Before search engines, we had web directories that cataloged websites like the good old-fashioned Yellow Pages. (Are you old enough to remember phone books?)
To find a website, you’d browse the list of websites alphabetically or by category.
In fact, one of the reasons Jeff Bezos named his website “Amazon” is because it starts with an A.
Beginning with the first letter of the alphabet gave it a better chance of being discovered in an alphabetical list.
Before that, Jeff Bezos wanted to call it Cadabra.
Cadabra Prime? Hmmm…
- How Directories Were Once Used for SEO
- Are Web Directories Still Relevant?
- A Few Important Things to Know about Directories
- 18 SEO-Worthy General Web Directories
- The Final 6 — Specialized Web Directories
- GMB Tracking With ProRankTracker
How Directories Were Once Used for SEO
SEO for directory websites has been on the decline in recent years, as Google has been de-indexing many of them.
Once search engines came along, web directories had to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.
Search engines built their own dynamic directory featuring more targeted results, and users no longer needed to browse lists of URLs to find a website.
Google won the race to become the most comprehensive search engine.
Today, it’s the world’s leading web directory, and more than 90% of all online searches are made on Google.
It can crawl billions of web pages in a split second to give users the most relevant results.
Old-fashioned directories used to be the bread and butter of basic SEO strategies.
A general web directory list contains websites organized by category. For example, a general web directory might have a section for “Arts & Entertainment” and another for “Business & Finance.” Websites are typically submitted to general web directories by their owners, and they are then reviewed and categorized by directory editors. General web directories can be a valuable resource for website owners, as they can help to increase visibility and traffic.
In Google’s early days, websites could nab an SEO advantage with keyword placement and directory submissions.
Because Google saw directories as valid backlinks, directories were far more popular back then — they were also a source of traffic, which boosted SEO rankings.
Are Web Directories Still Relevant?
Do online directories still hold SEO value for link building in 2021, or are they relics not worth your time and effort?
The short answer — they still hold some power, but not like back in the old days.
Their power as backlinks and traffic drivers have diminished significantly, and some low-quality directories can even hurt your rankings.
Regardless, we’re going to focus on the power that web directories still hold and how to harness it to your business’ advantage.
When businesses list their websites on web directories, it can generate traffic, and as traffic increases, SEO rankings go up.
SEO experts across the web report ranking benefits when using high-quality web directories.
The long and short of it is that directories can give a website a traffic boost but avoid low-quality directories like the plague.
A Few Important Things to Know
The goal of using directories is to increase your business’s online visibility.
Submissions are usually easy and don’t require any SEO skill — if you are a beginner, it’s an excellent way to jumpstart your SEO journey.
Follow these tips to gain traction and avoid your effort backfiring when submitting your website to a directory:
- Avoid mass submissions — More does NOT mean better when it comes to directories. Many SEO experts report that mass submissions can hurt rankings and are seen as spamming. Only submit to relevant directories.
- Add gradually — It’s considered a best practice to add your business to web directories gradually. Space your submissions out — a general recommendation is about 6 web directories submissions per month.
- Avoid directory submission services and tools — Certain services exist to do the heavy lifting for you. They submit your website to all the directories at once. While these services seem enticing, you can end up wasting money by getting submitted to low-quality directories and hurting your SEO progress.
- Make sure the directory is SEO friendly — SEO for directory websites has come a long way since the early 2000s. Today, however, Google’s algorithm is much more sophisticated, and directory links from low-quality websites can actually hurt your SEO. That’s why it’s important to be selective when choosing which directories to list your website on. Found a directory you never heard of? Research to ensure they’re a legitimate directory rather than a spammy website that’ll hurt your rank. A quick Google search will suffice. Remember — if you’re not sure, don’t risk it!
