Directory Submission worth the trouble?

I thought I would revisit this topic again as it’s still a very popular question asked on business and search engine optimisation forums. Like a lot of things in SEO every poster seems to have a different opinion and experience, so here’s mine.

On the forums you’ll always get the usual throwaway one liner response that directory submissions are a complete waste of time, and money in the case of paid ones.


Some of the arguments go along the lines that years ago Google clearly devalued this style of site when it took a swipe at some directories engaged in tactics outside Google’s guidelines and reduced their page rank, rankings, the number of indexed pages they had and their ability to pass authority.

Other arguments stress how Google removed their crystal clear recommendation to submit your site to Yahoo and DMOZ and other relevant industry related directories.

So why did Google remove the recommendation and why did they take firm action against some high powered directories?

I’m guessing the reason Google acted was more to do with them trying to put the genie back into the bottle. The amount of poor quality general web directories that sprung up with the intention to pass page rank and anchor text relevancy rocketed almost into orbit.

It seemed like every web script wonder set up a general web directory running off a fairly cheap PHP script and poor template design and began running free and cheap directories with the sole purpose of ranking sites and creating manufactured links. Google’s recommendation of submitting in a selective manner merely fuelled the frenzy.

Arguably Google’s action taken against directories was merely against the abuse of their guidelines, not against the directory style site itself.

With Google’s crackdown some SEO’s abandaned their crap directories and general directory submission fell out of favour, with many moving onto the next method and dismissing directories as an ineffective link building method.

So are they worthless? And if not why not?

Absolutely not. Like I said there are quality directories, gems that just need to be unearthed. General directories that provide some editorial review, that don’t sell links for page rank, that aren’t covered in adsense, that don’t approve all and sundry, that are run and promoted with a passion and committment, can still provide and send quality signals to Google. Niche, regional and industry related directories can also be very valuable resources and places to be listed on and and in many cases haven’t been abused as much as the cheap general web directories form.

From my own experiences niche coding directories such as aspin, hotscripts, provided excellent traffic, paying customers for products, deep links and rankings. Almost everything you could wish for in a directory.

In some cases directories can outperform your site, especially if your site is newish, just doesn’t have enough clout or suffers from a poor structure. If a directory is going to outperform your site, then the next best thing is to get listed in the directory so that when someone visits that directory through a search on Google for your main keyword they’ll then pass through the directory and your listing and onto your site. All you have to do is run a local search on Google for a product/service and notice the amount of directories, though this may be to a lesser extent now with Google places merging with the organics.


Like I said, you should never ignore directories that appear at the top of Google for your keyword searchs. Though this might seem obvious it’s not to some. One of my directory sites sits right at the very top of Google and has done for the best part of 2 years now. It’s a fairly moderate term, though I’d like to think it’s a quality niche directory. Anyway there are a number of companies paying up to £2 for a pay per click in this market, while at the top of the organics (a market where there are no Google Place listings) most of these companies don’t bother with a 15 minute free submission that could save them hundreds and hundreds of pounds in advertising revenue and get them relevant traffic. It’s a no brainer, yet most of the companies don’t bother. It almost seems criminal.

Like so many things in SEO, experiences and opinions are made without testing, without qualifications, without context and this simply clouds the picture and message. It’s important to be aware that some people group all types of directories together, making no distinction between poor quality general web directories, niche industry directories, regional directories and so on. Directories are just bunched and labelled together and dismissed out of hand. Others will make a distinction between ‘web directories’, niche, regional and business/industry directories. So on forums if someone refers to ‘web directories’ as being useless they may not necessarily be referring to or dismissing quality niche, local or indeed all web directories en masse, they may simply be referring to the mass of crap web directories on the net.

Directories still provide a backlink to your site, many are still follow, and many directories will pass page rank and anchor text relevancy. Getting listed can improve your overall link profile, crawl rate and send a clear trust signal to Google.

I don’t advocate the mass directory submissions to general web directories that comes with services such as Directory Maximiser. For buttons you’ll get a run of hundreds of directory submissions to unmanned directories with little value. There are many SEO’s that suggest this method still works, and that quantity and mass quantity at that still does work, though no doubt that’s in fairly weak markets.

Do you still submit businesses to General Directories?

Yes, I still selectively look for quality general directories, business directories, regional and niche directories. I think they can still provide a backbone of a linkbuilding campaign and aren’t as time consuming as other linkbuilding tasks.

Aren’t these very expensive, is Yahoo directory worth the money ($299)?

The Yahoo directory doesn’t provide a great deal of traffic for businesses in the UK and Ireland. Some clients I had were lucky to get more than 5 visitors a year, and the SEO value was debatable. So if you are on a limited budget then creating content, getting a content writer to help you and trying to rank for keywords might be a better investment.

If you have a bigger budget, beyond that of most small businesses, then I’d probably recommend it but I don’t think it provides great value. I believe the UK & Ireland version of directory itself has now closed.

Is Yell worth the money?

If you have the money and have Google and other advertising and marketing well covered, and have a product that someone might use Yell for like a trade then possibly. As far as I remember Yell standard listings rotate and prices vary depending on the category. In the listings that I have managed there has been little traffic that comes through them. I suspect that the traffic isn’t great quality based on the bounce rates, and that some of it is casual competitor traffic. I think there would be more value pumping your money into a Google PPC or organic campaign if you were on a restricted budget if there was still room for improvement in Google.

If you’re already listed in Yell you can always use your analytics software and work out how much a cost or conversion costs and tally this up against Google Adwords or other forms of online marketing.

