How long do websites and directories last?

A recent complaint by someone on a directory forum got me to thinking, how long do websites typically last and are directories more likely than average websites to disappear quickly? What sort of ROI can someone expect from directory submissions over the long term? Is it really 0% as one forum member reported?

Website Life Spans

Unfortunately, the only statistical information I could find about the life span of websites was from way back in 1998. The average lifespan for a website at that time was only 44 to 75 days. The article was unclear as to whether this related to uptime or popularity.

The article did clearly state that 44% of websites disappeared from the web within one year. It would seem likely that in 2009 that number is significantly higher.

My Directory Life Span Experiment

I wanted to know how many directories that I submitted to over a year ago still exist and still list my sites?

Seems like my test would be fair for it’s randomness but it would be terribly small in it’s data pool. Using only my own directory submissions makes that pool even smaller but would improve the acceptability factors – my sites are all family-friendly and of fairly high quality, I always try to follow stated submission guidelines and refrain from keyword stuffing my submissions.

Lacking a better idea, I began with those directories with names beginning with the letter A. I might one day go further down the alphabet but for now, A is all I’m doing.

The Dead Directories

Of the 30 directories in my sample, 5 sites no longer exist – 16.7%. That was somewhat surprising. The majority of submissions in the sample were made in 2006 and 2007. Quite a respectable showing considering the 44% death rate from 1998 and my assumption that the rate now is much higher.

The Missing in Action Directories

2 sites did not load for me although Google is still awarding them Page Rank. They most likely they belong in the disappeared group. Including the two MIA directories, we’re still only up to a 23.3% death rate.

The Ugly Directories

The ugly group includes 8 directories who never listed my sites or removed free listings once they changed to a paid or bidding directory model. (There were at least two in the latter group – boo, hiss, shame on you.)

Not wanting to make a possibly unfair accusation, I’ll just lump them together with the disappeared site group. That unfortunately brings our vanished group to 50% of our limited sample.

The Living Directories

If you’ve been keeping track, that means 50% of my sample directories are still online and still displaying links to my sites. Assuming these results are typical, a 50% return rate is great for any link building endeavor over a 3-year period!

To be honest, I was happily surprised that so many directories not only stuck it out but that so many honored their terms of service by keeping the free listings even after they went paid.

Keep in mind, this experiment was to simply determine the longevity of websites, directories in particular, and the likelihood of directory listings lasting for over a year. I did not track Page Rank, search engine presence or any other metrics – just age and link acceptance/retention.

In case anyone’s interested, I’ve included the list of those directories that have remained online for at least 2-3 years and that continue to list my sites. I’ve included a link to their site, the date I submitted, the type of directory, whether they are free or paid and some general comments. All of the directories listed here were free when I made my submissions.

A List Directory – (20-May-06) Free general directory.

Animal Pets and Friends – (20-Apr-07) Free pet directory.

Apexoo Directory – (26-Apr-06) Free general directory.

All Dot Web – (04-Aug-06) Directory was free when I submitted now only free with reciprocal.

alltheweblink – (06-Dec-07) Directory was free when I submitted now only free with reciprocal.

Acies Directory – (09-Jun-06) Directory was free when I submitted now only free with reciprocal.

A1 Directory – (25-Apr-06) Paid general directory.

A1 WebLinks – (28-Jun-06) Paid general directory.

a9 Web Directory – (05-Dec-07) Paid general directory.

All Web Spiders – (20-May-06) Paid general directory.

Alpha Directory – (02-Apr-07) Paid general directory.

Approve My Link Directory – (18-Jun-06) Paid general directory.

Add Your Site Free – (26-Jun-06) General directory. They have implemented a daily limit for free submissions. When I visited it said the quota had been reached but I could submit a premium listing immediately.

My Conclusions

It would seem, that over the long term, directories live as long or longer than average websites. It would seem that a website owner could see up to a 50% return on their submissions – at least on directories dating back to 2006 and 2007 – a time where quality mattered more than it does today.

I do continue to submit my websites to directories and recommend doing so to anyone wishing to promote their websites. There are probably thousands of lists of directories but the only one I can truly recommend is the original one created by Dan – Info Vilesilencer. Dan is leading the charge to improve the quality of directories and his list only contains those directories that meet his high standards. (I the proud owner of two directories included in his list!)

My ROI for directory submissions may continue to be 50% because I am very picky about the directories I submit to. I would suspect people who submit to directories without regard for the quality of the directory will see significantly lower returns.

And of course, all this assumes the sites being submitted are worthy of being accepted by directory owners and that the submission policies are being followed.


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