Is This Proof Directory Submission Still Works?

EDIT 2013NOTE – This tactic is very risky in 2013! I’d stay well clear of cheap directory submission services these days. Just because a tactic works, does not mean it’s safe to use, in 2013.

I often look for false positives in Google.

A false positive (in this sense) is when a site appears for a keyword search it is not relevant to. It’s like looking for microwave ovens and seeing a page for oranges. The page about oranges isn’t supposed to be there. A false positive in Google SERPS that sticks around is sometimes the VERY BEST way to getting a glimpse of how Google works under the hood.

False positives are usually caused by webmaster error, not really an error of Google. It can be caused by a misplaced 301 redirect or canonical tag screw ups, but that’s not what I am talking about here.

I’m talking about plain old linkbuilding tactics apparently causing these false positives. This is what I am on the look out for.

It’s like in (is it Eugenics?) when you are trying to prove genes influence a person’s behaviour more than environment, and so you need to find two twins who were separated at birth to prove a case. I think that’s ball park correct. Anyway – sometimes hard to find….

This is one example (I think).

I see a lot of seo saying directory submissions don’t work anymore –  or that it depends which ‘quality’ directories you submit to, so I thought I would, rather than theorise, share a false positive that might indicate differently. This might show directory links can still count, and directory link building might still be worth it.

Personally, I think a lot of so-called ‘out-of-date’ tactics still work sometimes….. no matter what some say.

Here’s the SERP for “keyword stuffing” – see if you can spot the odd one out – i’ve made it kind of easy – though this is what I look for when I am not working:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword Stuffing

Did you spot it?

False Positive

False Positive

My first reaction is always….

I wonder why that is?

I usually look at Google cache just to ensure those key words aren’t hidden on the page, though just because Google says it is in ‘links’ to the page, that can often be totally misleading too.

Google Cache

Google Cache

So I look at the website link profile using nothing more than Google itself, and here’s what i find buried away:

Directory Submissions

Directory Submissions!

OOPs! Perhaps that webmaster should keep an eye on his directory submissions lol – I mean he even ranks no1 for ‘Keyword stuffing not allowed’ lol – above Wikipedia – (which also shows you proof a focused anchor text approach beats down even all the powerful relevance of Wikipedia – for all those seo who claim relevance beats links.)

Keyword stuffing not allowed

Keyword stuffing not allowed

Things to think about:

  • You don’t need to use seo tools – in fact, you probably should not pay for any seo tools until you can USE Google properly
  • The directory links have aged
  • They are interestingly not incurring a keyword penalty – which is probably more to do with how Google views a link profile as part of the whole (I might discuss this later)
  • The links beat out relevance of Wikipedia – proof LINKS beat RELEVANCE in this instance
  • All the links *seem* to come from directory submissions that have gone wrong
  • Pick any seo tool on the market today and they will tell you these links are next to worthless – (I might share something else which embarrasses most seo tools on the market today later on this week)
  • What if, the fact that because these directory pages had “Keyword stuffing not allowed” in their titles too, and then linked to the target site, gave an ‘impression’ of relevance for that term? Who knows but it is always worth keeping an open mind.

I thought it was an observation worth sharing. Feel free to have a look and see if you can spot something I missed.


NOTE – I am never comfortable discussing somebody else’s seo strategies in public. This is a site I think I can discuss – cited as an example in

A Home Office spokesman says that the Government is concerned about the practice: “Individuals producing or selling such documents are liable to investigation and prosecution by law enforcement agencies.”

Anyway – the tactic employed used to be advised by Google – ‘submit your site to directories‘, I believe. I wouldn’t recommend your entire linkbuilding activity consist of just directory submissions, but there may just be a place for it as part of a wider link acquisition strategy.

PS – If you have any false positives you want to chat about, get me on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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40 Responses

  1. Sandra says:

    Hi Shaun Thanks for sharing this example. There is so much debate about what works for SEO, I think ‘Do what works’ is still a good rule of thumb to work to. Directory submissions seem to work for me as part of the mix – depending on competition, so I’ll just keep doing it – But it’s good to see an example from a pro.

