help you prioritize them (if you still care about PageRank when it comes to linkbuilding — personally I don’t, but I know some readers do).
- You might be able to find well-targeted lists that help you sort through the noise on the Web — like a UK Web directory list if you’re based in the UK and want more regional links and exposure.
- Negative Elements of Web Directory Lists as Promotional Tools
- There are so many Web directory lists available online, that it might take you just as long to find a good one as it would take you to use a search engine to pull up targeted directories on your own.
- Many Web directory lists are outdated. That means you’ll have to sort through listings for directories that no longer exist, have moved, or are being neglected by their owners.
- Submitting your site to a huge number of general directories isn’t usually an effective way to spend your promotional time. It’s better to work in high quality directories that offer a real chance for targeted traffic and quality links, and then combine submissions with other marketing tactics for a well-rounded approach. Web directory lists might encourage you to spend too much time on submissions, which could actually negatively impact your ROI (return on investment — and remember it’s not just about money, as every minute you put in is an investment).
A well-crafted, up-to-date Web directory list can be used as one component of an effective Internet marketing campaign. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best tool. It all comes down to the individual list you’re using, and how you plan to use it.
Web Directory Lists Inciting Spam
Promotional tools or not, Web directory lists are also often guilty of encouraging spam. As a former Web directory owner I’ve been a victim of this type of spam, and I’ll share that story with you below. But first, let’s take a quick look at some examples of ways Web directory lists can directly or indirectly lead to spam.
Users manually spam every site on the Web directory list, regardless of whether or not their site meets all of the requirements. This can happen because they’re so worried about submitting to all of the sites for links, that they quickly skip to submission forms (which the directory list might point them to) without reviewing all of the terms of the site.
- People might add all of the directories from a Web directory list into an automated submission tool which they either use themselves or distribute to other site owners to spam directories.
- The Web directory lists themselves are often copy / pasted and spammed from one forum, blog, or other community to the next when others are too lazy to assemble their own up-to-date list.
I want to share a story focused around that second spamming method with automated submission tools. In the past I ran a free Web directory (two actually). The one in question was the first of its kind. We only accepted deep links, and only a very specific kind of deep link.
People started linking to the directory, especially on forums. It was picked up by some of the submission tools’ creators from those lists. They added it to automated submission software targeting mostly general Web directories (meaning people were submitting homepage links — something we didn’t allow).
We got thousands of spam submissions from these tools (and that’s being rather conservative). It got so bad that I eventually quit the site to pursue other Web development projects, let it sit idle for a long time, and eventually sold the domain.
Sometimes spam can become unbearable. Because these Web directory lists will often link to any and all directories they can find (without knowing or mentioning their submission requirements), they allow spammers to wreak havoc on directory owners. They also potentially put that “spammer” label on their users — the people submitting their sites.
Web Directory Lists: Friend or Foe of the Well-meaning Webmaster?
What are your personal thoughts on Web directory lists? Do you use them effectively? Do you allow them to become a time drain? Have you ever spammed anyone as a result of a certain Web directory list? Have you even considered the negative image using these lists could lead to for your site?
Share your thoughts about Web directory lists, linkbuilding with directory submissions, or directory spam in the comments below.