Antcliff’s article comparing the effectiveness of directory submissions with social media marketings, and which I responded to, has caused quite a bit of a storm.  I’ve learnt a lot from this discussion:

1.  The topic was debated on Digitalpoint.

2.  There was a good discussion of the topic on Yack Yack, a quality blog I hadn’t previously known about that I’ve now added to my feed reader.

One of the most intelligent comments I saw was made by Slawski, who stated in Antcliff’s post:

“‘I’m a big fan of a well-balanced approach to promoting a web site.

I’ve also been around web promotion long enough to remember when submitting to directories was one of the main aspects of SEO – back before there really were search engines.

The first factor that I consider when looking at a directory isn’t the pagerank of the page that a link will appear upon, or even if a directory will pass along any link equity at all, but rather whether the directory is one that people will use to find the site that I am promoting.

Does it look credible, does it look legitimate, does it focus upon the people who will find it of value when they are looking for something rather than focusing upon the people who are looking for links?

I really like regional or topical directories that make it easy for people to find what they are looking for, and provide value to those searchers. If these directories enable people to make intelligent choices about the differences between the sites that they have listed, that’s even better.

I like getting links to a site, but I’m a big fan of getting the right link, to the right place, at the right time. While I think that the traffic that social sites bring is terrific, and it’s great to have your site earn visitors from those pages, there’s some value to being listed in a directory that transcends pagerank, or a large stream of unfocused visitors:

1. If the directory is one that people consider to be an “authority” on a subject, and will look there to find pages on that topic, it may not hurt to be listed there, and may bring some pretty focused traffic to a page. Those visitors are pre-qualified to be interested in what a site has to offer.

2. If a directory is one that a search engine will look at to find business information related to a site – address, phone number, category of business, etc. – being included in that directory could be helpful in having a site’s business location be understood by the search engines when it comes to generating local search and product search information.

3. If being listed in a directory makes it more likely that you can be found by complimentary sites that may link to you, contact you, or engage in cross-promotional efforts with you, being included in that directory may open up opportunities to start some conversations.

A link from a social network may bring a lot of folks to a site that are interested in what that site has to offer beyond just the page or article or blog post that brought them there in the first place. It could even continue to do so over time – I have a couple of pages that were dugg that continue to get traffic from the original digg – one that’s even more than a year old. Being included in a good directory may not bring an initially very strong surge of traffic like a social networking site, but it could provide a steady stream of visitors.

I like trying to focus upon building quality content that will draw links to it naturally, from many sources. I like persuasive titles and snippets that attract visitors from search engines to well optimized sites. I like promoting a site in a number of other ways, and submitting to some directories can be part of that mix.

When choosing a directory to submit a link to, I want to feel that the directory is a business partner who is interested in promoting their directory in a positive fashion to the audience that I want to attract to a site. I want to see them focusing upon providing a positive experience to their visitors. If the focus of the directory is upon the people submitting sites rather than the people using the directories, I’m much less likely to get involved with the directory.”

(reprinted in full with Slawski’s permission – thanks!).

From a directory owner’s point of view, the biggest take away that I’m getting from this is the seriously negative impact that the QBC (“quick buck crew”) directory owners are having on directories owned by people working hard to promote them and to make them a useful resource.  I suppose I always knew that there was a negative effect, but now I’m realizing that the impact is much greater than I thought.

I realize that no one has actually stated that people should avoid submitting to directories (and in fact everyone admits that there are several quality directories out there).  That being said, anyone reading those posts could not be blamed for moving “submit to directories” down towards the bottom of their To Do list.

The other difficulty, from a directory owner’s perspective, is that it is difficult to signal quality to the outside world, especially when people are going in with the attitude that 99% of directories are crap.  While most people involved in the directory industry have a pretty good idea of which directories are good and which aren’t, most of the rest of the world can’t be bothered to take the time to find out.