Web Directories...are They Relevant to SEO?

With Zeal recently closing (I think Looksmart are dumb to have closed it) some people have recently been questioning the value of directories.

$hoemoney recently had a mini interview of a few SEOs asking if they are still relevant. The general consensus was that if the directory sends traffic then it is a good link to buy.

I think that is a good rule of thumb, but I am also a bit more aggressive. I still buy a few links that I figure won't drive much traffic, largely because I think they still work well in Yahoo! and MSN. Having said that, I think there are certain quality signals or anti-quality signals that it helps to look at.

  • Is it ranking in the SERPs? - If a site ranks well in the search engines it stands a good chance to be trusted by them. Plus even if those links do not count to help boost your ranking they still can drive direct traffic. I frequently see directories like Business.com and JoeAnt ranking in the search results.

  • Do they sell direct links? - Direct links are more likely to be taken as editorial votes of quality. Some redirected links may still count, but many of them will not.
  • How frequently is their site crawled? - You need to check and see if the category pages are being cached in Google, and how frequently they are cached. If their pages are not getting cached or have not been cached for 6 months then the odds are pretty low of that link carrying much weight.
  • What is the quality ratio? - Does it list anyone who pays? Or do they hold sites to some quality standards? Do they categorize sites properly? Or do they sell links to anyone in any category, even if it is the wrong one? Does each page have unique content? Are most pages empty - adding nothing but clutter to search indexes? If they do not help engines categorize the web (ie: no editorial value) then eventually the engines are not going to trust their votes.
  • What is the ad ratio? - Are all the listings paid? Or will they list some useful sites without payment? Does the site look like it aims to serve end users? Or does it look like it exists just to get AdSense ads or affiliate ads indexed?
  • Do they sell outbound sitewide links? - Prettymuch the equivalent of selling out - when a directory puts sitewide outbound links on their site (especially if those links are to junky sites) the odds are pretty good that the links are not going to count much.
  • Is it decrepit? - Directories which have 50% of their links broken or pointing at URLs that have been purchased by spammers or domainers are not going to pack as much punch as sites which have few broken links. I recently bought a 25 page directory that has not been updated in a couple years, and it had about 400 broken links in it. Not good!
  • Does it have unique content? - Is it a DMOZ clone? Are its listings manually compiled and unique from what is offered at other directories?
  • Is it relevant to my site? - Many small niche directories can drive decent value due to offering decent co-citation data and having exceptionally relevant traffic streams.

Bob Mutch recently rated 40 top directories based on their age, how many edu and gov links they have and whether or not they are listed in DMOZ and Yahoo!. I would contest that WhatUSeek isn't a real directory, ISEDB is a directory of search engines and directories, and that Vlib.org should be counted as a directory, but other than those minor points this is a pretty cool study.

1 www.dmoz.org 128,000 761 1999
2 dir.yahoo.com 111,000 2,060 1995
3 www.business.com 2,420 73 1998
4 www.joeant.com 106 1 2000
5 www.botw.org 50 1 1996
6 www.gimpsy.com 23 0 2001
7 www.goguides.org 22 0 2001

I think the inbound link profile is a good starting point for rating (when you add it to the other criteria I mentioned above), but what I think is even more interesting is how quickly they fall off in the quantity of quality links. After DMOZ solved the general directory problem and Google solved the search problem no general directories were able to get many citations. That sorta shows the importance of market timing.

While there are many quality links that are not from a .gov or .edu TLDs, I think those are a good proxy for overall link quality. Notice how quickly the .edu count falls off. That is why the top directories may be worth $300 for a listing...they are trusted quality links.

The quick fall off in legitimate citations is why some types of link spam are easier to detect than many people think. When they manually build links many of the links they accumulate are outlier low power links, often ones sharing similar link profiles with each other.

What General Directories Provide Great Value?

I liked the ones I left linked above. There are a few others that are decent as well, but the broader I make the list the more likely I am to eventually promote sites that are doing lots of spammy things, like whoring out their sites to AdSense or sitewide casino links.

I see a couple of the unlinked directories listed above ranking in the SERPs for a broad range of queries, but some of them may not exercise much editorial control, and will eventually lose some of their authority.

For the sake of MSN and Yahoo! I still do submit to a number more directories than just what is listed above. The number depends on the field, but if the business is going to be a web savvy business that can afford to create strong brands and/or useful content then they will also have many links from outside the directory sphere.

