In defense of (good) directory links

In defense of (good) directory links

Directory links tend to make it to the top of a lot of “expert” SEO’s lists of websites you should avoid when building links. And anyone who has built any amount of these links has probably gotten questioned about them from clients because they’ve read such nonsense and they’re panicked because they think they’re going to harm their website.

Well, I like directory links a lot (actually, I absolutely love directory links and would honestly probably opt for a good directory link over the low authority [inurl:links OR inurl:resources] links that a lot of SEOs like to focus on), I’ve built a lot of them, and I’ve never gotten a website penalized.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of websites that qualify as a “directory” that you should avoid. This isn’t a post telling you how to rank with links.

A good directory will meet all of these criteria and more:

  • Serve a purpose beyond passing PageRank or whatever lame metric you want to use.
  • Operate within a well defined niche.
  • Not be a broken piece of shit.
  • Not be linking to a bunch of spammy or irrelevant websites.
  • Probably human edited, or at least monitored.

Why you shouldn’t ignore directory links.

So, why do I love them so much?

They’re bad ass.

Well, first of all, directory links are cool as shit. As a link builder, getting these links actually feels like I’m building something as opposed to sending a shotgun blast of emails begging people for links.

It also feels really, really, really good to rank a website with these kind of links while watching competitors struggle to move the needle with boring “content marketing” and guest posts and /links pages.

Easy to find.

It takes a certain amount of skill to find good directories, and no one seems to be writing any guides about how to do so, but when you learn how to read URLs (like actually read them) you can spot such a website in a half a second’s glance while scrolling through a backlink report. You can also find them pretty easy if you know how to use Google. (Hint: inurl:listing and inurl:company can work pretty well). I’d also recommend making sure any directory you approach for a link is indexed.

No asshole webmasters to communicate with.

Perhaps my favorite thing about a lot of directory links is that you generally don’t have to talk to any greedy or rude webmasters to get them. While true that the best directories are human edited, you can usually be sure when reaching out to these sites that they aren’t likely to ask for anything in return, unless stated otherwise on the site. And if they do ask for some sort of compensation, you can just move along.


When you get good at finding these types of sites, you can build quite a few links of them in the time it takes you to convince just one website owner to add your link to their “resources” page, especially if the website you’re building links for doesn’t have much to offer in the way of content or other linkable assets. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of clients who don’t have much to offer beyond the products they sell, and that’s okay! (The absolute last thing the web needs is more niche ecommerce stores with stale “content” that no one is ever going to read.)

NOT Spammy.

Okay, there are no doubt a ton of spam directories but I’m not talking about them right now. In general, I would never build a link on a directory with an “Arts & Humanities” category (it’s usually the first in the list of categories on a vague directory site) or on a directory that wasn’t immediately relevant to the website I was building links for. A niche directory is a website just like any other and the best ones are built with purpose to serve their users. In fact, a lot of times they’re attached to industry publications or blogs.

You have full control.

Every link builder knows the pains of trying to get a webmaster to make an edit to a link they’ve fucked up somehow. Maybe they didn’t add the www. to your link or linked to the non-https version. Maybe they spelled your company name wrong. Maybe the anchor text they used is a little too close to exact match for your comfort. I could write an entire article about things webmasters get wrong. You don’t have to worry about those things when you’re in control.

That control also gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with your link. Maybe you do want that exact match anchor text. Maybe you want to link to a specific product page.

Optimized URL structure.

Good directories are usually structured pretty well which gives you the added benefit of having a URL that tells search engines exactly what that page is about – especially if it contains the category your website is listed in. That’s not something you get from any /links or /resources page!

Potential to drive traffic.

This should honestly be the most important criteria of any link you build, but reality is that even some of the best links might not get clicked very often. SEOs love to talk about traffic potential of links but how often do they really think people are exploring that random professor’s links page on a subdomain of their community college’s website. You know, that one you got him to update for the first time since 2005.

Nevermind what anyone will tell you about directory links, they can be a great way to drive traffic to your website. In fact, here’s an email I got just a couple days ago about a link I built on a home decor directory:


I also got a link not too long ago on a niche directory for a client that I honestly didn’t have high hopes anyone was going to visit. I checked on the link a couple months later to find that one of their pissed off customers had left a negative review. At least I know some grumpy ass old guy was able to find that page, so it must not have been a completely terrible link after all!

Your competition are ignoring them.

Since everyone routinely recommends staying away from these completely valid, useful and beneficial websites, that means your competitors are likely ignoring them. This gives you tremendous opportunity to build a backlink profile full of optimized, traffic-driving links from websites that the competition which will soon be ranked below you don’t have links from.

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