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Directories are places where users go to find websites, just like they do with search engines. However, there are significant differences between the two. For people who are trying to boost the traffic to their sites, it is vital to understand these differences in order to succeed.

While search engines normally accept almost any site or page that is submitted to them without looking at its quality, directories usually only accept sites that offer quality information. Because all sites submitted to directories are reviewed by humans, sites that are of low quality rarely get accepted.

This leads us to a logical conclusion: Before submitting your site to any directories, make sure that your site is completely ready for it! I strongly recommend that you read the "Web page design" section of this site for more information on how to prepare your site for the submission. Remember that directories list sites, not pages. In normal circumstances, you should only submit the front page of your site to directories.

Which directories can really boost your traffic?

If you did what I suggested above, your site should now be ready to be submitted to different directories. But how does this happen? Well, first you'll of course have to pick the directories you're going to submit to. The most important ones your site should get into are Yahoo, Looksmart and DMOZ, also known as Open Directory. You can, and should, read more about their individual features from their own sections on this site.

What about the other directories? Well, there are a few other interesting ones you might want to submit to, but they are far less important than the "big three" above. Do submit to them if possible, but focus on Yahoo, Looksmart and DMOZ, since they provide way more traffic.

OK, now you know where you should submit to. But how do you actually submit? It is relatively simple. Nearly all directories consist of different categories and subcategories, each consisting of sites related to the name of the category. You'll just need to find the category (or more often, subcategory) that best fits the topic of your site.

This can be done by either browsing through the directory or by doing a search on the keyword that best describes your site - often the directory will return a few categories that are relevant to your site and you'll just need to choose the one that seems to be most accurate. Usually, it is best to submit to the most detailed category that applies to your site; if your site is about programming in C++, you should submit to >Computers>Programming>C++ instead of >Computers>Programming>.

It is wise to spend some time to search the most accurate category for your site, since submissions done to the wrong categories are usually just thrown out. In addition, the category you submit to will be the category you're going to be stuck with for the rest of your site's life, and getting stuck in the wrong category might cost you some heavy traffic.

The submission process
After you've found the right category for your site, it is time to move on to the actual submitting process. This is an even more delicate part than the last one, so keep on your toes. The first thing to do is to carefully read the directory's rules and instructions on how to submit. They are usually displayed when you are beginning the submission process. Read them over a couple of times and follow them to the letter.

Nearly all directories will ask you to give the title of your site and a description of it when you are submitting. Put some thought in creating these, because they can significantly boost or reduce the amount of traffic you'll get from the directory. When writing your description, don't stuff it with words like 'best' or 'cheapest', and don't use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Write a short (15-25 words) description that accurately describes your site, and try to make it sound like an impartial review.

It would be also a good idea to check how the descriptions of the other sites in the same category are written and use them as a model. If possible, make sure that one or two of your best keywords are included in the description, but don't just stuff them there. Your description should sound like it's a natural sentence. If the editor thinks your description is little more than a list of keywords, he'll reject it and write a new one that may not include even a single keyword. Having one or two of your most important keywords in your description often helps your site to be found when a user searches the directory instead of browsing it.

If you later decide that the description you entered the first time isn't good enough, it is possible to contact most directories and try to get your description changed to a better one. Unfortunately, it is usually very difficult and very time-consuming to get directories to change the description of your site at a later date. Thus, it is heavily recommended that you try and get it right the first time.

Your title should be brief, it is not a place to list all your products and services. If possible, the title should include your most important keyword in it and start with a letter that is near the beginning of the alphabet. 'Automobile World' is better than 'World of Automobiles', because many directories list sites in alphabetical order and getting listed near the top can boost your traffic from the directory.

Since the title MUST be the official title of the site and it must be used on your pages, this might require you to change the name of your site. In addition to this, the title must sound like it just happens to start with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet, or it will get edited. The actual title of this site is 'A Promotion Guide', but Yahoo listed me as 'Promotion Guide, A', since the Yahoo editor thought the 'A' was included just to get to the top of the list. The same rules that apply to the description apply to the title - no promotional hype, no all capital letters.

After you have entered all the information, remember to check it for any possible typos or errors in spelling. Be extra careful with your URL, since a typo in it would naturally result in your site never getting reviewed. Then, say a quick prayer (in the case of Yahoo, at least two prayers) and hit the submit button. Good luck!

You'll usually get an E-mail if your site is accepted, but rarely if it is rejected. It is thus sometimes hard to know whether your site has been reviewed and rejected or if it is still unreviewed. If you don't get an E-mail after a few days and your site has not appeared to the directory, don't panic. Wait a few weeks until resubmitting your site; many directories are flooded with submissions and will get annoyed if you don't give them enough time to process the submission.

The top dog - Google
After looking at my referral logs and reading discussion forums frequented by search engine optimization experts, it is clear to me that Google is the primary source of search engine traffic for most sites. This should not surprise anyone, because in addition to the fact that Google provides the secondary results at Yahoo, the engine itself has become the favorite of great many people due to the high quality of its results.

To make things even better, it is in my opinion relatively easy to get well-ranked in Google even under fairly competitive keywords. All these things together constitute a good reason why you should examine Google's ranking algorithm and ensure that your pages meet its requirements.
Submit to Google at

Runner up - FAST
While it's still relatively small when compared with Google, FAST shows promise of becoming a very serious contender. It provides search results for many large portals and sites, for example to Lycos. FAST also runs its own search service, AllTheWeb, which provides fairly accurate results and sports a non-cluttered interface.

Interestingly, FAST's algorithm seems to somewhat resemble that of Google, which explains why some searches turn up similar answers at both engines. However, there are differences, so a page that is in the top ten at Google may not do so well with FAST.

Submit to FAST at

Third place - Inktomi
Inktomi does not run a search engine, but does provide search services and software for other sites. Its largest clients are AOL and MSN, but many smaller search engines and portals use Inktomi's results as well.

Most of Inktomi's customers use it as a secondary results provider. This means that Ink's results are only shown when the primary provider, such as Looksmart in the case of MSN, doesn't come up with anything useful. Thus, Inktomi can provide only a limited amount of visibility to the sites listed in it, especially under keywords that are very popular. Those who are interested in getting traffic through Inktomi should therefore target keyphrases that are less common, but are used in searches every now and then.

Submit to Inktomi at

Note: The above link takes you to Goo via Altavista's Babelfish, which translates the submit page from Japanese to English. The "Submit" button is on the left, the button on the right clears the forms.

My apologies for the clumsiness of this arrangement, but Goo is at the moment probably the best way to submit to Inktomi's database for free.

Fourth - Altavista
During its glory days in 1999 and early 2000, being able to obtain a few top ten positions at Altavista was every webmaster's dream. However, after that the engine has been constantly declining. According to recent Jupiter Media Metrix statistics, Altavista has now lost two thirds of the audience it had in the summer of 2000 when its popularity peaked.

At the moment, I would still advise that you submit all of your pages to Altavista. But while it still is able to send a visitor or two your way, you should only try optimizing your site for Altavista if you're sure that the changes won't cause your position to drop in the other top search engines.

Submit to AV at

Summing it all up
There's no denying it, right now Google is where most of the free search engine traffic is at. Make sure that all of your pages are present in all of the above engines, but concentrate on optimizing for Google.

Some of you might be surprised by the shortness of this list, as it only includes four search engines. It's true that the list is short, but that is because we've seen a lot of free search engines disappear during the recent times.

At the moment, there unfortunately aren't any more free search engines that are worth submitting to in addition to those listed above. However, it's possible that the list may grow longer in the future as new players appear on the scene.

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