  2. Albert says:

    Superb analysis Shaun Anderson. Things we can remember we needs links from websites with worthy IP addresses. That is enough for ranking in Google. But machines could not understand the mistakes. That is proved here. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Malcolm coles says:

    Good stuff. I was pleased to see my econsultancy post in your first screenshot. Does that count as a citation?

  4. Neil Walker says:

    Hi Saun; nice article, I personally think that in the past 6-12 Months directory submissions have started to play a bigger part again in SEO, I do like the example given it shows the power of text around the anchor text used for the link.

  5. Gene Munro says:

    You really do have your ear to the ground don’t you? I haven’t submitted any websites to any directories for years now; maybe time to review the strategy. What is the point that will embarass the SEO tool software guys? As always, good blog….

  6. SEO Bedford says:

    I’ve never dropped directory submissions for my clients, every month while link building for them I add a few directory submissions to the blend.

  7. aaron wall says:

    cough from “From my experience (and I’ve tested recently) I’ve never seen a site penalised by MANUAL directory submissions to any directory site nor by building these links over time. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a site really benefit from having a lot of directory links in the last couple of years. Perhaps there’s a massive grey area between these two that means spammy tactics actually would give you a better result, but i don’t know, I’ve not pushed in this direction for years.”

    • Shaun Anderson says:

      Indeed I think that post is a few years old now I think, and I’ve not pushed directory submissions for a long time – I started again about a year ago though when costs (and hassle) got next to nothing. I’ve updated that post. I would still ‘generally’ consider directory submissions a low level tactic – certainly not rely totally on them alone – but they work pretty well in this case.

  8. Jordan says:

    Anyone still seeing this page in the SERPs for that search query?

  9. Deep Ripples Bill says:

    “you probably should not pay for any seo tools until you can USE Google properly” This would have been great advice to get 2 years ago. I agree wholeheartedly. Anyone seen a blog post on this? (ie Google 101 for SEO Rookies)

  10. Jordan says:

    Doh! Eyes wide shut today ;)

  11. Moosa Hemani says:

    Grate Example! but i personally think that directory submission have very low impact on rankings when it comes to some tough industries… but i strongly agree from the part that the links beat out relevance… Thanks for the share!

  12. Adrac Ltd says:

    Hi Shaun, I believe that diversity in link building is very important; rather than just concentrating on one link building channel. I believe that Search Engines will rank websites higher if there is keyword targeted and diverse links. Ehsan.

  13. Kes says:

    I think the key is that they make up the overall mix of links. Any link profile that consists of only a few sources of links is going to appear unnatural. Even if low level directory submissions themselves don’t pass much benefit they can still be worth doing since the increased diversity can benefit.

  14. Pippa says:

    Great example, maybe they were trying to make the topic of P60’s more exciting for themselves? Or maybe you’ve stumbled on someone elses SEO experiment and reported the result before them, how annoying would that be. Sometimes just sticking to the basics pays off, some people just try to over complicate the process and then tell others that they’re right and your wrong. If it works keep doing it, is what I think :)

  15. Robyn says:

    Nice post Shaun. Good to see Hobo updated! I see article and directory submissions still working fairly well in our vertical. It’s frustrating but at least there’s the long-tail – simply submitting your site with the same anchor text to a number of directories isn’t going to help you much there.

  16. Mark says:

    Being a dumb newbie who’s views on the value of certain SEO tools have drawn reaction here before [Big grin].. I’m happy to chirp that I too do directory submission as a matter of routine for my clients. There is so much tosh out there about what does and doesn’t work, and so little actual data, that one HAS to find ways of testing. I bet the only SEO’s who are really worth employing are all SEO’s who do a significant amount of testing and review at regular intervals. I love you blog Shaun because you regularly show us ways of doing this, as well as sharing the choicer bullshit clearing examples. Thanks, Mark P.S. Its ok to mention the ‘pool today ;-)

  17. trade show booths says:

    Shaun, It’s great to see another post from you! I was beginning to think that maybe you had been rolled over by a big rock you were trying to roll up hill. :) I like your posts like this that are based on actual results. It’s very interesting that directory links seem to work (at least in this case). That said, I’d guess they are like using a spoon to empty a swimming pool. Yes, if you have enough people with spoons, maybe it’ll work, but I’d rather have a bucket! I’m also curious, like you, that these ones haven’t been filtered out… maybe the key word is “yet”. Great post. Steve, aka the ninja, aka “trade show booths”

  18. Josh says:

    Interesting article for sure, however the search term you are looking at has only 10,000 results, meaning it is hardly a competitive term, so directories could easily influence it as there is not a lot of competition. It would likely be easy to rank for this term with simple do follow blog comments since the search volume is so low. I think this is far less helpful for most more competitive terms. Very interesting analysis though, thanks for posting it.

