Web Directory Sites Submission: Does It Still Work in SEO?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Directory sites and SEO? Am I reading a post from 2006? NOBODY CARES ABOUT WEB DIRECTORY SITES ANYMORE! Before you get up on your high horse, web directory sites still have some influence on a site’s SEO. It may not bear as much weight as before. However, when done […]

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Now, I know what you’re thinking:

Directory sites and SEO? Am I reading a post from 2006? NOBODY CARES ABOUT WEB DIRECTORY SITES ANYMORE!

Before you get up on your high horse, web directory sites still have some influence on a site’s SEO. It may not bear as much weight as before. However, when done correctly, submitting your site to web directory sites will nonetheless help create signals that search spiders will pick up about your site.

As a result, it can produce positive results to your SEO strategy and help increase your organic search ranking!

This post will help you get a better understanding of the role directory sites have in today’s SEO and how you can leverage them properly to achieve better rankings and organic traffic to your site.

SEO back then was drastically different

When talking about directory sites, it’s impossible not to talk about how cool it was back then. And I’m using “cool” in the loosest way possible because SEO back then, well…it sucks.

The digital age is evolving faster than anticipated and becoming more intuitive and useful. It has transcended its reputation as once a haven for spam into a plethora of informative and sleek-looking web pages.

Gone also are the days when you’re most likely going to end up in outdated-looking sites that would put Geocities to shame. Now, Google has just stepped a notch higher in its efforts in making its search engine lean towards quality, both in design and content.

And that’s just the reason why directory submission sites are not as valuable when it comes to improving your site’s backlink profile.

In years past, directory submissions were all the rage as it was the perfect place to search for sites that answer your questions.

But because of the ever-changing online landscape, these informative sites turned into low-quality directories that promote even the spammiest of sites imaginable.

It’s not entirely the fault of directory sites, mind you. Search algorithms weren’t as sophisticated as they are now, which explains why shady tactics passed off as legitimate years back.

The fact that George W. Bush ranks on top of organic search for “miserable failure” in 2004 during the Presidential Elections tells you the kind of search algorithm Google had in the past.

Thanks to Google’s continuous efforts to crack down on manipulative link-building practices, the value of web directory sites as an SEO tactic has been neutralized. This means that if you use these directories solely for the purpose of driving links to your site, then you’re wasting your time.

HOWEVER, there are still high-quality directory submission sites that sparingly exist if you look close enough. It’s not the end of the line for web directory sites – at least not yet.

And that’s the only hope you’ve got – to seek these directories and use them to drive links to your site. However, it’s important to remember that your link driving efforts shouldn’t solely depend on these directories. You also need to diversify your site’s link profile by making use of social media sites and guest posting opportunities.

But since we’re discussing web directory sites, let’s might as well jump into the topic and see how you can fit this tactic into your SEO strategy!

What are web directory sites?

Directory submission sites are, in simpler terms, online Yellow Pages.

Back then, people rely on phone books to search for contact details of a person registered in these pages. The same thing applies to websites that signed up to online directories.

In fact, before the advent of crawler-based listings such as Google, sites like Yahoo! derived their search queries from their directory. To increase their online visibility, people need to register their sites on Yahoo! Directory so they can be found on Yahoo! whenever somebody searches for them using its search function or when they browse its directory.

A screenshot of Yahoo! Directory back in 2006.

Directory sites contain a large number of websites organized according to their niches. There are a lot of categories and sub-categories its visitors can choose from, making it easier for them to look up for the site that they’re searching for.

How does it work?

Directory submission is all about having your site listed in the directory that you’ve chosen. When it’s listed or submitted, that directory then approves it and incorporates your site into their database. More importantly what you want to acquire is a backlink from the site, which should have a positive effect on your link building efforts. This gives other people (the directories’ visitors) a chance to see your site.

Take note that these directories function like search engines. The only difference is that they have a smaller database but has categories and sub-categories that its searchers can choose from.

In principle, it’s better than search engines themselves. But the question here is:

Will you arrive at a high-quality site?

