I've been wanting to do a post about directories for a while since they've been in the SEO news lately, had thought to post after the flap last month but decided to wait until the firestorm settled. I dislike knee jerk reactions and didn't want to add to an already over-saturated conversation.

But since the statute of directory topic limitations has run out and with last week's PageRank debacle I thought hmmm... might be a good time to talk about directories still being a viable link source. Of course this will have to get through the current PageRank debates but I suspect enough of us are already tired of all that and will welcome reading about something different.

Directories are like any other business; some are well run and provide a good service while others don't. My purpose for this post isn't to point out the less-than-stellar general directories but to showcase directories I consider to be solid and explain why they're still a viable option for link building. To do that, let's step back a bit.....

In February of 1994, two Stanford University students started organizing lists of their favorite links to a website they called "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web" . David Filo and Jerry Yang kept adding sites and pretty soon their lists had to be divided into categories and eventually sub categories to stay organized. The site was a hit both on campus and off and in the fall of 1994 the collection of links had a million hit day and almost 100 thousand unique visitors. From that, the Yahoo! Directory was born and so started the boom of commercial human-reviewed directories on the Internet.

Since then a lot of directories have come and gone but their main purpose of providing reviewed resources in a categorized fashion remains. They run the gambit from being personal to institutional lists of sites categorized by human subject experts. Most are commercial, a handful like the DMOZ are not. Websites submitted are placed in one or more categories based on their associated relevance and are usually divided into subject and geographical hierarchies. (I say "usually" because not all directories have geographical categories).

Submitted sites are allowed to provide a business description and in most cases, hyperlinked text. The single thread of commonality all directories share is this human review system. Spiders create databases, humans - directories.

In the early days of the Web/Net, directory editors went out looking to add great sites as a way to attract attention and a search following. It was a tremendous amount of work (and continues to be), but a popular way to search at the time. Gradually engines became more sophisticated and with the millions of sites coming online, the task of hand adding sites became almost impossible. Now, directory owners have to pay staffs to keep updating their properties and charge for submission as a way to cover payroll. Does paying to be listed somehow negate their purpose and objectivity?

I don't think so. And apparantely neither does Google representative Matt Cutts:

I'll try to give a few rules of thumb to think about when looking at a directory. When considering submitting to a directory, I'd ask questions like:- Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.- What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesn't speak well to the quality of the directory.- If there is a fee, what's the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.

I recently made this comment and feel it sums up why you should continue to submit to directories:

The concept of merit based inclusion is what makes securing links in the better directories desirable. It's reasoned that search engines bestow hub authority on these sites because human review is necessary before a site is included. And since human review is part of the co citation process search engines are programmed to reward, it stands to reason these types of sites would pass link popularity.

I've publically said I thought there were about 25 to 30 general directories worth submitting to and with the exception of my friends at Aviva , they're all still online and kicking up some green. (Meaning money not PageRank, although some would argue it's one and the same.  Hey, it's Halloween, it's fun to stir the pot a little).

It would be naive to say everyone in the directory business is in it to make the world a better place, clearly a large number of directories have come on board as money and/or network makers. I've listed my "stay-away-from" points several times in detail but the main thing I look for is:

If the directory hosts an abundance of  Adsense ads on sub/category pages, then I say pass. Adsense detracts from your submission.

I'm only talking about general directories in this article,  there are tons of niche directories, as well as geographical, RSS, blog, podcast, video, how-to, etc type directories available to anyone who goes looking.

Here's a portion of the list of directories I generally use. Those sites with stars next to them are directories that have kindly offered to give us a discount code on submission  (for more info on discounts, read below):



Best Of The Web (BOTW)*


Ezilon - USA *

Ezilon - UK/Europe*


Massive Links *

Aviva *


Rubberstamped *

WebXperience *



Web World Index


Site-Sift *




Webotopia *

Site Snoop

Permanent Listings

Submitting to directories is still a solid, basic foundational linking tactic that offers you a way to get started. Will it net you tons of PageRank, traffic or glory within the search results? Of course not, but every site has to start somewhere so start with the directories.

Want to get started on a directory submission service and save a little dough in the process? 

For a list of directories offering limited time promotional codes on submissions plus directories offering some freebies - head over to the Link Spiel for a list and the all important disclaimers... 



October 30, 2007

Based in Williamsburg Virginia, Debra Mastaler is President of Alliance-Link, an interactive marketing company focused on providing custom link building campaigns and link training and is the author of the link building blog Link Spiel


Thanks for sharing some really great ideas, Debra. How do you classify the directories? There are thousands of them out there, some accept free submissions, some do not. It's clear and easy when it comes down to the giants such as Yahoo, BOTW, DMOZ etc. However, most other directories look pretty much the same (directories have equal PR etc). Are there any certain criteria that help webmasters to tell apart more important directories from the less important ones?

We are working on a Real Estate Directory, any comments of suggestins?

Thanks for the heads up, I'll gonna try your directory list..

Thanks for such great ideas specially in the real estate categories.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Debra Mastaler > Ramblings of a Directory Groupie & Some Directory Freebies