Directory submissions used to be a basic part of any SEO plan. The free, easy submission ones were…well…easy, free and good. The ever-so coveted DMoz listing was a golden ticket. Oh, how times have changed. Now, directories can be seen as scary, penalize-able and outright worthless. Yet, for some niches, I still see a substantial percentage of directory backlinks passing a lot of juice, which means they still must be useful for SEO. So let’s get down to business of directory submissions done Right.

SEO Directories

I really like what Cyrus Shepard said regarding directories

An intelligent directory strategy provides depth to your SEO campaigns and offers tangible benefits including:

  • A more diverse link profile
  • Qualified referral traffic
  • Citations for different vertical ranking algorithms
  • Trust/Authority Signals
  • … and, of course, the link.


Directory submissions is an old art that many SEOs now overlook. A lot of SEOs don’t see the value in directories because they think of directory submissions as a low-quality automated thing you outsource to Fiverr. In reality, there is a lot of missed opportunity in directories because of misconceptions. When directory submissions are done Right and niche specific, they can provide authority and diversity. When your competitors have a high percentage of directory backlinks, you need to jump on board and start submitting.

When to Submit to Directories

Submit to directories when your competitors have submitted to directories. It’s really that simple.

Which Directories to Submit to

This depends on which directories your competitors have listings in.

Two Ways to Find Competitor’s Directory Backlinks

1. Using link intelligence tools

  • Grab a competitor’s URL
  • Drop the URL into your preferred link intelligence tool such as MajesticSEO or ahrefs and export the results into an excel sheet
  • Use filters to find the directories as shown below


Directory Submissions

Top Directories
This is a quick and simple way to find backlinks but may not always provide all the directories. I will typically rinse and repeat this process for 7-10 competitor URLs.

2. Using Queries

I haven’t found queries to be very effective. The queries yield a lot of non-directory results. I’ll share the technique nonetheless.

  • Link: domain “directory” -site: domain     i.e. “directory”
  • Spend time looking Smile

Want More Directory Submissions?

If, for some reason, you want to go above and beyond in your directory submissions, you must choose wisely. A recent study titled “Web Directory Submission Danger: Analysis of 2,678 Directories Shows 20% Penalized/Banned by Google” shows that choosing the wrong directories can be a huge waste of time and potentially hurt you in the long run. Free directories are continuously being de-indexed by Google. So don’t waste your time submitting to directories that will most likely be banned. You run the risks of short term ranking boosts and future link loss (like when the blog networks were de-indexed). Make sure to qualify your directories.

Safe Directories

Qualifying Directories

Make sure that the answer is “Yes” to these questions

  1. Is the page where your link will live cached in Google? (use “” query)
  2. Are listings sorted by name?
  3. Is the directory not part of a network of directories?

If the answer is “No” for any of these questions, then don’t submit.

Safe SEO Directories

Queries for Finding Niche Directories

So, you’re ready to look for more, eh? Well, alrighty then! Here’s some queries that will help you find niche directories.

  • “Keyword” intitle:”directory”
  • “Keyword” intitle:”submit URL”
  • “Keyword” intitle:”Submit a site”
  • “Keyword” inurl:”directory”
  • “Keyword” intitle:”submit *review”
  • “Keyword” inurl:”directory” “submit”
  • “Keyword” intitle:”directory” “submit”
  • and a Pro-tip from Cleo Kirkland — For instant submission directories: “Keyword” intitle: directory inurl: php
For niche specific, Local directories
  • “keyword” inurl:”directory” “add business” “city name”
  • “keyword” inurl:”directory” “add url”  “city name”
  • “keyword” inurl:”directory” “submit url” “city name”

These queries should get you started on the right foot though. You should be able to quickly come up with a lot of clever variations.

Efficiency Tools

  • Insert Text – Chrome Extension that will speed up entering texts into fields (7/20)
  • Linkclump – Open a large number of links at once
  • Mozbar – For further analysis of power of backlink


A Final Word…or 48+

I recommend, at minimum, submitting your site to the same directories as your top competitors have. Directories can still be helpful. I’ve seen sites rank for some hefty keywords with directories as their main source of backlinks. I would also highly recommend that these not be the only links. These techniques have been llama approved.

Web Directory Submissions