Since the dawn of the internet, there have always been four basic types of Search Engines: Free Search Engines, Pay-For-Inclusion Search Engines, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Engines, and Directories. Directories are different from Search Engines in that they do not spider pages. Humans review each submission, visit each site, and decide what gets in. Search engines and directories provide search results for each other. If a search turns up nothing in the directory’s database of sites, it will show the search results from one of the spidered engines. All the directories use one of the major engines. At the beginning of the web era, users would go to directories to find sites relevant to their interests. In fact, Yahoo!, the web’s number one destination, started as a directory. Nowadays, most users rely on search engines, not directories, to find what they’re looking for.
When search engines started to become popular, they relied on web pages’ ‘keyword meta tags’ to determine the topic and relevance of the page (the keyword meta tag is a section within a web page’s HTML code where webmasters can insert words that are relevant to the page’s content). Webmasters discovered that by stuffing their meta tags with popular search terms repeated hundreds of times, they could propel their pages to the top of the search results.
Search engines caught up to the abuse and decided to ignore the meta tags and rely instead on web page copy. Webmasters then started to overstuff their page copy with popular search terms, often writing them in the same color as the web page’s background, so that they could be detected by search engines while being invisible to users.
Again, search engines discovered the trick and decided that the best way to rank a web page’s content and its topical relevance was to rely on inbound links from other pages. The rationale behind this is that it is much more difficult to influence other people to link to you than it is to manipulate your own web page elements. In fact, inbound links are the foundation of Google’s Pagerank algorithm.
Using Search Engines and Directories for Inbound Links
There are several ways to get inbound links. Among these are writing articles that include your bylines with a link to your page. You can also exchange links and list your site in directories.
Listing your sites in good directories is probably the best way to get quality links that are highly valued by the search engines. Since directories rely on human editors who enforce strict criteria to list a site, and since directories organize the information in highly focused categories, they are an invaluable resource for search engines to measure the quality and the relevance of a web page.
In summary, directories are important not because they generate significant traffic (they don’t), but because they are given great importance by the search engines to qualify and rank web pages, and to determine their topical relevance.
You should definitely list your site with quality directories if you want to increase your chances of success with the search engines.