A crucial part of local SEO – for law firms or other small businesses – involves cultivating citations and backlinks from local and business directories. Having a good number of quality directories with your firm’s current information will build confidence in search engines when choosing which sites to rank. Furthermore, low-quality directories can even be considered by Google as a link scheme.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the common signs of low-quality directories. Through applying these criteria you’ll gain a much clearer understanding of what makes a high-quality directory. You’ll be able to start implementing what you learn immediately and with some practice, will become efficient in spotting better directories and sites.
What are the signs of a low-quality directory?
There are many signs and indicators of a low-quality site or directory. Below, we’re going to list them, so you know which sites avoid.
1. Spammy Domain Names & URLs
The first thing you need to check for when vetting a directory is its domain and URL. For instance, a directory like Yellow Pages has a branded domain name of yellowpages.com. Low-quality directories will often have clues of spam motives in the domain.
Something like freedirectorylistings.com says all it needs to in the URL and triggers an immediate response for link builders to claim a new link. Any domain containing “directory”, “listing”, “free” or other trigger words in the title should be automatically disqualified.
2. Its Homepage Has a Listing Submission Form
Another common sign of a low-quality directory is having the listing form embedded above the fold on the homepage of the website. Some directory sites will just have one or two form fields with a more blatant call to action like “Add URL HERE”.
Positioning the new listing call to action as one of the first elements you see on the homepage illustrates a clear intent for you, the advertiser or business owner, rather than an audience to their site’s own content. Another way to frame it is by asking what does the directory want users to do? Browse their site for listings on local businesses in their area or just get a bunch of businesses to list their information?
3. You Control the Anchor Text
When a directory lets you control the anchor text, it’s really asking to get abused by spammy link builders. If you’re unfamiliar with anchor text, you should know it plays a significant role in your SEO (see what I did there?). You build links to get your website “votes” and the anchor text gives Google a better idea of what you’re voting for.
If your firm wanted to rank for “law firm new york”, then it would help tremendously if a few links back to your website including those keywords in the anchor text. Although these sites can help to rank your website, you should avoid them. Google and other search engine algorithms are becoming increasingly efficient at devaluing these links or even penalizing the parties involved.
4. No Moderation or Review Processes
A strict review process is a great signal of the quality, well-managed directory. While a review will delay your link or even prevent you from getting it at first, remember that the harder it is to get a link, the more valuable it likely is. If it takes a little more work to get the link (i.e., they ask you for documentation or proof to verify your practice) then you should consider investing that additional effort.
5. More Links & Ads than Actual Content
When the website you’re vetting before submitting your listing, you will undoubtedly come across sites where:
- The site is just about links.The majority of their links are either to listings or outgoing and linking to other domains. Because of that, there isn’t much content for users.
- More ads than imagesAds are a great way to generate revenue for websites. But, when a website has little to no content and hosts a list of shallow links and listings, it’s a clear sign that the site owners cared more about monetization than offering any real value to any audience other than link builders.
6. Overall Signs of Poor Quality
Be aware of the overall quality of the site as you’re investigating it. Basically, you need to make sure that the website doesn’t look well maintained or is relatively out of date. You want to steer clear of a site if you notice:
- Parts of the login or registration modules are buggy or glitchy.
- Some areas of the website look like they have missing elements, broken images or links.
- The content or copy is full of typos or resembles the first draft
7. Low DA or DR Score
If you have access to a tool like Moz or Ahrefs, then you’ll be able to look at metrics like the Domain Authority or Rating (DA or DR, respectively). These metrics are modeled to be rough approximations of what Google’s search algorithm might think of any given website. The score is ranked from 0-100. A site with a DA/DR of 25+ should be the minimum you consider.
But, if the site happens to be a local blog, hyperlocal or is highly relevant to lawyers, you could make an exception.
Because while these sites have a lower DA/DR score, they are rich with local or categorical context. When it comes to law firms, a local blog, chamber of commerce or even a blog that posts about law and society topics could be more valuable to us than a directory with double or even triple the DA/DR score.
8. High Number of Linked Domains
The number of linked domains is the number of different domains (e.g., websites) that the site in question is linking out to. To get this technical information on the website, you’ll need a tool like SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs.
The more linked domains a website has, the easier it is likely to get a link from and the closer to spam it becomes. You’ll notice that the bottom entry only has 74 linked domains. One reason for that is it’s a paid directory. In the case of worldlinkdirectory.com, it’s a $60 fee and hence deters many from adding their link.
What about Free versus Paid Directories?
While it can look attractive for someone with a budget to use paid directories and have their link among a limited pool of other links, it isn’t entirely clear whether or not it’s a good idea. There’s been much debate for a long time overpaid directories and directories at all and their value in SEO and link building.
Paying for a link on a one-time or recurring basis (e.g., monthly, annually, etc.) will eliminate spammers that won’t tolerate paying a small sum for a link. The fewer outgoing links, the more link equity for each listing in the directory. To be sure you know what you are paying for, look at the other criteria mentioned above. A directory that takes a payment because it’s of high-quality and they exercise editorial discretion via reviewing their listings is a better signal of what the fee is representative of.
When going through the low-quality criteria, you’ll notice that it’s very easy for you to submit your listing and receive your link from these directories. If it’s easy for you to acquire that link, then it’s easy for everyone else. In backlinks, this means that the site is low-quality and hence not doing too much for your site’s ranking ability anyway.
Taking Advantage of Each Directory’s Features
Before I leave you, I’ll show you a couple of bonus tips you can use to get the most out of your listings (when possible).
a. Multiple Locations
Some directories allow you to add multiple listings once you have registered a profile with the site. If you’re firm has multiple offices, you should add a listing for each location. Furthermore, if your website has a page for each office, then use that URL in lieu of the homepage. This will boost your page’s authority and help you rank that page for your “target keyword” + “location”.
b. On-Site Articles & Content
As we discussed earlier, the lack of meaningful content is a sign of a low-quality directory. Some sites allow you to contribute articles after your profile and listings have been approved.
This is a great way to get some of your initial content out there on the web, especially if you plan on doing guest posting for your firm. You’ll usually be able to add in a link back to your own site or specific piece of content on your site you wanted to rank higher.
Now you know 8 signs of low-quality directories. We also looked at a couple of ways you can take advantage of some of the higher-quality directories. Go out and start building some local and law relevant directories. Keep your eyes out when you go through for the option to add multiple listings, your own articles and other features that will help your firm’s Local SEO rankings.
Jared Kimball is a tech enthusiast and digital marketing consultant for law firms and lawyers. He is the owner and lead strategist at Zahavian Legal Marketing pertaining to SEO, Web design and PPC Ads. He works directly with lawyers and small law firms to handle all their online marketing needs as well as their offline and overall brand strategy.