Proper Directory Submissions

    February 20, 2004

Part of the overall process of submitting one’s website to the search engines is getting your site listed in the top directories. Directories are different from standard search engines in that a search engine will query a database of indexed websites before it produces results and a directory is a database of websites that have been arranged by subject. Directories do indeed have search functions but the websites are still listed in specific categories of which one may search by drilling through the various subjects the directory offers.

Therefore, the submission process to a directory differs from that of submitting to regular crawler based search engines. With a regular search engine, one will submit their home page URL and then their crawler will visit that site as well as follow other links it finds from the home page, forming its own title and description of each page. A directory does not work this way. They do not crawl your website and they are not able to decipher the content of the site. Rather one will select the most appropriate category related to the subject matter of the site and then submit, suggesting a title, description and any other information the directory may require. This is why it is very important to submit correctly the first time. Not only will if affect the way the site will appear when people are searching but it is often times difficult to get it changed at a later date.

The format for submitting will work with most directories but we will also look at some specific requirements of directories as well. While there are many directories on the Internet, we will only be exploring the top ones here which are Yahoo!, Looksmart, The Open Directory, Gimpsy,, JoeAnt, Hotrate, Wherewithal/Xoron and Zeal. First let us look at how to properly submit in general and then look at some specific requirement at each directory listed above.

Now before we begin, it will be assumed that you have already optimized your site for good positioning on the crawler-based engines. This will help us in category selection as well as what title and description to use when submitting. If you have not yet optimized your website, you’ll need to do so.

The first step is to select the most appropriate category. For an example, we will use a site that we own and operate called “Arizona Builders’ Zone.” To select a category, you will first need to know which keywords or phrases (combination of keywords) are most important or relevant to your business. For our example site, the most important phrases that we want to target are as follows:

“Arizona builders”
“Arizona construction”
“Arizona contractors”

Sure we can target many others, but these are the most important in regards to this site. Also keep in mind that with a directory you are limited to having one page (usually your home page) included. There are rare cases where a directory will include other pages of your site in different categories but this does not happen often. It is also important to understand that in the search engine optimization (SEO) process, one can really only effectively promote two to three keyword phrases at the most for each page of the website.

To select a category, simply go to the directory you want to submit to and conduct a search using your most important keywords or phrases. You will then see one or more categories displayed along with in some cases actual websites that are listed in those categories. If more than one category is listed, you can explore each one and view the websites that are listed there. If you have competitors listed there, then you most likely want to be listed as well. The bottom line is to submit to the category that is best related to your business.

Once you locate a category, log it somewhere. This is so you can go back at a later date and see if your site was listed or not. With some directories you will receive an email response on whether your site was listed or not providing that you supply a valid email address when submitting. With others, you will have to manually check to see if your site is listed which is why it is a good practice to make a note of which directories you submitted to as well as to which categories.

Now that you have located the proper category, you will look for a link somewhere on the page that will take you to a submission form. Most directories will work this way. Some will have a standard submission form that you then have to supply a path to the category you want to be listed in, but none of the ones we are dealing with in this article work that way.

The three basic things that most directories will ask for is a title, description and maybe a list of keywords. These are the three elements we will cover.

Title –

With crawler-based search engines, it is common practice to include you keywords in your title tag. For example, The Arizona Builders’ Zone has the following title tag:

<title>Arizona Contractors, Construction, Home Improvement and Real Estate Resources – Arizona Builders’ Zone </title>

You can see that we have our three most important phrases represented but we will not submit the same thing to a directory. Instead, only submit the company or website name. In this case it would be “Arizona Builders’ Zone.” With a directory, we are dealing with the human element meaning that an actual human will be reviewing your site, deciding whether or not it will be included in the directory as well as what its title and description will be. Directories only want either the company or website name listed. If you submit the title as “Arizona Contractors, Construction, Home Improvement and Real Estate Resources – Arizona Builders’ Zone” the editor will either change it to the company name or worse delete it because you did not follow the rules. Remember that most of these editors are volunteers and have to deal with many submissions, a lot of which are spam. So make their life as easy as possible by submitting in the proper way.

Description –

A lot of times one will simply copy the meta description tag and submit that to the directory. However this is not the recommended thing to do as some editors will reject it because they want you to come up with an original description; one that is of a unbiased third-person view rather than a sales pitch. They are looking for descriptions that inform one of what the site contains or is about rather than something like, “We are the best!”, or “A leader in…” and so forth and so on.

For our example site, we have already written not only a description that is used in the meta description tag but one for directories as well and have included it in the html of the home page in the form of a comment tag. This provides an easy reference for us when submitting to directories and because it is in the form of a comment tag, crawler-based search engines will not pick it up.

Here is the difference between the two descriptions, the first being the meta description tag and the second being the “directory friendly” description:

“The largest directory of Arizona builders, contractors and home improvement companies plus resources and information on the Arizona construction and real estate industry.”


“A directory of builders, contractors and home improvement companies in Arizona. Offers resources and information on the Arizona construction and real estate industry.”

