I saw a tweet from a photographer advertising “Free PR3 directory listing and back link.” This post plays on the fact that we all want links, and that we want quality ones, in this case a link from a directory that has a high PageRank. Of course this piqued my interest because I am always looking for new photographer link opportunities my the list of 50+ link opportunities in my Photographers SEO Book [Download Now for $39].
The first thing I do when looking at a potential new directory is investigate the site to see if it is in fact valuable enough for me to suggest to others. In this case it definitely was not, giving me the idea for this post: to expose my process of analyzing a directory so that you know what links to go after and which ones to pass on.
4 Examples of Bad Directory Practices
Some examples of bad directory practices follow. This is not a comprehensive list, but illustrates there are reasons to investigate links before you request/submit them.
- Link from a directory that may be blacklisted or has uses black hat techniques
- Directories that bury links on pages that Google doesn’t check
- Link that has been blocked from passing you link credit
- Automated submissions
First, Check for No Follow Attributes
The first thing I do before submitting to any directory is view the source of the website to make sure the links do not have rel=”nofollow” on them. If you see this attached to other website’s listings, then submitting your link is a waste of time because nofollow tells Google no to follow your link (does not help your search results).
Validate the Quality of the Directory
Back to that original tweet about a free link in the PR3 directory. It seemed too good to be true and I was right. What threw a red flag for me is that this site had a PR of 3 even though it only had a few links within it. So I used a backlink checker to see who was linking to the directory, because this can help me determine HOW it got to its PR3 ranking. With a free domain backlinks checker I immediately saw bad news. The directory had entirely backlinks from spam domains, many of which were foreign language, and 90% of which were from a single domain. These border on black hat techniques and sooner or later Google will penalize this site, and potentially any sites associated with it. You do not want to be linked from a site like this and have all of your link efforts be brought down by someone else’s bad practices.
Low PageRank (Buried) Directory Links
You really want to know one thing. If you add your link to directory X, will Google find that link, give you credit for it, and help your ranking slightly. Just having your link in a directory is not enough. If your link is on a deep page that Google never checks or Google has devalued then why would you want your link there?
PageRank (PR) is one factor to help assess how important Google might think a page is. You can check it using a free tool like PRChecker or the Google Toolbar. If the directory homepage has a PR of zero, then a link within this site carries little value to yours. Also take a look at some of the subpages. If some of the top level category pages of the directory (like the photographer’s section) have a PR of zero, then likewise it may not be worth the time. You can use PR as a lose guide to see if the directory has reasonable merit. Use your judgment here. The important thing to remember is that even though a directory may advertise a PageRank of 3, or even 6, that is probably for its homepage. But your link will not live forever on the homepage, it probably lives on a very low PR page and that is something to consider.
Ouch! Automated Services & Low Quality Links Hurt
I see lots of offers for automated directory submission. I have never, will never, and never suggest to take part in these. Take our above example… your site will likely get submitted to one or many of those directories. Not only does this open you to risk of being associated with spam sites, but it also creates many many worthless links back to your site. Google will analyze these bad links to your site and assume that your site is bad as well. You know from the Photographers SEO Book that it already does this with link text (Google learns what your site is about by reading the text of the links that point to you). It does the same with the quality of sites that link to you. A large volume of low quality links pointing to you can hurt your search results and should be avoided.
Is a Back Link Required?
If the directory requires a back link, you know it is not as reputable as others. Choose your reciprocal links with care, you only have so many room for links on your site before it can have a negative affect on your link equity. If a directory requires a back link, it can still be worth submitting to, but I start with one-way link directories that don’t require a link back. The exception to this rule is if the back link is required to validate that you own the site or blog (example: blogcatalog.com which is a great directory).
I have Never Paid for a Link
I have yet to pay for a link on this site or any other website I have managed or consulted for. You should not have to either. There are only a handful of paid links that are definitely valuable, dir.yahoo.com and business.com among them. Usually results can be achieved before needing to pay for those links. All other paid links should be seriously considered before purchase. And why pay for links when the Photographers SEO Book has a list of 50+ non-paid links that have been pre-tested by me for links quality, and many are specific to photographers?
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