Gone are the days where people would run to the nearest closet or desk to grab the Yellow Pages to look up the phone number of a company or a particular service. You need to look up the dry cleaners or order a pizza? Google it on your smartphone, hit “call,” and you’re set to go. However, just because nobody uses paper copies of the Yellow Pages anymore doesn’t mean directories have become obsolete. Directories are still relevant in 2015 because directories are now online, and they help get your business and company website in front of more eyes on the web (and a targeted audience at that). It also helps you get noticed more by major search engines and can help improve your rankings on search engine results pages.

Unfortunately, getting involved with online directories isn’t as easy as it used to be. You have to now learn how to analyze directories and be able to pick out quality opportunities, and those are few and far between. Still, it is possible and advantageous to get involved with the right situations. The key—niche directories, but we’ll get to that.

How to Take Advantage of Directories

The first thing to understand about directories is why your target audience may use them in the first place. Most people go to directories strictly to find a website on a specific topic, helping to drive traffic and awareness to your site, while others visit directories by accident because the directory was shown on the first page of their Google search result. Whatever the case may be thinking like your audience is one of the biggest ways you can make the most of directories.

A few things you can do to take full advantage include:

  • Find Niche Directories. You should always look for smaller directories that fit in your niche/genre. Getting your SEO blog listed in an SEO directory would carry a lot more value than just getting listed in a general, larger directory. Not only do these directories offer you a more targeted audience, but they are usually better managed and not flagged by Google as spam. You can find these directories by doing a search and then checking for moderators, quality content, and quality of listings (more on this in the next section).
  • Perfect Your Listing. You need to hone in on a few (2-3) phrases and keywords that you want to be associated with your site and make sure they appear in your site’s description. If you are unsure which keywords to use, conduct keyword research for help. Also keep in mind that your site’s description should be as brief as possible. Think 30 words or less. Remember to keep things professional and simple, there’s no need to get clever when you’re submitting your site to a directory because you don’t want to sound like spam or like you’re selling something.
  • SEO Considerations. It also helps with SEO as reputable directories help boost your SEO profile by providing a solid link-back. However, directories should not be seen as a major weapon in your arsenal to boost your SEO profile or page rank. Google and other top search engines have wised up in terms of understanding how sites can exploit directories for simple link-backs (more on this in the next section).

Keep in mind that directories are not your only option when it comes to improving your visibility online—you’re still better off improving the quality and quantity of your content than you are worrying about getting listed in directories. Nonetheless, directories are still a beneficial tool at your disposal.

How Directories Can Hurt You

As discussed above, Google and other search engines now understand that many sites were strictly looking to get listed in free directories to increase their level of backlinks, especially if any of the directories were reputable sites (like the Yellow Pages online). Nowadays, it’s not so much how many backlinks you get, but more so about the quality of backlinks. A reputable site linking back to you is significantly more valuable than a site or directory that is willing to link to any site and has little to no standards on supplying links. In a way, Google and other major search engines can see simply getting listed in directories as a manipulation, and ever since Google changed its algorithm a couple years back, they are better prepared for sites that manipulate the system. Google can see some directories as spammy-esque content and thus hurt your SEO rather than help it.

A poor directory won’t do you any good, which is why you need to do your research and make sure you are submitting only to quality and high-profile directories, even if that means you have to pay for them.

How to Analyze Directories

Human-edited web directories are the best, as people can utilize common sense and critical thinking. Directories run strictly by programs can have a spam-like feel that could scare off some search engines or potential visitors. Some directories actually cost you money, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world if you could afford it. Paid directories are obviously worth the price for some sites, otherwise they wouldn’t exist, so consider these if you want to take things to the next level. The best directories have an editorial process and in order for people to carry out that process, they need to get paid, just like in any other business.

You can also use tools to do some research on directories before signing up. Check out their MozRank, a link popularity score; the higher the quality of incoming links, the higher the MozRank, or MozTrust, a global link trust score that measures link trust instead of link popularity.

In the end, it’s all about using common sense. If you head to a directory and think it looks too much like spam, it probably is. Any site that actively tries to promote itself as a directory to boost your SEO is one you should avoid at all costs. Look at the quality of sites listed in the directory and the quality of the directory’s navigation. You should be able to tell quickly whether or not the directory is quality.

Examples of Quality Directories

Arguably the best directory out there is Dmoz, a human-edited site:


Another good example is Yahoo directory, one of the oldest directories on the web:


For more of the top directories out there, head to QuantumBooks.com or an exhaustive list at AllBloggingTips.com.

Once again, a lot of this process is simply using your best judgment. A lot of working in SEO is common sense, actually, and this is no different. Don’t simply chase the easy links thinking it will automatically boost your SEO profile. Those days are long gone. Instead, focus on quality over quantity and keep your submissions to directories to a reasonable amount.

How have your experiences been with directories? Do you employ directories yourself to boost your SEO profile? Have you seen firsthand how directories can negatively impact your site’s SEO? Let us know in the comments section below.