Topically Relevant Directories:

It is hard for me to list quality topical directory examples because:

  • if you do not know a topic then it is hard to judge quality

  • directories change over time.

For example, I used to always use a certain directory as an example of a quality directory, but now that there are off topic airline ads on the home page and too much AdSense ads I don't put as much stock in it.

Think Local:

Some local directories are way under priced and of high quality. Quality local directories tend to drive significant hyper targeted traffic.

A few other things to consider when registering with directories:

  • I use Roboform to submit my sites, but mix up my link anchor text and descriptions (especially since some search engines have certainly looked at word relations outside of on-the-page content and anchor text).

  • If your market is competitive and your site is new you will also need to get other types of links if you want to rank in Google
  • mix your anchor text
  • if brand name is keyword rich make sure you also try to get a few variations in your listing titles outside of your brand name such that if you push the brand hard and cause significant natural linkage it won't cause your link profile to look wonky due to too much similar link text.
  • If your brand is not generic it may only take a couple links for you to rank at or near the top of the search results for it.
  • A Yahoo! listing or DMOZ listing may be worth 20 or more links from lower quality directories.
  • Each good link you get allows you to get many junky links without it really hurting you (say ~50 or so - depending on industry)

How Different Search Engines Count Directory Links:

Yahoo! and MSN still tend to count directory links (including low quality directory links) far more than Google does.

For a new one page flash site I got about 50 directory links in a couple days a while ago. It competes for a basket of low traffic $3 per click terms that can cost about $600 a month ranking at about #2 on the PPC ads.

In Google 2 weeks after I started link building the site ranked in the top 10 across a wide array of terms from this basket of keywords. After about 2 months without additional link building the site's rankings in Google dropped off. After that they have started to slowly improve.

Yahoo! took a bit longer than Google to react, but once it did and I went to #1 I stayed there almost every day for the last 5 months.

MSN reacted about as quickly as Google, perhaps even a few days quicker. Outside of a few fluctuations it has ranked fairly consistantly at #1.

The client ranks #1 for their brand name and related terms in all major engines. They probably would rank a bit better in Google if I got those links over time and showed consistant growth, but considering how cheap I sold those services for I am still certain they have an exceptionally strong ROI, and I am certain their ranking will rise over time if we put more effort and resources into SEO.

Why do People think Directories are Becoming Irrelevant?

  • As a business model directories do not work well unless you are hyper focused or have significant authority to leverage. (Unless you are selling PageRank to naive webmasters who have yet to learn much about SEO or get burned by shady directories.)

  • As more people write and compile information the quality of information needs to be better to be link worthy.
  • Most directories (especially most paid directories) do not add much context as to why a particular site is important, useful or worthwhile.
  • People do not give out links as freely as they once did. It is hard for a directory site to be viewed as link worthy as they were in the past, thus they do not get as much authority to pass on.
  • Active channels, such as topical weblogs, tend to drive far more traffic than most fairly static directory sites.
  • Google's algorithms are improving. They are getting better at scrubbing link quality and filtering out duplicate or near duplicate content.
  • Most general directories are useless spam.
  • Couple improving search algorithms with social bookmarking sites and they make the job of professional catalogs and archivists less relevant, except perhaps for ultra niche categories that are not well cited.

Why is the Business Case for Directories Falling Apart?

  • Many of the reasons listed above (market hypersaturation, lessening authority, other content types - like blogs and wikis - are fighting for the same audience, improving search quality, bottoms up social systems).

  • Directories create inefficiently priced marketplaces.
  • Most directories drive so little traffic and value that it is hard for them to make their marketplaces more efficient.

There is Still Some Value in Directory Links:

In conclusion, I still like a number of directories, but sometimes it helps to drill down to look at relevancy more than just buying any old link. I also think that even if some of the mid to low quality directories do not offer lots of value in Google they still help with the other engines. Another added bonus of building links from directories and other sources is that they can inflate your link count to help discourage competition and/or pollute your link profile to make it hard for competitors to see what all links are helping your rank where you do.

Published: April 2, 2006 by Aaron Wall in directories seo tips


April 21, 2007 - 8:26am

I think directories have been so polluted that unless one considers the value of the associated outbound links that most people heavily buying hyped directory listings will be buying the wrong links.

I still think JoeAnt is one of the better ones though.