The answer to that is most likely not because of the limited number of sites that are listed in that directory. Not to mention, you also have to factor in the quality of sites that were approved by the web listing. An online directory that lists spammy sites is useless from an SEO perspective.

The different types of directory sites

Over the years, different directory sites have come out of the woodwork. While I mentioned that directory sites weren’t as effective as they once were, it is still crucial that you get listed on the right directory sites to maximize the impact that this tactic brings to your SEO strategy. Below are the types of directory sites that you need to be aware of:

Featured web listing

The most popular type of directory sites are the featured web listings. These are considered to be most efficient type because these are usually high-quality directories that only accept high-quality sites.

To get featured, websites need to pay for their spot in the directory, as well as the links that are going to be redirected to their site. Your chance of getting an improved SEO score is higher with this one as these are whitelisted by Google. In other words, these directories have a better reputation compared to the other types.

An example of a paid listing is Yahoo! Directory in which they offered their featured web listing at $299/year back then. There are other examples of paid listing from low-quality directory sites prevalent nowadays that request a much lower fee in exchange for getting your site listed in their directories.

Regular web listing

These directories were once the most popular type because they are free to use. It doesn’t charge any fee, and you’re free to submit your site(s) to the directory. There are no parameters that you need to answer to because it’s not run by fully-dedicated administrators and technical staff.

While regular directory sites are a simple way to expose your site to other people, there’s no guarantee that your SEO health is going to improve. With the rise of social networking sites, these regular web listing directories don’t really make sense anymore. Now, you can just create a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page for your website or business if you want to improve your exposure.

An example of a regular web listing is DMOZ.org.

A screenshot of DMOZ.org in February 2017, a month before it was finally taken down.

People can submit their sites on DMOZ for free. However, whether or not the site will accept your submission is up in the air. DMOZ is criminally known for being slow in accepting submissions from users. Considering that only a handful of unpaid people manually browse through hundreds and thousands of submissions in a day. It’s arguably one of the reasons for the site’s eventual demise, aside from the market’s shift from manually curated sites to automated and more accurate results offered by search engines.

Reciprocal web listing

Then there are these reciprocal web listing directories. These directories function like a networking site because you need to reciprocate the “benefits” you get from the directory.

In simpler terms, you first need to receive a reciprocal link from another site and activate it before your site’s link gets activated by the directory. It’s one way of saying that you need to do this before I get to do this.

While this seems fair, Google has cracked down on directory sites that promote reciprocal linking because it doesn’t provide any value to readers. Therefore, stay far away from reciprocal sites as possible.

Steps in submitting your site to a directory

The first thing you want to do is to find SEO-friendly directories using the metrics above as references. You want to submit your sites to web listings that have high DA, CF, and TF, as well as other factors that you need to consider.

ironlink directory signup

Some sites will require you to sign up for an account. Ideally, use a spare email account when signing up to prevent spam from your inbox.

select category

Once you’ve signed up to the directory site, pick a relevant category where you’re going to list your site. It’s much better if there’s a sub-category option so you can specify your site’s niche.

signup ironlinkdirectory

Then fill-up a form regarding your website details and confirm the submission. If it’s a free directory, then you can move ahead and wait for the site’s approval. However, it could take months before you could see your site listed there. Even then, you can’t be sure if your submission is approved by the editor.

choose link type

To expedite the process, most web directory sites allow payment for faster approval. The payment option may come before you even register for your site. For sites that offer free submission, they may require reciprocal linking on your end before your submission is approved. Like we said earlier, avoid these sites at all costs.

If it is a featured listing site, you first need to choose your plan. And if your site is approved by the directory’s admin, that’s the time you pay them.

Really now, why do I still have to submit to directory sites?

The idea of manually submitting your site to web directory sites sounds ridiculous, to put it mildly. For one, there are lots of other off-page SEO tactics that you can perform and have a far greater effect on your search ranking compared to this one. If you’re privy to some of these tactics, then directory submission shouldn’t be even in your mind right now.

But as mentioned earlier, web directory sites still have influence in organic search as a ranking factor.

