Directory Submissions – Smart Move or a Penalty Waiting to Happen

One of the most popular components of SEO is the article directory. With the importance of inbound links to a website and their correlation to that page’s rank in SERPs, directory submissions were one of the most frequently used tools in most SEO arsenals. Times have changed, though, and many now question the value of article directories.

The changes began in February 2011 when Google released its Panda update. Panda modified the way that Google’s search engine crawled through different websites. Instead of looking so heavily at just the links, Panda allowed Google’s crawler to intelligently scour the web and distinguish between low-quality and high-quality sites. Websites that are heavy in advertising no longer received the same boost, while other types of sites that are typically viewed as more credible were given a boost.

As it turns out, Panda had something of a trickle-down effect for the rest of the Internet. The lowered importance and relevance given to article directories extended to the links that were submitted. Although Google’s exact search formula remains a mystery in many aspects, the immediate results of Panda and the recently implemented Penguin update seemed to confirm this demotion in rankings.

Thanks to the drop in significance for articles submitted to the directories, many now wonder whether article submissions are a worthwhile part of SEO. After all, there’s a very real chance that the directory submission will have a positive impact. There’s also a strong chance that, if submitted to a directory that Google isn’t fond of, the links to the webmaster’s site will hurt that site’s ranking. This threat of a penalty for directory submissions made a lot of webmaster’s concerned over their SEO strategies.

Fortunately, most of the initial fear over the updates has subsided. It was initially believed that all directories would receive a severe downgrade, but many are still coming along well and work as an effective means of generating inbound links. There are a few ways to make sure that the links are effective. These include submitting only quality content that reads well, but other aspects will also make a large difference.

With the Penguin update being aimed at several practices, including keyword stuffing, one of the best tips for webmasters right now is to avoid filling the bodies of their articles with links back to the site that’s being promoted. The exact figure varies, but two or three links seems to be the main amount before the submission starts to offer diminishing returns. At the same time, a keyword density of less than three percent is considered ideal for keeping content at a high-quality level while also not sacrificing the SEO benefits associated with the article submissions.

There are other things to know about directory submissions – only the tip of the iceberg has really been touched upon at this point – but what’s most important to know is that directory submissions won’t necessarily lead to a penalty. On their own, article directories are still effective. The only difference is that they’re not as effective as before. By avoiding keyword spam and submitting only to directories with a strong reputation, webmasters can still reap the benefits of article directories without any of the threat of receiving a penalty. For the webmaster who’s trying to get their site off the ground, this is a terrific way to continue leveraging article directories for SERP increases.