General Submission Guidelines
There are a lot of web directories out there. Some of them don’t much care what they list, how it’s described, or where it’s placed in their directory; as long as you pay them the money, they’ll list whatever you want them to list, however you’d like to list it. The problem with those directories is that it’s not going to do your site any good to be listed there; they are what is known as bad neighborhoods, in search engine parlance.
Most reputable web directories have a set of guidelines that they go by; these are a set of rules that they follow when they are reviewing websites that have been submitted to their directory. These better web directories won’t necessarily list every site that is submitted to them, although the majority of them are fairly liberal in that respect; exceptions to this might be adult, gambling, or potentially illegal sites, which many directories will refuse.
Web directories tend to be less forgiving about such things as site titles, site descriptions, and category placement. Although many will simply fix the problems and accept the submission, especially if you’re paying a lot of money for the review, some of the better quality free or inexpensive directories will simply delete submissions that do not follow their guidelines in respect to category placement, site titles and descriptions. General
These guidelines, or rules, are not necessarily the same from one directory to another. I was one of the early meta editors for the Open Directory Project, back when it was known as NewHoo, and I worked on that project for many years. I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know about editing, yet when I left the ODP and began editing for another directory, which I won’t name, I got some complaints about my editing style. At first I was a bit put off by it, then I realized that this wasn’t the ODP, and the rules were different. To expect otherwise would be a bit like moving from the United States to Saudi Arabia and expecting that the laws and customs would be the same. Actually, most web directory rules are similar, although there are differences; perhaps a little more like moving from the United States to Canada. They don’t necessarily drive on the wrong side of the road, but everything is not the same.
Please, before submitting your site to a web directory, read the guidelines on site submissions before wasting your time submitting a site that isn’t going to be accepted, or composing a description that’s going to be changed. Following their guidelines will go a long way toward making sure that the website you have submitted will be accepted. There are many similarities from one directory to another, so I’d like to cover some of the basics here, and then I’ll conclude with some of my own biases. In this article, I will offer general submission guidelines that may apply to most web directories that you may wish to submit your site to.
Content and Value
Some web directories are more particular about the types of sites they will list. While many will list pretty much any working site that has been submitted to the appropriate category and in a manner that is consistent with their guidelines, others are looking for only those sites whose content will add value to their directory. Is there a reason why people might want to visit your site? Some basics on the subject of content include:
- Wait until your site is ready for prime time before submitting it to a directory. Don’t submit sites that are under construction, but make sure that your site is fully operational before submitting it.
- Some directories won’t accept sites that consist of only one page, so it is preferable to have at least a few pages. Otherwise, read the guidelines, as some will accept one-page sites.
- Go easy on the affiliate links. While affiliate links and Google ads are perfectly acceptable, according to the guidelines of most directories, too much can be too much. The editor reviewing your site will probably be looking for something that has more content than advertisement. This is likely to be true of visitors to your site, as well.
- Your content should be original. This doesn’t mean that you have to do all of your own research, although that’s a plus. Most editors won’t do this, but some editors will cut and paste portions of your content into a search engine or into copyscape.com or another similar service, in order to see if other sites are carrying the same content as yours. Duplicate content doesn’t play well with search engines either, by the way.
- Many directories won’t accept sites that are mirrored on other domains, or which redirect to another domain.
Most, if not all, of the better web directories are picky about sites being listed in the most appropriate category, which nearly always means a subcategory of the directory. Take the time to look around the directory’s categories to be sure that you are submitting your site to the right category.
Some directories will allow you to suggest a category if you are unable to find one that fits your site’s content. If you don’t see a button or link that says something along the lines of “suggest category”, then you probably can’t do that.
Most directories will allow you to only submit your site to one category, but others will list your site in more than one category as long as both locations are appropriate, according to the content of the site. Commonly this will be true when a general web directory has both topical and regional category trees. In such cases, your website may be able to be listed in the topical category that is appropriate to your site, as well as in the regional category that corresponds to your location. When the guidelines don’t forbid it, and the software allows it, give it a try. However, it is probably not a good idea to submit to more than one topical or regional category. There are exceptions, so look around.
Many poor quality web directories will allow you to submit to upper-level domains if you are willing to pay more for the privilege. I would stay away from those directories, but that’s me.
Many directories will accept only the home page, or root, of your domain, while others may accept deeplinks when they offer unique content that isn’t easily accessible from the home page.
The guidelines on deeplinks will vary greatly from one directory to another, and the implementation of these guidelines may differ from editor to editor. Some directories will allow deeplinks only when you pay a higher price; these tend not to be the better directories though, because they are willing to put a price on their taxonomy. Deeplinking can be appropriate, but doing so only for sites whose owners are willing to pay a premium detracts from the usefulness of the directory.
One observation that I have made is that subdomains are more likely to be accepted if they are in the format of a subdomain rather than that of a deeplink. In other words, http://content.mydomain.com is more likely to be acceptable than http://mydomain.com/content/, although the difference is purely aesthetic, in most cases.
When I am talking about deeplinks, above, I am talking about submitting a subpage of your site to a directory category. Directories that allow you to add links to subpages within the details of the listing for your main domain are serving a good purpose, and one that will complement search engine requirements.
Directory guidelines on URL format will vary from one directory to another. Some directories are picky about including the www. as long as the domain will resolve with it. In other words, if your URL works with the www. in it, it is generally best to add it. If the URL will work with or without the www., it’s best to add it. While many directory guidelines are silent on the matter, for the most part, http://www.mysite.com/ is better than http://mysite.com/.