May 18, 2006 - 1:28pm

I and finding the issue in that as the directories get bigger and listings get deeper, Google crawls seem to be more shallow....as they have become a little more cynical about 'low content' sites.

Recent tests have showed approx 40% of listings in 25 'good' paid directories no longer get cached.

This is a bit of a concern and is making paid directory listings less appealling for me than 2 years ago.

April 21, 2006 - 4:52am

Aaron, I'm confused about your point of view on directory submissions. You mention that submitting to the high quality directories (free and paid) is definitely a good idea. But then you also mention that submitting to lower quality directories is ok, if you're targeting MSN & Yahoo as well. And then I remembering seeing somewhere that you feel the "negative trustrank" coming from the 2nd/3rd tier low-quality directory backlinks would do more harm than good, in Google?

My question is, if time & budget were not an issue, would you submit to as many directories as possible, including 2nd/3rd tier and lower-quality directories? I assume that even if you see a small incremental benefit from the backlinks on MSN and Yahoo, it would make sense to do all those submissions. I really feel that "negative trustrank" in Google, if it even exists, does not significantly affect a site's rank/trustworthiness. If it made a big enough impact, too many people would use this against their competitors, no? Your experience would provide a much better answer than my speculation.


January 11, 2007 - 8:19pm

Good Post. I always like what you have to say. My suggestion is to link this post on your work.com guide (which I also found helpful). In the guide I thought you could have expanded more on the directory part of SEO and a link to this post would help clarify.

April 3, 2006 - 8:04am

Thanks for the post, Aaron. I have been researching this topic for a few weeks, and was looking for some more up to date info (even though I have your book). I appreciate the depth of information that you put into your articles. They are comprehensive and well thought out.

April 3, 2006 - 9:23am

Aaron, can you expand on your comment about how each good link you get allows you to get many junky links without it really hurting you ? Are you saying that if I get links from these 20 quality directories then I can get 1,000 poor quality directory or 3rd party links without any penalty?

Well you have to think outside of just directories for your link profile, but generally, most outlier links of low quality are votes which have a low row PageRank value. Legit citations tend to have fewer links on each page and be on higher PageRank pages (at least on average).

Thus each legit vote typically represents a much larger percent of your link popularity than each spammy vote does.

I don't think it is worth it to try to figure out the exact ratio of what you can get away with (because the math constantly changes and their are better ideas to spend your time on), but just that it is worth noting that the more legitimate stuff you do the more illegitimate stuff your site can be involved with without getting hurt.

Also remember that there are tons of scraper sites and other bottom dwelling sites that give most good sites some low quality ultra spammy links weather they want them or not.

If you want to read more on the link quality signals check out the link spam detection based on mass approximation research I mentioned earlier.

Blogs do definitely add a lot more value to the equation, but the challenge again is finding the relevant quality blogs that will accept relevant advertising.

Why is that the challenge? Most industries are not marketed aggressively by people who create original interesting and viral ideas. The point being, that if your stuff is of high enough quality and has the right triggers in it you should be able to be featured in the content area without needing to spend too heavily on advertising.

I think, at least for now, you have the equation backwards if you only think of blogs as conduits for marketing messages.

You must receive a ton of traffic Aaron & I am amazed you don't have advertising on your site. You provide an immense amount of relevant, and VALUABLE SEO information. What's your reason for not posting ads?

As a business model most quality SEO services do not scale. Those who really want to provide consumer level services have more referrals than they know what to do with.

Most of the ads in the SEO industry are for scam crap that people do not need. Why diminish my own credibility by plastering them all over my site?

All content, is in some way an advertisement. For example, good comments help add value to content and help the original author learn.

Plus I already sell my ebook on this site. When Threadwatch had AdSense ads front and center (to the point of being somewhat spammy about them) this site was still making way more than that one.

The viability of a business model or publishing model not only is reliant on the quantity of ads but the quality and relevancy of ads.

Giving people other options for other products would likely only hurt my conversion rate and credibility.

I have been researching this topic for a few weeks, and was looking for some more up to date info (even though I have your book). I appreciate the depth of information that you put into your articles. They are comprehensive and well thought out.

Thanks for the comment and for buying my book Jason.

As far as the depth of information goes, I tried going decently deep in my ebook, but I really hate the idea of making it much thicker, so when I make a blog post on a specific topic sometimes that ends up coming out a bit thicker than parts of what are in the book.

