Optimizing your website for SEO may seem like a difficult task, and each year Google updates their algorithms between 500-600 times.
How can a small website keep up?
The good news for many smaller websites is that the biggest rules of SEO on Google haven’t changed much. According to Google’s Andrey Lippasey, the two most important ranking factors are content and links.
While both content and links can help multiple businesses rank in their niche, they’re especially good for directories. Here’s why…
SEO Rule #1: Links
Links are certainly not the only factor involved in improving your SEO ranking, but high-ranking sites do have link building to thank for their authority.
By using links, search engines are able to analyze the popularity of a site as well as the ones linking to it. If it deems the links “trustworthy”, the site is more popular, and therefore ranks higher in search results.
There are essentially two types of link-building best practices that can help this along: external and internal.
Internal links – like linking one page of your site to another – help the architecture of your site and point Google’s crawlers to important pieces of information on your site that someone might be looking for.
External links, on the other hand, happen when other websites link to your pages. They offer more authority than internal links, especially if the site linking to you is considered trustworthy.
The reason external links improve ranking so much better than internal ones is due to the difficulty of receiving them. They’re like third-party votes: they’re simply harder to manipulate, so if you’ve got them, your rank will improve.
And unlike traffic, they’re easily measurable, so Google’s algorithms can quickly detect the popularity and relevancy of your site based on external links.
What This Means for Directories
So how does this affect your directory? Your site is built on the foundation of links.
Businesses can list on your site for many reasons, including visibility, but your directory also offers them SEO link building to boost their rankings. But this also works both ways. If other businesses or directories feature your site, you have a better chance of standing out on the results page.
But again, the power of SEO link building only works if both your site and the other site (business, directory, etc.) is trustworthy. If you’re featured somewhere else, you want to ask:
- Is this site moderated?
- Is my link just one in a thousand or does it stand out?
- Is my link on a relevant page with relevant keywords?
- Am I featured in the right category?
- Does this page actually get traffic?
All of those things go into determining whether or not a site is trustworthy and whether or not Google counts those links toward an SEO ranking. If your links are deemed unnatural, they might not count.
SEO Rule #2: Content
The second rule for high-ranking SEO is content, and yes, content applies to directories just as much as any other site.
Content is not necessarily limited to blogging or other forms of content marketing. Content simply means “any information that lives on the web and can be consumed.” Any type of content can be used to improve SEO rankings.
The best SEO content tends to be fresh and filled with relevant keywords. Google has something called “Query Deserved Freshness” (QDF) that ranks content based on trending activity. Search results for a certain keyword during popular or important event, for example, will have a higher QDF rating than it would during its normal activity.
Google will apply QDF to various terms to see if fresh content is available and re-rank websites based on what’s happening. That’s why successful SEO content tends to come in the form of blogs or social media posts, which are frequently updated.
But that doesn’t mean you need to have long-form content to improve your QDF. Any piece of content that includes relevant search words embedded within it (though it should be quality content and not just links and keywords) will improve SEO rankings.
Other types of content could include things like infographics, videos, reviews, headlines, categories, lists, ebooks, guides, case studies, podcasts, interviews, research and original data, and even link pages.
What This Means for Directories
Blog posts, articles, and other types of long-form content can certainly drive results, and if you have those on your directory site somewhere it will help you rank. However, directories themselves are actually a form of content that can boost your site’s position.
Directories are essentially taxonomies of links to sites or resources around any given topic, and whatever the topic may be, somebody is probably searching for it.
This works in your favor if you have a niche directory in particular, as competition around your given topics will be lower and you’re more likely to appear near the top of search results for that niche.
But as we stated, other forms of content on your site can contribute to a better ranking if you also optimize that content with relevant keywords as well as trustworthy internal and external links.
Even within your directory, including relevant keywords in your headlines and category titles will help Google’s crawlers find content faster. Keep in mind that as you update your directory’s listings and various related content, your site QDF will increase and your visibility will rise.
While links and content aren’t the only determining factors of where you appear on a search results page, they’re certainly up there in terms of importance.
The good news is that most directories are SEO magnets by default due to the built-in linking and architecture of the sites themselves. Of course, that doesn’t mean you will be automatically ranked for the things your audience is searching for.
To improve your ranking, you will need to focus your link building on sites that are trustworthy, and make sure your site can be trusted as well.
It’s also important that your directory includes keywords that target niche markets, and that those keywords appear in other forms of quality content throughout your site, whether that means headlines, blogs, or anywhere in between.