I wouldn’t entirely dismiss some of the bigger free UK directories such as the FreeIndex & Hotfrog. The 10 – 15 minutes that it takes to fill these in can provide a return for small businesses. In low competition markets you can dominate the first page for some keywords with these business listings.

Is Submitting to directories that charge, a paid link of the type Google dislikes?

From my understanding if the payment is charged for legitimate reasons such as business expenses, reviews, and editing costs as opposed to being a payment solely to pass page rank and relevancy with the sole purpose of improving your rankings on Google then it’s fine. Google has other forms of spam and abuse to monitor and paid directories seem to be exempt or not at the top of their priorities. You can watch the video on what Matt Cutts has to say.

Final Thoughts

I doubt you’ll find very few SEO’s that would overlook directory submission as one of their backbone strategies for starting off a link building campaign. For me a quality site is a quality site whether it’s a directory, blog of informational site. A quality web page is always worth getting listed on. Rather than give you a list of directories, learn how to spot the signals that make a site a quality site and webpage, and you’ll have a fair idea whether a directory is worth the submission and money.

The signals are still the same as they always were. Can you add 1 or 2 keywords into the title, are the links do follow, are pages structured and themed correctly, are the pages indexed and what’s the cache cycle, are the descriptions quality, is the page title in line with your site, are the links direct and does the site have the added bonus of sending you potential buyers. Directories for some SEO’s may have gone past their prime, but there’s still a bit of life left in them.

15 Responses to “Directory Submission worth the trouble?”

  1. Barry ConnollyNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Michael

    Would take me months to write something like this. Def some good stuff here.

    I think directory submissions will always have their uses. i.e. if a website has hundreds of links all coming from the same root domain and c blocks it may be good to have some other traffic sources to balance things out a little.

  2. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Barry,

    Takes a while for me to put an article together & at the moment client work takes priority so I don’t get working on my own sites/projects as much as I’d like.

    Agreed that measured directory submissions are only part of your link building efforts, though they’re a good backbone.

  3. JohnNo Gravatar Says:

    Michael I think you hit the nail on the head.

    – Quality links work no matter what platform they are on, and quality directories are very much still part of a link builder’s strategy.

  4. Jordan McClementsNo Gravatar Says:

    I agree – you can’t discount all directories as being useless.
    As far as DMOZ goes – as someone else said on Twitter, it is a good idea poorly implemented…

  5. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Jordan, agreed. People shouldn’t just presume something doesn’t work without atleast testing it.

  6. Lewis Maximus, Esq.No Gravatar Says:

    I don’t think any directories are worth paying for, except maybe Yahoo.

    I saw the z-rate link directories, simply as a source of z-rate links and made a script to auto-submit to them, including automated 3/4 way link exchange to a z-rate directory of my own and captcha cracking. You could get maybe 1,000 of these indexed, more if you pick them up and dump them through XRummer. Pretty good for building link text. Just another cannon in web-sewerage bay.

    It’s pretty boring dealing with this stuff though. Don’t want to be doing it for the rest of your life. That and having the pressure of client’s expectation is not worth it. Mainstream client web dev. and SEO is not challenging and innovative enough.

  7. Jordan McClementsNo Gravatar Says:


    Lewis – I hear what you are saying about SEO being a chore. That’s why I don’t offer it as a service to clients 🙂

  8. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi David, you know yourself that there’s a whole lot more to SEO and Internet Marketing than building crap links and crap directory links.

    As much as possible I try to stay away from those clients with no budget, no experience, that want the earth and are prepared to invest little.

    @Jordan, PPC can be a chore as well. I think there’s such a big overlap between the two that working with both definitely helps.

  9. Jordan McClementsNo Gravatar Says:

    True… Very true.

  10. Lewis Maximus, Esq.No Gravatar Says:

    Smart idea. I sense you must have a lot of hanging leads as a result. If I go in on my own sites in the future, I won’t be using the box of tricks on anything serious.

    Also good point from Jordan. SEO can obviously b profitable, but IMO is too much of a hastle. People I know who went solo make the same income as doing client work without the fuss of clients.

  11. Gareth A. BoydNo Gravatar Says:

    I don’t bother with directories anymore personally due to the fact that 10 strong back links from authoritative blogs out powers the value of 10 back links from most directories. A small exception for Yahoo! and DMOZ, but there’s slim chances of getting on the bigger directories regardless of paying the fee.

  12. Directories: Worthless & Pointless SEO Techniques | Gareth A. Boyd Says:

    […] morning I came across Michael Wall’s blog where he is talking about whether directories are worth the trouble, so I thought I’d express my opinion on the […]

  13. Sara MogfordNo Gravatar Says:

    Only just found this but thanks – really interesting stuff and confirmed a lot of what I believed to be true. You read so much cr*p about SEO and this is a helpful and realistic piece.

  14. Alan HoweNo Gravatar Says:

    Just starting to submit to local directories – was good to hear you are fairly positive on the local angle.
    Out of date copyright dates on SEO and website designers pages are a bugbear of mine – good to see you are 18000 years ahead on yours! LOL

  15. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Alan well spotted 🙂 I like to plan ahead with a long term strategy!

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Michael Wall

Michael Wall is an experienced web developer based in Belfast N.Ireland currently running his own web design company.

Michael Wall is available for Internet Marketing, Google Adwords PPC and SEO work. Please call Belfast 02890 225729 or use the contact form.

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