Hi I’m Debra And I’m A Directory Addict.

Directories are like any other business; some are well run and provide a good service while others don’t. My purpose here isn’t to point out the less-than-stellar general directories but to explain why I think directory submissions are a viable  link building tactic.  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.

It would be naive to say everyone in the directory business is in it to make the world a better place, clearly a 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 first thing I look for is:

If the directory hosts as many Adsense ads (or close) on sub-category pages, then I say pass.  Adsense detracts from your submission.

I’m only talking about general directories here, there are tons of niche, geographical, RSS, blog, podcast, video, how-to, etc type directories available to anyone who goes looking. I like the ISEDB for niche directories, and MasterNewMedia.org  for the others. (just search on “directories” on the home page).

Submitting to directories is still a solid, basic foundational linking tactic and provides you a relatively easy way to accumulate links.   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.



  1. Debra Mastaler says

    business directory – I’ll pass on adding your site since it’smore a specialty search engine instead of a directory but I’ll leave your comment in place.

  2. business directory says

    Hi Debra, just wondering if you could add another business directory (www.clickfind.com.au) to your list? We’re also more than happy to offer a discount through your site.


  3. Transformers Animated says

    Only just found this blog and a good read it has proven to be thus far. Directories aye, I’d forgotten about them lol

  4. Debra Mastaler says

    David – I forwarded your comments to Jared DelPrete at BOTW and he responded with the following:

    “David will be happy to know that we extended the discount code through the end of the year – so the new expiration date is Jan 1, 2008.”

    Submit away, the discount is still good folks!

  5. David Phillips says

    Hey Debra. I just tried to register with BOTW and a) the price went up and b) the coupon code shows expired (though still a few days left in November). With that one-two punch, I just might get off my duff and go with Yahoo. Happy Turkey Day!

  6. guido says

    Strange, no one commented about Matt Cutt’s words about “Quality of urls” in a directory.
    Quality of what?
    Content? Design?
    Honestly, as directory owner, I can check a website for usability, grammar, I could check for good coding, if they have a good privacy policy and a contact form, but a nice designed site with correct grammar and HTML valid really doesn’t make it a good website.
    How can I tell if the content is good or bad? A pharmacy selling prescription drugs without a prescription is good or bad? And what if the site is written in a foreign language? Accept it or leave the non English world out?
    So, IMO, most of paid directories charge a fee to keep scammers, spammers and MFA’s owners away.
    Why Yahoo dir should be different from mine?
    Someone at yahoo will pick up the jambalaya recipe from my cooking site and check if it come out good?
    Matt is talking about something he doesn’t really know.

  7. Michael says

    This article has just been starred in my google reader. It’s nice to have a good list of general directories to go to.

    “Hey Deb I want the freebie”

    Hopefully I’m not too late. nomadhacker at gmail dot com

  8. Jared says

    Newt – Thanks for pointing out the less than perfect descriptions in the “Public Relations” category of BOTW.

    We have editors worldwide and sometimes the descriptions are not up to par. To help combat this and to make sure we continue to offer a quality resource – we have “Category Feedback” links on every page for users to alert us when they see something that could use attention.

    Nonetheless, we have already begun editing the category in question and should have it cleaned up by weeks end.

    Thanks again for the feedback. It is much appreciated.

  9. Debra Mastaler says

    Mario, you didn’t miss, you’re in the top five.

    Language Arts, please reread want you need to do in order to qualify for the free submissions. Thanks!

  10. Mario says

    Nice post…well, about payed directories…I always thought about them to be nice start value, when you really dont have many choices…also, they are not bad to see what other ppl have to offer from your niche there…eventhough, I’m still strugling to find more then 5 of them that are really really good and that I can say “ok, this is a good and reliable webdir”.
    In fact, my opinion is (or maybe it is just me) that webdirs have rather bad reputation.

    Anyways…did I miss a freebie? :)

    I hope not…sooo hey Deb I want the freebie! :D

    Mario F. botoon at gmail dot com

  11. Language Classes says

    “Hey Deb I want the Freebie”
    not everyone that commented said they were interested in the free directory submissions. If there are any left I would be interested. Thanks for the great article.

  12. Debra Mastaler says

    David, no doubt, the Y directory is expensive for a year’s listing but it’s a very sound link for new sites. Given the emphasis on getting quality/editorial/credible links, I’d say less quality trumps more junk.

  13. David Phillips says

    Always fun to see your words disappear before you hit send…

    Take II.

    Mine is a question of economics. Y! directory for $300/yr or several of the previously mentioned directories for the same price (often including lifetime submissions)?

    When I check my competition’s backlinks, those that pay for Y! get a ton of backlinks but little to no PR value. So which is it? Tons of links in one stroke or a better quality spread but with fewer links?

    BTW, found this site several weeks ago and have been enjoying reading ever since.

  14. Debra Mastaler says

    Thanks everyone for stopping by.

    Newt – keep in mind this is a link building blog so my focus is there. Would I be doing a disservice to these directories by saying that’s all they’re good for? Oh course and I will never say that. While I don’t get a lot of traffic from my submissions there, I do get some which is more than none. As to the comment about BOTW, I don’t work there so I can’t comment.

    Rot Weiss Essen – most of these directories charge less than $50 for a lifetime submission. I think that’s a good value for a link with lifetime residual.

    Thanks for the comments.

  15. Anonymous says

    Hi Debra
    What a find your blog is. Discovered it a week ago and love it. Thanks for this list and advice – with all the hoohaa going on about directories, paid links and PR its great to find a resource that offers solutions in the form of a credible list of directories. I know most but was pleasantly surprised to find a few on there I had not heard of! Thanks!!
    Regards, Christine

  16. Rot Weiss Essen says

    I’m a newbie into this field but it seems to me that directories are paid links as well.

    The whole idea of a paid directory means that only sites who currently have a budget to pay the money have a chance of getting a pr boost. What about the small time bloggers who hope to boost their income one day in the future?

  17. Mark says

    Good information on solid directories for submission. Always good to compare everyone’s “lists” in making a desicion of which to submit to.

  18. newtbarrett says

    Am I correct in assuming the only point in being listed in these directories is so that you will show more inbound links?
    Having reviewed a few on your list, there is no reason a user would actually find them useful.
    For example on BOTW, under PR it has listings with broken English descriptions. Global powerhouse, Burson Marsteller says:”Delves in providing public relations/public affairs services.”
    This description was certainly not written by anyone at the firm.
    I look forward to your reply.
    Newt Barrett

  19. rmonkeygirl says

    Debra, terrific resource! Thanks for all of the discounts and outlining so many directories. There were several I’d never heard of and I’m checking them out now.

    Article stumbled as well!

  20. Stephen Pitts says

    Hi Debra,
    It’s great to hear something other than PR, especially when there are so many (more) important things like link building. Thank you for pointing out the simple things in SEO, like directories!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.