However, there have been so many different algorithm changes from major search engines in the last few years that many directories can have a devastating affect on your website, rather than it being beneficial.
Internet directories come in many different formats, including those that offer free and paid submissions. Most directories have a varied list of categories and subcategories that cover the most common subjects such as books, electronics and cars, et cetera. Some directories only list local businesses, or specialised subjects.
The idea of a Internet directory is that it allows Webmasters to submit their websites to the appropriate category, complete with a brief description and of course the URL of the website. If accepted, the website is listed in the appropriate category and gains a vital backlink, which in turn usually has a positive effect on your website ranking. A web directory purpose is also to serve those who are searching for a particular website or service on the Internet, though they are rarely used for this, since search engines are far more superior and up-to-date.
The popularity of directories have dramatically declined over the last 4 or 5 years, but new ones emerge every single day with thousands established directories still available on the net, though whether they get updated or not is another matter.
The big question is, of course, should you bother submitting your website to Internet directories in this day and age? The answer to that is both yes and no.
The problem with the vast majority of Internet directories is that the quality is really poor, sometimes even non-existent. Algorithm updates from Google, such as Panda and Penguin pretty much wiped out most of them, but new ones keep on appearing.
It's these low quality Internet directories you should avoid at all costs, because they are more likely to do your site more harm than good. These directories are usually created using automated software and will have the same category structure as other directories with little or no original contents.
Of course, is not easy to run a web directory that has 100% pure original contents because Webmasters are going to submit their site using the same title and descriptions as they did with others, but a quality directory should at the very least encourage Webmaster to submit a unique description and add quality and unique contents themselves.
The vast majority of new or newish directories these days are created by inexperience Webmasters hoping to make a quick buck, either through ads or via a paid submission form. In fact, in the past I've known single individuals who have bought over 100 domains and uploaded essentially the same directory to each web address with the only difference being a slightly different website theme. Let's just say, by the time they paid for the domain names and web hosting I doubt if they made much of a profit, if any.
Quality web directories such as DMOZ have very strict guidelines, and only accept sites that offer a quality and useful experience to web searches. They also require Webmasters to write a brief but correct website description that doesn't involve keyword stuffing. An easy way to spot a low quality web directory is by looking through the listings, and if you see website with spammy titles and descriptions, then you know the directory owner essentially doesn't give a monkeys, and has made his or hers directory for moneymaking purposes only.
If you submit your website to a low quality directory, it means your website could be listed with dozens or even hundreds of low quality sites. You could even end up with your website URL being plastered across multiple pages of the same directory or other directories in their ownership. That won't go down too well with Google and other search engines. And of course, its more than likely that these directories will eventually get penalised if they haven't already, which will also have a negative effect on your website.
Another problem with low quality directories is that because the owner has little or no interest in the quality of the directory, they offer very little if any support via email, which means contacting them and asking them to remove your website can be extremely problematic. From my past experience, most directories simply get abandoned after a certain time by their Webmaster, but can remain active for years, along with a backlink to your website.
Link building is still an important part of search engine optimisation and is essential in most cases in helping your site to rank in major search engines. However, search engines such as Google have been pretty ruthless in penalising Webmasters and their websites who go around building links excessively, especially from poor quality websites such as directories. Despite that, you are still allowed to promote your website, but you must be careful and should only ever submit your websites to quality directories at a natural pace.
If you go to websites such as directorycritic.com and start submitting your website to newly added directories, then you're asking for trouble. Unfortunately, quality directories are extremely hard to come by and those that are still active can be extremely hard to get into, such as DMOZ. The problem with quality directories is that they can receive hundreds if not thousands of submissions a week, meaning the owner or owners simply cannot process them in a reasonable time line. Many quality directories probably also get fed up by the abundance of spammy submissions and end up deleting a large amount of pending submissions, including yours.
There's a good amount of local directories around these days, which allow you to submit your website or business to a local category. These directories are usually maintained to a high quality and rather than becoming a giant unorganised link farm, your website gets listed within a local category, or even on its own individual page which allows searches to find it either via the name or even postcode.
There's no magical big list of quality, active directories that Google and other search engine still favour that I can recommend to you. Finding them is just a case of searching high and low, and thoroughly examining their quality before you submit your site.
Just remember when you do submit your website to quality directories, to read and follow the rules carefully. You should first make sure that your website is as good as it can possibly be, and then submit it to the appropriate category, making sure you write a grammatically correct and spam free description. That way you are much more likely to be accepted, but remember it will take time for your website to be approved or rejected.