The main reason why these sites remain relevant after all these years is due to the advent of local SEO.

For local business owners, it is vital that they must submit their site to as many relevant local listings as possible that requires you to fill out your NAP (name, address, phone number). Every successful submission serves as a citation to your business. The more citations you have for your site that contain the same accurate information, the better it is for your site in local search!

If done successfully, building your citations online will help you rank on Google’s “local 3 pack” that features the top three local businesses for a search query.

For more information about local SEO, please read my post about by clicking here!

Another reason for directory sites in relation to SEO is user-generated reviews.

Sites like Yelp are popular because not only do they list down local businesses, but they also give the power to their respective customers. People can chime in about their experience with a business on Yelp and thousands of people will get to read it.
Ideally, you want all reviews to cast your business in a positive light. However, there are reviews that will make your business look bad, whether you like it or not. Heck, even a single negative review immediately puts your business at risk – 22% of the time, to be precise!

User-generated content builds social proof for your brand and helps to cultivate a loyal customer base that will collaborate on content creation and help to share your brand message. Content created by real customers can boost search engine rankings and drive visitors to your site all the while increasing the likelihood of conversions. Implementing a solid UGC strategy is not only important for developing an authentic brand voice but also for improving your SEO ranking and increasing top line revenue.

Juliet Carnoy, “SEO Ideas: How to Improve SEO with User Generated Content


Therefore, user-generated reviews help customers decide which brand to buy from and trust. If your Yelp business profile appears on organic search (which it will), it could play a role in helping people decide whether to buy from you or not. The more positive review a business accrues from customers, the more chances your site will convert visitors into buyers!

Top sites to submit your site to

If you plan on submitting your site to web directories, make sure that you send it to the top ones. The best directory sites depend on your niche and industry. For business owners and local mom-and-pop shops, below are sites that you must sign up to if you want to get the most out of your directory submission campaign.



Yelp is one of the best directory submission sites you can choose. It remained true to its brand of providing practical help to people who are searching for businesses within their locality. It does this by showing the local businesses to a possible client. Included in the presentation are the business’ information such as its website, phone number, and reviews from its previous customers.

However, Yelp is only available for local businesses with actual business addresses that customers can visit. If you’re a blog or a site that doesn’t offer products and services to customers, then you won’t be able to get your site listed here.

All Business Now


AllBusinessNow.com is another directory site that maintains its reputation in listing only high-quality sites in its database. It’s a directory where you can find the business and their corresponding websites that you’re searching for.

There are 27 categories to choose from, making it easier for site visitors to find the exact niche or business they’re searching.

Yellow Pages

As mentioned earlier, directory sites are literally online Yellow Pages. The site has a sleek-looking website where you can find the business you’re looking for through the category options present on their site.

Similar to Yelp, local businesses are the only ones who can get their sites listed here.

Factors to consider before choosing a web directory site

Now you have a better idea of what directory sites are and how they work, it’s time for you to learn how to find web directory sites where you can submit your online business.

Ideally, you want to target featured directory sites like the ones above to make the most out of your SEO campaign. However, unless you run a local business, then you won’t be able to find any use for directory sites that focus on promoting local businesses.

For site owners that don’t operate a business, there’s a more deliberate approach on how you can generate links using directory sites. It’s all about taking a look at metrics that provided an aggregate SEO score of a website using the most crucial factors that affect your search performance. Below are some of the most important metrics to consider:

1. Domain Authority

The site’s Domain Authority (DA) is developed by Moz. This is the rating score that a site gets based on its overall quality. The site’s design, content, and contributors are some of the factored in components that make up your DA score.

It’s recommended that the DA score of the directory is 50 and above. Aside from using Moz’s Open Site Explorer to check a site’s DA, Small SEO Tools lets you check DA of 50 sites maximum all at the same time.

2. Citation Flow and Trust Flow

Similar to Moz, Majestic developed their own proprietary metrics to determine a site’s performance based on multiple SEO factors. Citation Flow (CF) is the number which shows the influence of the URL based on the sites that backlinked to it. Meanwhile, Trust Flow (TF) is the number that shows how trustworthy a site is based on the trustworthiness of the sites that backlinked to it.

