Are Directory Submissions still Effective to Promote Websites in the 2020s?

Directory submissions were a key part of most website marketing strategies in the early days of the web. Webmasters used to get their site listed in the major directories like Yahoo Directory (which closed in 2014) and use submit-a-site services to blast listings to hundreds of other sites.

Since then, the web has changed and most of those directories are now defunct. This has led many to believe that directory submissions are dead, and that they’re a pointless effort which only inexperienced Internet marketers waste their time on.

So does this website promotion tactic still work in the 2020’s, and who’s right in the debate about whether it does more harm than good?

Pointless & Potentially Harmful

Critics claim that directory submissions don’t work and worse still, they may even damage your site’s standing with Google by getting links in the wrong places and in the wrong way.

There are a few main arguments against using directories as a web promotion tool:

  1. No Traffic/Exposure – the first is that people don’t use internet directories to look for websites anymore, so any listing isn’t going to get much reach or traffic, if any.
  2. Negligible Link Value – directory links may have been worthwhile years ago when link quantity mattered to Google, regardless of quality. But now that thousands of cheap links can easily be bought to game the system, they’re totally pointless now.
  3. Negative SEO Implications – most directories (especially instant approval ones) have poor quality controls and are typically filled with sites you don’t want to be associated with. Getting these easy links may end up getting your site penalized by the search engines.

All these points are very valid.

Instead of helping Internet users to discover good websites, the majority of web directories only exist for SEOs to build links. So, they typically don’t have any real users, no authentic traffic, no naturally earned backlinks and hence no genuine domain authority.manipulate search engine rankings

Just as they are effectively selling links/listings for websites to manipulate their search engine rankings, most directories with notable stats will have artificially inflated their own SEO metrics to appear more appealing.

All in all, it’s hard to imagine how links from these web directories can have any benefit on a site’s rankings in Google.

Both parties are blatantly trying to outsmart one of the most powerful companies in the world and an advanced artificial intelligence system that is designed to detect such fraudulent activity.

There’s no doubt Google is fully aware of what’s going on, which is why the average directory link is pointless.

Good Links can be Very Powerful

The reasons against using web directories to promote websites are generally true.

Yes, the majority of web directory submissions are useless. Yes, getting a free spammy listing among suspicious sites may raise a red flag. And yes, you’d be hugely mistaken to think that the regular directory listing will bring you traffic or be promoting your site in any way.

But, there’s a high chance that submitting your website to the right directories can have a positive impact, and it should be part of an overall web promotion strategy.

The key is to be highly selective and intentional with the listings targeted:

  1. Understand the Value – among other things, the effectiveness of a directory listing depends on each industry/vertical, the directory’s quality, and the placement of your link within the directory.
  2. Focus on Quality – one good listing is way more powerful than appearing on hundreds of irrelevant directories. So, it is very much a case of quality over quantity.
  3. Be Prepared to Pay – good links are valuable and you won’t get decent directory listings for free. Get ready to pay for quality.

Getting listed in an authoritative web page within a reputable directory is definitely worth the time and money invested. But you need to know what to do and where to do it.

Apart from some SEOs and Internet Marketers who specialize in link building, not many people have the knowledge about how to assess whether a page within a directory is valuable to get a listing.

Understandably, those who know tend to keep the information to themselves in order to get an edge over other marketers. While everyone else simply believe that web directory submissions are pointless because the 99% of links gained really are useless.

How do Directory Listings help your Site?

Getting good placements in local listings, trade directories, or other lists of niche sites may get you some traffic, or even brand exposure if it has a reasonable audience.

In most cases though, the ultimate goal is not traffic but to to build a solid link that boosts your website’s backlink profile. This in turn enhances your site’s reputation in Google’s eyes and hopefully increases your rankings in the organic search results.

backlink profile

No, you won’t instantly or automatically shoot to the top of the 1st page by submitting to web directories. But proper web directory listings can help to optimize a site to perform better in the search engines. It does this by:

  1. Increasing the number of Quality Links to your site – quality trumps quantity when it comes to links, and even better is to have lots of quality
  2. Diversifying your site’s Backlink Profile – getting endorsements (in the form of links) from different sources shows there’s a broad appeal for your site
  3. Improving your site’s Reputation – getting linked from a trusted source will in turn enhance your site’s authority and trustworthiness
  4. Producing real Traffic when the link is clicked on – links that get clicked on produce referral traffic and send a positive signal to the search engines

Directory link building isn’t a silver bullet by itself, but it is often an essential part of a backlink development plan.


As with most things – do it right and it could be worth the effort. Being lazy to take shortcuts without knowing what you’re doing and it will normally be a waste of time.

Knowing the right way to achieve results makes a big difference in Online Marketing. For off-page SEO and link development, know-how is even more important.

To learn more about how to use directories effectively, take a look at how professional link builders find good web directories to submit sites.

This article is part of WebsitePromote’s Guide to using Web Directories for SEO & Website Promotion.


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