Some people have told me that I only blog to hock my ebook, but my point of writing is that I guess I sorta like knowing people read. If the posts provide enough info that people do not need to buy my ebook I don't really care.

I just hope to deliver value with most all the things I do. So long as my mixed bag of websites, content, ideas and partnerships provide me with enough to continue to learn and grow that is all that matters.

August 21, 2007 - 9:06pm

Just wondering if based on all the above, is the way to find proper dir to link from by going to the page you want to be on and looking what page rank THAT page has?
Is this a good indication of value?

btw if you ever have time I think people would really like it if you could make a list in order of importance what a new small business owner with a limited budget should do to get out there

Thanks alot
I dont know of to many places where pros will give info for free!!

November 22, 2006 - 6:39am

Thanks a lot for the article, it reaffirmed a lot of what I have been discovering recently.

I launched my web design site about 2 weeks ago and have started to submit to a long list of directories that I came across on a forum a few months back. Each one I visit I have to really think hard about if it will give Google et all the wrong impression about my site.

95% of all the directories on the list were either irrelevant to my industry or looked like it had the possibility of generating a red cross for bad behaviour.

It's a shame that dmoz is down and that it costs $300 to submit a commercial site to yahoo directory.

One thing that gave me about 10 links in one go was someone I talked to on freenode bookmarked me with del.icio.us. I have since found a list of social bookmarking sites so I can get a few more.

Your article has given me a few more ideas that I had not thought of before.

Thanks a lot.

April 3, 2006 - 9:14pm

Aaron, I've never seen you mention it before (and it's slightly off topic) but from what I've seen another source of quality links is from public libraries. Many public libraries have lists of links on topics, and from what I've seen, the resources listed are normally of the highest quality.

April 3, 2006 - 9:27pm

Hi Mike
Libraries rock, but they are harder links to get than most others. Great if you can get them though!

August 8, 2007 - 2:55pm

I think web directories are becoming even more important. With the crackdown on paid links by google, their acceptance of web directories is allowing quality directories to cash in on thousands of submissions by SEO companies promoting their customers' sites. Web directories give quality backlinks, from related pages with unique content. All webmasters should be building links for their sites, and web directories are a solid acceptable way to do so.

April 23, 2006 - 12:03am

Hi Paul
Everything is ratio related. If you don't go out of your way to attract some good links then too many bad links starts to matter.

Also your time and focus have value. If you spend too much time looking for the algorithmic holes then you cross the point of diminishing returns on that front, and it may prevent you from seeing other smart marketing opportunites.

Anthony Parsons
April 4, 2006 - 1:15pm

Aaron, that has to be one of the best posts I have seen for a while now. I will be referencing it all over the web within the directory industry... bloody good post mate, no bias, open minded and to the point where it counts.

I especially loved the specific content about the testing you have done personally, to provide yourself the knowledge of what works, and what does not. Its rare to see people doing this, as most just believe the consensus and run with it.

Thanks for the brilliant insight... especially as directories are near and dear to my own heart.

April 4, 2006 - 6:17pm

Excellent write up. I have been waiting for a new directory article in your blog and this has more than made up for the wait! Thanks.

April 4, 2006 - 7:19pm

Aaron, great article. I've seen Bob's list and I believe it's a good measurement for good web directories.

I totally agree with you in your article about side-wide links, adsense and more points of your post.

At the moment I've created a new style web directory by adding unique content to the category pages, let me know what you think. It's live at www.dirspace.com, I believe working hard and investing time into the directory and then web directories will relevant to SEO.

April 4, 2006 - 8:24pm

I think a $6 submission fee and many empty categories are both negative signs for the directory quality level.

April 5, 2006 - 1:36am

I'm not affiliated with dirspace, but I'm curious why you think the submission fee is a negative sign. Is it because the amount of work that is needed to go into a quality directory is going to cost more than the $6.

On another note, I notice you've raised your consultation fee to $500. Eeek, but probably worth every penny.

April 5, 2006 - 1:52am

>more than the $6.

Yup. Good directories can do the work of adding many sites free from profits on paid listings.

If your paid listing price is cheap you are going to limit the ability of your site to grow and grow useful.

August 23, 2006 - 6:46am

Long, but nice read. I am intrigued by how you only needed to submit to 50 directories to get your terms to number 1 in the search engines. Were the directories you submitted to paid? Or were they some general free directories?

April 5, 2006 - 9:37am

Aaron, thank you for your professional opinion, at the moment I've invested a lot of money in unique articles for every category at the directory. At the moment a 1/4 is completed.