Some directories will want you to add a forward slash at the end of the URL. As long as your URL works that way, it is best to do so. The point here, is that http://www.mysite.com/ is better than http://www.mysite.com. On the other hand, some directories specifically ask that you not add a trailing slash, so read the guidelines. When submitting your URL, don’t add the page name and extension. In other words, the URL should be http://www.mysite.com/ rather than http://www.mysite.com/index.html.
Some directories won’t accept domains that are hosted on free hosting services, so check the guidelines on that one. It’ll cost you more to submit your site to one of the better directories than you’d pay for a domain name and a year of hosting anyhow, so that might be a better use of your money.
Some of the better free directories won’t accept free email accounts, although this policy is no longer common. The reason for this was so that they could more easily track how many listings any one person had in the directory, and to reduce the likelihood of spam. Still, it’s often best to use an email address that corresponds with the domain that you are submitting.
Some directories require an email address that corresponds to the domain being submitted. I find this to be annoying because I own several domains that I have not set up email accounts for, but it is done to encourage submissions from site owners rather than SEO submission services or people unaffiliated with the site being submitted.
Generally, at least with the better directories, the title that you enter into the title box should be the actual title of your website. When the site is a company or organizational site, some directory guidelines will prefer the name of the company or organization, in the event that it differs from the title of the website.
Some directories frown on the use of a domain name for a title, and would prefer to see About than About.com in the title for that particular site. Read the guidelines on that one.
Many directory guidelines insist that the first letter of the title be capitalized, even when this differs from the actual title of the website or company. The implementation of these guidelines may differ from editor to editor, as well. Often, even when the guidelines require capitalization of the first letter of major word in the title, a directory will make allowances when the title begins with the vowels, “i” or “e”. In other words, iMac or eCommerce may be accepted where dBase would not. Your submission is unlikely to be rejected on the basis of this rule, although your submitted title may be changed by the editor who reviews your submission.
Where directory guidelines do not mandate that the title be that of the site, the company, or the organization, the title should be relevant to the content of the site, and it should not be overly promotional. The title should be meaningful, rather than a list of keywords. The directory software is probably set to accept no more than a specified number of characters, which means that, in some cases, the actual title of a site or company may have to be abbreviated. Titles should not be in all UPPER CASE characters. Generally, a title should not include exclamation marks, although many will make an exception for Yahoo!.
Some directories will charge extra for the use of extra keywords in the title. I believe that this detracts significantly from the aesthetics and professionalism of the directory, but may serve a purpose in search engine optimization.
Nearly every web directory will ask for a description. Some directory software will be set to automatically import the description from your meta description. This should be changed whenever it doesn’t comply with the directory guidelines pertaining to site descriptions. It is probably a good idea to change it even when not required by specific directory regulations because there is an advantage to differing text used in relation to listings of your web site.
Avoid copying and pasting text from your website or using the same descriptive text repeatedly. As much as possible, submit uniquely worded descriptive text for each site submission that you make.
For reasons that I have never understood, most web directories severely limit the number of characters that you can use to describe your site. For this reason, most web directories prefer sentence fragments over full sentences. General industry standards are that a description should include only one or two sentence fragments. The first should describe the company or organization, and the second should describe the features of the website. It is usually best to avoid words that can be assumed. In other words, phrases such as, “the site features” are unnecessary since everyone knows that you are describing a website.
Any keywords that are used in a description should actually be descriptive of the content of your website, and they should be smoothly worked into the sentences or sentence fragments that you are using. Do not include lists of keywords in place of a description. Often, when a submitter tries to insert too many keywords into a site description, the result will be that an editor will strip them all out. A good site description will use some of the keywords that are truly descriptive of the website or topic, so don’t cheat yourself out of it by being greedy.
Do not capitalize the first letter of every word in your description. Use capitalization only when proper grammar and sentence structure suggests it. Avoid the use of exclamation marks.
Generally, descriptions should be neutral or objective in tone, and devoid of promotional language. Descriptions should not read like advertising text. Also, it’s best not to end descriptions with phrases such as, “and others,” “and more,” or “etc.”
It is best to avoid mentioning things that are likely to change. In other words, don’t mention how many pages your website has, or give the prices of products that you carry. Usually, it’s best to avoid the use of addresses or telephone numbers in a description either, since you want interested people to visit your website, where that information will presumably be available. Plus, many directories don’t allow such information in a description.
Lastly, many web directories discourage the use of words in a description that are already contained in either the title or the category name, although sometimes it’s difficult to avoid this.
Personal Observations and Bias
Although it differs from the industry standard, my preference is for full sentences, composed correctly; and for long descriptions that are truly descriptive. In my WDR Directory of Directories, I require a minimum of five hundred characters in a long description, with no upper limit, and my preference is for longer descriptions. Most directories set their maximum number of characters at five hundred or less, which is my minimum. Longer descriptions provide content for the directory and are generally more descriptive, which is helpful to users of the directory, and they also serve as spider food, which is good for this directory and all of those that are listed here.
You may notice that I break some of my own rules here, in this directory. This is because I have no staff, volunteer or otherwise; every site listing here has been composed, edited or approved by myself and, because this is a directory of directories, and not a web directory itself, the number of listings will be limited by the nature of its content. For this reason, I believe that I can do things that wouldn’t ordinarily be acceptable in a directory, such as listing prices and policy information. There is a method here for others to notify me if anything about the listing is inaccurate, and I will be spot-checking listed directories from time to time, and modifying descriptions as needed.