Finding Link Directories in a Post Penguin World

Update: 10/28/2013 – A lot has changed, I would not try this strategy anymore. Use at your own risk.

I am not a fan of directories. They don’t feel like something Google would want you to do, but – they aren’t against the rules (yet) and they are a valuable provider of anchor text, so I’ll use them. Many agencies have coveted list of free and cheap directories that they will submit their clients to, but since Google has deindexed numerous directories in the last year you can’t rely on dated internal lists of once valuable directories.

Image Courtesy of Flickr User xrayspx

To find directories that pass juice, I like to run a series of advanced search queries and pull the data into Excel.

Note: if scraping makes you uncomfortable, just use the directory option in Link Prospector – that tool is amazing.

First, let’s look at the language popular and powerful directories use and find some footprints:

There are a lot of variations you can use for directory footprints, but i generally go with the more widely used one. I like the following:

I am only comfortable with a few TLDs for directories, so I like to add the following site operators to the search query – (site:*.com OR site:*.net OR site:*.org). If you are looking for a ton of directories, you can break up the string of TLD site searches into individual queries.

The full directory prospecting search query looks like this

[Directory footprint] [keyword] directory (site:*.com OR site:*.net OR site:*.org)

So, if I was prospecting for a home improvement client, I would use the following search queries:

Here is the type of site you are going to find:

Is it amazing? No. But, this site has a tool bar Page Rank of 3, I found it in Google so I know it’s not deindexed. I like the relevant keywords used in the <h1> tag and I don’t mind being listed next to any of these sites. All in all, I would feel comfortable and confident building a link on this site.

I was once at a conference where a respected SEO said, “If you are searching for directories, you are doing it wrong.” Well, I disagree. This is the only way to know if directories that would have been trusted a year ago are still in Google’s good graces.

If you need to find a TON of directories, I recommend using the SEOmoz FireFox toolbar scraper to speed up the process. I am a huge fan of this scraper, because it includes Moz metrics in the CSV export. However, I highly recommend  opening the CSV in excel and using SEO Tools for Excel to do Page Rank Look Ups [=GooglePageRank()] because in this particular case, Moz metrics shouldn’t be your first quality indicator. You need to know if these websites are still respected by Google, so having high DA is a bonus.

John-Henry Scherck

John-Henry Scherck is the owner of Growth Plays, a B2B content strategy and SEO consultancy based in Los Angeles. He works with founders, marketers, and investors to plan, build and refine growth marketing initiatives using a common sense approach.