Posted on November 1, 2017, by Jennifer Mattern in Directories, Marketing, SEO

There used to be a time when listing your business in a range of web directories was the default practice for all marketing companies. Whether it was farmed out to link building services or handled in-house, the focus was on quantity rather than quality.

In truth, today these directories are a sign of how much things have changed in digital marketing over the last decade. You’re more likely to find a marketing expert who thinks they’ve had their day than anyone who is seriously contemplating their use on the same scale as ten or fifteen years ago.

But is that a mistake? Is there still some value to directory services?

After all, there are still several high-quality, human-edited web directories your business can choose from. As with most options in marketing, the answer is less than clear-cut than a simple yes or no.

What Are Web Directories?

Directories are listings of businesses, organizations and private websites. They can vary from general, catch-all sites with wide-ranging categories to more specific business and industry related ones.

A decade ago, directories provided a way to deliver numerous inbound links, something which was considered pretty good for SEO. Many were free and there were thousands to choose from.

Why Are They Less Popular Now?

Many marketing tools tend to get abused – marketers are always looking for workarounds to benefit their clients and pushing the envelope as much as they can.

People see a practice that can be used to create easy revenue and more traffic and go hell for leather. In the past, even the best marketing companies weren’t immune to excessive inbound link building via directories.

There comes a point, however, when that practice tips over into abuse. Such was the case with directories with many companies offering hundreds if not thousands of directory listings, making wild promises of boosting SEO to get customers to the top of those all-important search engine rankings.

Google got fed up with the practice, as they did with spam blogging which followed a similar use and abuse cycle, and adjusted its algorithm and rules accordingly. While sites like Bing and Yahoo still put some weight on inbound links from directories, the truth is that directory listings don’t generally produce a good ROI simply for SEO.

There is still value in listing with business directories, however, though not in the old-fashioned sense. If you can make more judicious choices it can be good for getting visitors particularly on sector or industry-specific sites or from local search directories such as Google My Business.

Of course, you’ll need to verify your phone number (which isn’t really a problem, I suppose) and a six-digit code will be mailed to your businesses’ physical address.

You’ll be prompted to add photographs and even 360 degrees panoramas to your Google Listing, however, it does worth the effort. Bear in mind that your customers will leave reviews.

The Case Against Web Directories

  • First and foremost, the directory needs to have some authority for any success. For this reason, high Domain Authority directories work better.
  • Search engines like Google are looking for quality over quantity and the information provided must then be of a better quality to prove ‘link worthy’ pages. So, checkout before suggesting your site if you really want to be listed among your future “neighbors”.
  • Many paid directories don’t provide the context and deeper content that matters. They will accept any old business, good or bad, listing them simply because they want the money without worrying about what is written or provided. If you want to rule out this aspect, take a look at the applied editorial discretion. “Best SEO Company Atlanta” is pure anchor text manipulation while “Blue Media Inc.” isn’t.
  • The truth is that many directories nowadays contain a huge proportion of low-quality links and you have to be very careful about which ones you choose.
  • Frankly, there are also other, better options out there to get inbound links and more traffic at the same time. These include producing strong, relevant content that people want to link to and using dynamic tools such as weblogs rather than static listings like directories.

In short, the case for directories is damaged by the saturation of the market, the decrease in authority that sites like Google give them and the availability of more powerful tools such as video sharing sites and social media.

The Case For Web Directories

Does that mean your business should be ignoring directories altogether, especially if you should pay for them? For the most part, the answer is NO, because the few web directories highlighted in this article survived every Google update and that’s for a reason: editorial discretion. Remember DMOZ?

Of course, there is money involved in paying editors, keeping up a high-quality directory and so on. So, you’re not paying to be listed, but for getting reviewed.

If you are choosing any listing, for whatever reason, you need to ask yourself some serious questions before adding your details and parting with your hard-earned cash. Follow the checklist below and you may avoid some of the pitfalls.

Your Quality Directory Checklist

  • Are There Redirects? Some sites will sell redirects which means you click on the link for a business or organization and it heads somewhere else. Almost always this is to a spam site. Check a few links and, if this happens, it’s best to avoid.
  • Do they rank? It’s a reasonable sign of quality, though not a complete assurance. If the directory’s name you’re hoping to join comes up on first page SERPs then it should at least be reputable.
  • What’s the quality? Go through the site and check which other companies are using it. A general rule is that, if big businesses and well-known names are present, it should be okay for your business too. Are there real manually added listings?
  • Watch for outbound sitewide links: This is a sign your directory is only interested in the cash.
  • Broken links: If there are numerous broken links and bad URLs, this is not the directory for you for obvious reasons.
  • Shared content: To have any impact at all, you want your directory to be a unique site and not one that’s been cloned. Check there are no other sites with similar entries to be on the safe side.

