Over at Search Engine Land today I wrote Betting On The Link Building Boondoggle Bonanza. I mentioned a couple very specific link building tactics in that column, press releases and directory submissions. What’s being sold is, to be kind, bad and worse.
As for directories, some of this you surely already know. I’ve written about it before. A year ago I wrote Don’t Blame Google For Your Own Linking Failures. The salient quote from that article was…
“Are you really going to tell me you are shocked that Google no longer thinks a link from link-o-matic, link-to-my-loo, and LinksForNoGoodReason.de are of any value? Please. But if you knew that such links would someday lose value, why did you take money for that very service? And if you didn’t honestly know such links were pointless, how can you call yourself a link builder?”
Here’s how I can at least try to make this post constructive, rather than just calling a tactic stupid.
All sites exist on a popularity continuum like this…
Links from general directories that nobody has heard of will only be of value to certain types of sites, namely sites on the left side of the continuum. These will be sites with few links and credibility to begin with, or brand new sites with no links at all. For existing sites that have already shown the ability to earn links, there will be no value from links from these directories. In simpler terms, a site like CNN.com could care less about getting links from directories. But your site isn’t CNN.com. True, but is it BrandNewSite.com? Probably not. Your site’s linking pedigree falls somewhere between these two examples, as do most sites.
So, am I saying that for a brand new site links from no-name directories are useful after all? A little, but not much. In my private consults the point I make is this…
“Your site will not succeed or fail based upon getting links from no name directories. If those are the only links you can earn, you are dead. Your site will only succeed over time if it attracts merit based links within your industry’s universe. And that will require content of merit that can earn such links”
I’ve made it pretty clear above that certain types of sites might get a small benefit from directories. But a site that can benefit from such a silly type of link isn’t much of a site now is it? Why is that so hard to accept folks? Now take it a step further. Let’s hypothesize. Why couldn’t the search engines use those same directory links as reverse signals? Any site that has links from 57 directories, which as time passes does not also earn merit based links, has helped point itself out as pure crap to the engines. Thanks for the help. Same with press releases BTW, but more on that tomorrow.
As for companies that are selling directory submission services, yes, your service may very well be outstanding. But the best thing you can do is provide this or a similar type of disclosure to your clients before they spend money with you. Don’t hide behind “buyer beware” and “free market” arguments. If you know a site will not benefit, don’t sell it to them. Is that so hard?
Lastly, there are many directories that are in fact extremely good link building targets. Thousands of them. I use them all the time, when the client’s site is a fit. They exist in verticals. Verticals can be subject specific, geo-specific, industry specific, feature specific, even author specific. Credibility and intent are key. If you operate a directory please don’t assume I’m lumping yours into the useless category. I purposely have not mentioned one real directory by name in this article. The point can be made without it.