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Directories as Link Partners
by Mordechai Chachamu © Copyright.

While traditional directories are edited by humans, search 
engines are pure computational sites. The billions of pages now 
held in the search engine databases render human intervention 
impractical. From the gathering of web pages using robots or 
crawlers to their indexing of that information and finally the 
ranking of those pages in the search results, it's all done by 
software and computation. 

The first two stages (assembling and indexing) are relatively 
simple, but the third (ranking) presents a much higher 
challenge. How do the search engines determine which of the 
many millions of pages that contain a particular word or phrase 
be shown first? Get it right and people will be using the search 
engine time and again. Get it wrong and the engine will be 
dropped like a hot potato. 

The one engine that seemed to consistently get it right was 
Google. Its secret was the addition of PageRank -- Google's 
form of link popularity. According to Google, a link is 
considered a vote of confidence from one page to another. The 
more links, the more votes. Moreover, votes from important 
pages are valued higher than votes from non-important ones. A 
higher PageRanked page is one that has a lot of other pages 
voting for it; in other words, it is heavily linked to. Link 
popularity now plays a significant role in the ranking 
algorithm of all the major search engines. 

The challenge for site owners and webmasters is to increase 
link popularity, which in turn increases the likelihood of 
pages from their sites appearing high in the search results. 
One of the best ways to start a link campaign is to get links 
from directories. If you put the right amount of effort (and 
money) into it, you can see your link popularity increase 
significantly in a short space of time. The question is: How to 
judge the relative merits of directories? Which ones are worth 
paying for? What elements do you need to look for to help you 
make an educated decision? 

Link Types

The first and most important consideration is the link type. 
There are two types of links: Simple Links and Redirected Links. 
You cannot discover the difference by clicking on them  the 
outcome is identical, but from the perspective of a link 
campaign the difference is fundamental. As far as Link 
Popularity is concerned, the Redirected Link is absolutely 
worthless. Here is why: 

A Simple Link is a link that contains the target URL of the site 
and directly points to it, as in this link: 
http://www.target-site.com. On the other hand, a Redirected Link 
points to a URL inside the current site, usually to a script 
file, and the address of the target site is passed to the script 
as a parameter, like this: 
http://www.this-site.com/jump.php?www.target-site.com . You can 
check the type of links used by a Directory by observing the 
'Status bar' while hovering your mouse over the links.  

When a Search Engine visits a Directory that uses Redirected 
Links, it does not get from it the 'vote of confidence' for the 
linked sites  as they do not show up as links at all! If 
anything, such links only 'strengthen' the internal script page, 
as there may be thousands of links pointing to it. Your site, if 
listed in such a Directory, will not see any of it. 

Page Visibility

To gain link popularity, the search engine must know that you 
are listed in the directory. In other words, the search engine 
must capture the pages of the directory and index them. Only 
then can it add the link from the directory to your site to 
your link popularity. 

Find out if the directory has good presence in all the search 
engines. You will soon discover that some search engines are 
notoriously difficult to get indexed by, while others are 
relatively easy. A good spread of page visibility among several 
search engines increases the chances of your site being picked 
up and indexed by them too. Thus, not only will you gain in 
link popularity, but also your site will be present in their 
index! 

PageRank and Backward Links

Not all links are created equal -- some are more important than 
others. If you have the Google toolbar installed, it will give 
you a rough estimate of the page's PageRank (PR) using a scale 
of 0 to 10. A directory with a high PR is more important than a 
directory with a low PR. A directory with many sites linking to 
it (backward links) is more important than a directory with 
just a few. 

The devil, as always, is in the details, so it pays to pay 
attention to them. Invariably, the home page of the directory 
will have the highest PR, but very few (if any) sites will be 
listed there. You should try to examine the PR of the specific 
category in which your site will be listed to get an idea of 
the strength of vote you are likely to receive from it. For 
example, although DMOZ has an exceptionally high PR of 9 on its 
home page, the deep categories may be just PR 4 or less. There 
is nothing wrong with a PR of 4, quite the contrary, but it is 
not exceptional. 

In Return

While some directories provide a totally free, 
no-strings-attached submission option, many directories expect 
or require something in return. In most cases it's simply 
money, ranging from a few dollars to several hundred. A few 
require an annual subscription to keep your site listed, but 
most are satisfied with a one-time payment. 

In addition to (or instead of) payment, some directories insist 
on getting a link from you before they agree to list your site. 
Others may require you to agree to get periodic emails that 
include promotional material for various products. Still others 
suggest that your site will only be listed if you join them and 
become an editor. There are many variations, and some 
directories offer several options to site owners. 

How can you make a good decision when faced with so many options 
and considerations? The answer lies in limiting your options 
and dealing with just a few directories. First, you must 
establish your goals for your link campaign. Is it traffic, 
link popularity or both? Then compare the sites that meet your 
requirements and rank them according to how closely they match. 
Finally, add the required payment or any other condition 
imposed by each directory to your ranking considerations. 

Once you've done all of the above, all that's left for you 
to do is visit each of your chosen directories, follow their 
guidelines and submit your site!  

================================================================
Mordechai Chachamu is the CEO of Gimpsy (http://www.gimpsy.com), 
a unique directory that classifies interactive sites according to 
the online activity provided by them. Submitting a site to Gimpsy 
entitles the user to a special extended free trial of the 
Strongest Links (http://www.strongestlinks.com) facilities.
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