Using Internet Directories as a Link Building Tool

When most website owners think of Internet directories, if they even consider them at all, they think of them as a way to gain a one-way incoming link. Inclusion in the various Internet directories is rarely viewed as more than a one-time entry event. The goal is to get listed and gain the inbound link, for better or for worse.

Traffic from some mainstream directories is often low and seldom considered as part of the equation. The potential of the directory listings as a source of potential link partners is rarely thought of as a strategy at all.

Directories have far more possibilities hidden within their listings than is generally thought. Many webmasters, and even some search engine optimization experts, ignore the less obvious value residing in the various categories.

By looking beyond the obvious single link and search capabilities of an Internet directory, a website owner has a wealth of potential link partners, waiting to be added. They are easily found in the leading Internet directories and in the many specialized minor directory listings as well.

Some of the very useful directories for link research include the Open Directory Project, better known as DMOZ; the Yahoo! Directory; the Google Directory; and the many specialty directories directly related to the searcher’s area of business.

By utilizing the appropriate strategies, directories are a gold mine of linking partners. They are simply begging to be mined by an enterprising and prospecting webmaster.

{mospagebreak title=Selecting the Directories}

The most obvious Internet directory to start with when beginning a comprehensive link search is the well known DMOZ directory. With its complete category and sub-category classification system, any website owner can find numerous sites within their area of business.

If your website is already listed in the DMOZ directory, the first step is to go directly to your own site’s category. Within those pages of listings, whether you are in the global or regional category, will be some of your direct competitors.

There is no need to contact them for link exchanges if you are concerned about loss of visitor traffic to their sites. If you are not listed in the DMOZ directory, find the category where your site would probably be included. The process remains the same for finding link partners, whether your site is listed or not.

On the other hand, if your goal is to build what Google considers a “hub site”, link exchanges with competitors are a positive. For purposes of this discussion, however, the goal will be more straightforward link exchanges. We will focus on gaining additional incoming links for their search engine benefit, and on links for attracting extra visitor traffic.

Within the selected category, the listed websites are placed in alphabetical order, and the listings may include one, two, or even more than ten pages of sites. The important thing to remember is all of the listed sites are theme and topic related to yours.

The same concept can be used in the sub-categories and the higher categories in the same subject area. The listings are generally all related sites thematically. The same procedure can be used for businesses that are related and complementary to yours, like flowers are part of weddings, and therefore make sense for wedding dress sales.

The Yahoo! Directory provides a similar opportunity for the website owner. The Yahoo! Directory has many of the same sites listed as DMOZ. That is a given. There are, however, many more sites listed in Yahoo! that are not part of the Open Directory Project. That fact opens up many more possibilities for the webmaster.

When you go to the Yahoo! Directory, as with DMOZ, go first to your category if you are already listed. Select the most probable one, if your site is not included. Note that the listings are also in alphabetical order, and may have somewhat different descriptions than the DMOZ directory employs. Use the same procedure as before, and your list of potential linking partners will grow larger.

A third important Internet directory is the Google Directory. Using listings supplied by the Open Directory Project, the listings are very similar to those found in DMOZ. Google offers a major and important difference, however. Google orders the results from the highest PageRank listing to the lowest, making your sorting that much easier. Keep in mind that some of the PageRanks on display are possibly out of date, and may not reflect the site’s current PageRank.

If exchanges, for higher PageRank purposes are important to your site, then the Google directory offers what you seek. As a general rule, don’t let PageRank determine your linking partners. It is far more important to make your site helpful for your visitors and customers.

{mospagebreak title=Putting Specialty Directories to Work for You}

The major Internet directories are not the only game in town. In fact, because of their widespread popularity, they might not be the idea link partner hunting ground for everyone. A powerful alternative source of directory link leads is found in the sometimes overlooked specialty directories.

Often only representing one industry segment, these directories are populated with businesses possibly interested in links. In fact, many of the included companies might not have been contacted for link partnerships at all. The highly specialized directories for your industry and some small general ones might have the link partners your business seeks.

The first step is to search for the specialty and minor directories in the search engines. Enter combinations of “directories” and “your industry” and lists will appear. It won’t matter if the directories are paid or free for inclusion, as you are searching for link exchanges. If one of the newly discovered directories is free, however, be certain to get your own website included. After all, a directory is a valuable incoming link too.

Be cautious of possible link farms. Whatever you do, make sure your business is not part of one of them. Link farms and other so-called bad neighborhoods are specifically against the guidelines for the search engines. For inclusion of your site, choose only respectable directories. One way to determine a link farm is it will usually require many return links, and links for other sites. Don’t participate in such linking schemes.

{mospagebreak title=Making the Exchange Offer Properly}

Simply click on the links, one by one, and examine the sites carefully. Know something about the site. Look for contact information and find the webmaster’s name if possible. In your e-mail to the prospective exchange partner, be certain to offer some strong indication that you have actually visited the site in question.

Tell your prospective partner that you have already linked their site and you feel your site would be beneficial to their site visitors as well. A really good idea is to tell the webmaster of a part of their site that you found especially interesting and informative.

Place a link on your own site to the sites you have decided to contact first, prior to any requests. That is simply proper linking etiquette. It also displays your professionalism to the recipient who is probably tired of link exchange spam.

Be sure to always visit the site as well. It is never a good idea to link partner with a site you wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending to all of your customers. Your business and personal reputations are at stake.

Don’t threaten to remove the link to their site if they fail to reciprocate. If the site was interesting and helpful enough to offer a link partnership, it should be one you intend to keep, as a permanent link. Be sure to know your potential partner sites well.

As an additional policy, maintain a chart of all of the sites contacted for exchanges, and the dates and e-mail details of those requests and the results. Good records will also prevent you from constantly contacting the same webmaster, over and over, as a result of having forgotten their response.

Far too many people send e-mails without having visited the site at all. Don’t be part of that group. Know your potential partnership sites and their benefits to both your business and that of your visitor traffic.

{mospagebreak title=Benefits to Your Website}

The use of directories for finding linking partners will benefit your website and your online business more than employing the commonly used random approach. Most website owners do not have a plan for finding link exchanges that make sense for their site. A link only has real value to your visitors, if it has something in common with the overall theme and interest of your website.

The search engines, especially Google, reward incoming links more highly if they are related to the topic of the receiving web page. Links from similarly themed pages carry more weight with Google’s algorithm, than those which have little in common with the landing page.

Specialty directories that include your site within their listings are already themed for your topics. The other sites listed there will also be themed for your site. For more bang for the link buck, keep your links related to your web page’s topics and themes.

The page will receive a bit of a Google PageRank boost and a much higher level of incoming link popularity. Combined with a strong and properly focused anchor link text program, the added links will help to boost a site higher in the search engine rankings.


Directories are an excellent source of theme related link partners for any website. If the directory used for the search is a major one such as DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory, or the Google Directory, sites with your main topics are readily categorized. Finding potential linking partners is very easy, using the major directories.

The smaller specialized directories provide unique link partnership opportunities, available mainly to those in your industry. Their included links are very closely themed to your site.

While searching the various directories, don’t forget to get your site included in their listings as well. And by using the many Internet directories, combined with professional link exchange requests, you can vastly increase the number of links to your website.

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