- Local and niche directories are good for local SEO — If you’re doing SEO for a local business, look for directories relevant to the company’s area and niche. Their ranking power for local searches is better than a general directory, and it helps Google associate your website with its niche. As high as 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information, and Google considers this in ranking results. A car dealership should be listed in an auto internet directory like AutoTrader, while a boutique hotel should be listed in a hotel directory, such as Trivago.
- Consistency and accuracy — When submitting your business details to a directory, make sure those details are consistent and accurate across all directories. Consistency will prevent confusion among your clients and improve your SEO results.
- Content matters — Don’t forget that people will be reading these directories, so your business description needs to be helpful and attention-grabbing. Google likes content diversity, so don’t reuse the same description for every directory. Rephrasing keeps your words fresh.
- Claims and review management — Your business listing may already exist in some directories and be gathering reviews without your knowledge. Before listing your business, search the directory, and if you’re already listed, claim your listing, and manage your brand’s reputation by following up on reviews. Thank positive reviewers and respond to negative reviews responsibly. Use negative reviews to your benefit by being kind and addressing the customers’ issues.
SEO for directory websites can be a great way to improve your website’s search engine rankings. By submitting your website to high-quality directories, you can increase your chances of being found by potential customers. However, with so many directories out there, it can be difficult to know which ones are worth your time and effort.
To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of the 18 best web directories for SEO.
18 SEO-Worthy General Web Directories
Google My Business is Google’s native directory of businesses, and it’s much more than just a directory.
It’s connected to Google maps, showing searchers businesses based on their current location.
Most importantly, it shows crucial data about that business, such as reviews (which can drive physical traffic to your business), operating hours, and contact info.
Since GMB is featured at the top of the SERP, it can beat organic search results.
Doing well on GMB will also benefit your traditional ranks, so getting listed in GMB is a must.
In addition, ProRankTracker enables you to track your ranking within Google My Business’s “Snack Pack.”
You can even compare how your business ranks in GMB from different locations within ProRankTracker.
Having your business listed on Facebook is helpful for a couple of reasons:
- Facebook acts as a traditional business directory. Your Facebook business page lists info such as business hours, contact details (including native contact options like Messaging), location, pictures, reviews, menus, and more. (plus it’s a free business listing)
- A Facebook presence is important for most marketing strategies and can drive traffic to your website.
Apple Maps, like Google My Business, is more than a directory and includes similar business data with each listing.
Apple devices use Apple Maps instead of Google Maps — “Siri Searches” go through Apple Maps, not GMB.
Businesses only listed on GMB could miss out on Apple users (which amount to nearly HALF of all US smartphone users).
The BBB is a directory designed to help consumers find and recommend businesses and brands they trust.
It’s one of the top trustworthy sources for consumers on the web, and many people check here before conducting business with a company.
The BBB is one of Google’s sources for user sentiment when ranking YMYL type websites — especially negative sentiment.
What separates this from the other common web directories is that you need to apply for accreditation and be approved to be listed.
Once you’re listed, your business will gain more trust.
BBB is a highly visited directory with an Alexa rank of 647 and 17 million monthly visitors.
Bing Places is Bing’s GMB-equivalent business directory.
Bing is still relevant as a search engine.
- It’s the default search engine of Edge, which is the default browser for Windows users.
- It’s ranked 6th on Alexa.
- It has a 2.5% market share by search volume — still a massive number of searches.
- Most Bing users are more economically stable than Google users.
GMB might get you a visitor, but Bing Places might get you a paying visitor.
Yelp is one of the most popular general web directories for businesses.
Yelp’s primary focus is community-sourced reviews for local businesses.
It’s prevalent in the US and features a variety of business categories.
Yelp has accumulated more than 224 million reviews for businesses.
A good Yelp ranking will help drive traffic to your business (both to your website and physical location if you’ve got one).
Some people might not even consider visiting you without Yelp reviews, so it’s worth your time to register your business on Yelp.
TripAdvisor is the best directory in the travel niche.
It includes every category relevant for travel, from restaurants to escape rooms.
Getting your website listed on TripAdvisor will boost your visibility to out-of-town visitors — especially if you rank highly within TripAdvisor.
Remember those big Yellow Pages books that used to get dropped off on your front porch?
Even though you probably haven’t seen it in book form in a while, the Yellow Pages is still alive and kicking.
For most of us, the Yellow Pages is the OG business directory and the perfect example of what a web directory should be.
YP has an Alexa rank of 533 in the US, and although the Yellow Pages isn’t as commonly used as it once was, it’s still a well-recognized business.
Listing your business in their web directory could point potential customers your way, especially if you have a physical location.
Nextdoor was designed to give people the opportunity to recommend neighborhood businesses.
It’s a digital community for people who live near each other to interact, make recommendations, and share their experiences.
This web directory has grown to more than 27 million ACTIVE users in less than a decade.
Over 50 million business recommendations have been made on Nextdoor.
Nextdoor isn’t just a place where people look up businesses — it’s also a referral site.
Listing your business on Nextdoor and generating positive reviews has the potential to increase visibility in your community.
Manta is a web directory used for discovering small local businesses.
It features details like location and contact info and gives users the option to manage their other website listings from Manta.
It also offers SEO services (for a fee) to businesses that want an extra boost on Google’s SERP so it’s one of the best directories for backlinks.
Manta ranks 737 in the US — that’s a massive number of people that could be exposed to your business’s listing.
Local.com is an established business listing site where users can find local businesses and activities.
Listing your business on Local.com allows customers to post reviews of your business, and you can publish contact and location info.
Local’s US Alexa rank is 1379 and gets approximately 40 million monthly visitors.
Foursquare’s city guide provides website listings and reviews for all types of local businesses, mainly accessed from Foursquare’s mobile app.
Its main goal is to turn visiting places into a social activity.
Within the app, you can see where your friends have visited and their opinions of the location.
This type of referral system allows you to generate a lot of momentum on Foursquare.
Foursquare is well-known and has more than 50 million users. By usage alone, this makes it one of the best directories for backlinks.
Superpages, like the Yellow Pages, are viewed as an authoritative internet directory.
Its Alexa rank in the US is 5731.
One of the most significant benefits of being listed on Superpages is that its backlinks have a higher value than small general web directories.
Users can search for professionals or businesses in their vicinity, and Superpages produces a list of local businesses’ contact information, review data, and physical location.
Since Superpages visitors often click through to a business’s website, it’s a great way to generate web traffic.
Chamberofcommerce.com is another local business directory with over 30 million businesses in its web directory serving 15 million visitors per year.
Each business listed contains contact data, reviews, and location, plus a business description — Chamberofcommerce.com operates just like a local chamber of commerce.
More than 100 million people visited MerchantCircle in 2020 to find local businesses near them, so listing your business here could give you access to a significant audience.
Each listing on MerchantCircle includes reviews, contact info, and location data.
Many people prefer local businesses, and MerchantCircle gives you the chance to get your business in front of those potential customers.
eLocal is a reputable web directory for local businesses.
Each listing includes contact data, business hours, website, a description, and more.
It’s free to list a business on eLocal, but not all features are available to non-paying members.
According to eLocal’s website, their user base numbers in the millions. (That’s a lot of eyes on your business!)
Do you have a blog?
List it on Blogarama.
Blogarama is the oldest web directory solely dedicated to blogs — It contains over 150,000 registered blogs and receives millions of visitors each year.
It’s free to submit a blog to Blogarama. Paid listings are also available for businesses.
Since people go to Blogarama to discover new blogs, it’s a great place to grow your reader base and develop your blog.
Most people think about personal profiles when they think of LinkedIn, but did you know that you can create business profiles as well?
Creating a business profile on LinkedIn’s web directory is a great way to pull in new traffic.
If you’re active in industry groups and communicate well on the platform, people are more likely to follow the link to your website.
LinkedIn’s web directory is unique because it offers the opportunity to interact with people in addition to them simply finding your business listing.
Like Facebook, you can also post content that builds your business’ brand.
The Final 6 — Specialized Web Directories
Up to this point, we’ve been looking at general web directories.
Now let’s check out 6 specialized web directories that target niche-specific businesses.
Listing your niche business in a targeted directory can get your company noticed by your dream customers.
The Knot is the top web directory for any wedding-related business, including catering, venues, shows, decorating, planning, and the list goes on.
The Knot gets over 6 million visitors every single month.
The targeted exposure you could gain from listing your business on The Knot could generate incredible traffic to your website.
Are you an auto dealer?
AutoTrader is the top directory for local people who buy and sell cars — it’s easy to visit any listed auto dealer’s website from the directory.
AutoTrader is ranked 265 in the US, which means you could drive tons of car shoppers to your website and your physical location by listing your business.
While other sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor list plenty of restaurants, they’re cluttered with all different types of businesses, and a restaurant might not get the attention it deserves.
Zomato only lists restaurants, so it’s the perfect option for restaurant owners wanting to generate more traffic (both web traffic and foot traffic).
While Zomato is more popular in other countries, it’s growing in popularity in the US, which means nows the time to list your restaurant.
Most people probably want more than a Yelp listing and review when searching for a lawyer — Lawyer.com specializes as a web directory for lawyers.
More than 25 million people visit Lawyer.com every month looking for an attorney, and 95% of all US lawyers are listed.
People can search by the type of lawyer and location as well as read through reviews, check out websites and contact information.
Care.com is the most reputable online directory for caregiving professionals, including nannies, senior caregivers, housekeepers, and other types of care.
More than 16 million people use Care.com to find caregivers, so it’s an excellent opportunity to improve your SEO while growing your client base.
If you’re a care professional, it’s tough to generate organic search traffic.
Listing your business and website on Care.com can increase your traffic and boost your SEO.
Angie’s List, now called Angi, is a directory of professionals, contractors, and service providers in the field of technical housework and repairs.
Users search for professionals like plumbers, electricians, and repairmen to handle jobs around their homes.
It also features local reviews and recommendations based on various rating categories, including price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality, and professionalism.
If you’re a technical professional that works in and around people’s homes, listing your business on Angi is a smart marketing move.
Angi.com is ranked 1708 in the US, which means it pulls in a steady flow of traffic.
GMB Tracking With ProRankTracker
When listing your business on GMB, you should know that it’ll be ranked based on the searcher’s physical location and other factors.
Without a specialized tool, it’s hard to know precisely how your website performs on Google My Business when searched from different locations.
ProRankTracker helps you track your localized rank.
There are 3 GMB positions to pay attention to:
- The Local Pack’s position in the SERP usually appears at the featured snippet #1 spot, but not always.
- Your business’ position inside of the Local Pack itself
3. Your business’ position on the entire Google map view, which changes dynamically as the map location changes.
ProRankTracker shows all of this information in an organized data table.
For example, here’s ProRankTracker’s table for the search, “carpet cleaning queens” from several nearby locations:
Because these positions change based on the searcher’s location throughout the search, you should add several relevant areas to track, like in the example above.
Following your localized rankings in GMB is one of the most effective ways to generate web traffic from local visitors.
While directories might not create high-volume web traffic, the relative ease of putting a business to free directory submission sites is worth while.
In addition, using high-quality web directories can help grow your online marketing, your brand, manage your reputation, increase overall visibility, and get more reviews.
By increasing your audience size, your SEO rank can also increase.
Other than SEO value, many of these free directories have their own paid advertising options giving you the opportunity to increase page rank and attract more visitors through those options as well.
As you list your website and business information on relevant web directories, remember to shady sites that might hurt your SEO.
Let us know how web directories play into your SEO strategy in the comments below.