Hopefully quickly everything will be ready and all categories will have unique content, I´m also working very hard to get all the categories filled with listings so the directory will add something to the directory world.

For commercial website I've set the paid fee at $6,- and for non-profit or educational websites the submission listings are free.

The directory project for me is work in progress.

April 5, 2006 - 11:07am

from webproworld dot com i came to know about [spam directory which left a spam comment above] , it has an interesting concept of community voting in or out listings on the directory

posters on webproworld dot com even thought that this directory is a threat to dmoz dot com !!

i think that in future community voting in sites in a directory will do much better than an editor whimsically deciding whether a site should be listed or not , any opinions ?

April 5, 2006 - 11:15am

Your sig now links to spam.com vivek.

FYI, along with using sleazy comment spamming for marketing being a bad idea, here are a few more tips on how not to run a directory.

April 3, 2006 - 3:06am

We are doing a new experiment in directories. The listings in [url removed] are voted in by users. They are dynamic since the listings can also be voted out.

April 3, 2006 - 3:09am

Your comment wasn't even relevant to the post lakhya. I removed your URL and linked your sig to spam.com.

August 24, 2007 - 2:02pm

Hi Aaron,

although a year after its posting I still find it very useful. I have a question however: when I checked out LII, I noticed very little of their pages were indexed in Google, Yahoo. Is this because of their long, complex dynamic pages ? Then.. is it worth the effort just for non Google/Yahoo purposes or have these listing "sneaked" in the Google/Yahoo results anyway ?

Thanks.. perhaps it's time for a new directory update ?

David Wilson
April 3, 2006 - 5:26am

Aaron, can you expand on your comment about how each good link you get allows you to get many junky links without it really hurting you ? Are you saying that if I get links from these 20 quality directories then I can get 1,000 poor quality directory or 3rd party links without any penalty?

April 5, 2006 - 8:25pm

Aaron, you're probably aware that this interview with Greg of BOTW just came out:


It complements your post nicely. A lot of food for thought for directory owners!

April 20, 2007 - 8:48am

Hi Arron--

Being a directory owner myself, I enjoyed to an extent, reading your evaluation of the directory business and their significance/ contribution to search engine ranking.

I also disagreed with some of your views. Yes quality directory links still contribute a lot in SERPs - but I can't agree with Bob Mutch's list. There have been so many quality directories that have come up and one of them Alive Directory is already in the organic list of Google.

One must move with time and not just ponder over history.
I truly believe Quality directory links still count for SERPs on search engines. I am more convinced after my trial study with one of my BLOG which has no relation with Directories but I listed it with many directories and it is ranking in top 10 on Google now for over 40 Keyword/Keyphrases.

Recently Matt Cutts has sought feedback or report from webmasters for paid links. Do you think this will effect Googd old Paid Directories like JoeAnt?

August 24, 2007 - 8:39pm

LII is good stuff. They have a traffic stream even outside of search engines, and being listed there is well worth the effort if you have the type of site they would list.

April 3, 2006 - 7:09am

Blogs do definitely add a lot more value to the equation, but the challenge again is finding the relevant quality blogs that will accept relevant advertising. We've started building our own blogs but would gladly sponsor other relevant blogs with enough traffic and on topic content.

You must receive a ton of traffic Aaron & I am amazed you don't have advertising on your site. You provide an immense amount of relevant, and VALUABLE SEO information. What's your reason for not posting ads?

April 13, 2006 - 9:23am

>>>I would contest that WhatUSeek isn't a real directory

What is unreal about this page

April 13, 2006 - 9:30am

It has no PageRank AND is prettymuch a DMOZ clone.

April 13, 2006 - 9:36am

>>>ISEDB is a directory of search engines and directories

They take any sites that offers services related to the search engine industry. I move it to my Speciality section.

What is ISEDB (Internet Search Engines Database)?
The directory is designed to list directories, search engines and search engine resources. We only list directories and search engines and sites that offer services related to the search engine industry.

A Reader
April 13, 2006 - 9:41am

>>>It has no PageRank AND is prettymuch a DMOZ clone.

Guess I better start looking at the PR bar again : )


Only 3 pages in the index to.

What a shame.

April 13, 2006 - 9:44am

If you are already snagging PageRank and the other data it wouldn't hurt to grab the # of pages indexed as well.

