200+ Directory Sites and How To Do Directory Link Building
SPAM! GARBAGE! WORTHLESS!
All of these words and many more have been used to describe the SEO strategy of directory link building in 2019.
And while it’s true that this strategy is a far cry from what it once was, when done properly, it can still be a powerful weapon in your SEO arsenal.
Google themselves, the great gods of the search engine world have stated that more than 80% of all consumers in the U.S. use directories to find local businesses.
Meaning that 8 out of every 10 consumers you want to target have visited an online directory at least a few times.
The bad news is that, when used improperly, directory link building is a one way ticket to Google’s dog house and an all but certain SEO penalty.
The good news is that, when done correctly, this strategy can be the “secret edge” that allows you can generate dozens or even hundreds of relevant and high quality backlinks in a short amount of time…
… Backlinks that 99% of your competitors have completely ignored.
I’ll be the first to admit it.
This strategy isn’t exactly sexy.
It’s not as flashy as following the latest content marketing trends or implementing the ninja level On-page SEO tactics that you hear about on most blogs.
But it works… And it can work incredibly well.
And today, I’m going to reveal the exact strategy that you can use to rapidly build an abundance of high quality directory links, overtake your competitors in the SERPs, and explode your business.
Then let’s dive in.
Then and Now: A Brief State of the Union Address Regarding Directory Link Building
In the “good ‘ol days” of SEO, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Google didn’t care about things like high quality content, time on page, or any of those other ‘pesky’ metrics, directory link building was a gold mine.
For about $100, you could build 20,000 directory links while sitting in your pajamas and watching Family Guy reruns.
Then, when you got up the next morning to get back to “business”… Voila! Your website was #1.
Today, that same tactic will get your website sent to the naughty corner and leave it ranking worse than when you started.
Because of the dramatic decrease in the efficacy of directory link building, most SEOs have written it off entirely.
However, if you peel back the curtain and look behind the scenes of the top ranked sites in Google… Almost ALL of them have a metric crapton directory links.
Links that were built after the first few iterations of the Panda and Penguin updates (which basically spelled out the demise of DLB as we knew it).
So it’s clear that directory link building as a strategy still works.
But here’s the thing…
Even though the strategy still works, the tactics with which you execute it have changed dramatically.
Namely: Building directory backlinks with automatic tools or purchasing a bulk deal on Fiverr is now one of the worst things you can possibly do for your website’s success.
It’s an exercise in futility that will drain your bank account, SEO juice, and dignity faster than trying to buy cold traffic from a porn site.
So what is a budding SEO to do?
Find high quality directories, build the backlinks manually, and then reap the rewards.
But before I show you the best ways to execute this strategy, I need to digress for a moment and discuss a quick caveat.
Before We Begin: A Quick Caveat
Directory link building works.
This strategy alone isn’t going to get your website to the top of the SERPs overnight (or ever for that matter).
So before I teach you how to go about effectively leveraging directory submission sites, I need to make sure that your expectations are set appropriately.
Without high quality content, this strategy will not make a difference.
Without regular guest post link building, this strategy won’t accomplish squat.
Without effective on page SEO and a good UX, well… You might as well just put on some tribal drums and try to boost your ranking by doing the “Search Engine Dance” because that’s about how effective this will be.
However, if you are regularly creating and promoting valuable content on your website, getting backlinks from other industry-relevant blogs, and have tended to the tedious on-page factors required to rank highly (in short, the SEO basics), then DLB can serve as the foundational footing you need to position your site to climb the SERPs ladder.
Think of it like your putting together a new house.
Of course, you want that house to be fully furnished and beautiful and getting showered with love from guests, family and appraisers alike.
But first things first.
You need the foundation.
Then the framing. And the…
Paint…(Is that the right order? I have no idea.)
Regardless, it’s a process and not all of it is as fun and sexy as picking out the furniture and finishings.
SEO is quite similar.
When it comes to building a trusted brand with Google, getting onto trusted directories in your location and/or niche is foundational.
Call it table stakes – not a shortcut or a hack.
Think of it as an essential cog for building your SEO foundation.
If your foundation sucks, then the other types of links you get won’t work as well as they could.
But if you’re solid from the ground up, then Google will trust you more, and you can rank higher with less links.
Got it? Good.
Now let’s dive back in.
4 Dead Simple Ways to Find Relevant and Submission Worthy Directories
Before you can actually begin submitting your business website to different directories, you first need to identify the directories that are right for your business.