You can check both metrics using Website SEO Checker’s Trust Flow Checker.

3. Alexa Ranking

Then there’s the Alexa ranking that shows the number of people that visited your site. However, the problem with this is that only Alexa toolbar users are the ones who get recorded in the ranking. Nonetheless, it’s still a benchmark that you can use to weigh in on whether you should sign up to a directory site or not. Small SEO Tools offers an Alexa Bulk Checker to determine a directory site’s ranking for this metric.

4. Manual checking of listed sites

Doing a visual check is perhaps the easiest and simplest way to see whether a directory site is worth taking on. Look at the directory and check the sites listed. Are they high authority sites? Is it organized interestingly? Does the site’s design look sleek? It’s in asking questions like these that you can choose a high-quality directory site.

Dont’s in dealing with web directory sites

I’m running the risk of repeating myself, but you should be very careful with how to proceed with web directory sites. If done incorrectly, these sites can make a dent in your organic search rankings for the worse.

Therefore, keep in mind to avoid the ones below to ensure that you’re on the right path with regard to web directory sites:

  • Never pick low-quality directories – I can’t reiterate enough the fact that dealing with low-quality directories poses a threat to your SEO efforts. Aside from referring to the metrics, you can refer to visual cues as well such as its responsiveness, design, font-style, overall organization, and the kinds of websites listed in their database.
  • Never pick directories that have no parameters – Parameters are very important because these are what give value to the directory. There should be parameters present as these are what ensure that the directory only accepts high-quality sites in its list. These are the standards that the directory will uphold.
  • Never pick automated directories – One of the reasons which caused the decrease in popularity of directories is that most of these have become automated. You might have visited a directory which has the same listings found in another directory. That would just defeat the purpose of having a directory in the first place because it would then be like a search engine. Also, you never know which directory sites they might register your site in. Without your knowledge, you can get listed on spammy directory sites, which could negatively affect your site’s ranking.

Any web directory site submission services I should trust?

Not to take away this option from you, but let me explain:

Web directories, in general, are still associated with the fishy side of SEO. As thoroughly explained in this post, you need to cross-reference every web directory site you encounter before submitting your site to them.

To be honest, manually submitting your site to online directories are low-risk, low-reward activities. You don’t spend money submitting your site to directories, but their overall impact may not be enough to put your site on the top.

Therefore, if you encounter websites that offer directory submission services, I highly suggest that you be very critical of these sites.

They claim to help you submit your site to online directories…or do they??

Assuming that you’re going to pony up cash for these guys who will manually submit your business to online directories, you put your money at risk for a task that won’t probably move the needle in terms of SEO. Not to mention, assuming that you don’t know the site where they will submit your business makes their proposition even scarier.

Without you knowing it, they’re submitting your site to terrible directory sites, which leads to your site’s organic search ranking to plummet!

However, if you have the resources that you can spend for this service and are fully aware of the risks you may put on your business, then by all means, do so. Just be sure that they the service you’re getting has a proven track record of providing great services to its customers.

For local SEO, you can’t go wrong with Moz Local and BrightLocal. Both tools help manage your online listings to ensure that they all provide accurate information, monitor online reviews, and more.

Since we’re talking about local SEO services, I’d like to throw my hat in the ring by suggesting my local SEO services as well!

Wrapping it up

As search engines get smarter, certain link building practices like directory submission lose effectiveness because it promotes spam and poor site quality. It’s with this that people doubt whether they should pursue directory sites as part of their SEO plan.

The truth is that high-quality link building will always be a great way to improve your SEO score. And it doesn’t really matter if those inbound links are coming from directories, blogs, landing pages, or even from social networking sites.

As long as the inbound links are from high-quality sources, then you’re on the right track. Indeed, directory submission sites still help improve your site’s SEO health.

With the right high-quality sources and a handful of other social networking and guest posting efforts, there’s no stopping to your site’s SEO excellence.

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