April 13, 2006 - 10:18am

>>>If you are already snagging PageRank and the other data it wouldn't hurt to grab the # of pages indexed as well.

Ya I think that is a good idea. That will tells where there is a problem with the site.

I missed the last one because I am not really looking at PR much any more and I didn't view the site: for the dir. subdomain.

Now I just have to find the room on the page.

April 13, 2006 - 10:26am

Also you may want to check cache date of the home page and a random sample of cache dates for 20 of the interior pages. If it does not get crawled frequently it is not trusted much.

This is sorta a workaround for giving a lower score for supplemental results (or an equivalent idea anyhow).

April 13, 2006 - 10:32am

All very good points Aaron. Thanks ;)

May 10, 2009 - 1:51am


You have a great SEO site, what I would suggest is if you could create a FREE Directory listing (recommended and used by you) and the PAID ones.

I looked over your 20 Directories listed in this article but unfortunately 80% of them are paid.

If anyone in this forum have a list of recommended FREE directory listing I would appreciate it.

Thanks and Keep up the good work.


September 13, 2007 - 11:54pm

Hi Aaron,
I bought and read your book, I fell in love with SEO, my wife is jealous and finally decided to ask a question. Does PR of a directory subcategory matter? Let's say homepage PR is 8 but subcategory PR is 0? Is it still worthy to add a link to the subcategory supposing it is on topic of the link?

Lee Johnson
October 1, 2007 - 10:43am

Well Aaron you have done it again. Great article. I work as the SEO manager for the Customerstreet.com group and I am looking to find as much information as I can to get a better knowledge of what the search engines think of directories as a whole. We have 3 main UK directories: ufindus.com , smilelocal.com and moreuk.com. I have been brought in to help achieve more searches per directory, currently we get over 45.000 searches a day. I am interested to find out from you Aaron, if you think its a good idea to start submitting our directories to other directories. We are looking to increase our market share in the UK and increasing the PR (pagerank) on the new directories which we have launched. Many of our trade specific directories are very new so we understand the need to get inbound links to them. Does your SEO Book contain ideas on how to make a quality directory ? Again keep up the great work. p.s The trade specific directories do have adsense, would the pages hold more weight with Google if we were to take adsense off? Any ideas would be most welcome.

October 1, 2007 - 10:57am

Hi Lee
Some directories are worth submitting to while others are not. The above post should help you filter the good from the bad plus keep yours on the good lists and be worth listing sites on.

As far as AdSense or no, I think it is best not to carry ads off the start and ensure each category does list leading sites.

You also want to get many in industry specific links to prop up your vertical directory. The more it looks like a trusted industry resource and less like a general directory that exists just as a link source for anyone with money the better you are, IMHO.

October 7, 2007 - 1:21am

Great article! great seo sources !
thanks for your posted!

October 26, 2007 - 11:21pm

How important is the cached page dates, and what should we look out for? 1-2 weeks max? if its not cached before that is it worth the submission?

October 26, 2007 - 11:50pm

Well you have to look at the regular crawl cycle. In most cases the entire web is deeply crawled by Googlebot at least once every thirty to 45 days.

You should be looking for cache dates in that window. And in categories linked to from the homepage, recent submissions pages, and other important and/or frequently changing pages, ... they should likely have been cached even more frequently, like in the last week or two.

Keep in mind that if Google ever changes their infrastructure there may be periods where crawling is less frequent during the upgrade, and the definition of normal crawling cycle will change over time.

February 1, 2008 - 1:02pm

I have come to the conclusion that directories really aren't relevant at all anymore with respect to Google. Google, recently, has even downgraded the subdirectories of the best of them.

I believe that this has had the effect of hurting the Google search engine. With social media ranking higher and higher the results on Google have been becoming more opinion than fact. Well, I suppose that is largely my opinion as well. However, I have been resorting to Yahoo more and more lately.

When I began to analyse my own behavior, I realized that it had to do with the fact that Google was not giving me sites with the facts when I was searching for facts. They were giving me blogs and opinions about periferal topics. Which is okay...when you want an opinion. I believe that this is because the directories actually weed out opinion sites and emphasize factual sites - not necessarily efficiently, but better than the mass of social media which is concerned about what so and so had to say about such and such and not the factoid that is at the core of the discussion.

February 1, 2008 - 1:25pm

the results on Google have been becoming more opinion than fact.

I think what you are seeing is a reflection of social networks. Facts are rarely citation worthy. Opinions often are. Thus those who are opinionated keep building links quickly.

When choice is nearly infinite fact isn't an exciting choice.

July 3, 2008 - 3:42pm

Well after reading all of this, my take is that if you are on a budget, you are better off getting links from blogs. The directories seem to be a bit iffy. They do all charge by the year don't they?

I have found that what seo includes seems to vary from person to person. There are way too many opinions out there and way too many rip offs.

It seems that the article is saying that the value of a directory listing could change in a month or so. So is there really any point. Sorry, I don't understand about the "junk" links.

July 3, 2008 - 4:03pm

Not all the directories charge per year...a few of the decent ones like JoeAnt and BOTW do offer one time fee links. But I also agree that blogs are great affordable link sources.

Craig D
August 17, 2008 - 6:03am

Hello Sir,
I am a small business owner that offers services offline. I am learning about SEO and really love it. I have 2 questions.
1. What should a small business do with their website to improve their SEO and SERPs. The content is mostly about their services they offer to their local clientel. What are the first steps for this type of website owner?

2. A question that was asked earlier: Do you give any value to a directory backlink, that has a home page rank 8, with the link page rank of 0 or 1?

Thank you for your time!

Louis Purses
October 4, 2008 - 4:13am

All of this directory talk is making me want to expand on my backlinks and backlink strategy. If I submitted to just one directory, say Yahoo for $300, how much value could this add to my site? Do you really think it would be worth it for my site: louispurses.com? Look forward to hearing your responses.

January 11, 2009 - 4:24pm

I was wondering about SEO and the order of sites in directories. I see that all/most directories are ordered by category and then alphabetical order and/or some sort of rating. Is there any way that SEO can affect the position of the site within the directory?
If a directory uses a Google search bar or any other search bar, does that mean that a better optimized site will come up higher within the directory search?

February 6, 2009 - 10:26am

Thanks for the info, I noticed sbd.bcentral.com is currently redirecting to http://www.officelive.com/ - did Microsoft close this down? You might want to update the post.

February 6, 2009 - 1:03pm

Yes Microsoft killed their small business directory. This post is about 3 years old, and I don't typically update all of our older posts because that would become a significant portion of a full time job. :)

May 14, 2009 - 9:16pm

Hi Aaron,

I realize this is an old article and that maybe you are really tired of answering comments about it... (Well, don't write such great material then ;-)

I've been hesitating for a long time whether to pay to get into the Yahoo directory or not for a parenting site that I own. It has OK traffic (some 3-4000 visitors per day), but with a lot higher ambitions. What is your view on Yahoo these days? Worth paying for for a 2-3 year old site?

May 15, 2009 - 3:47pm

Hi Bitta
Generally I think it is worth doing for most websites, but if you want to put your site up for review in our forums and ask your question there I can give you a more specific answer catered toward your specific site and situation.

October 24, 2010 - 6:57pm

I want to suggest my directory:

it is free and no backlink is required!


March 10, 2011 - 12:38pm

I just started a directory in December 2010, thinking I would be one of the people to contribute good stuff to the internet, instead of all of these crappy directories I see. But I'm finding it's way more work than I thought it would be (and I did think it would be a decent amount of work) and then I read articles like this and feel like maybe directories aren't even worth it anymore. However, I'm going to stick with it and hope that over time my directory increases PR and can offer site owners some good link juice while still giving site visitors high-quality sites to browse through.

For the foreseeable future, I'll be offering free links (along with paid for those interested) so as long as anyone reading this has a good site they'd like to submit, feel free to do so! I can't promise much (if any) link juice but I can promise it's free, I won't make you link back, and I'll never take your link down unless your site degrades in quality or turns into something else (no bait-and-switch pill sites please!). bsfreedirectory.com

Ghulam Mustafa
April 4, 2012 - 10:53am

I like the list of top directories you provided. Thanks for sharing with us.

September 26, 2013 - 6:00am

About "web directories" and "best web directory".

Most of the web directories out there are pure spam directories. Matt Cutts himself talked about paid web directories in a video. I suppose you all know what his point was. He didn’t say that Google hates web directories; he just suggested that the current model of many directories (like I get an old domain with PR, turn it into a directory and sell links…) is just wrong. But he did appreciate the few directories that fulfill their initial purpose: helping users find information.

