Howarths Stores, Middleton 19th Century

Are Online Directories Any Use For SEO?

2017 saw the demise of, one of the oldest and most respected internet business directories. Years ago, website owners would sell their first-born to get their URL listed with DMOZ in the hope that it would boost their search engine rankings. 3 years ago however, Google announced that it would not ‘count’ any links from DMOZ, but still the applications continued. Finally, DMOZ heroically fell upon it’s sword.

I’ll start by making this clear – the vast majority of online directory listings are generally a waste of time if you are looking for traffic to your website. There, I’ve said it.

Google does though recognise links from other websites to yours as a ranking factor. The problem is that Google now really wants to see only relevant and/or trustworthy websites linking to you. Many Online Directories, unfortunately, do not fall into these categories – although some do.

Directories with high DR (or Domain Rating) are always worth submitting to, anything over 50. These backlinks will help to raise your own website’s DR over time.

We use Brightlocal to acquire Local Citation Backlinks from Directories. For around $3 per citation, they will check your existing directory listings and manually add you to new ones. You should plan to acquire around 10-15 per month, every month.

Free Directories

Free Directories are generally a total waste of time and effort. More than often, their monthly traffic is in very small figures and their Domain Trust Score will be zero. Some are worth submitting to simply for brand-awareness – think Yell, Yelp, Cyclex etc. – but be prepared to field a series of sales calls to try to convince you to pay for expensive ‘premium’ listings.

For certain clients I occasionally find respected niche directories of value to them.

Pay-For Directories

Directories which charge a fee have to be closely examined. Although some niche directories may be of value in driving targeted traffic to your site, Google expressly advises that you should NOT pay for links to gain rankings. Doing so may in fact negatively impact your positions.

Yahoo will provide free listings but until recently were still trying to sell Directory Listings / Adverts for £450 or more for 6 months. They claim that you get a link to your website. What they don’t tell you is that the ‘link’ first bounces through Bing before redirecting to your site. Was it worth £75 or more per month?

Some Directory Listings Can Be Worthwhile

Amongst other factors, Google looks for a healthy ‘backlink profile’ when deciding how far up the search rankings your website shows. Links, even free ones, on trusted directories will add positively to that profile. Google is said to use these directory listings as ‘certifications’ or ‘citations’ of your business.

Here are several websites where you should list your business immediately, all free…

Before doing so, however, you should ensure that your basic information – Business Name, Address, Contact Email, Contact Telephone and Opening Hours are all perfectly correct. This information MUST be matched exactly whenever you submit your website to any directory. Any differences in spelling or the format of your address or telephone number may confuse Google.

Google My Business

A Google Maps (or ‘My Business’) listing is the first backlink you should obtain. You may have to wait a few days for postal verification, but well worth it.


Cyclex licenses business information to many other directories including Time spent to populate your Cyclex Business Information Profile will be well worth it.


Again, a free listing – but expect a call from someone in Yell Sales within a week or so trying to sell you an upgraded premium listing. Almost never worth it!


Another free listing and worth spending the time filling in all your profile information. Connected with touchlocal. You will get a sales call!


Again, worth spending your time creating a free listing.

Trading Standards

Your local Council should have an online directory of local trusted businesses. There is normally a fee to apply and you must be able to meet expectations and provide certain documentation such as evidence of qualifications in some sectors, and certainly evidence of insurance. Great for local tradesmen such as plumbers, electricians, builders, decorators etc.

Supplier ‘Where To Buy’ Listings

Crucial for many sectors. Draw up a list of your suppliers and investigate if they have a ‘where to buy’, ‘approved installers’ or other such directory on their website. Some may not even provide a link to your website, but still very worthwhile for traffic to your site.

Trade Bodies

Any trade bodies of which you are a member can provide powerful backlinks as part of your subscription.

Social Media

Not exactly local directories, but you must ensure that your business has a profile on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and such. Not only can your posts on these be linked back to your website, but having links here will add to your website’s authority.

Case Study – A ‘UK’ Business Directory

Whilst attending client premises, I am often ‘encouraged’ to take phone calls from online advertising companies. Recently I had such a call foisted upon me from a UK-based Business Directory offering a £99 listing on their website. “This will be great for your SEO and bring you in lots of business…” the salesman claimed. Well, let’s see…

I did some basic analytics on their site…

  1. The website is simply horrific. Old-fashioned, user-unfriendly and not even mobile compatible.
  2. The meta title, headings and all sorts of other SEO infrastructure requirements are seriously at fault.
  3. The domain Trust Score is ‘zero’ with 85% of it’s incoming links coming from abroad and the vast majority from known spam websites. Hardly inspiring.
  4. Analysis shows that this site has very few visitors per month. In single figures. Oh dear.
  5. They do not spend any money at all in online advertising. No wonder it has no traffic.
  6. 2015 accounts showed a net worth of just £2500 for the Ltd. Company behind it. Hardly impressive.
  7. The Directory is run by a web design company. Their own website even fails basic SEO infrastructure checks.

CONCLUSION – These people are Snake-Oil Salesmen who are simply ripping off honest businesses with false promises. They should stop scamming immediately and start spending some time learning the fundamental basics of internet marketing. A course in Business Ethics would not go amiss either.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *