In the early days of SEO, getting links in directories was a common practice. Up until the last few years, search engines saw links as “votes” for sites, and context was not as important. In a post-Panda and post-Penguin world, are directories still relevant, or are they a waste of time for link-building efforts?
Human curated directories such as Joe Ant, BOTW, and the Yahoo directory are still used for seeding search engines. At one time, Yahoo let you submit your site for free, but now it cost $299 annually, if your listing is approved.
DMOZ is a free directory that has been around since the early days of the web, but is difficult to get into. Part of the challenge is the fact that DMOZ editors are all volunteers, and many categories do not have an editor. Many of these older local directory listings in these DMOZ and Yahoo seem to be from the initial seeding of categories years ago, so the high local rankings for many sites could also be attributed to a combination of domain age and site authority.
Note: DMOZ is shutting down as of March 14th, 2017.
Business.com, BOTW, and Joe Ant are other human curated paid directories. Joe Ant has a one time submission fee of $40, BOTW.org has a one time fee of either $149 or $199, and Business.com carries a price tag of $299 a year, like Yahoo. Given Google’s policy on paid links, these may diminish in importance over time. For the time being, they don’t appear to hurt. A Yahoo directory listing might be a good investment for a business that is doing well financially, but it’s not something to lose sleep over if you don’t have it.
Another possible route to a high relevance link is to join your local Chamber of Commerce, but make sure you aren’t joining just for the backlink.
On Free Directories
If you’re seeking to build links in free directories, I would concentrate on local directories that do well in local search. Many free directories are not curated and are likely to be seen as poor quality links. Look at the context of each category page, and decide for yourself on a case-by-case basis if a link is worth pursuing.