    • Shaun Anderson says:

      Josh it’s top ten in Google UK for a totally unrelated term, beating out much more relevant pages, all because of these anchor texts. That’s what I find interesting – and trying to find a false positive in an ultra-competitive niche is going to be VERY difficult.

  19. David says:

    I notice that the your article on keyword stuffing (the first reference above) – contains sentences such as “I wonder if this post can rank for keyword stuffing or if i have overdone it with my keyword stufing….. it was really just a bit of keyword stuffing fun before I turn…” So apparently you didn’t overdo it, despite the phrase appearing 16 or more times in short three paragraphs. What is the lesson there? ;-)

  20. Randy Brickhouse Sr. says:

    Hey Shaun, Now, this is pretty interesting. A couple of days ago I got an email about directory submission software. I had read that these types of submissions were not effective for SEO anymore, so of course I didn’t concentrate on it. After reading your post I’m going to test directory submissions and see how it works out. Thanks and God bless.

  21. Vlad says:

    It’s a nice case study but very particular. The first thing you should take into consideration is the keyword competition. It’s only 10.500 results. Only 2-3 links with that anchor and the page would be on one of the first spots. You can’t say that directory submissions are effective based on a site that ranks for a keyword that has 10500 results. IMHO directory submissions are ok, especially the paid ones, but don’t base your seo strategy on them. They are good for diversification.

  22. Jesse says:

    Directory submissions have always worked. The only thing that changed is that marketing budgets shrank and many novice internet marketers simply submitted away to countless free directories. Since free tends to attract the worst of the worst, and boatloads of submissions, how could free directories be effective if it takes years for a submission to be reviewed? While I would agree that free directories won’t hurt our ranks, it’s the best paid directories that will greatly assist us in our efforts. I use both the free directory list and paid directory list at for my websites. Even though my budget is limited, I slowly spend money on the paid directories when able. The results are pretty good, and I would credit most of my results to submitting to the top directories.

  23. Kathy Long says:

    Not seeing the same results now. Payslips has fallen out of the radar for keyword query on “keyword stuffing,” but is #1 for “keyword stuffing not allowed.” The question remains, is that result because of directory submissions? Or is it possible that the results are not because of “DIRECTORY” submissions per se, but are simply the result of anchor text back links, and that the query on “keyword stuffing not allowed” shoots them to the top only because that is the exact phrase in the anchor text? Or is it a combination of a directory link and exact anchor text? How does this site rank in comparison to its real competition for keywords that matter? Do its competitors have directory listings? Did directory listings work yesterday but not today? There’s never a clear-cut answer until all the variables have been examined.

  24. Marjory says:

    Very cool Shaun. My favorite example of this kind of ‘testing’ came from a discussion I was monitoring in Google’s forum a few years ago where a Pest Control company in New York was ranking on page 2 for ‘web design france’. I had the same reaction as you – ‘why is that?’ and discovered that the web design company that had built the website had put a thumbnail of the website on practically every page of their site with the alt attribute text ‘web design france’. That’s how I became more sure that alt attribute text DOES pass keyword relevance. Of course, that was 2+ years ago and as we all know, it’s all about what have you noticed lately with Google but in any case, thanks for this. I enjoyed it very much.

