Building Directory Links: The 90’s SEO Technique That Still Works

If you've been reading up on the latest fashion, you'll know that the 90's are back. I'm sure you've seen more than a few people sporting Wayfarers or liberal amounts of neon lately. Keep your fingers crossed for the return of Hypercolor t-shirts and slap bracelets.


While there are plenty of techniques that have emerged even within the past few months, let alone 10 years, there is one SEO practice that remains tried and true. Link building via directories is still a valuable part of any linkbuilding campaign, as long as it used in combination with other methods.. After all, search engines were built on directories.

I've become pretty familiar with site listings here at Distilled, and would like to offer you my top ten tips. Enjoy!

1. Come up with a comprehensive list of directories.

Some helpful resources are: Go through the lists to check each directory's Page Rank, Domain MozRank, Google crawl rate, pricing, and niche value. Weed out the good from the bad, and note down any relevant information for each site (such as whether or not the directory allows anchor text in the title).

2. Keep track of your previous directory work.

Note which directories approve your links right away and which ones do not. If they haven't been approved within a week or two, chances are they will never go live. Also make a note of the specific URL of your link. These have a tendency to get buried as time passes, so revisit the directory from time to time to ensure your link is still *somewhere*.

3. Ask your client for an employee name and email address.

As most directories require a name and email on the listing, it would be much more legitimate if it came directly from your client's domain. Suggest they add a new email address that is slightly different to one of an existing employee (such as, or Just make sure that employee doesn't mind having his/her name being used on such sites.

4. Be careful with your Paypal account.


Paypal is the payment method of choice for most sites and it doesn't take kindly to multiple charges in a row to unrecognised email addresses for around the same amounts. Paid directory submissions should be approached with caution and moderation.

5. Reciprocal links = avoid.

Don't bother with sites that require backlinks. There are plenty of good directories out there that allow free submissions with no 'catch'. Many of these reciprocal link directories live in a little place we like to call Spam Town and will damage your site's reputation.

6. Niche directories are super neat.

This almost goes without saying, but a more targeted directory to your client's niche will benefit your link building campaign greatly. While some may require a fee for inclusion (and it's usually pretty steep) there are plenty of free sites out there. Work your search magic to find just what you're looking for, and try out SEOmoz's Juicy Link Finder. Additionally, niche directories can include sites that the client has 'earned' entry into, such as ethical or city-based directories. The implicit exclusivity can lead to directory strength in these cases.


7. Use the correct category.

I've come across so many sites that have been listed under a category within a directory that was just wrong. Make sure you understand exactly what your client does! While some directories have editors who will switch your site to a different category if they feel it belongs elsewhere, it's always better to get it right the first time. This will prevent a delay or even a rejection in your site submission.

8. Submitting deeplinks isn't always easy.

Not every directory allows you to submit a deeplink from your site; most require a link at domain level only. Referring back to tip no. 1, make sure you do your research on what each directory will and won't do.

9. Put the description section to good use.

99.9% of directories require a site description of around 250 words. This is a great place to work a little SEO magic, incorporating more keyphrases than the title section will allow. Usually, the text for this can be copied directly from your site's meta description; failing that, a few sentences on the company with targeted keywords can be easily fudged written.

10. Don't take their word for it.

Have you ever submitted a site to a directory, only for them to email you with recommendations for other directories to try? Don't bother. They will have a very low Page Rank and almost no worth. Be choosy and select quality over quantity.

All link building campaigns can benefit from directory submissions, but this is only one aspect. The most success comes from a well-rounded approach with links coming from a wide variety of sources and sites.

Have any more tips on directory link building? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Get blog posts via email