Although vetting these directories and determining whether or not they can provide any value to your website is a different animal entirely (and I’ll teach you how to do that in just a minute), to get started with this strategy, you’ll want to make a “hit list” of 50-100 potential directories where you can submit your site.
Here are a few easy ways to build your “hit list” and get started.
Finding Relevant Niche Directories with Advanced Search Strings
Tools Required: Google
The first strategy that you’re going to use is leveraging Google’s advanced search string operators to identify niche relevant directories.
This allows you to cut through the fluff and find only the most relevant directories to your specific niche.
Here are a few different advanced search parameters you can use to get started:
- “industry” inurl:directory
- “industry” inurl:links
- “industry” intitle:directory
- intitle:industry inurl:directory
- related:industry inurl:directory
For example, if you run an SEO agency and you wanted to begin building directory backlinks, you could do something like this…
Search: “seo agency” inurl:directory
You’ll likely need to play around with these search parameters a little bit so that you can optimize your searches and find the most relevant directories, but the above search strings should be more than enough to get you started.
Finding Relevant Local Directories with Advanced Search Strings
Tools Required: Google
For those of you running a local brick and mortar business or agency, landing backlinks in local directories can provide a massive advantage over your competition and help drive new traffic and customers that you’d otherwise miss.
To execute this strategy, you’ll be using, more or less, the same search parameters above, albeit catered to your local area (this is especially powerful if your business has multiple websites and locations)
- “city” inurl:directory
- “city” inurl:businesses
- “city” intitle:directory
- “city industry” intitle:directory
- “city directory” intitle:industry
I’d recommend starting with the search string “city directory” intitle:industry in order to make sure that the directories you’re presented with are as relevant to your niche as possible.
For example, if you were running an SEO agency in Denver, Colorado, you could use something like:
“denver directory” intitle:seo
You can also swap the city with the state, to get more relevant opportunities.
Reverse Engineering Your Competitor’s Backlinks
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t reinvent the wheel”.
And this is just as true in the realm of directory link building as it is anywhere else.
Sure, you could spend a few 60 hour work weeks combing through Google using advanced search operators and trying to find all of the best directories where you can submit your website.
And at some point, you probably should.
However, a much simpler and much more effective way to begin executing your new strategy is to reverse engineer your competitors’ backlinks to figure out which directories they are using to build backlinks.
All told, this strategy should only take you a couple of hours and will likely leave you with 20-30 high quality directories where you can easily submit your business.
Here’s how you’re going to do it.
*Note: Before you begin, you’ll want to identify 10-25 competitors with good backlink profiles and domain authority (you can use Moz Link Explorer to find their DA). Check who ranks on page 1 for your target keywords to build the list.You’re going to rinse and repeat the following process with each competitor until you’ve identified a sufficient number of directories to target*
To get started, login to your Linkio profile and head over to the dashboard.
From here, navigate to the upper right hand corner and click “Add Brand”
From here, you’re going to type in the name of your competitor and the copy/paste the URL of their homepage.
In this example, I’m reverse engineering competitors for my SEO agency OutreachMama and decided to target one of the biggest SEO agencies on the planet, Portent.
Click “Add Brand” and then click “View”. You’ll now see the “Brand” page where you will click “Add Pages and Generate Roadmap”.
From here, you’ll be presented with a popup where you’ll be asked to paste the home page URL of your competitor’s website along with the primary keywords that you believe they are targeting.
Try to focus on keywords that you see your competitors using in their titles, headlines, and SEO metadata to ensure that you get the most accurate results.
Click “Save” and Linkio’s magic elves will get to work reverse engineering all of your competitor’s backlinks and presenting you with a list of the most relevant links your competitors have built.
Please note that, depending on the size of your competitor’s site and the amount of time they’ve been in business, this process could take a few minutes to complete.
From here, you’ll be able to see all of the links your competitors have built along with the anchor text, Google index status, and anchor type.
From here, click “Export to CSV”.
When the excel document opens click “Select All” > “Data” > “Filter” and then go to column “I”(include) and select “Yes”.
Then go to column C (anchor type) and click “Sort From A-Z”.
Now, simply start going through the document looking for any branded, website.com, or naked url backlinks from directories or other easy backlink sources.
Rinse and repeat this process with as many competitors as you want until you have a solid list of directories where you can submit your company.
All told, this process will probably take you about 2-3 hours and will allow you to target in on the best directory link building opportunities like an SEO sniper ensuring that you don’t waste your time with low quality or low relevancy websites.
Finding “Mini Directories” on Niche Relevant Websites
Tools Required: Google
While this technically might not qualify as “traditional” directory link building, I’ve found a great deal of backlink success by identifying niche relevant websites with a massive “Best of” article or “recommended resources” page that effectively function as “mini directories”.
For example, if you run a Facebook advertising agency, inputting the search query: “Best Facebook Advertising Agencies” will bring up several top ranked articles detailing the best agencies in the business.
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to secure a spot on one of the first lists right out of the gate (especially if you’re in the startup phase of your business), you can target the 2nd to 10th page of the SERPs to find lists where you might be able to get your business included.
This strategy is much more challenging than conventional directory link building since you’ll need to provide testimonials and case studies and actually interact with the owner of the website.
If you can have your website or company featured on only 2-3 of these articles/resource pages it can provide a powerful “top off” for your SEO juice.
The easiest way that I’ve found to successfully execute this strategy is to review the content on the 2-10th page of the Google SERPs and then go through each list searching for companies that are no longer in business (but still listed in the article).
Once you’ve found one, simply reach out to the webmaster with something like the following:
My name is ____ and I run the company ___ one of the top [insert industry] companies in the world.
I absolutely love what you’ve been doing on [website name] and found your [piece of content you’ve read] particularly insightful.
I also noticed that in your article on the top [niche businesses] xyz company is no longer in business. I just thought I would let you know so that you could remove them from the list and make sure it’s up to date 🙂
P.s. I’d love to be featured in the aforementioned article and attached a few case studies below to show you the caliber of work my business produces. If it’s no good, please feel free to say no. Have a great week(end) 🙂
And that’s it.
It won’t work every time and it’s a much more laborious strategy than traditional directory link building, but it’s even more powerful from an SEO standpoint and can lead to explosive growth in your website’s ranking.
The No Nonsense Way to Determine the Quality of a Potential Link
Ok, so you’ve accepted that directory link building is still a valid SEO strategy, you’ve identified your hit list of 50-100 potential directories using the strategies outlined above and now it’s time to conduct your due diligence and separate the good from the bad and the ugly.
To help you in this endeavor, I’m going to go over a few guidelines for determining whether or not a directory is worth a submission.
Follow vs. Nofollow & Indexed by Google
Before you consider any other factors in your directory link building campaign, you need to first ask two questions.
- Does the directory in question offer dofollow links?
- Is the directory indexed by Google?
If the answer to either of these questions is “No” then move on immediately because the results you’ll generate from a nofollow link on a directory that hasn’t been indexed by Google aren’t just nominal… They’re completely nonexistent.
If you’ve built your directory link list through Linkio, we’ve already done this analysis for you with the export.
The Directories Editorial Selection Policy
Although you might assume that it’s best to target directories that say “Yes” to 99% of the submissions they receive, you’d be wrong (what is it that they say about assuming again?)
For a directory to be worth your time, it needs to be selective about which companies it will and will not allow to be featured.
This might mean that you have to pay a small fee to defray the cost of the editorial review process or it might just mean that you have to follow a few extra steps and provide details about why your company deserves to be featured.
Regardless, you’ll want to avoid any directories that don’t have some sort of vetting process for the businesses they’ll allow on their site.
If they aren’t selective, they aren’t high quality. Period.
Highly Relevant (Specificity)
Although there’s nothing wrong with building a handful of links from general directories, you’ll want to ensure that the brunt of the links you build are on specific directories that are relevant to your particular niche.
With the slew of algorithm updates that Google has released over the past few years, relevancy is more important than ever before and this applies doubly to the links you build through directories.
The Directory is Part of Trusted Domain
Although there are a handful of directories (like Yelp or DMOZ) that are built almost entirely on the directory domain themselves, these types of directories tend to be less valuable.
You’ll want to begin your campaign by targeting directories that are a part of a trusted domain, meaning that the directories are simply a part of the domain, not the domain itself.
The Directory is Useful and Unique
In the modern world of SEO, Google’s algorithm has evolved so profoundly that it simply “Knows” when a website is unique and useful to the people viewing it.
As such, you should look upon any directory that appears to be a cookie cutter copy of popular directories like Yelp, DMOZ, or Tripadvisor with extreme suspicion.
The directories where you submit your website should have their own unique flair, be well organized, and clearly created to serve human beings and not just the infamous Google bot.
Here’s a quick and easy test you can run to determine whether or not a directory meets this criteria.
Pick a specific type of business or website that you want to find (relevant to the directory in question). Go to the directory. Then try and find the best resource on that site.
If you’re unable to quickly and effectively find what you’re looking for or are presented with a plethora of spammy websites and low quality results (more on that in a second), this is a tell tale sign that the directory you’re looking at isn’t worth your time.