The differences are subtle but enough to make it original and it does not make any boasts such as “The largest directory…” This is the description that we would submit to a directory whereas the meta description tag is the description that a crawler based search engine will pick up. You can write a description in the same way and then place it in a comment tag in between the and tag in your html. When submitting your site, simply select “View Source” from your browser’s tool bar, and the code is right there.

If you submit your description keeping these principles in mind, it is most likely that the editor will not change it. If you find after your site is listed that the editor re-wrote your description in a way that is not to your liking, then you will have to try to contact them through an email link or resubmit hoping they will see your changes. Odds are though that if you submit a good description in the first place, they will leave it be.

Keywords –

Sometimes a directory will allow you to submit a list of keywords. If they do, simply submit a short list of single keywords separated by a space. Do not submit an exhaustive list of repetitive phrases as they will most likely be rejected. You can list these as a comment tag right under the comment tag for your “directory friendly” description in your code. For our example site, it looks like this:

<!– arizona builder builders construction licensed contractor contractors home improvement real estate licensing –>

As you can see it is short and each word is listed only once. The only directories mentioned in this article that allow you to submit keywords are Hotrate and Wherewithal/Xoron. This is as far as we will cover this subject because it is really not that vital to the success of your directory submissions.

Now for some specific requirements and techniques for each directory listed above.

Yahoo! charges $299 on an annual basis to be listed in their directory. You can still submit to some non-profit categories for free but there is not much chance that a Yahoo! editor will ever get to your submission and review it. Therefore even if the category you want to be listed in has a free submit option, it is recommended that you pay the $299 and you will be listed in 7-10 business days.

Make sure that when you submit that you are not already listed, that no portion of your site is under construction or broken and that your site is browser and user friendly. If it does not meet any of these requirements, Yahoo! may reject it while keeping your $299 submission fee.

Looksmart is a pay per click directory meaning that you have to create an account with a budget to submit your listing and then you will be charged a “per click” charge every time someone clicks on your listing. They charge you a set up fee of $29 for each listing and per click fees start at $0.15. The benefit of being listed in Looksmart is that MSN displays Looksmart Listings in their search results.

If your site is non-profit, you may be able to submit for free to Looksmart owned Zeal whose listings also show up in Looksmart.

The Open Directory
The Open Directory Project (ODP) is comprised of volunteer editors all over the world who are responsible for one or more categories of the directory. Therefore once you submit to a specific category, it is the responsibility of the editor assigned to that category to review and approve or decline your listing. Some editors are more diligent than others so it is hard to determine when your site will get listed if it gets listed at all. It seems as of late that it has become more difficult to get listed in ODP. There is a website where you can check the status of your submission. It can be found at and you would want to submit to the “Site Submission Status” topic. Top level editors are pretty quick to respond to your post.
GoGuides was started from former editors of the GoGuides that was killed after Disney decided to drop out of the portal race. Like ODP, it is comprised of volunteer editors that are responsible for specific categories in the directory. There are two ways to submit to this directory. One is to pay a one-time fee of $39.99 where your site is guaranteed to be listed in two business days or become an editor yourself. You have to take and pass a test proving you have some experience submitting sites to a directory before you are approved as an editor. Once you are an editor, you can add sites to the category for which you applied to; they are added instantly to the directory. If you want to submit a site to a category in which you do not have editing privileges, you can add to your own category and then move it to another category where you will then have to wait for that editor to approve your submission. As your editor level increases, you can apply to edit more categories.

JoeAnt was also started by former GoGuides editors and is comprised of volunteer editors that are responsible for specific categories in the directory. Like, there are two ways to submit to this directory. One is to pay a one time fee of $39.99, the other is to become an editor. There is no test to take to become an editor. You simply apply, choose the category you want to edit and then are approved via email response. You can then add sites to your assigned category. If you want to submit a site to a category in which you do not have editing privileges, JoeAnt has a forum that you can post to, asking other editors to list the site. As your editor level increases, you can apply to edit more categories.

In order to submit to Hotrate, you have to apply to be an editor as well. Once you become an editor you can submit to most levels of the directory. As your level as editor increases, you can then submit to more areas of the directory.

There are two ways to submit to this directory – one is the standard way of finding the correct category, submitting and waiting for approval, and the other is to become an editor yourself. Once you are an editor, you can “grab” any category that does not already have an editor. Once you have this category, you can instantly add sites to it.

Zeal is owned by Looksmart and is comprised of volunteer editors as well as Looksmart’s employee editorial staff. Submission to Zeal is free but you can only submit if you are a non-profit business or website. All commercial categories would require submission through Looksmart’s CPC listing service described above.

By following proper etiquette in directory submission, you will not only insure that your submissions are accepted but that they are listed in a way that will give the site its best chance at exposure and visibility.

David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm providing keyword analysis, organic search engine optimization, link popularity enhancement, pay per click management, search engine friendly web design and ongoing campaign maintenance.