Tactical Link Building: Reliable Directories

Achieving top search engine rankings requires a combination of on- and off-page factors. On-page factors include building a crawler-friendly Web site that’s wrapped around interesting, useful, and optimized content. Off-page factors are all about link building, which starts with your home page and ends with inspiring others to link to much more than just your home page.

It’s commonly accepted that building a solid foundation for developing good backlinks is essential with any successful SEO (define) strategy.

So what’s a good backlink?

Generally speaking, a good backlink helps increase search-referred traffic, improves your site’s search engine visibility for targeted terms, and helps improve relevancy signals sent to the search engines.

At the end of the day, link building is all about increasing the number of high-quality, topically pertinent inbound links to a Web-based document to raise its visibility in SERPs (define) for specific keywords and keyword phrases. Of course, the best link building occurs naturally, even though some among us still attempt to fool nature.

Today, we’ll look at some basic tactics that probably deserve a place in your link building strategy.

Directory Submission Dos and Don’ts

Yes, it’s a bit boring, but good, old-fashioned directories put you firmly in control of the anchor text used to link to your site. Directories are easy enough to find, especially for local businesses, but don’t forget to submit your site to general, human-reviewed directories, too.

Some of these links could be construed as paid for — a Google taboo. If you pursue only those directories and categories that make sense for your online business, then securing links from a mix of general, topical, or niche directories, as well as local or regional directories, remains a best practice.

How do you find these directories? You could use a tool like Aaron Wall’s Hub Finder to gain insight into where rival sites are listed, then go after securing the links. Or you can try some advanced search queries that reflect your target markets. For example, if your business is all about orchids, search for “inurl:submit orchids” or “inurl:directory orchids.” Or you could use “directory orchids + location” to seek out geographically oriented online destinations to submit your site to.

The key is to look for directories once a week; or on a regular basis at least, and submit your site in small doses to make the process more manageable. That way, you can give each directory proper scrutiny before you submit your site to be included in the listings. Some things to look for include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Inclusion of .edu and .gov backlinks.
  • An aged domain.
  • High numbers of pages indexed.
  • Good PageRank flow down to the listing page.
  • Listing pages with less than 100 links.

Try to avoid submitting to directories that look like link farms, link to bad neighborhoods, are off-topic, have multiple pop-ups or pop-unders, or have a lot of broken links. Remember: bad directories hurt more than help, so take your time and learn how to spot the fakes. Some things to look for include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Robots.txt exclusion. The site may have a disallow that prevents search engines from spidering a Web page or a document.
  • JavaScript. JavaScript will disable most search engine spiders from crawling content on a page.
  • Hinky redirects. For example, PageRank is being transferred to another URL before being redirected to your site.
  • Meta tags. Watch for sites that put a rel=”nofollow” tag on your text link, as spiders are instructed not to follow the link or pass on link love.
  • Commented links. Or any hidden links, for that matter.
  • Iframe links. Search engine spiders aren’t able to efficiently crawl pages within a frameset.
  • No Web site cache. The site isn’t indexed or known by the search engine, so it’s best not to link from there as it will have little or no effect.

Right around the time Google went after those who buy and sell text links, the leading search engine also started thoroughly culling the practice of posting search results in its search results. Consequently, many established directories lost PageRank, especially those that may have had questionable business practices in play. Consider this small sample of adjustments Google made to public PageRank views between November and February:

PageRank adjustments nov 2007 to feb 2008

Many viable directories didn’t lose their general ability to provide targeted links or potential referral traffic for a Web site. Remember, this is a small sample of a handful of directories. All the same, it pays to do due diligence when it comes to submitting your site to targeted directories.

When you work on submitting your site to directories, take the time to find your link targets by starting small and using a spreadsheet to collect all the information you might require when updating your listings. The key to this particular link-building tactic is to seek out good linking neighborhoods from authoritative directories that act as informational hubs on the Web. It may be a bit dull, but undertaking a slow and steady course should eventually help you win the race.

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