Does Directory Submission Software Work? My Experiment.
Over the years I have gotten conflicting messages from various SEO experts on the topic of directory submissions, ranging from “They’ll help you!” to “They’ll hurt you!” to “They won’t make any difference at all!”. The industry doesn’t seem to have a consensus on this topic. I’m not talking about the few directories that are psuedo-blessed by Matt Cutts in his videos (like DMOZ and Yahoo! Directory), but the thousands of cheap or free directories that auto-submission software targets. I’ve been using the birth of the “Coconut Headphones” website to monitor the growth of its link profile fairly closely, and since it’s just a blog site and not a source of revenue for me (i.e. I had nothing to lose), I decided to try out one of these directory submitters myself. There are several out there, but the one I chose was SliQ Submitter Plus. It’s relatively inexpensive, and unlike some other packages, is focused entirely on directory submission (rather than social bookmark submission and so on).
SliQ Submitter Plus has around 2,700 or so directories currently listed in it. It completely automates the process of submitting to a directory, including entering in the information about the website you’re submitting, your contact information, and the category to suggest for the website. The category feature is pretty interesting – the software has you manually select categories for the first several directories, and as it submits to other directories you’ve chosen, if it sees the same hierarchy, it can automatically select the right category. Eventually you build up a set of automatic rules that it applies, in order, to each directory, and submission becomes totally automated (after about 50 or so websites, you shake out most of the categories and it works about 90% of the time).
A *really* neat feature of this software is its support for two captcha-decoding services, Decaptcher and Deathbycaptcha. These are third-party services that will automatically decode captchas ‘s for you. The way they do this is, they first attempt to solve the captcha using optical character recognition and various algorithms that have been developed to automatically analyze these. If they can’t successfully solve it automatically, the captcha is automatically routed off to a human (presumably in China or elsewhere) for manual solving.
You can buy credits on these services and then you’re given an API key you can enter into SliQ Submitter Plus. These services are pretty cheap; Decaptcher is only $4.00 per thousand decoding attempts.
The Submission Process
So, first I worked with a random set of directories to submit in a semi-automated fashion (essentially manually controlling the process), so SliQ Submitter Plus could learn which categories I wanted to make my submission in. After it learned a reasonable number of scenarios, I was able to put the application in full automation mode, and configure it to just skip any directories that had either unfamiliar category hierarchies, or captchas that couldn’t be solved.
It was actually *very fascinating* watching this thing decode captchas, select categories, submit, and move on for directory after directory, totally automatically. Impressive.
I can’t stress highly enough the importance of hand-selecting the directories, there are some which you can easily tell (just by inspection of the domain name) that you probably don’t want a link from – so-called “bad neighborhood” directories.
Between the semi-automated submissions (where I solved the captcha myself or selected a category) and the completely automated submissions I selected for this experiment, there were a total of 360 directories. Most of these directory sites require you to hand-confirm the submission by clicking a link in a confirmation email (of course, they try to sell you further services and so on). Many will either quietly reject you, or perhaps aren’t even legitimate directories accepting submissions anymore – I suspect some of these are just collecting email addresses. This part of the process may appear to be somewhat of a hassle, but opening hundreds of emails and clicking links actually goes pretty quickly. I would definitely recommend using a separate email account as you will later receive a lot of marketing emails from these directories.
After submitting to 360 directories, I ended up with 39 links from 25 separate sites, at least as far as I can tell by querying Google 3-4 weeks after the submission process – it could be that Google simply hasn’t spidered some of the others, but I tend to think that’s about all I will see results-wise. So it looks like it’s reasonable to expect a 10% success rate when doing these submissions.
My blog, which was ranking #3 for the phrase “coconut headphones”, is ranking #1 for that as of this posting. I do not necessarily credit the directory links, there were many other things going on over the past couple of months (my articles have been getting an increasing number of retweets from others, for instance). My sense though is, at a minimum, the directory submissions did not appear to *hurt* the site from a ranking perspective – and probably helped, at least a little. Not a very scientific evaluation, but take it as one data point.
For the time involved and the relatively cheap investment, I have concluded that using directory submission is well worth both the time and cost – just don’t expect it to have huge positive effects on rankings, and use it as only one of ten or twelve different approaches worth incorporating for a healthy link-building effort.