Howarths Stores, Middleton 19th Century

Use Online Directories to Promote Your Business Website

Should you spend your time adding your website to the hundreds of business listing directories available? Well, our answer is yes and no. OK, we know that it is not like us to sit on the fence, but the evidence does speak for itself.

We’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. Especially the ones that want money from you! There, we’ve said it.

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 domain listed with DMOZ in the hope that it would boost their search engine rankings. 5 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.

Google does recognise some 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. Confused? Read on…

Directories with high DR (or Domain Rating) are usually worth submitting to, anything over DR50 on the Ahrefs calculator. These backlinks will help to raise your own website’s trustworthiness over time, even if the backlinks are set as ‘nofollow’. A higher Domain Rating makes your website more trustworthy according to sources such as Ahrefs because of the higher number of relevant incoming links.

If you are wondering about the significance of our header image – it’s Howarth’s Stores, an old grocery business in Manchester, Lancashire owned by an ancestor of CGain’s MD, Chris Giles.

Don’t just take our word on all this about directory listings, check out what SEO conference speakers such as Dixon Jones, Craig Campbell and Itamar Blauer have to say too. Scroll down for their unique insights.

Automate Your Listings

We recommend that our clients use our Citation Building Service to acquire Local Citation Backlinks from Directories. For less than £3 per citation, we will check your existing directory listings and manually add you to new ones. You should plan to acquire around 25-50 per month, every month. We will also help you to put right any inconsistent or wrong listings.

Free Directories

Free Directories can seem to be 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. Each submission will take you around 15 minutes. 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, we 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. Is it worth £75 or more per month? No!

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 some websites where you should list your business immediately, mostly 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 domain, address or telephone number may confuse Google.

Create a folder on your computer – including in here text files of your business name, exact address, opening hours, phone number, the domain name (all matching those on your website), a good business description and a gallery of jpg images.

Google My Business

A Google Maps (or ‘My Business’) listing is the first ‘directory’ you should list your business on. You may have to wait a few days for postal verification, but well worth it. GMB is awesome, you can use it to make news posts, add images, create special offers and obtain reviews.

Facebook Buisness Page

A Facebook Business Page is free and easy to set up. You can use it for free and paid promotions plus you can regularly link to new articles or pages on your website to drive traffic.

Apple Maps

You can access Apple Maps by going to and signing in with your Apple ID. Free and easy to submit your business.

Craigs Directory

A top UK-Based Directory run with the same software as the big directories. Add or Claim your business at


Cylex 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.


Lacartes is a worldwide directory and accepts free listings.

Trading Standards

Your local Council may 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 useful backlinks as part of your subscription. We are members of our regional Chamber of Commerce.

Professional Memberships

We are subscribed to several, including The Chartered Institute of Marketing and The Institute of Data & Marketing. If you qualify for such, these will add credibility to your business as well as a possible backlink.


Your old university or college may well have a list of former students (or Alumni) who have gone on to great things. A link from an educational establishment is highly valuable. We’re lucky to have a couple.

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. if you are using Schema Structured Data on your site (which you should be), marking up your business social media profiles as ‘SameAs’ Schema is essential.

Craig Campbell SEO’s Insight

Craig Campbell is a renowned SEO Expert based in Glasgow, speaking at SEO Conferences across the UK.

“In my opinion, directories do still work as part of an SEO campaign but listen to me before you run away and submit to loads of directories.
12 years ago links were links and directory submissions were a big part of peoples backlink profiles, literally any link would do, directory relevant or not and it worked a treat and people got good rankings, there was no such thing as PBN’s, Guest Posts and all that type of thing. There was a directory Dmoz that people would have to wait 6 months to a year to get approved on, and even then you were doing well, you had to know a guy who knew a guy. So they were powerful and then Google changed things up and gave less weight to this type of link.
But fast forward to 2020 I still use directories as part of my link building and SEO process, simply for organic SEO what will do from the get-go would be to get some geographic-specific, niche relevant and some generic directory links all with a view to getting a free listing and a link, they do still pass a little bit of power, believe it or not, go and try it submit to 20 directories and see what happens. Now the key these days to making sure this works is not to copy and past the same business BIO to all 20 directories, otherwise only one or two of them will get indexed and pass any value. So you can use a service to do this for you or go and spin the text up and make sure you get all 20 directories indexed.
With Google my business or GMBs as many others call it, Google isn’t looking for links they are looking for citations and consistent NAP. Name address and postcode you want to ensure are consistent on all directories and that may seem a real simple request but too many people use shortened words such as ST rather than Street. The key to having good citations is having them consistent across the board exactly the same on all other directories and this will help you rank your GMB.
So directories do still have a part to play in the world of SEO, they have to be used correctly and they can have an impact on your search engine rankings, just don’t spam them to death like 12 years ago.”

Itamar Blauer’s Insight

Itamar Blauer is an SEO consultant based in London. He has a proven track-record of increasing website rankings with SEO that is UX focused, data-backed and creative.

“Online directories are so varied nowadays that it can be difficult to identify which ones can positively affect SEO. For any local business, directories which are niche and geographically-specific can not only provide relevancy signals to Google but can also drive high-quality traffic. I’d argue they’re still one of the most important link building strategies if approached correctly. That is, checking to see if the directory gets traffic, whether or not it deals with many different categories, as well as identifying if you can obtain dofollow backlinks from them. Some online directories will only list businesses that pay, however, this can often be a deal-breaker when there’s high competition in terms of who can secure the highest ranking.”

Dixon Jones’ Insight

Dixon Jones is a well-known, respected and award-winning member of the Internet Marketing community with 20 years of experience in search marketing and 25 years of business innovation. The former Marketing Director of Majestic is now one of the masterminds behind the incredible new SEO Tool

“For a time, during what we call the “Panda Years”, Google was (and remains) very aggressive at demoting web content from thin directories. That is to say, directories that anyone can join, for any reason. Links from these directories may once have been a liability to your site, but these days are most likely just useless. However, where a directory page is in itself highly regarded, a listing may still be of value. For example, a local chamber of commerce may proudly list its 20 members on their site, giving a short description of the businesses. This page may well be of value. So highly niche directories can still add value, but if there are so many pages on the directory that the site is unable to link directly to each listing, then it is unllikely that the listing will carry much weight. Here is an example, though, of a “rich content” directory listing doing well in search (screenshot).”

Directory listing holiday lets in Bala

Top 30 Local Citations For the United Kingdom

Case Study – A ‘BAD’ UK Business Directory

Whilst attending client premises, we are often ‘encouraged’ to take incoming phone calls from online advertising companies. Recently we had such a call foisted upon us 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…

We 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. 2018 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.

Chris Giles

Chris Giles is the owner of CGain Web Design & SEO and has been involved in the internet industry since the early 1990’s. He has been the marketing manager of several multi-million turnover companies. He is a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM) and a Fellow of The Institute of Data and Marketing (F IDM).



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