From across the pond, Antcliff boldy proclaims that “directories are dead.” He clarifies this – no, directories are not dead, they just are not as effective in building links as linkbaiting.  This sentiment seems to be growing in the SEO community.

Unfortunately, this is just plain wrong.  Directories are an effective means of promoting your website, particularly if you have a commercial website.

To be fair to Antcliff, there are a ton of crappy directories out there.  But just as you can’t lump all the people of one ethnic group together and characterize them, you can’t lump all directories out there and characterize them.  The fact is that there are dozens of quality directories out there.  Getting listed in many of them is going to help promote your site.

Directories also face an image problem because, let’s face it, they’re not sexy.  Unlike a lot of other topics, like linkbating, they’re difficult to blog about with any frequency.  But again, that does not mean that directory submissions are not effective.

Directories Have A Number of Advantages over Linkbaiting

1.  The Biggest Advantage of Directories is Co-Citation.  When your site gets listed in a quality directory, your site is listed on a page that links to other websites in your industry.  As stated by Wall, directory listings provide quick and easy co-citation data.  On the other hand, links that come from linkbaiting usually are from tech, media or general sites and you do not get any co-citation.

2.  Anchor Text.  When your site gets listed in a directory, often you are able to get some anchor text added to your link.  When you linkbait, your anchor text is out of your control and often is something like “click here” or “interesting article.”  While it is always good to mix things up with anchor text to make links look natural, it can be difficult to rank for any competitive phrase without getting a lot of links with the phrase you are targeting as anchor text.

3.  Deep Links.  When your site gets listed in a directory, normally you can choose which page gets a link.  You do not need to get a link to your home page.  In fact, many (or most?) quality directories nowadays offer multiple links to your site, so that you can get a link to several important pages on your site.  With linkbaiting, you get a link to the linkbait article.  While that benefits your site as a whole, it means that you are not getting links to what are most likely the most profitable pages of your website.

In addition to benefits from directory submissions, there are a number of problems with linkbaiting.

Problems With Linkbaiting

Linkbaiting works well – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.  However, it often ignores that there are much easier strategies for building links that work well (such as directory submissions). Some problems with linkbaiting are:

1. Linkbaiting is Expensive. Rand blogs about how he would promote a new catering company.  I read the post with awe – I’m not certain I could pull that off.  But the bottom line is that the plan he outlined, which involved the heavy use of linkbait, was extremely expensive and probably impractical for most but the largest catering companies.  In comparison, submitting to directories is a lot cheaper.

While I’m not familiar with the catering industry, I can say that I’ve seen a lot of locally oriented websites succeed in the SERPs primarily with directory links.  While some people may argue that in the long run this won’t work (and I disagree with this), it works today.  Also, there is also a “rich get richer” phenomenon in the SERPs – once you’re on top, there is a natural tendency for your site to stay on top.

2.  Linkbaiting is Difficult. Hagans correctly blogs about how it has gotten more and more difficult for an article to do well on Digg.  Lydon himself states in his article that people complain all the time that social media sites do not send traffic.

To spend the time, money and effort needed to create linkbait and have it wasted can be detrimental for a business that is starting up.  The thing about directories is that they are a sure thing.  If you have a quality site, chances are very high that it will get listed in quality directories.

3. Linkbaiting’s Effectiveness is Overstated. Grey blogs about the effect of one digg.  While it helped his site, it certainly did not perform any miracles, nor did it rank for many competitive terms.  The fact is that you need a significant number of linkbaits to gain the benefits attributed to linkbaiting.  On the other hand, I have seen many websites rank in moderately competitive niches solely due to directory submissions.

In Short

When you add all these problems with linkbaiting together – expense, difficulty, overstated effectiveness, lack of anchor text, lack of co-citation, inability to get links to important pages – directory submissions look good.  Really good.

I’m not bashing linkbaiting.  It certainly is an essential component of SEO and should be used.  But in all the excitement and glamor of linkbaiting, let’s not forget that there are other components of SEO that work well too – directory submissions being one of the stronger ones.