  25. trade show booths says:

    hey Shaun, I think the people above that are saying this search isn’t very competitive are missing the point… this website shouldn’t rank at all for this phrase! If you click through to the site the words “keyword” and “stuffing” are not on the page, anywhere! It proves that directory links count at least a little… but there are many seo’ers who will say google IGNORES this kind of link or that kind of link… and obviously in this case, that is just plain wrong. PS. I just checked on and they are still #1 for “keyword stuffing not” (I had to add the “not”). Again, great observation on your part and great post! Steve, aka trade show booths

  26. dhiraj says:

    one the best article to support directory submission. Usually SEO expert says that such kind of link building has no relavance now. but this is the best post to counter them; Thanks Dhiraj

  27. Rahman @ Online Mark says:

    @Dhiraj, I think there must be a reason why many don’t believe in directory submission! It’s because some of them don’t bother reply your inquiries, answer your questions or explain why the links they’d provided to the new listings in the directories show nothing related to your site!!! It’s happened to me by a very well-known service provider. However, I think directory submission works like Shaun has explained and if you take time to go to the related directories, specialized ones, etc, chances are you get valuable links from them. Rahman Mehraby Site Booster Blog

  28. Vlad says:

    You didn’t get the point. For that kind of competition any kind of link would put you on the first page. A directory link is like any other link. It passes anchor and PR. I was saying that if you want to make it relevant make a study for a keyword that has at least 500.000 results, where there are people that are actually trying to rank and then you can say that directory submissions still work.

    • Shaun Anderson says:

      Vlad I hear what you are saying – but raw numbers don’t always correlate to level of competition for a keyword phrase. I work in a vertical with about 20 players – but more than ten of them are real online entities with backlinks from nasa and newspapers making the top ten a very hard nut to crack for a new business. The point of this was to show links from even low quality directories still pass value, even when screwed up. perhaps I should have made that clearer? The whole article was a response to a few things I read a few months ago where I saw seo saying they were of no use whatsoever – when I saw this, I thought I would share. i’m just putting it out there for discussion mind you – that’s all. I think i will be doing more of these observational type posts – it’s more useful to everybody to rather than misinformed claims I might make to get links. A question would need to be asked about the moderation ‘responsibility’ of those directories too.

  29. Vlad says:

    the previous answer is a reply to @”trade show booths” post

  30. Ingo Bousa says:

    Very interesting post & views in the comments. Thanks Shaun. I am doing quality [paid/niche] directory submissions since 2005 for clients. It is just something you do and then move on, and then maybe do again and move on again. It’s a small part of linkbuilding. My main problem with this post is that now [as always] a lot of people think that this is the one and only tactic to dominate whatever vertical. It’s not. Most people can’t even tell a quality paid directory from a shitty paid directory. Anyway.. interesting post, because it shows that you might be able to rank a non-optimised page in a non-competitive vertical just by getting high volume low quality DO-FOLLOW links coming in. Most of the directory links are actually do-follow text links. And I think that’s the little lesson/confirmation/hint to take away from here. Nothing else. But seriously.. why would you want to do this: …* (EDITED I am not linking to these) There is zero traffic for ‘Keyword stuffing not allowed’- and targeted valuable traffic from this phrase. It almost looks like a stupid mistake.

  31. Ingo Bousa says:

    I just realised that my comment sounds a bit negative regarding the post itself. It wasn’t meant to sound like this. Maybe I was just imagining 1000s of SEO noobs now buying shitty directory mass submission software and doing nothing else for the rest of their lives ; ) You are doing a great job Shaun and I am always happy to read SEO posts that dig a bit deeper instead of just regurgitating the usual stuff over and over again. Cheers!

  32. Reno Eye Doctor says:

    I’m kinda freaked out by directories right now… I have been commenting on blogs and submitting to directories in order to build our presence on Google- which worked great for a few months- and then, bam! No more google love. We are still listed (somewhere…), but are no longer in the top 7 pages of google (we used to be at the top of page 2). Im not sure what I did to upset google- I have not been spamming, and I thought I was submitting to quality directories, but apparently one of them was not. I tend to blame the directories rather than the blog comments… perhaps this is a wrong assumption? Can you get your name off of whatever “bad” directory google doesnt like to get your ranking back?

    • Shaun Anderson says:

      Hmmmm, perhaps you are just a spammer mate and Google called it right? :D Dofollow commenting is spam mate – i did it (in 2007), I felt bad, I stopped it – it’s spam and a pain in the arse as well for bloggers. Kind of verging on pondscum – like.

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