There are tens of "hey, these directories are the best ever" lists, many not not updated since ages, some non-existent, parked pages and so on. Basically, all these lists, among, of course the few big players like (yahoo's dir, DMOZ, BOTW), are promoting directories that can do much more harm than good.

Beyound any other metric we use, a web directory should be evaluated by the editorial discretion that is applied, also.

I mean, in most directories categories like SEO are crowded with several listings of the “best SEO company”, “The leading company”, “guaranteed results” type – and the list can continue. Titles, in most cases, are just a bunch of keywords that webmasters want to rank for.

Some directories are also selling homepage or sitewide text links.

Basically, some of them will do anything it takes to make an extra buck – and it is indeed their right to do so, but it is not the right thing to be done when considering our common interest.

So, dear Aaron, I don't know in the number of edu, gov and age matters so much while many of the listed directories in Bob's list do not apply any editorial discretion and accept any one page website if the $20 is paid.

Aviva Directory's owner, Jeff, updated these days his well known list, based on DA: http://www.avivadirectory.com/strongest-directories/

I also created a list about 2 years ago, and I'm updating it every 2-3 months.


September 26, 2013 - 11:54pm

For instance, the domain authority rank from a third party probably doesn't matter too much if the architecture is set up in a way that doesn't allow most of the pages to get indexed, or if the directory is "free" but spams the crap out of you via your email confirmation AND slaps nofollow on all the outbound links.

I also understand why some directories allow anchor variation on listings...not only do some people want to target commercial keywords, but further it can be quite easily for a site to step into an anchor text penalty if there is no anchor text variation in their inbound links.

In terms of editorial integrity, I agree with you that the anchor should typically be the business name or quite close to it (that second bit in there because it is easy to get an anchor filter). I also agree with your point about sitewide & homepage links being a negative mark. Another issue is a directory owner that runs 20 in parallel & heavily cross-promotes them. This is one of the reasons I like something like JoeAnt more than the raw link count measures might suggest...they have been around for over a decade, yet they still focus on that one primary directory & haven't created a network of directories. So many of the other directories that have been successful have created 2nd and 3rd and 4th and 5th parallel directories, which IMHO makes them feel like "just for the SEO" plays rather than something aiming to be an editorial signal. Other factors like link rot and expired domains and so on are also important.

I should also note that the above post is over 7 years old, so of course the listed directories that are best have changed in many ways.

At a quick glance, ... I think LII shifted to not being a regular directory & is now just a search box as part of IPL.org, business.com still exists but is probably not as strong as it once was (it was hit by Panda), sbd.bcentral.com no longer exists, whatyouseek's directory is a DMOZ clone, 123world looks more like a travel directory now, AmericasBest is now an eyeglass website, chiff.com doesn't make it easy to submit listings to their directory but does make it easy to buy ads, MavicaNet doesn't load, ISEDB is more a directory of directories than a classical directory (though they had SEM categories which was why I listed them originally years ago), elib.org puts nofollows on the site name listings & only gives URL-only links (which I guess is still fine but not as great as before), uncoverthenet rebranded after issues with someone else trying to run shady traffic at their site & qango is now a web rankings dashboard rather than a directory.

That so many of the directories above died away over time is a reminder of how much the web is in constant flux & how those small shifts add up to huge changes over time.

I should also mention that originally when I wrote the post I think 7 or 8 of the 20 listings were linked to highlight the ones I liked most. What happened then was we shifted our CMS a year or so after this post went live & it converted anything with www in it to an active link. For clarification purposes I deleted the churned away listings from the above table. And I certainly agree with you that there are other directories that may be quite decent, but this post is over 7 years old & since I don't run a paid directory I don't have that much (any?) commercial incentive to repeatedly go back into our old blog posts and try to change them all a half-decade later or such.

May 21, 2019 - 4:14pm

Hi Arron--

Being a directory owner myself, I enjoyed to an extent, reading your evaluation of the directory business and their significance/ contribution to search engine ranking.

I also disagreed with some of your views. Yes quality directory links still contribute a lot in SERPs - but I can't agree with Bob Mutch's list. There have been so many quality directories that have come up and one of them Alive Directory is already in the organic list of Google.

One must move with time and not just ponder over history.
I truly believe Quality directory links still count for SERPs on search engines. I am more convinced after my trial study with one of my BLOG which has no relation with Directories but I listed it with many directories and it is ranking in top 10 on Google now for over 40 Keyword/Keyphrases.


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