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Directories and SEO

Let me start off by saying that all directories are not created equal. When I got started in SEO back in late 2001, I learned how to use directories and reciprocal linking to build website authority very successfully. As time went on, it became apparent to a great many webmasters out there that these were easy backlinks. Not only were they easy to acquire, they also had a tendency to improve your organic rankings regardless of the type of directory. After that, it became a free-for-all of link building. Entire digital marketing companies were built on the business model of acquiring as many links as possible. Often, directories became less and less relevant, existing with the sole purpose of being a link hub. It got so bad, that there were often loads of these directories which were obviously the same website template, owned by the same company/individual, with only the URL being different (usually only a hair different at that). Most times the domains were even part of the same server or C-block. These are NOT the directories I would suggest submitting to! That is a sure-fire way to get penalized by Google.

What is a Bad Directory?

As Google was adjusting its processes to better clean up its results, it also developed its Webmaster Policy. One of the reasons most SEOs will steer clear of any directories as taboo is because of the Google update to this policy concerning link schemes and link farms. Once Google made this categorization, I would estimate that more than half of all internet directories became bad news. A bad directory would be any website that charged for links, that approved all links submitted, didn’t differentiate between categories, or that was just a poor quality site overall. In addition, many of them listed more than 50 links on a single page, which has long been a tell-tale sign of a link scheme, especially when the links pointed to websites which were unrelated in theme.

What is a Good Directory?

What most people didn’t realize or know through all this was that there are still directories that you could list your site in that would not cause you problems. Most of these sites are reputable, well-known directories that have been around for a long time. They are well kept, have processes and guidelines for submissions (they don’t necessarily accept every single submission), and they maintain a level of quality standards.

Why Submit to a Directory?

The best part about a good directory listing is the business you get from it! In addition to any SEO benefits,  getting a good listing in a quality and relevant directory page, can earn you real customers who found you from the directory listing. When a visitor finds your website in a relevant category on a directory site they trust, it helps them make a positive decision to take action once they are finally on your website. Some directory sites are popular enough to be visited regularly by users. Some of these sites, like Angie’s List for instance, even charge the seeker of the services for a membership! Many directory listings will also show up in Google search results pages. This gives you additional opportunities for qualified website traffic, leads, sales, etc.

A Few Examples of Good Directories

The following are directories that I know from past personal experience have delivered qualified leads that eventually closed into business. This happened both through visitors who were searching on the directory website as well as through the listing, which showed up in Google as a search result:

Manta

Yelp

Merchant Circle

YP.com

and of course…

Google Local Business

Bing Local Business

Yahoo Local Business

A list of reputable directories that can be joined for a flat fee can be found on Yext. Yext is an online platform allowing customers to submit to multiple directories with identical information such as name, address and phone number. This is an important component to improving local SEO for a business. In addition, Yext offers the management of all the sites from one central location via their online website control panel.