One of our clients was contemplating whether or not to buy a link in one of the dozens of industry-related directories that try to solicit his business. We investigated one industry directory for the client. Here is an overview of our response.
There are two reasons to buy a link in a directory. The first is to drive potential clients to your web site who are looking for the products or services that you offer. The second is to help build higher rank positions for your site. Quality inbound links to a site are an essential part of building good rank positions. The key to making link building work for search engine is to focus on finding quality links to your site from sites within your industry.
There are literally tens of thousands of directories on the Internet that offer to sell links to a web site owner. Most are general directories that no one has ever heard of. Their mission is simply to sell you a link. While building inbound links is an essential part of search engine optimization, in our opinion the links in most online directories have been neutered and are essentially useless for SEO purposes ever since Google decided to penalize link sellers a few years ago. While some may drive traffic, they may not have any SEO value.
If you are going to buy links in directories, it is best to focus on either major, well-know directories, such as the Yahoo Directory or popular industry-related directories that focus on your specific niche. This article focuses on determining whether or not the expense of getting listed in an industry-related directory is a wise investment.
Here are the metrics that we use to determine whether a directory is a viable candidate for either driving traffic or building rank positions.
Directory’s Rank Positions in Google for the Words that Describe Your Industry
If a directory is going to drive traffic to your site that is looking for your products or services, it must be very well-known or rank well for the search phrases that represent your business. When it ranks in a top ten position in Google, it is very strongly themed for that search phrase and will likely achieve the goals of sending traffic and improving your rank positions by passing strong industry-related inheritance factors to your site.
The directory that we investigated does not show up in a top 100 rank position in Google for any of several search phrases that we used. It therefore will not drive significant traffic to the client’s site.
If a directory is popular and people are linking to it as a reference, it will have a fairly high Google PageRank. PageRank is a measure of the quality and quantity of links that lead to a site. Each link passes some of its “link juice” to the receiving page. With Google, there are a lot of inheritance factors other than PageRank that can be passed, but PageRank is a good indicator that the page has some link juice to pass.
PageRank is based on a scale of 0 to 10, which can be viewed by installing the Google Toolbar in your browser. Keep in mind that the only PageRank value that matters is the value assigned to the page where your link appears. The PageRank of a directory’s home page is not passed to your site unless your link appears on their home page. But if the home page of the directory is zero, the site is probably either very new or not very popular and will likely not drive very much traffic. If the page where your link will appear has a PageRank of zero, it is very likely that the page has been penalized by Google and has no link juice or SEO value to pass. It therefore will not help your site to rank better.
The site that we investigated has a PageRank of zero.
Are Competitors Using the Industry Directory?
Another metric that we look at with a industry-related directory is the number of competitors that are using the directory. Most industry-related directories have a built-in method that users can utilize to search for companies, or they may categorize companies geographically.
In the case of the directory that we investigated, we found no competitors listed in the Phoenix area. In fact, we did not find any competitors listed in the state of Arizona, which means that few competitors are aware that this particular directory exists. If the directory was popular, it would likely have dozens of competitors listed.
Alexa tracks users’ visits to web sites through browser cookies and estimates the amount of traffic to a web site. It is not always accurate, but it is a widely used measure of a site’s overall popularity. If the site gets lots of traffic, it will very likely be useful for driving business to your site. Alexa rankings are a stack-ranked value that compares one site’s traffic estimate to all others on the web, so the lower the Alexa ranking, the more traffic the site is receiving. Because of the enormity of the Internet, a good rule of thumb is to look for sites with an Alexa Ranking lower than 100,000.
The site that we investigated has an Alexa ranking of 18,910,833, which means it has almost no traffic at all. Without traffic and lots of it, it cannot drive business to your site.
A large number of directories are run by overseas companies whose primary focus is on selling links. The WHOIS domain registration can be checked to determine the site ownership. Almost all domain registrars offer a link that allows anyone to see who owns a domain–except for those domains where the ownership info is blocked through a private registration that conceals the ownership. We use the WHOIS Lookup at Domain Tools. The site that we were investigating has the ownership information blocked.
When an industry directory does not rank well for industry-related phrases, it will not likely draw in traffic that is looking for your products or services.
When a directory has no PageRank it is not likely to pass any link juice, nor is it popular enough to drive any traffic.
No competitors appear to be aware of the site, which means that it is likely an unknown site.
The site’s Alexa ranking is so low that the site likely has almost no traffic at all.
In my opinion, this one is a dud and we would not use it. I don’t see any value at all.
Best Advice for Selecting Industry-Related Directories
The best directories to use are those that rank in the top 10 in Google for your targeted search phrases and have a good reputation throughout your industry. If the directory is good for driving traffic, most players in your industry will be aware of it. If no one is aware of it, the chances are pretty good that no potential customers will find it.