Way back when, before Google was even a thing, web directories were how people found information online. This is actually how Yahoo started out; it began life as a directory and not a search engine. These paid web directories – such as Yelp – are essentially the phone books of the Internet. They list the names and (web) addresses of businesses and service providers. The Internet has changed, and so has what we use web directories for. So do website directories help improve website rankings?

Web Directories and SEO

There was a time when the most common SEO strategy was to simply include your website on as many paid directories as you could find. This helped to build links; a key part of SEO. There was even a time when Google would recommend users do this to build their rankings. It was a low cost, easy, and effective way to boost SEO. The problem is that everyone started doing it and it got a little too much for Google to handle. They began devaluing links from paid directories, removing paid directories from their index, and even sent site owners warnings and potential penalties over unnatural links — paid links. It all became a huge mess and now everyone is wondering what comes next.

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Is Being Listed in a Web Directory Good or Bad for SEO?

It’s obvious that many website owners are still about whether or not they should list their website in an online directory. Perhaps they’re concerned they may be hit with a penalty, perhaps they don’t senior value in it, or perhaps they just don’t know where to begin.

The reality is that website rankings can be both positively and negatively affected by paid directories. It depends on the paid web directory that you use, the approach you take, and your intent. It’s important that you send the right signals to Google.

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There’s much more to SEO than having a good website, some content, and lots of links. Google understands that the internet landscape has changed, and so they consider more factors than ever before when assessing how websites rank in their results. It’s actually impossible to know all of the metrics Google uses now.

What we do know is that Google want external signals that help them to determine the trust, quality, and credibility of a site. These are the website that they want to rank high in their search results because they value user experience more than anything else. Google places a high emphasis on trust and credibility.

Websites that are linked in lots of paid directories may be considered trusted, especially if that link includes lots of information about the site and the owner. The thing is; this only applies to credible paid directories that are moderated with websites going through a stringent approval process. That includes directories like White Pages, Yellow Pages, True Local, and the like. This is what we meant when we said intent was important. Do you want a directory to tell Google that you can be trusted, or do you just want links? If you just want links, then it’s going to backfire on you.

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Does a Directory Listing Boost SEO?

The answer to this question – perhaps the most important question – is, sadly, probably not. Even so, it’s absolutely worth doing. Think in the long term and make sure Google are getting all the right signals about your site.


The thing to focus on when submitting to paid directories and wondering if it will help is intent. Why are you submitting your links? The only reason that you should is so that customers can find you. A listing in a top paid web directory can help with SEO efforts to a degree, but it likely won’t be noticeable. The key to SEO is always creating the best website, hosting the best content, and getting people to share and engage with it.