One of the key factors you need to consider if you are going to use directories at all is whether they are relevant to your site. This normally means the directory is industry or sector specific. That’s why you should choose a category that fits your niche.

There are, however, a few general directories that are still worth a look at.


Four General Directories That Work

While you should steer clear of the majority of general directories, especially those that offer extra low pricing or none at all, there are still a few that you can give a good return. Here are four that may be worth an investment to see how they work out for your business:

  1. Best of the Web (BOTW)

One of the longest standing directories in the world today, BOTW has actually been around since the mid-90s. They’ve evolved over the years to produce specialist local and UK directories and they use editors to sift through web entries before they are uploaded and advertised. They offer a range of different plans from a basic $149 a year through to $199 with a premium local profile.

Find out more about BOTW

  1. Aviva Directory

Created back in 2005, Aviva has a huge number of listings in different categories. The company prides itself on adapting to the changing internet and some listings have been added by staff, searching through the internet (usually non-business orientated). If your site isn’t listed, you can pay a one-off fee of $149.95 for a permanent listing or $49.95 for an annual one.

Find out more about Aviva Directory

  1. Alive Directory

You need to get through the relatively strict editorial policy for your site to be posted on Alive but it’s one of the more popular choices of general directories. The good news is that you also get your money back if the company decline to list you. They offer featured and regular listings which allow you to add additional links but they do have a more complex pricing structure than other directory sites.

Find out more about Alive Directory

  1. Jasmine Business Directory

Since it started in 2009, this directory has proved to be one of the best around for business listings. As with the other three, an editorial team will look at your submission and decide whether it fits the bill or not. You can also add a 500-word review of your website. Costs vary between $115 as a one time fee to $59 a year.

Find out more about Jasmine Business Directory

It’s worth mentioning that all these business directories have a great Domain Authority, most of the backlinks pointing towards them are genuine natural links from various online webmaster related websites and they’re all human edited.

Listing in Local Directories

Local directories are, to some extent, more powerful when it comes to bringing targeted customers to your business and they are indeed worth investing in if (yes, there is a big “if”) your business serves a certain geographical area (let’s say London or California). So, if you have a bakery in London, a local listing makes more sense than a listing in a general business directory (where an online shop that ships its products internationally is more suitable).

Here are the top local business directories:

  1. Google My Business

One you should be using is Google My Business as it gives you a better than average chance of appearing on SERPs for local searches. It’s free and easy to sign up. Put in your listing and there are some value added extras which can work well for any business. That includes showing up on Google Maps when someone searches.

  1. Yelp

This is another popular choice for businesses though you will need to keep a close eye on reviews and ratings. These can give you that extra social proof if customers like what you are doing and a lot of people still use it to find local businesses. Yelp should be at least second on your list of local search directories.

  1. Yellow Pages

They started to fade away after the introduction of the smartphone and ready access to the internet, but people still use Yellow Pages to find businesses in their area. Most people will be surprised to learn that it’s actually an American company but it’s packing a punch online and has had a resurgence in recent times.

  1. Bing Places For Business

Along with Google, Bing is another place you certainly need to have a listing for your business. You can add a relatively detailed amount of information and, while it’s not as comprehensive as its nearest, more successful competitor, it none the less accounts for a wide number of local searches.

Developing a Directory Strategy for Your Business

If you use a little common sense and do your homework, directories are still useful. Perhaps not in the out and out SEO sense but certainly when it comes getting a little extra traffic and increasing online visibility and of course your Domain Authority.

Directories are also still a good choice if they are industry or business sector, specific providers, though you still have to make sure they are reputable and add real value for your business.

The big issue for many companies is paying for the listing and achieving a good ROI at the same time. You need to track and monitor any sales that come from the listing to see how they pan out. If they’re not producing results, it may be better to spend your money on other, more profitable marketing strategies.

It goes without saying that you should avoid any directories you are not sure of. Posting on poor sites is a waste of time and money.

It’s much better to stick to a few tried, tested and trusted ones to work for your business.