Make Money With Directory Links (Even In 2013)

SMS Text

Directory links are bad. Directory links are spammy. Directory links don’t work in 2013.

Hold on a minute. Let me plead for the defense.

Let me make something clear from the start – getting a link from XYZ Directory is obviously not nearly as valuable than one from the New York Times, but directory links still have their place and can be extremely effective if built in the right way.

I have used the following strategy as a link building pillar to acquire and maintain #1 positions for many highly lucrative search terms, resulting in a ton of money for my clients and ROI’s of over 1000%.

Niche Directories

Go ahead and throw out the general web directories. They can burn at the bottom of the internet for all I care. These are the spam farms that are never visited by real people and purely exist in order to publish a large amount of links about any and every subject that ever existed. My strategy exists exclusively in the world of niche directories. Here are the things to look for in a niche directory:

Specific Messaging Targeted to Your Business Sector

I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. Upon loading the site, you should immediately see images and text related to your industry.

Community Component

Usually a good niche directory will host a forum, an events section, or a whitepapers resource page (or all of the above). This is a sign that the site owners are interested in building a community of real visitors and gaining real industry clout. An added benefit is that the directories with user resources will typically send more referral traffic than directories without.

Respectable Website Authority KPI’s

“But Ryan,” you’re saying. “What about the metrics? What about the numbers? What about the stuff that really matters?” You care about sites that will send serious link equity your way. It’s a good idea to filter your directory prospects to those that have a Domain Authority of at least 50 or greater (the good ones always do). Also, if you can predict which page on the site you will gain a link from, you’ll want that page to hold its own in Page Authority (>25). If the Page Authority is lower than that, it either means the site itself isn’t very popular or the page is buried way deep on the site. Neither of these are good.

Healthy Link Profiles

On a similar note, you’re going to want to take a quick look at the directory’s link profile. Do a quick export of their profile, sort by lowest page authority and look through it to make sure they’re not being dirty in building links. If you’re building links on sites that can easily be identified as spammy by the search engines, then you’re asking for a penalty. An easy way to avoid most of these spammy directories is to follow the following piece of advice.

No Reciprocals!

I’ll keep this one short. Just don’t do it. Any directory that requires or even asks for a reciprocal link gets filtered out of my prospect database. There’s two reasons for this.

  1. It could possibly be the spammiest tactic of all time.
  2. It’s an indicator that the directory probably has a terribly dirty link profile, as the websites that will comply with reciprocal linking are the ones that will be dirty themselves. This means you’re putting your own website at risk of penalty-worthy links.

Company Listing Page & Second Tier Link Building

The best directories will give you your own company page. Also, if the directory has a community component as described earlier, it will most likely automatically populate with your community contributions.

This is a great opportunity in second tier link building if you’ve submitted articles or whitepapers to this directory. Let’s assume you’ve been listed on a niche directory that focuses on a piece of your core service set. Whenever you’re crafting a guest post or otherwise writing elsewhere on the internet about that service you offer, throw in a shout out to your directory page with: “Check out our (fill service) content here at (directory name).”

Those links will funnel authority to your directory page and consequently to your company website.

Connect with the Site Owner

Make a Phone Call

I’ve had my best experiences with this tactic when I picked up the phone and called the owner or marketing coordinator of a directory. This is important because it gives that person the opportunity to walk you through how to gain the most exposure on the site. It’s in both parties’ interest and it can be really effective without taking a ton of your time.

Owners (Many Times) Own Multiple Directories

These owners typically own more than one directory site, a lot of times in the same space. I’ve gotten up to 5 new listings through the same contact. The beautiful part of this is that in many instances the directories don’t seem affiliated online, and your competitors most likely don’t know about the additional opportunities.

Referral Conversions

While the main purpose of these links is to gain authority and rankings, I don’t want to downplay a significant benefit that has revenue-driving components. If you followed the guidance above about finding directories with healthy link profiles and respectable Domain/Page Authority, then it means you have identified referral sources that most likely rank for the terms your customers are using to search. If you obtain prominent placement on these types of sites, then they will send you customers. It’s really that simple.

Sustainability

Unlike the traditional strategy of ‘general web directory submissions,’ this tactic has worked really well through algorithm changes and I expect it to continue to do well going forward. Only time will tell, but as far as link building goes a lot of this falls into “real company” marketing, which will always be sustainable and successful.

If you have any questions or commentary, please let me know in the comments.

Ryan McLaughlin
Ryan McLaughlin is the principal consultant and founder of RIISE, an SEO and digital marketing firm based in Austin, TX.
Ryan McLaughlin
Ryan McLaughlin

Latest posts by Ryan McLaughlin (see all)

Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!