There are numerous trending discussions among SEO folks as to whether directory links still hold much SEO benefits. I suggest taking the back-to-basics approach to look at this biggest SEO myth. For any link building managers, the one best tip to sustainable link building tactics is to build natural looking links. I was doing my Friday breakfast reading and came across this awesome article on Search Engine Watch: Inorganic vs. Organic Backlinking Strategies: Getting Back to Basics. Krista summed up the three basic concepts of any backlinking strategy in a word, RAID:

Relevance: Is this link coming from a relevant source that further supports the relevance of my content?
Authority and Influence: Was the source of this link written by an authoritative, influential person or business?
Diversity: By adding this link to my web presence am I diversifying and adding value to my digital footprint?

The same concepts can be applied to building directory links. Let’s explore the R, A, I and D of directories in the following:

Relevance: Think Local

Citations and local SEO have taken over the headlines of all major industry forums in 2012 and it will remain to be a hot topic to be explored, with co-occurrence gaining significance in organic search rankings. For any SEO clients, a highly relevant local directory link is a must-have for any effective link building strategies.

So how do I research for valuable local directories that are relevant to my niche? My colleague Nick just had an awesome find this morning and shared this Whitespark Local Citation Finder tool that can build a list of prospective local directories in a few clicks. Let’s say, your client runs igloo hire in Brisbane, here is the search query you can run:

And, ta-dah! In less than 30 seconds it returned a list of 74 citation sources. Filter the list by ‘site type’ and you straight away get a list of 12 potential directory links to explore for your igloo hire client!

Authority and Influence: Think Social

To filter the list further in our hunt for the link-worthy directories, you need to consider the A and I. Apart from the standard QA process for any links (Pagerank, Domain Authority and Page Authority etc.), one important aspect to look out for here is their social presence.  Let’s look at the big guys in local search, Yelp and Tripadvisor. Both have put a significant amount of emphasis on social shares and user reviews:

Let’s compare these to another directory below of DA43:

You can see for yourself the huge differences in authority and trust factor with no reviews and no social share options. It’s as simple as A-B-C: if you don’t see it as a credible source, and there’s no indication that your community has found it useful, it’s most likely that Google doesn’t see much value as well!

Design and layout: Think Functional

I think how we SEO folks named Google algorithms changes as Panda and Penguin are awesome – it reminds us that Google isn’t merely a robot, Google does have a brain and a growing level of intelligence! Thid brings us to the last point – the D which stands for design and layout of the directory sites. High quality and legitimate web directories are built for human eyes and not for crawling robots. Incorporating map functionality is a must-have feature for link-worthy local listings, as well as relevant images, and a user-friendly search tool to match searchers to the sites that they’re after.

Again, see for yourself the differences in terms of the ease to search for a relevant site:

We can’t stress enough the importance of natural looking backlink profile to your overall SEO strategy, and to ensure your sites are bullet-proof when it comes around to the next Google animal attacks!

Disclaimer:  this is not a sponsored post by Raid brand.