On the other hand, if the directory is crisp, easy to navigate, and allows you to lock on to your desired result with ease, then chances are good that it’s worth a submission.
The Directory Ranks Well and Links Out to Reputable Sites
Although this should go without saying, I’m going to say it anyways…
Do NOT build directory links from low ranking websites or directories that link out to spammy websites and companies.
It’s kind of like the whole grass fed “You are what you eat eats” movement.
Even if a directory seems decent enough but it contains dozens or hundreds of links to unreputable or spammy websites, you don’t want to be affiliated with it in any way.
Google doesn’t just look at which domains link to your website, but they also pay attention to the other links that the website in question is pointing to.
If the directory you’re looking at points out to spam sites or has a low rank itself, then take a pages from our friends over on the Jersey shore and “Fugget about it”.
Epic Directory Sites to Get You Started
For this link building strategy to work, you’ll want to make sure that you conduct your own due diligence and find directories that are hyper specific to your niche.
However, I’ve compiled a list of high quality general directories that you can use to get the ball rolling and secure those first 5-10 backlinks.
How to Effectively Execute a Directory Link Building Strategy & Important Things to Note
At this point, you have everything that you need to successfully execute a directory link building campaign that will top off your SEO juice and give your website the extra push it needs to jump forward in the rankings.
However, before I let you go off on your own to begin building directory backlinks for fun and profit, there are a few housekeeping items that I need to discuss.
The #1 Goal of Directory Link Building is to Create Branded or URL Anchor Text to Your Home Page
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, then you know that I’m an absolute stickler about anchor text and type.
Although some SEOs will argue that the anchor text you use to build backlinks is unimportant, my case study with my company OutreachMama and the plethora of other experts like Nathan Gotch, Matt Diggity and Greg Morrison using these tactics say otherwise.
And when it comes to directory link building there are only two types of anchors that you’ll want to build.
Branded or URL.
If the directory you’re reviewing doesn’t allow you to build a branded anchor (e.g. Linkio, Linkio.com) or URL anchor (e.g. linkio.com, https://www.linkio.com) then delete it from your “hit list” and move on.
Keep Directories Niche Relevant
I know I’ve already mentioned the importance of relevance, however, Google has begun to place such a high premium on this factor that it’s worth repeating.
As you begin your DLB campaign, you’ll want to start your journey by targeting the directories that are the most relevant to your specific niche.
Does this mean you can’t build link from general directories like Yahoo! or DMOZ?
Of course not!
However, these directories are simply the icing on the cake.
You’ll want at least 80% of your efforts to be targeted towards hyper specific niche relevant directories that are focused on your industry.
In the same way that Google views a backlink from a highly relevant but slightly less authoritative website as a greater indicator of SEO value than they do a backlink from a highly authoritative but irrelevant website, Google values relevant directory backlinks far greater than they do authoritative directory backlinks.
So focus on relevant directories first and authoritative directories last.
Remember that Directory Link Building Isn’t an SEO Panacea
These days, it seems like most online marketers are looking for that secret pill or potion that will magically boost their site to the first page of the SERPs overnight.
Unfortunately, no such pill, potion, tactic, or strategy exists. And directory link building is no different.
Don’t expect 10, 100, or even 1,000 directory backlinks to magically rank your website for a particular keyword.
… They won’t.
Instead, remember that this strategy is meant to compliment your existing link building campaigns… Not replace them.
Directory link building will help solidify your brand and give your website thematic relevance signals that will prepare your link profile for the future use of keyword anchors.
This is about branding not about specific keywords.
Although this strategy can be valuable to SEOs and webmasters in any stage of their website’s SEO development, it shouldn’t be seen as a cure all.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can rank your website for specific keywords, then I’d recommend you check out my guide to building backlinks where I’ll walk you through all of the tactics and strategies you need to know to get your content to page #1 of the SERPs.
Otherwise, use this strategy to accelerate your existing efforts, but don’t for a second believe that it should replace them.
Over to You
I hope that this guide provides value to you and has given you the tools and tactics that you need to execute an effective directory link building campaign.
Now it’s your turn.
Use what I’ve taught you to expand your existing link building efforts and continue to grow the size and authority of your website’s link building profile.
Remember that exceptional results require exceptional strategies and effort.
Put this content to use and I promise that you’ll quickly accelerate your website’s search engine presence and slowly (but surely) begin to grow your traffic and authority.
What did you think of this guide? Do you have any questions that I didn’t answer? Any conflicting opinions you’d like to share? Just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to respond!