Submitting to directories is a great way to build links and increase your search engine rankings. In semi-competitive industries it can produce great results. If you add article creation and social media marketing into the link building equation then you can achieve great results for any industry.
When choosing directories going for the paid ones can be better, mainly because the links seem to last a lot longer. Many of the free directories seem to disappear or delete links after a year or so. However, there are a few free directories out there that should always be used - directories that have stood the test of time.
Submitting to a combination of both niche and general directories is usually a good idea.
For most industries there are a variety of niche directories out there - the best way to find them is through a search engine. Do a search on Google, MSN or Yahoo for directories in your niche area - those that come up in the first few pages of results are usually the best ones to use.
With general directories it's better to go for those that are more established. The older a directory is, the better.
Because directories are generally quite large, they need a certain amount of PageRank to get all of their pages indexed properly. However a high PageRank isn't the be-all and end-all. Google's recentcrackdown on directories has made visible PageRank even more irrelevant when it comes to choosing directories. There are directories out there that have no PageRank whatsoever that can offer value.
If a directory is ranking well in the search engines then you can rest assured that it has enough PageRank. If you're unsure then check how many links it has via Yahoo! Site Explorer or another link popularity checker.
It's always best to get the main search phrases that you are targeting in the links to your site. However this isn't always possible and unfortunately many of the best directories won't let you do this. Sometimes you can get around this problem by slipping in a search phrase at the end of your company name.
Before submitting have a good look around a directory and get a feel for what you can and can't get away with. Some directory owners will let you use a search phrase on its own, whereas others are very strict and will only use your business/website name. In between you have those where you might just be able to slip a search phrase in.
Doing your homework comes in handy - if you try to use a search phrase on its own and they change it to your business/website name then it's very unlikely you'll be able to get them to change it to your website name with a search phrase at the end. If you'd submitted it like that in the first place you may have got away with it.
Always try to get one of your search phrases in and vary the anchor text as much as possible - this will appear more natural to the search engines.
Many directories will provide you with your own page about your business. If you have the same description on every page across different directory websites then many of these will be seen as duplicate content by the search engines and your links will get devalued.
To avoid this, write a unique and substantial description for every single directory (200+ characters works best). Make sure the descriptions accurately mirror your products and services and that they read well.
Many directories allow you to add extra links directly to internal pages of your website. You should take turns in linking to different pages of your website using different variations of the phrases you're targeting on each page. Using the same anchor text to link to the same page over and over again will appear unnatural to the search engines and this could work against you.
There's no fixed number of directories that you should get listed in. Work out a 12 month directory submission budget for each site and then do so many each week or month for the full duration.
When you're building links to your site via directories or any other method, you should do it over time. Submitting to 100 directories in a week and then forgetting about it won't be as effective as spreading the 100 directory submissions over a 3 month period.
Finally, here's a list of the top free and paid general directories to get you started.
5 of the best free directories include:
5 of the best paid directories include: